Welcome to my blog page! My desire is to post occasional devotionals and updates in an effort to inform and inspire believers in their growth in Christ and to encourage revival in the church. Comments are welcome (Our website reserve the right to review, edit, or withhold inappropriate comments).  Enjoy!  Pastor Keith Hassell
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Concerning Modesty

1 Timothy 2:9-10 (NKJV) “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” 
 
Does modesty matter?  Does God care about how we dress or what we wear?  The issue of modesty was first addressed in the Garden of Eden. In their innocence, Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed.  As it is with small children, innocence stirred no evil or carnal desire.  However, when sin entered their hearts, the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened. The knowledge of good and evil stole their innocence. The “flesh” was awakened and they discovered that they were naked.  To cover their nakedness, they made for themselves loin coverings made from fig leaves. Later, God made tunics of animal skin to cloth them more adequately.  Obviously, God took a personal interest in covering Adam and Eve’s nakedness. 

God covers nakedness.  The world uncovers it.  Clothing that was unnecessary in the age of innocence became necessary under their fallen condition. God did not immediately address the issue of clothing with Adam and Eve after they sinned. Why? Clothing and modesty are first a reflection of the condition of the heart. Modesty must first be addressed as an issue of the heart lest it lead to legalism. Since we no longer live in a state of innocence, sin and the “flesh” are now issues with which to contend. If we ignore or deny this battle, we will conform to the basest of worldly fashion and adopt the crudest displays of carnality.

As Christians, we must learn to order our lives according to purity.  We must avoid the confusion and distortion between what is holy and what is unholy and between what is pure and what is impure. We must remember that we are in this world, but we are not of it.

The Greek word for modesty means, “order.” As believers, we should seek to reflect God’s Kingdom order.  If we profess godliness, then we should reflect godliness in how we “order” our outward appearance and behavior. We are neither to be extravagant nor seductive.

Modesty begins as an attitude of the heart that, lovingly and without compromise, seeks to reflect godliness in a world that has lost its innocence and uncovers its shame. If we profess godliness on the inside, then we should reflect godliness in how we order our lives on the outside.

As we consider issues of modesty, we need to ask ourselves:  Where am I going? What is the cultural standard? What is fitting for the occasion? Will I encounter those of the opposite sex? Who are the people whose conscience I should consider? What does God require of me as His representative? What reputation will I foster by how I dress?  What is my motive for wearing what I wear?  Am I exposing too much skin or drawing attention to private areas of my body? Could the way I dress cause others to stumble?  Are my clothes too tight?  Are they too short?  Are they too revealing?  Am I reflecting godliness?  Will I discredit the name of Jesus? Will my extravagance or gaudiness draw unnecessary attention to myself rather than to Christ?  When in doubt, always defer to conservatism. 

Ask Jesus to take a tour of your closet. Get rid of immodest and ungodly clothing. Make godly choices when purchasing clothes. Take up sewing if necessary. Establish and teach principles of modesty to your children.  Train your children in how to evaluate and determine modesty in clothing.  Allow husbands and fathers to evaluate the clothing of the wives and daughters. Allow the wives and daughters to evaluate the clothing of the husbands and sons. The testimony of godliness must be our motivation and standard.  Believers should especially reflect godliness through modesty within the church and its gatherings.  The gathering of the saints should reflect the highest example of godliness and modesty after which the new believers can pattern their lives.
 
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, I want to be a godly example to others in how I dress.  I realize that modesty is first an issue of the heart.  Search my heart and see if there is any wicked motive in me that would defend impurity. Evaluate my current wardrobe and show me anything that I need to remove. Help me to cloth myself modestly so that I may be pleasing to You, that I may not cause others to stumble, and that I may be an example of godliness to others.  I ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

Are You Legitimate?

Hebrews 12:5-8 (NKJV) “‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord; nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?  But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.” 
 
