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Heart Callouses

Today, I want to talk to you briefly about callouses. Not the kind that form on your hands from having exposed them to a shovel handle for multiple days. No, I want to talk to you about a more severe type of callous today; that is, the type of callous that can grow over one’s heart to such a degree that Christ’s powerful gospel no longer affects it.

It kills me to say this, but most people today, Christians included, have grown desensitized and calloused to the love story of Christ. Likely, the main reason is because most people have heard the gospel too many times without allowing it to seriously touch their hearts.

You see, the gospel has to be accepted both intellectually and internally, that is, accepted in the mind and in the heart. However, every time we allow the good news to come through our ears and bounce off our hearts, we are not only denying the Spirit an opportunity to come in and revive us, but we are allowing a callous to form instead. If we allow this dark process of inactivity to continue, eventually there will come a time when, like the dead piece of skin that becomes hardened to the point where it is no longer painful to us, our hearts can become hardened and calloused to the degree that we no longer feel the pain, joy, and hope of Christ’s gospel anymore.

Is the good news still good news to you? Does it still give you the same emotions it did when you first came to Jesus? Callouses are okay to have on your hands, but they are not acceptable to have on your heart. Think about these verses; consider the context in which each verse is found (Matt.13:14-15; Heb. 4:11-12; Lk. 8:4-15; Eph. 3:14-19).

iServe- Recharge

iServe

iServe- Lesson 3: “Recharge”

There is one thing I can’t stand about mobile technology that rises well above all its other defects and deficiencies, and that is, the fact that if you don’t have a constant power supply hooked up to your device, it will eventually die. Oh boy!!! Just thinking about a dead/dying battery drives me up the wall, because it always seems to happen when you have, not only forgotten your wall/car charger at home, but when you need your phone, tablet, or computer the most. I know you know what I am talking about; for we have all have “been there and done that.” The truth is, while a dead smart device may be extremely annoying and problematic to us at times, it doesn’t even begin to compare to the eternal consequences we can face if we allow our spiritual battery to die. However, before we jump right into ways we can go about recharging our spiritual batteries, we first need to find out exactly what our spiritual battery is.

Simply put, our spiritual battery is our willingness to be a devoted servant of Jesus, and just like every other battery in this world, it has to be recharged from time to time. You see, a battery is not a self-sustaining power in and of itself. That is why we must have ready accessibility to constant power because if we don’t, our devices will eventually die. The same is true pertaining to our spiritual batteries. If we stay away from God and His word (our spiritual chargers) for too long, our spiritual batteries will die out, and we will cease to serve and follow Jesus.

Now, everybody and their dog, knows the many ways one can drain the life out of their physical batteries, for we all have played our favorite device for too long, texted too many messages, talked too many hours, or simply forgot to plug the device into its charger. However, I wonder how many of us know, or actually care, about the ways one can lose the charge to his/her own spiritual battery?

Christians are lights living in a world of darkness (Matt. 5:14-16). Actually, we are like flash lights. We are not the one true light, but we bring just enough light to someone in order to show them out of the domain of darkness and into the true light, Christ (Col. 1:13; 4:5-6). However, the more we battle darkness by spreading our light, the lower our charge becomes. That means, we have to go back to the original light/power supply for recharging in order to continue our mission (Eph. 4:15-16). Sometimes, physical ailments like a sickness, mental disorder, or fleshly injury, can cause our battery (our willingness to serve and follow Jesus) to run low. Other times, we can lose our charge because we are too busy living in the world, doing worldly things, instead of serving Christ (1 Tim. 6:11-ff.; 2 Tim. 2:3-4). Still, at times, we can lose our spiritual charge because we are tired physically (job, sport, family), emotionally (stress, concentration burn-out, passion fatigue), and spiritually (tired from doing the Master’s work, battling the Dark One). However, most of the time, our zeal to serve Jesus runs low because we, like we do with our smart devices from time to time, didn’t plug into our Charger. Or in other words, we turned our back on Jesus and His word (1 Tim. 1:18-19).

So, how do we go about ensuring that our spiritual battery remains charged at all times so that we can go on serving and following Jesus no matter what? We can do this by keeping our eyes focused on Christ and on His great love for us (Col. 3:1-4; Heb. 12:1-3, 12-15; Rom. 5:8). When we find our spiritual battery growing dim, that is, our want to serve and please the Lord, let us remember Jesus’ love and dedication He had for us when He walked this earth, which is the same love and dedication He continues to have for us in Heaven. It is this selfless and humble example of Christ’s that we need to follow with all of our hearts, so that when we are tempted to give up, we won’t (Heb. 5:7; Matt. 26:39)! Also, we can turn to the Holy Word of God for comfort, support, and most importantly, recharging when our love for God grows weak (2 Tim. 3:14-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-15). Not only will it give us a “pick me up” as we read over the precious promises of God, but it will also help mature and encourage us to continue on in the Way (1 Pet. 5:6-11). And lastly, in order to ensure that our spiritual battery remains charged so that our willingness to serve Jesus does not weaken and go “kaput,” let us be willing to spend our day in open communication with our God (1 Thess. 5:17; Luke.18:1).

