Category Archives: Christian

What are you really carrying into 2015?

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As we close out the old year and head for the new one, I’m seeing a lot of posts on social media and hearing a lot of talk from people about showing some people something in 2015 (usually a perceived hater or someone that they don’t like). Here’s what’s interesting about that: In order for us to show someone “something”, we would have to pray for their downfall (because God reveals our successes in His own way). Most times, we want to prove something to people in authority or people we perceive to be above us, whether they deserve to be above us or not. But in order to prove it to the point that they’d actually care, the person we’re proving it to would have to suffer loss. In this scenario or mindset, if they’re to see your elevation, they’d have to be beneath you. However, there’s a catch to this manner of thinking.

Successful people don’t really worry that much about other people’s success. They’re too focused on what they’re doing to try and “prove” anything. They’ve already proven it. And know that success is relative. To some, it’s money and possessions. To others, it’s a happy and healthy family. To some, it’s a great relationship with God. And there are still yet some that see having all of these elements as success. Either way, to truly be successful and be right with God, we can never wish for our success in someone else’s failure.

To take this a step further into the spiritual, blessed people are so busy basking in God’s blessings, grace and mercy, they have no reason to wish ill on anyone in order to feel more blessed. They realize that such an attitude can cancel out God’s blessings. I know that Scripture tells us that God will make our enemies our footstools, but we need perspective. Everyone that disagrees with you or won’t do what you want them to isn’t necessarily an enemy, and thus, God won’t make them your footstools. Some disagreements are just that. Disagreements. We don’t have to use these small differences as an emotional launching pad into the next year. Your desire to be a better you for the upcoming year should have nothing to do with proving anything to anyone other than you.

Scripture also tells us that it is the prayers of a righteous man that availeth much (James 5:16). What that means is that you must be righteous in your prayers to receive God’s blessings in their fullness. You can’t go into 2015 or any day in any other year with so much animosity towards your fellow man that you wish failure upon them in order to be elevated. This is the enemy’s plan to keep us at odds with one another. Once we know who we’re fighting, we can stop fighting one another. Once we realize that no matter who’s against us, God is for us (Romans 8:31), we’ll realize that it isn’t worth it to wish ill on one another. Just know that God can’t be for you if you’re against another one of His children. He can only be for you when you know who your real enemy is (Ephesians 6:12)!

We simply need to walk with God into the next day and the next year. Let Him do the promotion and demotion. Let Him do the planting and removing of people from your garden. And most of all, if you have ill will toward your fellow man, ask Him to remove it, not for 2015, but ask Him to do it right now!

The lesson here is that it’s alright to wanna come up, but you should never want for your come up to be at the expense of someone else’s downfall, whether it be through your actions or your wishing. We often list the things that we claim we’re not carrying into the New Year, and all the while, if we have this “I’ll show them” mindset, we’re carrying anger, bitterness, grudges, and a spirit of revenge. We want to destroy others because we feel destroyed by the fact that certain relationships didn’t work out. However, Scripture also tells us that when we set traps for other people, whether physical or spiritual, we are actually setting those traps for ourselves (Psalms 35:7-8). Something to keep in mind as we plot emotional revenge on the people that we feel have wronged us in 2014.

What God has for you really is for you, and He doesn’t have to downgrade anyone to upgrade you. Just a reminder in case you see yourself coming up in the next year, but you also see your “enemies” climbing too. Don’t be confused. God’s got enough for all of us.

So we know who you’re rooting for in 2015. The question is, who are you rooting against, and how do you expect God to bless that mindset?

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Read an excerpt from the new book “An Understanding with God”

Author Rev. Kelly R. Jackson has released his latest work, “An Understanding with God: Developing a relationship with God on His terms”. Below, you can read an excerpt from this inspired wok. To purchase your copy, check the links below!BookCoverPreview

No room for grown folks

Part of the struggle is due to the fact that we often apply a worldly view to spiritual things. For example, the world tells us that after a certain age, we’re grown. In fact, even the Bible tells us that there’s a certain point in one’s life where they should leave home and begin their own family (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6). It seems to be saying that at some point, you have to be grown and on your own. While it may seem that the Bible is backing up a fleshly perspective, let’s examine that further.

While the world will tell you that you’re grown and on your own, it also tells you that you don’t have to submit to anyone when you’ve reached that state. The world teaches us that we only need to submit to earthly authorities, such as law enforcement, bosses on the job, and so on. And even in some of those instances, the world will teach you how to circumvent the rules.

However, that isn’t the case with God’s Word. While the Bible does tell mankind that there is a point in life when we are to leave home, there is never a point in the Bible where we’re told that we no longer need God’s authority or to ignore Him when we disagree with what He’s telling us. In fact, the only time we are to ignore earthly “authorities” is when it goes against God’s Word and His authority. At all times, Christians are to be submissive to God’s will, His authority, His Word and His way.

The issue here is that grown folks feel the need to do grown folks things. They don’t feel the need to submit to anyone else’s way, will or direction unless they agree with it. So when it comes to leaning to God’s understanding and not our own, we must become as little children because children are dependent upon their parents or some other authority figure for guidance.

