Day 22: Counsel

Where no COUNSEL is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14

How many of us sought counsel this week? What did you seek counsel for? Was it how to fix your washing machine? How to properly hang out clothes on the clothesline to make the most of the space you have? Or maybe it was how to make an irresistible casserole.

Counsel means to seek advice, on a topic that is unknown or that you do not much knowledge on, typically formally, but not always. Attorneys or lawyers are often referred to as counsellors. Counsellors of law do what? They give advice on legal matters, correct?

If I wanted to know more about how to bake a wedding cake, then I would seek counsel from someone who has a lot of experience making wedding cakes, correct? Or if I wanted to know more about how to bake sugar-free desserts, I would seek counsel (advice) from someone who has more experience doing this.

It only makes sense to seek counsel from someone who has the knowledge and expertise that we lack, so why do we too often find ourselves floundering along in our own counsel or seeking it from family, friends, the cashier at the grocery store, and any numerous other ill-chosen choices?

We have already established in our devotion on day 3 that the battles that we face in life are not personal battles (man vs. man, or flesh vs. flesh). No, my friend, they are spiritual battles! So, answer this. Who has the most experience and knowledge about fighting spiritual battles? The Lord, right? We saw that in II Chronicles 20:15.

If we are going to win these spiritual battles, then we must seek counsel from a spiritual standpoint … not some man’s opinion or experience.

1. Seek counsel from God Himself — by taking your burdens, your concerns, your questions, and your trials to God in prayer opens the door of communication to be able to then receive His counsel through the other three means.

2. Seek counsel from God’s Word — there is not a more sure word (II Peter 1:19). In the following numbers, these too must meet this first requirement. Always seek counsel from someone who will give you BIBLICAL answers … scriptural, chapter, and verse answers.

3. Seek counsel from your pastor — keep in mind that he is human, but all pastors should be students of God’s Word to where they have a very good “working-knowledge” of it to be able to deliver sound, biblical advice.

4. Seek counsel from other Christians who are students and stewards of God’s Word — no man will have all the answers but these Christians can definitely give you some guidance through God’s Word as well!

Day 21: Faithful

He that is FAITHFUL in that which is least is FAITHFUL also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” Luke 16:10

What is faithfulness? Is it something that grows on trees? Is it something that is painted on billboards that litter the highways across America? Is it something that can be purchased with Amazon Prime? No, my friend. Faithfulness is none of these things.

So, what is faithfulness? Well, it can be well described by seeing its synonyms … dedicated, unwavering, loyal, committed, steadfast, constant, true, and staunch. Wow! That is a mouth full! So, let us break these words down into definitions.

· Dedicated —devoted with single-minded loyalty and integrity

· Unwavering — fixed; resolved; not changing

· Loyal — showing firm and consistent support

· Committed — dedicated and bound with the whole heart or being

· Steadfast — dependable; reliable; trustworthy

· Constant — continuous

· True — encompassed in truth

· Staunch — firm; resolute

Why is faithfulness so important in our lives as Christians? Well, faithfulness is a character trait. It is something that has very deep-lying roots in our lives. It can affect every single area of our lives, our homes, our churches, and our country!

It is so easy to brush off the “little” things claiming that they are not important. But, they are important! They are VERY important! Please do not overlook faithfulness in the smallest things, my friend!

I know how hard it can be to be faithful when circumstances and people are against us, but we must remain faithful! We must keep disciplined and on course. We must remain faithful in our love and fellowship with our Savior. We must remain faithful in our marriage. We must remain faithful in our jobs. We must remain faithful in serving. We must remain faithful in giving. We must remain faithful in church. We must remain faithful in ALL things!

Mac Lynch wrote a beautiful hymn entitled, “May the Lord Find Us Faithful.” He said, “God has not given us the spirit of fear, But has given us the strength to obey, With power and sound mind, with love, the unfailing kind. O be not ashamed of His way … May His Word be our banner held high!” Such familiar, yet meaningful, words!

I Corinthians 4:2 “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found FAITHFUL.”

Day 20: Doubt

“… O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou DOUBT?” Matthew 14:31

When it comes to doubting in the scripture, we probably all draw a black and white picture of “Doubting Thomas” in our minds. But, let us add some color to that picture, shall we?