Yes, just like our earthly batteries need recharging, our spiritual batteries do as well. Actually, our spiritual batteries need it even more so, for the eternal consequences of neglecting to do so are most severe (Matt. 7:21-23). God has promised to help us overcome everything (Rom. 8:31-39). That means He can recharge any battery even if it is dead (in sin). However, we must choose to let Him! God, may we be willing to charge our spiritual batteries as much as do our earthly ones!

iServe

iServe- Lesson 2: “Delete and Download”

Question: What would a person need to do if he/she wanted to turn an old, busted, out-of-date PC that ran Windows 95 into an elite, super-fast, computer that was capable of running all the new games and programs today?

Most of us may not know exactly what to do in order to accomplish this extraordinary feat, but we know it involves deleting/removing old stuff and replacing it with new. Actually, if one wanted to turn an old computer into a new computer like the one above, they would have to remove/delete almost all of the old computer’s hardware/software, and then purchase and install/download newer, more advanced, technology in replacement of the old. For, unless this is done, the computer will be forever outdated, never being able to run all the new games and programs the person longs to enjoy.

This illustration enforces a spiritual principle I want to share today perfectly, for if we want to become a good servant of Jesus, we must delete/remove the old and replace/download the new! Yes, we have to learn how to let go of the old life we lived before we came to Christ and learn how to live the new and pure life Christ has purchased for us (Col. 3:1, 4-14). However, this is where most people “slip off the road,” for some sins, world views, habits, addictions, mind sets, and beliefs are difficult to let go of and stop completely (Eph. 4:17-24). Sometimes, when things get rough and bumpy, we go right back to the sinful thing that Christ disconnected us from in the first place, just because it’s comfortable and familiar. This is like what Israel did with Egypt in the wilderness (Ex. 16:3). Other times we just flat out give in to our sinful desires because we want what we want, when we want it. Nevertheless, own selfish and sinful desires are not the only things we have to battle (1 Pet. 1:14). No, we have to watch out for Satan’s deceptive ways as well (1 Pet. 5:8). Yes, Satan is a mighty and dangerous enemy who is a master at deception and trickery. The Bible describes him as a hungry and cunning lion who is seeking someone to devour. No wonder Peter told us be watchful and alert at all times. Nevertheless, while we do have multiple things working against us trying to lead us to serve any master other than God, we do have a powerful Ally in our corner, and that is, God Himself (Heb. 13:3).

Yes, God is with us in many ways by helping, empowering, and encouraging us to continue our service to Him. Not only does He give us His word to help mature us, guide us, and equip us (Eph. 6:10-17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17), but He has given us His Spirit to empower and comfort us (Rom. 8:11, 26; 2Pet. 1:3), as well as precious promises that give us hope during the times of trial and distress (Eph. 1:3-11; 1 Pet. 1:3-5). However, it is up to us to take advantage of them and use them. We can use/download the new tools and knowledge God has given us and become a good, free, and happy, servant who is faithful and true only to the Lord Jesus, or we can ignore God’s warnings (Matt. 6:24; 1 John 2:15-17), spurn His blessings, and go throughout life living like we did before we came to Christ, selfishly for personal pleasure. And thus, only serve God when it is to our advantage, miserable and stressed to the very end (Heb. 10: 26-31; 2 Pet. 1: 5-9).

So from now on, let’s remember, especially when we find ourselves living selfishly for personal gain/pleasure that it is impossible to run new software on an out-of-date system. That means it is impossible to serve the new Master and live like you did under the old task master. We can do this when we allow God to strengthen us, His word to mature us, His Spirit to empower us, and His promises to inspire us.

Please, Lord, let us be willing to delete and remove the bad, and download and do the good!

"iServe"
Currently, I have been writing the curriculum for Main Street’s 2014 Spring “IMPACT” (youth event). Since I plan to share this with over 100 people in the near future, I thought it would be good to go ahead and share it with a few more. So, in total, there will be 3 lessons/ posts, that I plan to post in the near future which belong together as a unit. These lessons/post go under the title “iServe.” If you would like to know more about this material, leave a comment or message stating so. Also, each lesson has 10 review questions at the end, as well as, a personal challenge, objective, and summary that I will be glad to provide to any interested party.