I’ve often stating while teaching that God doesn’t have any grown children, and if anyone within the body of Christ feels as if they’re grown, they should stop asking for things from their parent God. Grown folks take care of themselves without assistance. So even if you’re praying to God to move in someone else’s heart so that you might have favor, you’re not grown! When you run into trouble, you’re still calling on Daddy. And if you’re a Christian, you ought to be alright with that.

Being childlike is to be humble. Again, it is to be under the direction of someone else. It is to be dependent upon someone else’s understanding and not your own. Consider Matthew 18:1-4. I had the pleasure of preaching from this text on Youth Day at my home church some time ago. I used two subjects, one for the youth and one for the “grown folks”. My subject for the youth was “If God be for you, who can be against you?” However, my subject for the “grown folks” was “Stay in a child’s place”. Let’s examine the text.

18:1-2 – 1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?

2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them (KJV)

Right away, we have grown folks questioning Jesus about positions. Who will be the greatest? Who will head all of the auxiliaries? Who’s going to be the pastor’s right hand man? Who’s gonna have the best seat in Heaven? Knowing their hearts, Jesus not only begins teaching humility, He uses a visual aide. And because I believe that nothing should be added to the Word of God or taken away from it (Revelation 22:18-19), as I read this text, I see nothing that states that there was any hesitation on the part of the child to come to Jesus when called. The child simply came to Jesus. How many of us have such obedience in our spirit? How many of us can simply, humbly and willingly follow the direction of Jesus?

18:3-4 – 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven

4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (KJV)

Here, Jesus addresses an “I’m grown” spirit and tells the disciples that they must be converted and become childlike in order to be great in Heaven. So we must consider the attributes of the child in this text: little, obedient and humble. If we are really God’s children, we should all assume these attributes. We must shrink in order to be elevated. Doing this will enable us to follow God’s lead and lean on His understanding, while turning away from our own.

Book description

One of the greatest challenges facing today’s Christian is the silencing of our own voices in favor of listening to God’s. This challenge is felt in the everyday life of the Christian, as well as how we have begun to operate and conduct ourselves within the church as a whole. With “An Understanding with God: Developing a relationship with God on His terms”, Rev. Kelly R. Jackson offers a practical guide to resisting the desire to do things your own way, while allowing God to lead and guide you. Based on Proverbs 3:5-7, “An Understanding with God” is a powerful statement for spiritual living both within and outside of the church, delivered in a manner that Christians at any stage of their walk with Christ can receive and apply to their lives.

To purchase your copy of “An Understanding with God”, click here!

You can also download the eBook version by clicking here!

Adjusting to the high call of God

Old-NewSubject: Adjusting to the high call of God
Text: Philippians 3:7-14
Rev. Kelly R. Jackson

3 Thoughts to consider:
1. Losing yourself and gaining Christ
2. The individual Christian walk
3. God’s perfection is man’s imperfection

Make no mistake about it, the call to Christianity is no easy call to take. When God calls you out of the darkness into the Light, there are some major adjustments that have to take place. Some of those adjustments bring immediate relief, but others are very difficult. You must be willing to humble yourself and you must be prepared to lose contact with some people. However, if God is calling, you must answer.

If I may be personal for a moment, over the last two weeks, my ministry has been challenged. Since the beginning of 2014, I’ve preached more, started this blog, continued to progress in my schooling and started a radio broadcast. The devil is not pleased with me. While it’s easy to spot attacks from the outside, just as the devil did with Jesus, I’ve been seeing it from people that appeared to be in my inner circle and supportive of what I was doing. I’m not blind to the attack of the enemy, but it still doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to deal with because I know its coming, particularly when he uses people close to me.

Having said that, things like this can either break you down or refocus you on why you were called in the first place. God doesn’t call us to be popular, even though some may eventually be. God doesn’t call us so that people can elevate us, because that’s what He has done by calling us. God hasn’t called us to water down His Word so that we won’t offend, because He is offended by some of the things that we do. And God doesn’t call us so that we can gain the world through finance. He calls us to sacrifice it all in pursuit of Him. Therefore, in the midst of trials, we must press on toward His high calling.

Losing yourself and gaining Christ

7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ 9 And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith

What have we as Christians considered gain? Our family? Our friends? Our possessions? We could probably say yes to all of those things. However, in comparison to gaining a relationship with Christ, these things don’t matter and are secondary in the grand scheme of Christianity. In fact, the Apostle Paul is suggesting here that all things are considered loss (or secondary) when in pursuit of a relationship with Christ and a life like His.

Before I go any further, I’m not suggesting that those things don’t matter and the Scripture isn’t suggesting that either. Family, friends and having nice things can be a positive part of life. However, they can also be a hindrance. Putting unnecessary faith in such things can cause us to fall short of God’s glory because we’re attempting to satisfy these things that please the flesh.