What does doubt actually mean? It means a feeling of uncertainty or conviction. In other words, a doubting person has some serious questions in their mind about the believability of someone or something. That was truly the case with Thomas. He did not want to believe that Christ had risen from the tomb … at least not without seeing with his own eyes and putting his finger in the nail prints.

It seems as if this one incident has defined Thomas. It is as if any other good that he had done prior or after did not even exist; yet, we know that it did because we see his courage and his trust in John 11. Men have a way of making a mountain out of a molehill, do they not? Even in jest, we can create a monster in a hurry that grows to a disproportionate size!

Even you and I can get caught up in this practice … for how often do you and I judge another person and put a negative label on them? I can still hear my mother admonishes us to not call people (especially) children names (i.e. fat, stupid, dumb, baby, etc.). Why? Because that repeated name-calling can affect that person to the point that they start believing, acting, and becoming what they have been called. So, be very careful, my friend!

Well, that was a rabbit trail of all rabbit trails! That was definitely not the angle that I intended to go with this devotional. So, let us find our way back to the trail of doubting.

We have talked much about Satan and the warfare that we fight daily as a Christian. Doubt is definitely one of the tools that Satan loves to use in our lives to keep us in a weak, defeated state. I believe that confusion is its twin … by the way, did you know that Thomas means twin in Aramaic? Well, maybe they are triplets … with fear?!

Where does doubt, confusion, and fear come from? Well, not from God! I Corinthians 14:33 tells us that. So, if not from God, then from whom? The devil! Right? Does that mean that we can play the blame game and tell God that “the devil made me do it?” No, instead we are to follow the instruction in Ephesians 4:27 when we are told to “Neither give place to the devil.”

It is so easy to get caught up in doubt and fear, which causes confusion. We must strengthen ourselves in the Word of God. We must trust God to do as He has promised. He will not leave us powerless! He can give us a strong, sound mind.

I Timothy 1:7 “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Day 19: Fear

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Psalm 56:3

Satan loves to strike fear in our hearts because he knows that fear paralyzes. Paralysis keeps us frozen in one place. We cannot move. We cannot accomplish anything … not even things that are right beside us. If we even attempt to do things that are close to us during this paralysis, we can really botch them up because we are not able to function normally.

The definition of fear is actually two-fold. First, fear can be a reverence or submission to God. Second, it can be an emotion that is affected by the belief that something is either dangerous or threatening. I would like us to look at both of these, because both of these play a part in our spiritual battle against Satan.

First, there is our fear of the Lord. There is not much of this seen in today’s world, is there? Men do not fear the Lord. They do not respect or submit to the Lord. Oh, they claim to be Christians, but in their actions, they show the opposite.

Many scriptures encourage and admonish us to fear the Lord. Verses like Proverbs 1:7 tells us that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Who wants to be thought of as a fool? Not me! How about you?

Second, there is our emotional fear. There are many types of emotional fears … fear of spiders, fear of heights, fear of the unknown, fear of water, fear of flying, fear of death, fear of man’s opinion, fear of change, and the list just goes on and on.   Emotional fears can be just as dangerous as our lack of fear for the Lord because they distract us, they paralyze us, and they keep us frozen in one place.

As I find myself increasing in years (not aging, you know, but just increasing in years), that I have acquired quite a fear of flying. It practically paralyzes me … and I have even been known to have anxiety attacks as well. In fact, please do not even mention anything even remotely close to severe weather, other plane crashes, etc., etc. You get my drift, do you not?

One scripture that has really helped me to keep my focus when fear wants to overtake my life is Joshua 1:5b “as I was with   Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Just reading down through Hebrews 11 is a great help and encouragement to keep moving forward and to not let fear paralyze me. It can be very hard to take that step of faith and launch out into the deep (the unknown), but sometimes that is exactly what God is waiting for. He is waiting for you to take that step of faith and then He will show how your faith has made you whole (complete in Him)!

No matter what our emotional fear is we can overcome! Can you imagine when the Israelites arrived at the Red Sea? I imagine they stood there in fear … but as they stepped forth in faith, what happened? God parted the sea and they not only went forward on dry ground but they left behind all the bondage and fear that had been holding there in Egypt!