This passage addresses the issue of legitimacy.  Are you a legitimate child of God? In the natural, an illegitimate child is a child born outside of wedlock, i.e. outside of a legal marriage. “Illegitimate” means “unlawful.” Illegitimate children are born contrary to God’s moral law.  Unfortunately, the response of society toward illegitimate children has often been one of emotional rejection, resentment, and abuse.  Illegitimate children are sometimes considered unworthy to carry their own biological father’s name or to share in the inheritance with legitimate children. Illegitimacy bore great consequences in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 23:2 attached the stigma of illegitimacy upon a person until the tenth generation. The child is often neglected, unloved, and abused. According to our passage in Hebrews 12, if a child does not receive loving correction and chastening from a father, then it is evidence that the child is illegitimate. Whom a father loves, he disciplines.

The writer of Hebrews says that our Father God loves His children. In love He will correct and chasten them. Rather than be disheartened or discouraged by this, we should rejoice that He cares enough to correct us. It is evidence that we are legitimate, born of the Father by the Spirit.

Can a genuine child of God resist the Father’s discipline? Yes. However, if they are truly His child, He will not relinquish correction until the child’s heart is turned back. If a child of God resists the Father’s correction and discipline, everything else that do they will be regarded as illegitimate in the eyes of their Father. Only that which is done in obedience is pleasing to and approved by Him.

In a similar way, God has placed spiritual fathers in our lives as an extension of His Fatherly  work in our lives. A spiritual father’s role is to lovingly protect, encourage, develop, train, and hold the person accountable in their spiritual health and progress. Spiritual fathers in the faith may be pastors, elders, or mature men of God. Sadly, many believers have refused the input and correction of genuine spiritual fathers. This is tragic. Many spiritual fathers have grieved over those who have resisted, rejected, and rebelled against them. Some, in their rebellion, launch out to begin a new ministry in competition to the one they left. Those who seek to “birth” their own ministry in such a state are birthing an illegitimate work that will bear that stigma.  It may take years for that stigma to be overcome, and only as they repent of their pride and submit to legitimate spiritual fathers in the Lord. It is important to gain the blessing of “legitimacy” that comes from God through spiritual fathers. It is time for God’s people to prove that they are legitimate sons and daughters of God. It is time to see loving correction and discipline as confirmation of God’s love. It is important to birth “legitimate” ministries that bring honor to the Lord.
 
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, I thank You that I am Your child.  Forgive me for despising Your correction and discipline.  Help me to embrace Your correction and discipline with joy knowing that it is for my own good.  Help me to receive the correction and training I need through Your legitimately appointed leadership in my life.  I know that as I do, I will obtain the blessing and favor of legitimacy in Your eyes.  I thank You for this  in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
 

Called to Be a Witness

John 1:7 (NKJV) “This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.” 
 
God sent John the Baptist to be a witness. The reality is, God intends all of us to be His witness. That is one reason He saved us. If salvation alone is the goal, then why doesn’t God just carry us on to heaven once we are saved?  Wouldn’t this spare us a lot of trouble, pain, and encounters with temptation? The reason God has placed us here on this earth is to be a witness for Him.  The word “witness” comes from the Greek word martus from which we get the word “martyr.”  The word was used for a material witness in a judicial case.  John the Baptist came to this earth to be a material witness to Jesus Christ being the Messiah Son of God.  Through his witness many believed on the Lord Jesus as their Savior.

A Christian witness is not necessarily a theologian or an expert in the Scriptures. A witness is one who can testify of what they have seen, heard, and experienced.  Every believer is called to be a witness of what the Lord has done in their life. Ananias told Paul at his conversion: “For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.” (Acts 22:15)

Jesus chose twelve disciples so that they might be with Him and witness firsthand what He said and what He did.  He said to them in John 15:27, “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”  The basis of the disciple’s ability to be witnesses was found in their walk with Jesus.  They testified to others of what they had both seen and heard. After He ascended into heaven, Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to enable them to be effective witnesses: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) All but one of Jesus’ disciples was martyred for their witness of Jesus and for their witness of God’s truth. In the same way we are called to be witnesses unto the Lord Jesus and to His truth to every person—family member, work mate, friend, stranger, and even to our enemies. 