There’s been a debate that I’ve been involved in with many people in one way or another over the last week. The debate was concerning being a minister and what it entails. I’ve found that there’s a thought amongst people that preaching, while noble, isn’t really work. I’ve found that some people feel that we’re no more than people that give speeches. However, I’ve countered that by saying not only is preaching hard work when done properly (study, preparation, schooling, time away from your family, etc.), but it is the hardest job I’ve ever had.

Studying these first 3 Verses, you can see what Christianity costs you. When we’re chasing Christ, we’re leaving our old selves behind. We’re leaving our old habits and vices behind. And sometimes, we’re leaving some friends and family behind. Not because we don’t care for them anymore, but if they’re a hindrance in anyway, Scripture calls for us to separate from them so that we may draw closer to God.

I’ve lost some friends and family along this road. Even though we haven’t spoken specifically about it, you can tell when relationships change. Even people that seemed supportive at one point will prove not to be when they don’t quite understand what you’re doing and saying in your life. Sadly, this transition in life can be most difficult when it’s taking place within the church walls. We’re often better at accepting a call from the world to Christianity than we are at accepting a call to a higher level in Christianity. But if you’re willing to lose all in order to gain Christ, then Christ can restore relationships or replace what we’ve lost with better and more fruitful relationships.

The individual Christian walk

10 That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made comfortable unto His death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus

I posted something on Facebook recently that said: “The Bible is meant to be a mirror for our lives, not a magnifying glass for us to examine the lives of others”. At times, this is one of the most difficult things for us to grasp as Christians. Even Scripture that seems to point out the wrong behavior of others isn’t there for you to point it out. It is a warning for us, lest we become the same way.

It may have seemed that the last paragraph had nothing to do with the Verses heading this section, but it does. The Apostle Paul is speaking to us about how we may know Jesus and the power of His resurrection. We can’t do that without studying the Word of God and we can’t do that by throwing our Bibles at one another. We must seek an individual relationship with God. This is the only way that the church as a collective can become closer to God.

The Apostle Paul is also speaking to us about attaining a level of perfection with God. Spiritual perfection is in no way connected with fleshly perfection. There is no such thing as a person being fleshly perfect, but spiritual perfection is attained when man recognizes his standing with God, his need for forgiveness for his sins, his recognition that he is fleshly broken, and his willingness to submit to the commandments of God.

What Paul is also saying is that he is still a work in progress. What does that say for us as Christians? It says that we will never be completely all that God wants us to be while we are in this flesh, and we shouldn’t act as if we are. One of the biggest pitfalls of the Christian faith is that when we supposedly overcome something, we act as though we have conquered it forever and everyone else should conquer it in the same way.

However, we are all sinners saved by grace and we shouldn’t become too boastful when we’re delivered, lest we fall again. We have to maintain our humility as Christians. The moment we become so holy that we don’t even acknowledge the possibility of sin, we’re already in the grips of it. Paul is warning us that we are to always chase after the high calling of Christianity and we will never be in a position to boast.

Part of the call to be Christ-like is that we suffer just as He did when He was on earth (“the fellowship of His sufferings”). Life won’t always be perfect, people won’t always treat us with respect and you may even be betrayed by those in your inner circle. These things happened to Christ and they’re sure to happen to us as we pursue a relationship with Him. However, if we are partakers in Christ’s “sufferings” and “death”, then we can also partake in the resurrection that every believer is seeking. Simply put, no cross, no crown.

God’s perfection is man’s imperfection

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you

Herein is the meat of what the Apostle Paul wants us to understand about his individual journey in Christ: “I don’t have it all together, but I’m still pressing toward the high calling of God”. Again, if I may draw on my own experiences, when we say that we are Christians, we are not to suggest that we are now perfect. Additionally, when we say that we are ministers, we are definitely not suggesting that we are infallible. In fact, we are tested more. Therefore, our mistakes, both real and perceived, become amplified.

This is why Jesus tells us in Scripture that if we follow Him, we must be willing to forsake all others. He knew that we would have to anyway. Living up to God’s standards means that you won’t live up (or down) to man’s standards. Man has an idea of Christians that we are called to fleshly perfection because that’s how the unsaved man views perfection, from his flesh. At the same time, Christians have a view of ministers, missionaries, and anyone called to bring the Word of God on a higher level as being called to an unrealistic level of both spiritual and fleshly perfection. They allow no room for being human.

As we discussed earlier, this isn’t God’s idea of perfection for man. God knows that you will fall short (Romans 3:23). Paul is stressing that he is leaving all of his successes and failures behind in order to pursue the high calling of God. This means that he’s not resting on his current level of knowledge, but rather moving forward to a higher level. He’s not dwelling on the fact that he hasn’t always been perfect, but he’s trying to reach higher.

Therefore, when man pats us on the back, we need to keep seeking God because one day they’re patting, the next day they’re stabbing. When man insists on bringing up all of the negativity of your past life, you have to keep pressing because one day they’re talking about you, but tomorrow God may open their eyes to the change that He’s made in you life, and they may become your biggest supporters.