“iServe”- Lesson 1- Disconnect to Connect

Today, I want you to participate in an experiment of mine. However, in order to do this you need to go grab your Bible (or open up your Bible app) and turn to Matthew 6:24. Seriously, stop clicking and scrolling for a second and go grab a Bible. Now, after turning to the above scripture, don’t just run off and read the verse quickly and carelessly. No, there are a few things I want you to do before reading. First, when it comes time to read the passage, I want you to do so carefully, taking your time with each word, slowly and thoughtfully, processing what Jesus is communicating to His disciples. Secondly, I want you to go grab a smart device and open up your favorite game or social media site. If you don’t have a smart device, just open the site/game in another window of your internet browser. Ready? Good. So, with your Bible opened to Matthew 6:24 in one hand, and your smart device/computer on your favorite game/site in the other hand, I want you to read Matthew 6:24, the way I described above (slowly, thoughtfully) and play your favorite game/ site, both, at the same time. Yes…you read right. I want you to read Matthew 6:24, and play on your favorite game/site, both, at the same time. Well…? How did it work out? Was it hard? More like impossible, that is, if you followed my instructions carefully.

Just listen to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (ESV).

Sadly, even though Jesus, the Son of God, said it was impossible to serve both God and mammon, we still try to do it. You see, we live in an age where multitasking is a part of everyday life, and so it leads many not to take the powerful lesson in Matt. 6:24 seriously. Some people actually may look at this as a challenge; I mean, how hard can it be to do two simple things at once, especially, when I do 6-7 things at the same time getting ready in the morning? That may be so, but not one of the 6-7 things that you did really had your full attention. You may be a super multitasker yourself and thus, during the experiment, kept trying to think of ways to accomplish the impossible task, not willing to give into the obvious and admit defeat.
Simply put, it doesn’t matter how great of a multitasker you think you are, you know, if you are truly honest with yourself, that it is virtually impossible to actively do/serve two things at once. And this especially applies to God and mammon (money/worldly possessions).

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us with a huge decision. We can either disconnect from God and be connected to the world, or we can disconnect from the world, and connect to God. We have to choose one; we can’t do both. Whether you know it or not, all of us have already chosen which master we are going to serve, and if we want to know which master that is, all we have to do is spend a few moments looking at where we spend most of our time, money, energy, and resources. If we spend more time advancing our careers, our hobbies, our bodies, and our happiness then we do spending time doing what’s better for Him and His kingdom, we are serving mammon over God. I am not saying that it is wrong to do the above things for ourselves from time to time, for Jesus went to a few weddings in His day. However, it is wrong when we serve ourselves more than we serve Jesus.

However, Satan wants us confused. He wants us to think it is possible to get away with “straddling the fence.” He wants us to think we can do worldly things and be all right with God. But the Scriptures say otherwise. Look where it got Adam and Eve (Gen 2-3), valiant King Saul (1 Kings 15:1-23), and the Rich Ruler (Luke 12:13-21). It got them nothing. And when we try to “straddle the fence” and serve two masters it gets us nothing, too (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17).

So, where does a person begin who has been serving mammon over God? Like I said above, by completely disconnecting oneself from the old task master and becoming completely connected to the true Master, Christ. The only way this can be done is by shutting off the things in our lives that are disconnecting us from God. If it is a cell phone, shut it off, and pick up the Bible. If it is music, turn it off, and sing to God. If it is your friends, job, boyfriend/girlfriend, hobby, it doesn’t really matter what it is; if it causes you to be cut off from God, you need to cut it off from yourself (Matt. 5:30). And that is not going to be “a walk in the park.” No, it’s going to be really hard at times, almost as hard as losing a right hand or an eye. However, we can breathe easy knowing that Jesus is there supporting us all the way through it (Phil. 4:13).

We freak out when we get disconnected from the internet. Not only do we freak out, but we are willing to go through fire to get it back. Just imagine what the world would be like if we had the same passion and tenacity toward connecting with Jesus as we did every time we lost our internet connection.
You can’t serve two masters. Who are you connected to right now: God or mammon?

Look, Mom; No Hands!

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Have you ever heard a child scream out, “Look, Mom; no hands!” as they rode their bike carelessly with their arms flapping freely in the breeze? If you have, then you probably know what generally happened next, a big crash followed by a banshee scream.

This demonstrates perfectly the way people go about living their lives without God. They, like the child above, live life carelessly. However, instead of neglecting to hang on to handlebars, they neglect to hang on to God all the while screaming, “Look guys, no God!”, not knowing that what awaits them in the end is doom and darkness.