Do you find yourself standing at the edge of the “Red Sea” waiting for God to part the waters? Take that step of faith, my friend, and God will bring you forth to the other side … free from the bondage that has kept you in Egypt! Freedom so rich and sweet … made whole and complete in Him!

Day 18: Thankful

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed … giving THANKS to God and the Father by him … and be ye THANKful.” Colossians 3:17 and 15b

We live in a very ungrateful world today, do we not? We see and hear it all around us. It is on the news. It is splashed and forwarded all over the internet and social media. But, you and I are called by God to not be like the world around us. No, my friend, we are to be THANKFUL!

Verse 17 above tells us that “whatsoever [we] do in WORD or DEED.” Well, that just nails it right there, does it not? Here we thought that we could just speak words of gratefulness. Now, we are going to have to not only speak words, but our actions will have to follow. Ugh!

Our gratefulness should come from the heart. Matthew 15:18 “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” So, if we are grateful, it will come forth out of our mouths. If we are not grateful, our mouths will also tell on us.

Now that we are empty-nesters, I find myself reflecting back on things that I did as a parent and question why I even did some of the things that I did. One thing I questioned myself on is when my child did something wrong to another making them say, “I’m sorry.” Did that make everything better? Umm … I do not think so! It may have made me feel better … knowing that my child told someone they had hurt that they are sorry.

It did not make my child magically sorry inside (where it counts, by the way). I am sure that it did not make them feel any better … because, I mean why should it when all I did was make them say some words that they did not mean at all?

Have you have heard of the little boy whose mother wanted him to sit down in a chair? She kept telling him to sit down and he would not do it. Finally, she got really stern with him and told him (in no uncertain terms) that he was to sit down! Well, he finally acquiesced and sat down … and then mumbled under his breath, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I am standing up on the inside!”

Did that little boy have the right attitude … an attitude of obedience … from the heart? No, he did not, did he? What about you and I, my friend? How is our attitude? Are we grateful for the things that we have? Are we grateful for the storms that God puts us in … to strengthen and grow us? Are we grateful for the spouse, the children, and the family that we have?

I know it is hard to be grateful for all things … not just in word, but also in deed. To be honest, I have been making an effort to be more grateful in my words … and I have even had people act surprised that I have expressed thanks to them because it is something that they rarely hear. But, how just as important that I make sure that my heart is full of gratitude as well!

Lord, help me to be THANKFUL from the HEART … in WORD and DEED!

Day 17: Time

Redeeming the TIME, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16

It seems like the best-laid plans can go awry in a hurry! At least that is the way it is for me. I think I have my day planned out so perfectly and one little thing can throw a catawampus to the rest of the day! Grrr!

Then, what happens? I end up at the end of the day with hardly anything accomplished. Double grrr! Planning can make a big difference when executing your day. But, do you know what is even better? Prioritizing! Yep, that is right!

1It is said that in 1918 Charles Schwab, who was the president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, was one of the richest men in the world at that time. Even though he had great wealth, Mr. Schwab felt that his company could be even more productive. So, he consulted with Ivy Lee, who was a very successful businessman in his own rights.

Mr. Lee requested just 15 minutes with each one of Mr. Schwab’s executives. He laid out a plan for them to follow for 90 days. At the end of those 90 days, he told Mr. Schwab that he could pay him whatever his plan was worth. So, this is what each executive was instructed to do:

1. At the end of each workday, they were to write down the six most important things that they need to accomplish that following day. They were not to write down more than six things.

2. They were then to prioritize them in the order of importance.

3. When they came to work the next day, they were to focus only on the first task. They could not move to the second one until the first one was accomplished.

4. They then followed the list through in that same fashion. If they got to the end of the day and there were some items still left undone on the list, they were to move them to the next day.

5. They repeated this every working day.

How well did it go? Well, at the end of the 90 days, Mr. Schwab wrote Mr. Lee a check for $25,000 … in today’s market, that would be right at half a million dollars!! So, what do you think? Do you think that his plan was productive? Most definitely!

We each are given 24 hours in our day. How we spend those 24 hours can make or break us … not just financially either! Prioritizing our time is so important!