Conclusion…

There is a reason that God says that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). Man is fickle and we can change like the weather without even realizing that we have. We often place our misgivings and shortcomings upon one another. We’re afraid to use that Bible as a mirror because we sometimes don’t like what we see in ourselves, so we’d rather focus on what others aren’t doing. But God is calling us according to His standards so that we may live according to what He has planned for our lives.

It’s easy to avoid church because of the people there. There’s lying, hypocritical behavior, backstabbing, etc. We often say that we avoid the church because there’s so much of this and that going on, and yet we fail to realize that the best chance for people to get such things out of their system is in the church. The church is called to point the sinner to Christ for repentance and to point the broken to Christ for healing. We can’t be healed or saved running the other way.

We shouldn’t make excuses for why we don’t study that are based on flawed human beings. Jesus made no such excuses when He went to the cross for flawed human beings. I’m an advocate for people being able to worship in comfortable surroundings and if your current church doesn’t offer that, I suggest finding somewhere that does. But if your reason for not studying or not attending classes or church is based on people, I’m suggesting that you’re missing the mark. Bible study isn’t in place so that you can see better in other’s behavior. It’s in place so that you can be better in your own behavior.

Lastly, we must remember that the Apostle Paul was a well educated man. Before his conversion on the Damascus road, he seemed to have it all. However, once he came to know Jesus, he realized that without Him, he had nothing. As he wrote these words and stressed that he was pressing toward his true calling, he was also calling for self-examination of all Christians. Have you really left it all behind for Jesus? Can you walk away from family, friends and possessions that keep you from your calling?

Are you able to preach, teach, learn and live the truth about the call? Are you afraid to discuss sin and shortcomings in order to identify things within yourself and make the necessary changes? All of these things are needed in the church today in order for Christians to really be what God called them to be. We can no longer sugarcoat the message of God because it offends our sensibilities. In order for the Apostle Paul to realize he was falling short of the mark, he had to face some ugly and ungodly truths about himself. He had to shed the idea that he had achieved success at his current level. How many of us are willing to do the same in order to reach our mark?

Called out!

Old-New

Subject: Called out
Text: 2 Corinthians 6:14-17
Rev. Kelly R. Jackson

3 Thoughts to consider:

1. Separate and unequal
2. Unholy associations
3. Being received by The Master

This second letter written to the church at Corinth was in part addressing some issues that we still see in the church and in its members today. We often assume that what was written thousands of years ago in the Bible has no bearing on us today. But consider the church at Corinth and what was going on. There was envy, strife, backbiting, arguing and sins of the flesh. How is that any different than what we see on Sunday mornings?

We have to stop looking at the walls of the church and look at the infrastructure. The church still has issues because we still have issues. The people are the church and if we’re broken, the church is broken. What’s worse is the fact that we embrace being broken. We often attempt to use scripture to justify shoddy Christian living. “God knows my heart”, “Judge not, lest ye be judged”, etc. We’re aware that we’re consistently under construction, but nothing ever gets done. That’s not God’s fault, that’s our fault.

Let’s look at some scripture that puts the onus on every Christian to come out from a sinful life and sinful associations, and embrace what God has called us to.

Separate and unequal

14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?

During the civil rights movement, rather than fully integrating with Blacks, whites offered separate but equal facilities, schools, restaurants, etc. However, what they offered was anything but equal. The facilities were unsanitary and often deplorable. The fact that they had to be separate suggested that they wouldn’t be equal. Such is the life that Christians are called to live by God. We are called out of the world to be separate because we aren’t equal to the world. The world’s condition is unsanitary and deplorable.

This verse has often been used to keep Christians from marrying the wrong people. In matrimony, the saved aren’t to even consider someone that doesn’t believe in and acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. However, this verse actually is an instruction for all of our relationships as Christians. Our love life, our friendships and even our family relationships are addressed here.

The word “yoked” in this text means to be joined. God doesn’t want us unnecessarily mixing with those that are in conflict with how we’re called to live. Now, this isn’t a call to be spiritually proud or uppity. God doesn’t want us looking down our noses at people, but rather we are to remain humble when dealing with the unsaved. We must remember that we were once like them. Though we may still love our lost brothers and sisters, we must learn to love from a distance.

If we consider what light does, it casts out darkness. Even a candle in the darkest of night can be seen. Therefore, when we become children of the light, we can no longer exist where darkness is because we will shine. Also, if we continue to dabble in our old ways and with those that are living in those ways, we can be overtaken again. This is where the humility of this verse comes in. Avoid fellowship with the unsaved, lest you fall. Avoid fellowship with the unsaved lest you cause someone else to stumble because you have become their spiritual role model.

Unholy associations

15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God and they shall be my people

Verse 15 continues on with the questions of why we would continue associations with people in our former lives. What concord has Christ with Belial, which is another name for Satan or something wicked. The Apostle Paul also asks why we would associate with an infidel. These sound like harsh words, but what would you consider someone that is in disagreement with our heavenly cause? And why would we call ourselves Christians and continue spending so much time with people that aren’t, unless we were trying to convert them?