As witnesses we are to bear record of the reality of Jesus because we have the testimony that He is alive in us. We are to bear record of the truth, because we have the testimony of His truth working in our hearts.  We are to bear witness of His Spirit, because we have the testimony of His Spirit dwelling in and empowering us to do His work.  We are to bear record of His power to deliver, because we carry the testimony of His deliverance in our lives. We are to bear record that He heals, because we carry the testimony of His healing power in our bodies, minds, and emotions.  We are to bear record that He loves sinners, because we carry the testimony that He demonstrated His love for us.  
We are here to be a witness unto others of what Jesus has done in our lives in hope that they might believe in Him. Will all receive our witness? No. Some may reject our witness while others may actually attempt to silence our witness.  Some may try to argue about religion, beliefs, and theology, however it is hard to refute our testimony as a material witness of the Lord Jesus Christ.  That is why we are called to be witnesses rather than theologians. Anyone who has been saved and changed by faith in Jesus Christ is qualified to be a witness.

Since God has called us to be His witnesses, it is important that we not keep silent about what the Lord has done in our lives. Our witness is not only in our words but also in the way we live. We are Christ’s witness before our friends, family members, schoolmates, and work mates who have not yet believed. We bear the testimony of Christ’s power to save, heal, deliver, and restore. Without our witness, Satan, the prosecutor of sinners, will rest His case in the lives of those around us.  We cannot allow the devil to intimidate us into silence. We must approach the witness stand and declare what we have seen, heard, and experienced. We must bear witness to Christ’s Light and to His Truth. God has called you to be His witness. Determine today to be Christ’s witness so that others might believe upon Him and be saved.
 
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, I answer Your call to be a witness. I will testify of what I have seen, heard, and experienced. I will bear witness of Christ’s Light and Your Truth so that others might see, hear, and believe. Lord Jesus, anoint me as Your witness with the power of Your Holy Spirit. May You be glorified through me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.”

Take Heed What You Hear

Mark 4:23-25 (NKJV) “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.  Then He said to them, Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” 
 
Have you developed a hearing ear? It is our responsibility to develop a hearing ear. A hearing ear is one that is inclined to hear the Lord. People are pretty good at inclining their ear when they eavesdrop on another conversation! In such cases people will position their ears to maximize their hearing ability.  It is amazing how a person can tune into a conversation in another room while oblivious to the conversation taking place next to them. Although the situation is somewhat different, the principle of inclining our ears is the same. Jesus said, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”  Not only are we to hear, but we are to listen and take heed to what we hear. We must treasure what we hear and implement it in our lives.  Here is a little word of advice: develop a practice of recording what God speaks to you in your time alone with Him or through a public proclamation of the Word of God. In this way you can go back and meditate on it later. What is the Biblical concept of meditation? Consider the digestive track of a cow.  A cow grazes for hours and then lays down.  During this time of rest, they bring back up and chew on what they spent hours collecting.  In the same way, we need to meditate on what God has already spoken to us. In doing so, we will be given more.  If we neglect to take heed to what we have already been given, we will lose what we had. How many times do we fail to record the little nuggets of wisdom and insights that God shared with us? How many times have we regretted this after they have slipped from our minds? What God reveals to us needs to be meditated upon until it becomes part of our spirit so that it is not easily lost.

David said in Psalm 63:6, “When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.” Again he says in Psalm 119:148, “My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.”  David was a man who took heed to what he heard. He spent time “chewing” on God’s Word and meditating upon the awesomeness of God.  As king, David had “recorders,” people who stood by him to record what he had to say.  Many of David’s psalms and the wisdom he passed down to Solomon came out of the overflow of heeding what he heard. 