Sometimes, those who live life without God don’t face the repercussions of doing so until they take the final fall in death. Then, unfortunately, there is nothing they can do to fix their problems resulting from their carelessness. However, some people suffer from trying to live without God now. Bad relationships, broken homes, addiction, murder, fornication, stress/depression, job loss, diseases, teenage pregnancy, abortion, divorce, suicide, malice, homosexuality, narcissism, and greed, are just a few examples of the things people can suffer from who try to live life without hanging on to God.

Please, thoughtfully read these few scriptures which describe the fate of those who live life without God. “19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble (Proverbs 5:19 ESV). “22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. 23 He dies for the lack of discipline, and because of his great at folly he is led astray” (Proverbs 5:22-23 ESV). “[W]hen the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 ESV).

However, if you have fallen in life and are suffering from living life without God, don’t just get back up and try to life without Him again. No, actually think about your past and your future. Is life really that good without God? What led you to the state you are in right now? Who do you think offers a better life, you, left to your own devices, or God, who loves you unconditionally?

I am not going to lie, getting back up after you have fallen is hard to do when there is no one there to help you. However, Jesus is there to help you. He not only wants to help you in this life but in the life to come. You just have to accept Him and live life according to His way instead of your own. Please, come to Christ and allow Him to heal your wounds and free your soul.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). “6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

A man holding a knife and a fork with a stack of raw steak
Today, I want to share a principle from Proverbs that is one the biggest problems the world, especially the United States, has ever faced. The principle comes from Proverbs 27:20. “Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied.” Yep, you guessed it; today’s principle is self-control.
Everyone knows that the above passage is true because we have all had our experiences with something that was extremely hard to put down and stop. For some, their uncontrollable human desire could be for sweets, for others, it could be for money or illegal drugs, and still others could have a desire for all types of physical pleasure. No matter what it is, if it looks good, feels good, tastes good, and smells good, our flesh will desire it in ridiculous amounts.
We need to see that God calls His people to live with self-control. We are to do things in moderation while the world around us runs amuck with their hands and mouths open wide absolutely devouring any and everything their flesh desires. That is where the rub is found, for it is hard to live with self-control when others around you have anything but control. The only way that we can do this is by allowing the Spirit to empower us (2 Peter 1:3-4). We must dine constantly on His inspired word (2 Cor. 10:2-4). We must listen to, and walk where the Spirit leads us (Romans 8:13-17; Gal. 5:16). However, more importantly, we must continue to look at Jesus, whose life was a powerful model of self-control (Col. 3:1-7; Heb. 13:1-3; 1 Pet. 2: 21-24).
I know that this divine command is hard to accept and do; trust me, I have an issue with self-control, big time. However, we need to understand that this is a process. Being self-controlled doesn’t happen overnight. It is a spiritual gift that has to be cultivated with the help of Christ (Gal. 5:20-21). Jesus understands the power and wantonness of the flesh (1 Pet 4:1-2). Remember, the self-control he had to demonstrate when he was being tempted while literally starving to death (Luke 4:2-14)? Therefore, He provides us with not only grace, but His personal help as we overcome this issue, and thus, lay another piece of the dead man behind us (Col. 3:5-10).
Until the Lord returns, death and destruction will continue. The grave is never full, and the one who destroys will never be content until all is destroyed. Human desire is the same. Therefore, we must, with Christ’s power and grace, seek to tame the beast of want. For if we do not, and our desires are left uncontrolled, then we could end up destroyed and dead.
Please, kind Father, help us to control our desires. Teach us to say enough even if our bodies scream more, more, more. In truth, I say these things through the name of Jesus, the Christ.

Stray Dog and wandering hands
Today, I want to share a thought with you from Proverbs 26:17-“Interfering in someone else’s argument is as foolish as yanking a dog’s ears.”
What happens when you aggressively grab a dog’s ear? Well, let me tell you; not that I have first-hand experience with this or anything, but the dog will yelp, growl, and try to snap your arm off all at the same time. However, in some cases, the dog will continue to snap and bite until he feels his threat is eliminated, that means, death may occur. Now, knowing this fact, how smart would it be for someone to go out and grab a stray dog by its ears, pretty dumb, right?
Well this is what Solomon is trying to teach us here. He wants us to know the real dangers behind getting into an argument that is not your own. We all know these people. They have to add their two cents in to every conversation or argument they hear. However, most of the time, when someone does that, either the people who were originally disputing wind up taking all their sass out on the intruder, or the intruder adds fuel to fire and makes things go from bad to worse. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, jumping into someone else’s business always ends up bad.
So, for now on, let’s try not to grab stray dogs by the ears, that is, interfere with people arguments and business, no matter how tempting it is. For remember the stray dog, it may end up in death.

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