Let’s be clear, anyone or anything that is against God, the church or the harmony of the church is evil, according to the Word of God. Looking at Verse 16, the Apostle Paul asks us why there are idols within our churches, and even our lives. Where are the idols in church today? Well, we make idols of people in positions, we elevate the music ministry above the ministry of the Word of God and, dare I say, we make idols of the preachers. This is an offense to God and something that needs to be addressed.

Continuing with Verse 16, Paul says “ye are the temple of the living God”. This speaks to the individual body and the collective body of Christ that is the church. When God is saying that He will “dwell in them” and “walk in them”, He saying that He wants to live within us and among us. But the question remains, can God dwell in the church if we continue to yield to the whims of the unholy?

Once we fully acknowledge God for who He is and allow Him full control of our lives, and thus the church, this 16th Verse says we shall be His people. We can fix our churches by driving out certain unholy behaviors. If we can’t drive the behavior out of the people, they we need to drive the unholy people out. Again, this may seem harsh, but it’s scripturally based (Matthew 18:15-18, Titus 3:10-11). God doesn’t expect us to allow the devil to set up shop in the sanctuary and just deal with him. We are to drive his spirit away, and if a person insists on bringing that spirit into our congregation regularly, we are to drive that person out.

 Being received by The Master

17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith The Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you

If you’ve ever been a child dressed in your Sunday best by your parents, you know what instructions usually followed: Don’t go out and get dirty! God is no different when He cleans us up. Once He’s done that marvelous redemptive work on us and in us, He doesn’t want us going back to our old ways, our old friends and down old paths. He wants us changed!

In order to be received by God, we must be cleansed. This can only be done through the blood of Jesus. It’s not Rev. Jackson that’s telling you to be separate from those things and people that used to influence you in the wrong ways. It’s the Word of God.

What is the unclean thing? That would be anything or anyone that comes against the Spirit of the living God. It would be anything or anyone that has you yielding to the flesh and denying the spirit. And just because you’ve known a person for years and have been fellow church members forever doesn’t mean that they’re on The Lord’s side. Allow the Holy Spirit to give you a spirit of discernment, particularly with old friends and family because that’s a soft spot with us and it’s exactly where the devil likes to attack us.

Again, this isn’t to suggest that we become spiritually arrogant. It’s not to suggest that we don’t speak to people, aren’t polite to people or don’t show love to people. We should show the love of Christ to everyone, even our enemies. But God wants the individual Christian and the collective Christians to separate themselves from ungodliness. Drive it out of your home, drive it out of your life and drive it out of the church, all with the Word of God, so that we may be received by God.

Conclusion…

One of the difficulties of being saved is letting go of some things of the past. Let’s be real, the devil makes sin fun. When we’re in the world, we do a lot of things that are enjoyable to the flesh. This is why the saved man is to deny his flesh and live in the spirit. This is what real fasting and praying is about, but that’s another blog for another day. Once we begin living in the spirit as God has called us to, then we can see that some things, some people and some relationships are no longer profitable for us.

Another difficulty of being called out by God is dealing with some of the current and longstanding relationships that we have. I’m often imploring people to examine their friendships and family connections once they’ve accepted Christ. It’s easy to hold on to people that aren’t saved because you love them and you’ve been connected for such a long time. However, we must love no one above God and we must trust no word above His. If He’s called you out from that way of life and the people you love are still in it, you’ve got to let them go.

Lastly, we can’t compromise our Christianity. Look at Psalms 1:1: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful”. God is telling us that there is a blessing in keeping clear of the sinful. There is no exception made in the scripture for 30 year friendships or your favorite cousin. If they aren’t walking in the path of the saved, they’re no good for you. We’re making too many concessions for Satan and we’re assuming that it’s okay to maintain a relationship with worldly people as long as we’re not discussing “religion”. Jesus says in Luke 9:26 that if we’re ashamed of Him here, He will be ashamed of us in Heaven. Therefore, we should be the Christians of Romans 1:16, not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.

We are called out by Christ. He gave His life for us. What are we willing to give up for Him?

The joy inside your tears

Old-NewSubject: The joy inside your tears

Text: 2 Corinthians 12:6-10

Rev. Kelly R. Jackson

3 Thoughts to consider:

  1. Spiritual humility
  2. Consistent prayer life
  3. Favor in spite of your weakness

How often do we really equate humility with godliness? While it may seem to be the perfect match, many people struggle with understanding why God humbles us and how we are blessed because of it. Humility requires submission. It requires keeping a low profile at times. It requires us to lean on God and ignore what we think. This particular text speaks to God keeping us all in check, sometimes physically and always spiritually.

The Apostle Paul is discussing with us how we should handle ourselves when we’re facing situations that aren’t the best. Who do you turn to when you’re weak? Where do you look to when it seems as if the devil is attacking you? When you’re attempting to walk in the ways of The Lord, how do you deal with the fact that something always seems to be weighing you down, causing you pain or just making you feel like giving up? According to this text, you can find joy in the midst of your trials.