Train your ears to listen to God’s Word and for His voice. Carry a pen and pad with you to jot down what the Lord speaks to your heart. You might want to carry a small voice recorder to record what the Lord is speaking to you. Make a habit of taking notes anytime the Word of God is being taught or preached. Developing the simple habit of taking notes has a way of helping you cultivate a hearing ear.  Plus, you can always go back and digest what you heard.  As you are reading the Bible, jot down anything that God illuminates from His Word.  Writing can tap into the flow of revelation as often happens when one speaks prophetically. I have discovered that even as I begin to write down what God has given me, a flow of prophetic writing sometimes begins and whereby I receive more.  Keep a journal where you can record what the Lord is saying and doing in your life. Not only will this become a source of encouragement as you look back upon what the Lord has done in your life, but it can become a part of the spiritual heritage passed down to your children and grandchildren.  Journaling is a great way to take heed to what we have heard and to pass it on to the next generation.  If you have not done so, begin a journal today.
 
Prayer: “Lord, grant unto me a hearing ear that takes heed to what I hear. I incline my ears unto Your sayings. I choose to listen for Your voice.  Teach me Your ways, O Lord, and lead me in Your paths.  I ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ

Romans 13:13-14 (NKJV) “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts.”
 
Are you properly dressed for your environment?  If you lived in the artic, you would be clothed in the warmest clothes available. If you lived in a desert, you would be dressed in clothes that would keep you cool while protecting you from the harmful rays of the sun.  If you lived in a rainy region, you would be dressed in galoshes and carry an umbrella. How foolish you would look and how unprepared you would be to wear cold or rainy weather clothes in the desert!

Although the thought of such would be ridiculous, in truth we are not always dressed for the worldly environment in which we live.  As believers, we live in a hostile spiritual environment.  Rather than rain, sun, and ice, we are exposed to demonic powers, temptations, and the wickedness of this world.  We need to be dressed to withstand and survive these adverse spiritual elements.

As believers we are not to adorn ourselves with the clothing of this world to engage in boisterous partying, drunken stupors, obscene and vulgar behavior, fighting and quarreling, and attitudes of ill will or jealous competition. Such things are not the proper attire for a person claiming to know Jesus Christ. Instead we are to put on Christ and to make no provision for the flesh.

What does it mean to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ?” It means to wear a different kind of spiritual clothing. We are to clean out the spiritual closets of the old life and get rid of the garments defiled by the flesh. In other words, we need to change our lifestyle—a change in our “habit”. While the word “habit” refers to a particular pattern of action that has become automatic in our lives, the word “habit” originally referred to a person’s clothing, costume, or dress. A person would have a different habit for different settings or activities.  For instance, a person could have a golfing habit, a hunting habit, a fishing habit, a religious habit.  The person’s choice in habit depended upon their circumstance or situation.  Social classes were also required to wear certain types of habits such as in a peasant’s habit or a royal habit.  In this world we need to put on the habit of the Lord Jesus Christ. This habit includes the robe of Christ’s righteousness and the armor of God which He wore.


What does it mean to “make no provision for the flesh?” It means that we should put away the old “habits” from our spiritual wardrobe. We need to clean out our spiritual closets. We must get rid of all patterns of behavior and choices that seek to pull us back to the old life. Our new “habit” will cause us to be dressed differently than those around us, but it will reflect of our new relationship with Jesus Christ. So, as we come out of the darkness into the light of Jesus Christ, be sure to put on a new habit—the Lord Jesus Christ!

Many people are satisfied to just be saved. They never change their old habits or patterns of behavior.  They continue to live just like they did before. This is not Christianity. Christianity is not only a new relationship with Jesus but a new way of life. So the question is, how are you dressed today?  Have we put on the Lord Jesus Christ, or are we still dressed in the defiled garments of our old nature? Maybe it’s time to go through our spiritual closet and get our wardrobe up to date with our decision to live for Jesus Christ. It is time to put on Christ!
 