Spiritual Humility

6 For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure

When we examine Verse 6, we see that at times our fleshly desire is to exalt ourselves, even above the God that we’ve prayed to for whatever blessings or gifts that we have. But such thinking is foolishness. We should resist this mindset, lest other people begin to follow us and do the same thing. Whether we’re preaching or teaching the Word of God, our desire should be that man sees all of God and none of us. We’re so flawed that it would be spiritual injustice for anyone to ever give us credit for what The Almighty has done.

This is also where we get into itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3-5), where people love man’s message rather than God’s. The Apostle Paul is writing about speaking the truth. This truth means that it is not a watered down version of the gospel. It is not a message that always feels good or does not include teaching about sin and man’s involvement in his own downfall. However, as you will see when you study those Verses in 2 Timothy, we often run from the truth of God’s Word, looking for a message that suits our fleshly desires.

It shouldn’t be a preacher or teacher’s desire to sting you with the Word, but if that happens, they shouldn’t pull back. The loyalty of the called is to God. This is where the man or woman of God can either rise or fall. He can choose to deliver a crowd-pleasing message that gains him the adoration of man, or he can choose a God-pleasing message that may offend some, but will garner him favor with God and possibly point someone toward salvation.

Looking at Verse 7, Paul’s thorn in his flesh could’ve been a physical or a mental “thorn”. Maybe he was tempted of the devil by some weakness he was attempting to overcome. Or maybe it was a physical ailment, possible a visible one, that caused him to be self-conscious. Though he was called of God, Paul was still in his flesh and he no doubt was superficial at times, just as we are.

A study of Paul does reveal that he had some visible physical ailments. Either way, this “thorn” was there lest he began being too arrogant. However, Paul knew that he needed to pray about his condition. An ailment that keeps us in prayer, whether it’s physical or mental, keeps us humble and keeps us in the knowledge that we need God. In all of His wisdom, God knows that some people suffer from spiritual arrogance and would never pray unless they had an issue or a need. And in the event that everything was okay in their lives, they would take credit for the peace He has given.  

Consistent prayer life

8 For this thing I besought The Lord thrice, that it might depart from me 9 And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me

How often do you really pray? In the 8th Verse, Paul talks about going to God three times about his condition. It’s not as though God is unaware or hard of hearing, but we still must approach God concerning our needs. Again, this requires humility. It requires us to submit our requests to a higher power, one that can supply what we need.

Another key component to this prayer is our understanding that God may deny a prayer request to fulfill His divine purposes. Whatever you’re dealing with is actually in God’s plan for purposes you may not understand yet. This is where His grace comes in.

Grace is God’s unmerited favor. What does that mean? Well, we aren’t worthy of God’s favor. We’re saved by His grace, even though we don’t deserve it and can do nothing to earn it. It is by His grace that we’re able to endure the tests of life. We aren’t even worthy of going directly to God in prayer. However, we have Jesus as our great intercessor. Through Him, we receive God’s grace. Not because we are worthy, but because Jesus has made the sacrifice of His life.

Through God’s grace, we are strengthened. If we never had a weakness, how would we ever know how mighty our God is? This is why Paul says “I rather glory in my infirmities”. He understands that God will enable him to do great things, despite his conditions (this is the true application of Philippians 4:13). He understands that as he goes through, it is God that gets him through. Knowing that God is the wind beneath your wings enables you to soar to greater heights!

We should never assume that God only chooses the “perfect” man to do His perfect will. In fact, God has often chosen the imperfect so that we all can understand that we can be a part of Kingdom building. Verse 9 speaks to that grace of God. It is all we need, even in the midst of physical and mental imperfection. We can find joy inside our tears each time the devil attacks us. When we go to God in prayer, we shouldn’t be reminded of how big the problem is. We should be reminded of how big our God is.

Then Paul speaks about the power of Christ resting upon him. 1 Peter 4:14 says: “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified”. Therefore, if we’re enduring difficult times in the name of Jesus, we ought to count it joy. You wouldn’t be under attack from the enemy unless the Spirit of God was within you. As Jesus said, Satan can’t cast out Satan (Matthew 12:25-28). So if you’re already under the devil’s control, there’s no need for him to attack you.

Favor in spite of your weakness

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong

Never place all of your focus on what makes you weak if you aren’t going to look to what makes you strong. Every bit of drama in our lives should point us right back to Christ. Research Romans 5:3-5 and you’ll find that trials bring about patience. Through trials you’ll be better able to deal with difficult situations and difficult people, all because the power of Christ is within you.

Going through tough times in life is difficult when you’re going through them for yourself because we can’t adequately strengthen ourselves. But when you’re going through them for Christ’s sake, you can take pleasure in them. Jesus laid down His life for you. He has already come to your rescue by redeeming you to the Father. Don’t think that He won’t come to your rescue again. Consider all that He went through for us and you’ll realize that what we go through for Him pales in comparison. The reward for what you do for Christ is the gift (because we can’t earn it) of eternal life.

Conclusion…

The Christian should never have a “woe is me” attitude. This can be difficult to manage at times because we’re still in the flesh. This is why I encourage Bible study so much, rather than just church attendance. The Word of God is a guide when you’re lost and strength when you think you can’t go on. You need to lean on it daily and move away from your flesh (Proverbs 3:5-6).

It is God’s grace, His Word and the Holy Spirit that can keep us from losing our focus when it seems that a little situation here or there is getting out of hand. In tough times, you have to trust God more than you trust yourself. The Apostle Paul gives us a powerful lesson in both humility and strength. It’s a reminder that if we lean on God, no matter what the financial situation, physical situation, mental situation, spiritual situation or church situation may be, if we go to God in prayer concerning that “thorn”, even if He doesn’t remove it, He will be there to help us to bear it. And isn’t that all we need when the load gets too heavy?

A Time for Testimony

ExaminerPhotoIt’s never too late to answer the call of God. I know this firsthand now. Unlike other jobs and careers where age or experience may play a role in when you get started, when it comes to working for God, there is no time, no age or circumstance where it’s the “perfect” time. The perfect time is whenever He calls. When you consider the fact that Moses wasn’t sent to free the children of Israel until he was 80, it would also seem that God will equip you no matter where you are when He calls.

This came to my mind yesterday as I watched Detroit weatherman Chuck Gaidica announce his call to pastor a church. After 27 years of being a local weatherman on television, he’s stepping down in August so that he can answer God’s call. At 55, one would think that he had been a minister. We often assume that God calls the very young to work this sometimes very difficult task. While that’s true at times, I point you back to Moses again. One never knows when God is going to call. But what inspired me so much about this man’s call, a man that I have watched on the news for over half of my adult life, was the fact that it seemed to mirror my call.

When I thought of ministers, I always thought of God calling someone young and using them for the rest of their lives. In my mind, there were either young preachers that were starting out, or old preachers that started young. We easily forget Scripture at times and forget that God calls whomever He chooses. So when I saw Gaidica making his announcement yesterday, I felt as though I was looking at a kindred spirit. Someone that God called late in life, but still has great plans for.

I didn’t completely pursue my call until I was in my forties, and I wondered how much I had left for God. I didn’t consider the fact that I’m in good shape for my age, I have no health issues and I have a wife and family that supports my call. More than that, I lost sight of the fact that no call from God really comes overnight. There’s usually a consistent drawing to Him (see Moses). God called me when I was in my 20’s. It simply took me all of those years to slow myself down, listen to that still voice inside of me and do what God had been telling me to do for years.

As do most who sincerely receive a call from God, I didn’t consider myself worthy. I wasn’t always the best person, didn’t always use the best language, and even though I knew quite a bit about the Word of God, I was disobedient to it. But it was that testimony, that seasoning, that story of reclamation that God actually needs sometimes in His messengers. He’s not looking for perfect people to spread the Gospel, He’s looking for the redeemed! I had to realize that I could only go into the ministry in God’s time, and every experience that I’ve had in my life will serve to make me a better preacher.

I have nothing against young ministers whatsoever. I happen to know a few great ones, and the fact is, I admire them for answering the call much sooner than I did. But as one that answered the call late, I have no regrets. In fact, I know it was all done in divine order. Just as Gaidica said during his announcement, sometimes God just grabs you by the collar and moves you right along the path that He wants you to walk. Even though I’m in my 40’s, I feel as if I’m in the prime of my life. I’m right where God wants me to be. I have the right amount of life experience and Christian experience that God wanted me to have in order to begin having an impact on the lives of the young and the old. Just as Gaidica seemed to be as he made his announcement, I’m not as concerned about when God called me. I’m just glad that He did.

Brand new year, brand new me

Old-NewSubject: Brand new year, brand new me

Text: Ephesians 4:17-24

Rev. Kelly R. Jackson

3 Thoughts to consider:

For the New Year:

  1. God wants to change your walk (Vs. 17-19)
  2. God wants to change your ways (Vs. 20-22)
  3. God wants to change your understanding (Vs. 23-24)

Isn’t it always this way? December 31st rolls around and we begin taking inventory. We analyze all that went wrong over the past year and vow to make changes. However, during the course of our assessment, our list making and all of the things we find ourselves wanting to get rid of, we often forget the most important element of change: Self improvement. To change our circumstances we must accept the fact that we’ve played a role in those circumstances. And if we’re serious about self improvement, we must first start with ourselves. In order to see change, we must be changed. 

In this text, we will see that God is interested in us as individuals. In the 3 areas listed at the top of the page, we’ll see that God intends to make us better as a people by making us better as individuals.

God wants to change our walk (Ephesians 4:17-19)

17This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

In Verse 17, the Apostle Paul is calling on us to walk as Christians. The “other Gentiles” in this verse represents those still in the world. Until we’ve separated ourselves from the world’s way of living, we’re not prepared to eliminate anyone from our lives. If we aren’t separated spiritually from the world, how can we really know which people should stay in our lives and which should go? So here is the question that Christians must ask of themselves: Am I still walking according to my own thoughts and understanding?

Look at the word “vanity” in the text. We often assume that vanity means to focus on oneself superficially. However, vanity can also be our willingness to look the other way concerning our shortcomings. It can also be a willingness to believe that everyone else is a problem in our lives, but we have no blame.