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, I thank You for calling me out of the darkness of this world. I determine to put off the old habits of sin and to put on the new habit of the Lord Jesus Christ. Inspect my spiritual closet and to show me any habits that I must discard. I thank you for this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
 

Is Your Hunger Holy?

Are you spiritually hungry? Is your hunger holy? Spiritual hunger is both a blessing and a curse. God leads us into times of spiritual hunger to test and reveal what is in our heart. Will we pass God's hunger test? Holy spiritual hunger leads us to the Lord's table. Unholy spiritual hunger leads us to the table of demons. Don't be fooled. The devil marks his table as "The table of the Lord", but it is a lie. The devil has set a counterfeit table to entice us away from the Lord's table. Which one will you choose? If we think that our ability to discern the difference is through our feelings, worship experiences, or sincerity, we will be deceived. If we believe that manifestations, miracles, signs and wonders are proof that what is said is true, we will be deceived. If we think that simply professing to believe the Bible makes us immune to the lie, we will be deceived. Is it possible for us, even the most "spiritual", to be deceived? My friend, it is those who claim to be the most spiritual who are the most susceptible. If we say that we would never be deceived by or follow a lie, then we are in pride and are already deceived. Truth is serious business. The devil is much smarter than we are. Hell is full of his trophies. The saying is true: deceived people don't know that they are deceived; if they did they would not be deceived. Therein lies the danger. Holy hunger comes to the Lord's table with humility. Humility prays, "God I want to know the truth regardless of what I now believe, embrace, or have experienced." The only way to discern between the truth and the lie is to abide in the truth until we know the truth, love the truth, and obey the truth. God's word is truth. Do you love the truth? God is raising up a holy remnant who love the truth, defend the truth, speak the truth, and hate the lie. Will you be among them? If we love the truth, we will not fall prey to the devil's lies, seductions, and counterfeits. Those who love the truth will feast on the holy while those who do not love the truth will indulge on the profane. Gullibility is damning to the soul. These are days to be watchful. The mystery of lawlessness is already at work around us. Even now many antichrists have risen who are deceiving and being deceived. As unsuspecting pawns in the hand of the devil, antichrist personalities are rolling out the red carpet for the man of sin, the lawless one, the Antichrist. In contrast, a holy remnant is crying out to a holy God for a holy revival in our land. Do you want a holy hunger? Do you want to be a part of a holy revival? Make sure you are sitting at the right table. Lord, give us a holy hunger!

 

Deuteronomy 8:2–3 (NKJV) "And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD."

 

1 Corinthians 10:21 (NKJV) "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons."

 

2 Thessalonians 2:9–12 (NKJV) "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."

 

1 John 2:18-19 (NKJV) "Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us."

The Importance of Humility

Luke 18:9-14 (NKJV) “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”
 
Self-righteousness is the sin of the religious. It is the sin of the proud. It is a disease that blinds the eyes of the most spiritual. It is the condition that caused the religious leaders of Christ’s day to deny their own need to be saved. It was the sin that caused them to seek His death instead.  Self-righteousness is so subtle that it can grip the mind and heart of even the most unsuspecting believer. Once infected, there is little antidote except humiliation. There is a saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The best prevention for self-righteousness is cultivating and maintaining an attitude of humility in view of the cross of Christ.

Self-righteousness is a distorted and inflated view of our own goodness. It is assuming a position of judge and jury in our own trial. It is human nature to justify ourselves while condemning others. Because we are imperfect, we find our greatest source of justification through selectively comparing our goodness and righteousness to that of others. It is like selectively hanging our dirty laundry next to someone’s laundry that is dirtier than our own. In doing so we feel good about ourselves.  In so doing we avoid perceiving and admitting that our laundry is still dirty. When someone else with whiter laundry comes along and hangs theirs next to ours, we are quick to point out their spots and maybe even throw a little dirt. On judgment day our righteousness will not be compared to that of others but to the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ that is whiter than snow.  When placed next to His, our righteousness will be as filthy rags before Him.

The point of Jesus’ parable is clear:  no matter how good we are, we are not good enough. Our only cure for self-righteousness is found in an attitude of humility whereby we admit our sinful condition and come to God. We come pleading for mercy as did the tax collector.  Through an attitude of humility we submit our filthy rags to the Launderer who can make us whiter than snow as He washes us in His own blood. Only the humble will walk away clean and justified in the sight of God.

Do we identify ourselves with the Pharisee or with the lowly tax-collector? Do we justify ourselves by selectively comparing ourselves to others? Do we feel better about ourselves because we are not as “bad” as someone else?  Are we quick to judge, criticize, and condemn others? Are we counting on our own righteousness to get us into heaven? If so, then we have been infected with self-righteousness.  It has blinded us to our own sinful condition. Worse still, it has prevented us from receiving the remedy we need to be justified before God. Don’t wait for humiliation to reveal your condition. Cease your comparisons, judgments, criticisms, and condemnations of others. Choose to humble yourself before a holy God and cry out for His mercy.
 
Prayer:  “Heavenly Father, forgive me a sinner. Forgive me for trusting in my own righteousness. Forgive me for criticizing and condemning others in order to justify myself. I choose to humble myself and repent of all self-righteous comparisons. I humbly plead for Your mercy and grace. My complete righteousness is found in You and You alone. Help me to always walk humbly before You, I pray this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”
 

Restricted by Your Own Affections

2 Corinthians 6:11-18 (NKJV) “O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections.”
 
Do you feel that something is hindering your walk with Jesus? It is possible that we need look no further than our own affections.  For instance, we can be disengaged in the discipleship process when our hearts are restricted by outside influences.

Sometimes we blame others for our lack of spiritual growth. More often than not that is only a diversion, an excuse, to shift the blame away from us. Paul said that his heart was “wide open” to them.  He desired to help them grow in their walk with God.  However, they had restricted their relationship with him. He could not disciple them without their openness to him. 

The real problem was restrictions in their life that prevented them from being open to the full measure of the discipleship process.  Paul went to the root. He addressed the wrong connections and associations that kept their relationship with him from growing.

First, they had compromised in their relationships with the wrong people. They were “unequally yoked” together with unbelievers. Second, they were enjoying fellowship with lawless people. They were hanging around a rebellious atmosphere and crowd. Third, they were enjoying fellowship with darkness. They were enjoying sinful and ungodly activities. Fourth, they were living in agreement by word and deed with “Belial”, the lawless one, i.e. the devil. They were not walking with Jesus and seeking to please Him. Fifth, they were being influenced by unbelievers rather than being influenced and accountable to other brothers and sisters in Christ. Sixth, they had become idolaters. Idolatry is more than bowing before an image. Idolatry is putting anyone or anything ahead of God in our loyalty and commitment.

What does Paul say to the Corinthians? What was the answer to the restriction in their hearts that kept them from growing spiritually? Paul said, “Come out from among them and be separate!” In other words, if they would repent of the things that had robbed their intimacy with Christ, then their intimacy with him as a spiritual leader would be resolved. Their restricted relationship with him began with their restricted relationship toward Christ. When someone begins distancing themselves from the church and other believers, it is a sign that they are distancing themselves from Christ.

Is something restricting your heart today? Have you allowed other things to steal your affection toward Christ? Has your time with the Lord grown cold? Has your commitment to be with other believers begun to slip? Are you hiding from people who would care enough to see you restored? It is time to stop running away from God and start running back to Him.

When we do not make our relationship with God the central focus of our lives we will soon find that other things will rush in to fill the vacuum.  People who say they have no time to serve God soon fill up their time with everything else but God. Time is not the problem; it is our affections.