At its core, vanity is self-serving and meaningless. As a reference, let’s look at Ecclesiastes 2:11: “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and behold, all was vanity and vexation of the spirit, and there was no profit under the sun”.

When we take things into our own hands, we receive the fruits of our own labor. When we come to the end of the year and the wrong people are in our lives, or the wrong circumstances exist in our lives, we have to take a look at the work that we’ve done with our own hands. And when we look at our lives and see no spiritual profit from what we’ve sown, we have to be accountable to ourselves.

It’s easy to blame others for bringing misery into our lives, but when we let them in, it’s hardly just their fault. It is the work that we’ve done according to our own understanding of what is and isn’t necessary in our lives. We’ve worked things for our own pleasure, but received no real profit from it.

Let’s look at Verse 18 of our text. To walk in our own way darkens our understanding, which means we’re rejecting knowledge. We become alienated (separated) from God. Many times in scripture when discussing the saved and unsaved, the words “light” and “darkness” are used. We are children of the light and we should have no communion with darkness, as it says in 2 Corinthians 6:14. If we are walking in darkness, we are without the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

We become ignorant, which simply means to not know. We have a “blindness of heart”, which means we’re aimlessly wandering according to our understanding, which leads to works of the flesh (lasciviousness) (Vs. 19). If God has really and truly called us out from such things, we ought to walk like it. We ought to talk like it. We ought to live like it.

God wants to change our ways (Ephesians 4:20-22)

20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

If we don’t know anything about Christ, we’ll most likely glory in behavior that isn’t Christ-like (Vs. 20). But as Christians, we’re supposed to have an intimate knowledge of Christ and His teachings. And knowing Christ means a change in our ways (Vs. 21-22).

Look at 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, He is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”. Sounds like if we’re cleaning out our circle, we have to start with ourselves, right? To be new, we have to renounce our old ways and embrace a new Christian life. In order to do that, we must be honest about something: Do we really know the truth about Jesus Christ? Not asking are you saved, not asking do you believe that He rose on the third day and not asking are you faithful to the church. Do you really and truly know the truth about Jesus Christ, His example to us and how He wants and expects us to treat one another?

You can’t learn about Christ by word of mouth, you can only be introduced to Him that way. Learning comes from being taught, from studying and from experience. If you’re not in someone’s Bible class, you’re missing out on the truth about Jesus Christ. Sunday morning just isn’t enough. Once we really know Jesus, real change happens. Not through resolutions and promises made on New Year’s Eve, but through spiritual change and dedication to God. The fleshly man is corrupt, but the spiritual man is righteous in the eyes of God.

God wants to change our understanding (Ephesians 4:23-24)

23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

What is it that we really understand about ourselves? As you head into this new year, the old you has to die. Before we kick people out of our lives, we have to kick some things about ourselves out. It’s so easy to say that we’re tired of putting up with some of the wrong people in our lives, but we always forget that someone has been putting up with us too. We always wanna kick people out, but we never consider the fact that we may need to be kicked out of some places too. We’re not so much that everybody needs us while we get to pick and choose who stays and who goes.

Having the wrong people in your life is just as much a reflection on you for allowing them to stay as it is on them for being who they are. There’s something in you that’s attracted to them! But God wants to help us with this by telling us to put off the old, fleshly man, which is corrupt, and put on a new creature in Christ that is righteous in His sight. A new man after God is created in holiness, not foolishness. A new man after God is created in righteousness, not selfishness.

God will renew your spirit if you allow Him to. There is a new man that we must put on before we can even understand why God has placed certain people in our lives. Everybody that you want gone shouldn’t be gone. Everybody that you want to stay shouldn’t be staying. Some people we want around because they never tell us we’re wrong. How is that growth? Some people are around because we think we can’t live without them. How is that trusting in God?

There are some people we can’t accept the truth about because we refuse to see them with spiritual eyes. They keep us blinded in foolishness. But when God opens your eyes, you will see just how destructive they are. When God renews your mind, you understand things in His way, not yours.

In conclusion…

Going forward into this new year or any season of change, know that any true renewal starts with us. We can claim to be kicking all of the wrong people out of our lives for all we want, but if we’re still the same, we’ll replace those people with the same types of people. Allow God to clean you up first. Before you take inventory of the people in your life, take inventory of yourself.

Answer these questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What are you attracted to?
  • Why are you attracted to those things or those people?
  • How much of the damage in your life over the past year is self-inflicted?

The Word of God says in James 4:7 to resist the devil and he will flee. These are instructions for us as individuals. It doesn’t call for us to attack the devil or attempt to throw him out on our own. The instructions require us to work on ourselves. It requires us to resist the devil by standing on the Word of God, and if we do so, the devil will flee.

God wants us preparing, not planning. He already has the plan. We just need to be prepared to receive it. We have to set our minds to trust the plans that He has made for us. Psalms 37:23 says: “The steps of a good man are ordered by The Lord: and he delighteth in his way”. What am I saying? Well, if we work on ourselves and look to be better people through Christ, we won’t have to kick anyone out of our lives. The wrong people will leave on their own.