Once we back away from God’s people we begin forming relationships with the wrong people. We start identifying with another crowd and a way of life. We start making excuses that we never made before. Being sold out for Jesus now seems extreme. After all, other “Christians” seem okay living a less committed life, “Maybe we should just chill a bit.”  We start watching things we would never have watched before.  We start listening to music that we would never have listen to before.  We start going places we never thought we would go.  We start doing things we never thought we would do.  We start saying things we never thought we would say. We invest our time and money on hobbies and “toys” that we now feel obligated to use and maintain as “good stewards”. Taking the family to church on Sundays was once regarded as family time but now we argue that it takes away from family time. Setting a godly example for our children and others to follow is no longer important. Now they will follow our bad example. Our former testimony has slipped away.

If we will admit that the restrictions are rooted in our own sinful affections, then we can repent, return, and “come out” from the sin and compromise.  It is not always easy but the reward of being restored in our affection toward Christ is worth it.
 
“Heavenly Father, may our hearts be open wide to You. Your heart is open wide open to us. May we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and be Your disciples. May we not allow sin, pride, compromise, or excuses to keep us from You. Please grant us the grace to repent of our sin and the resolve to come out from among the things that have restricted our hearts.  May we truly reflect the heart of one of Your children that we might know You as our Father and to fear You as our God.  I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen!”

Influence or Influenced?

Romans 12:21 (NKJV) “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  
 
Influence is the affect upon others through indirect or intangible means. Some have said that the power of influence is greater than the power than position. It is not those in positions of power but those in positions of influence who actually direct the power of that position. We are either being an influence or we are being influenced. We are either bearing the image of Christ or we are imitating someone else. We are either influencing others toward Christ or we are being influenced by others toward the world. Are you transforming the people around you by your Christian influence or are you conforming to the world’s influence? It is very important that we make sure that the influences we have in our life are helping us to become more like Jesus.

As a Christian grows in their maturity in Christ, the power of this world’s influence begins to weaken.  However, for the new believer and the immature believer, setting proper boundaries for ungodly influence is very important. Many well-intended people drift away from Christ due to the ungodly influences they allow in their lives.  Influence comes in many different ways. It can come through family, friends, music, movies, video games, books, etc.  The mistake many new and immature believers make is that they fail to cut off the ungodly influences from their past. Somehow they believe that their newfound love for Christ protects them from the power of ungodly influence. That is why Paul said, “Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33) The weakness of their flesh makes an immature believer unprepared to stand victoriously against the temptations that they face. How do we know when we are able to handle a worldly influence? It is when the power of Christ’s influence on the inside is greater than the influence of sin on the outside.  1 John 4:4 says, “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.” The greater the depth of sin around you requires a greater depth of Christ inside you.

Men are unable to live at great depths in the sea due to “hydrostatic pressure”. Hydrostatic pressure is the force per unit area exerted by a liquid on an object. The deeper a person goes under the sea, the greater the pressure of the water pushing down on them. For every 33 feet a person goes down in depth, the pressure increases by 14.5 pounds per square inch (psi). Since the ocean is several miles deep in some places, it would seem that life could not exist at that depth. However, biologists have discovered sea life at depths where they thought life could not exist.  They discovered that these sea creatures were designed with an internal pressure that was equal to the hydrostatic pressure on the outside.  In the same way, deep-sea divers must have suits with internal pressure equal to the hydrostatic pressure they face below the surface.  Otherwise, the suit and the diver will be crushed under the pressure. 

The deeper the influence that sin has had in our lives, the greater the influence of Christ must be on the inside.  If we are weak in an area of temptation, we should avoid anyone and anyplace where that could influence us negatively in that area.  If the power of temptation still influences our heart, we are not yet ready to re-enter that atmosphere to reach others. If we are being influenced by evil, then we must back away until the influence of Christ within is greater than the temptations without.  Otherwise we are no better off than a deep-sea diver without his pressurized suit.

Sadly, many Christians have suffered moral shipwreck because they foolishly trusted in their own will power to resist sin. Falling into sin usually does not occur with a spontaneous encounter. It occurs over time as the influence of old friends, environments, and activities weakens our resolve and justify indulgence. We must not maintain relationships with old friends, including boyfriends or girlfriends, that have strong emotional influences on our lives.  We must not be around anyone who still participates in the old sinful behavior from which Christ has delivered us.  Instead we must come out from among them and then form strong new relationships with godly Christians who will influence us toward doing what is right.  We need true friends who will hold us accountable to God.  We need to develop a strong relationship with Christ through Bible study and prayer.  Once our hearts are established in Christ, then we can begin to be a godly influence.
 
Prayer: “Heavenly Father, help me to be an influence for good rather than one who is influenced by evil.  Give me wisdom to know the difference. I choose not to trust in my own ability to resist temptation but to be accountable to spiritual leadership. Help me to avoid people and situations that make me vulnerable to temptation.  Help me to trust that You can reach those I am unprepared to reach.  I thank You for Your preserving mercy, grace, and wisdom in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
 

Harnessing Your Potential

God’s purpose and destiny for your life resides inside of you as potential. Some of your potential is yet to be discovered while much of what is already known has yet to be harnessed. Leadership can help you discover potential.  However, potential is of no value until it is harnessed

“Harnessing” has to do with being fitted to pull a load. Many of us resist the harness. We would rather be Mavericks, running wild and free.  Mavericks are strong, fast, and independent but useless to others. Their potential is of no value until they can be broken and harnessed. Mavericks must be broken and harnessed by God if they are going to be connected to the work of the kingdom. 

Will we allow God to harness the potential in our lives?  Will we allow God to put the bit in our mouths and lead us?  Will we allow Him to hold the “reign” in our lives? Jesus said to take His yoke upon you (Matthew 11:29). A yoke is a particular type of harness. The purpose of a yoke is to harness one person in “partnership” with another person. Only two going in the same direction with equal determination should be harnessed together in one yoke.  That is why the Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14).  God does not want us in ungodly partnerships that hinder our ability to accomplish our potential and God’s purpose for our lives. 

A yoke of horses or oxen is called a “team.” Much of the work that God has called us to do as a church can only be accomplished as we are willing to be harnessed together as teams.  We can do as a team what we could never do alone.  When two horses or oxen are yoked together to pull a load, their ability is not doubled but multiplied! They can pull much more together than their combined individual loads. I think this is a wonderful picture of why God intends for us to work in partnership with others.  Yes, we can accomplish a certain amount for God alone, but our ability is multiplied when connected in meaningful partnerships with others. 

Being harnessed requires the heart of a bondservant—a servant who willingly serves from a heart of unselfish love.  God has called us to be sons and daughters in His house. The greatest in the kingdom is a son or daughter who lives as a servant.  Jesus gave us the supreme example of this as the Son of God who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). May God give us individually and corporately the desire for kingdom greatness through humbly serving those around us.

Take time to look for opportunities to serve.  Overcome the selfish nature that desires to be served by others and learn to serve others in the little things.  When you do, you will surprise and bless those you serve. When service is motivated by sincere love, it will become contagious! The grace of God will increase! Look for opportunities to serve at the weekly gatherings of the church. Find opportunities to serve throughout the week.  Sow a seed of service and watch it grow! 

Keep your eyes open for the “little” things that need to be done: picking up trash, vacuuming a dirty carpet, cleaning a spill, tidying up a dirty bathroom, setting up chairs, assisting as catchers in the ministry line, being an usher, being an “unofficial” greeter to those around you, helping visitors find their way around or help them get their kids to the right place, or watching someone's kids while their parents are in the ministry line. Make guests feel welcome and introduce them to others.  Volunteer to serve in areas of ministry.  Do it with a heart of joy, enthusiasm, and blessing knowing that you will receive your reward from the Lord. The potential is there. Discover it and harness it for the glory of God!


Copyright 2017. Edward Keith Hassell. All Rights Reserved.
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