What six things would be on your list? Would God, spouse, children/family, job, self, friends, health, etc? What order of importance would you have them lined up in? You could even have sub-points under each one … I am a lover of baby steps! Some projects are just too overwhelming when left alone and not broken down. So, what do you say? Should we try it?

1 https://jamesclear.com/ivy-lee

Day 16: Children

“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” Psalm 127:3

When do your children stop becoming your children? Have you ever been asked this question before? It does make one stop and think, does it not? So, when do your children stop becoming your children? The answer … NEVER! Am I right? Just because they grow older does not make them any less your children, whether you conceived and bore them in your body or not.

I in no way claim to have been or are the perfect parent. I do not think that I have met anyone who has been confident enough to say that they have or are the perfect parent. If I have met them, I do not recall them. So, we will assume that we all … me included … can always use some help and encouragement in raising the children that God has so graciously and marvelously given us.

It does not matter if we have one child or a dozen children, each one is a special heritage that we have been given. Merriam-Webster defines heritage as “property that descends to an heir.”1 Romans 8:17 tells us that we are “heirs of God.” Heirs of whom? Of God.

I have been thinking, and praying, and meditating these past days on our lives as parents. What are some of the obstacles that we face? What are some of the challenges? What are some things that make us happy? What are some things that make us sad? When it is broken down that way, it seems like we could write an entire book on the topic, correct? Well, I will not be writing a book on it, but I would like to share some thoughts that I trust will help you in your journey as a parent … whether your children or small or adults.

1. As a heritage from God, should we not include God in our parenting? First of all, we need to be a spiritual example. Secondly, we need to teach and train them in the paths of righteousness.

2. Prayer is a powerful tool in parenting. First, we need to faithfully pray for the parents of our children (yes, that is you and your spouse!). Secondly, we need to faithfully pray for each child (no matter what age). We cannot be there with them every moment of their lives, but God can! Pray for them and rest in God’s promise to take care of them.

3. Love them! If you do not know how to truly love them, ask God to show you! He does hear and answer prayer! Remember love is a one-way street … you are going to love them no matter whether they return your love or not!

4. See through God’s eyes! You only see the outside. Ask God to show you what is really going on in their insides.

5. Last, but definitely not least, examine yourself. When that toddler or that adult child gets on your very last nerve, whose fault is it? Theirs? Probably not! It very likely is coming from what you have done or not done … not taken time for God that day, not budgeted your time wisely and rushed through your day, or too selfish to give them some undivided attention time. Time passes too quickly. Do not let another day go without examining your heart as a parent!

1www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/heritage

Day 15: Peace

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you …” John 14:27

Have you noticed how many around us lack peace? To have peace means that you will have a calmness about you. You will be free from disturbances or unrest within.

Can you not see how this is also another tool of the devil in our spiritual warfare? This is not just seen in our society and the world around us, but it has infiltrated into our church pews and pulpits today as well. May we seek His peace … a peace that only He can give!

Let us spend some time today meditating on His Word and let the peace of God set us free:

1) James 3:17 “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable …” — Wisdom from where brings us peace? From above. From God. When we seek peace through ourselves, we will never find it. Find it through His wisdom!

2) John 16:33 “… In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” — When your world seems to be full of tribulation and heartache, remember who has gone before. He has overcome! He will not leave you there forever! Trust Him!

3) Numbers 6:24-26 “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” — Who would have ever thought that such beautiful words of peace would be hidden in the book of numbers?! Maybe the hymn-writer who wrote, “Count your blessings name them one by one?” How often we focus on our burdens when God is patiently waiting for us to start counting our blessings instead!

4) Philippians 4:6-7 “… in every thing by prayer … let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” — When the storms of life hit us, we need to fall to our knees in prayer. God gives peace in spite of the storm. He gives peace in the midst of the storm as well. We have been hit with some nasty storms a couple of times this summer. By the way, why do they always come in the middle of the night? When they come, the dog and I start pacing (literally!) and it is not long before I find myself holed up in my prayer closet … well, THE closet, anyways. I do fervently pray there though and it usually is not long before God brings peace. Hallelujah for God’s peace!

I do not know where you are at today, my friend? What storm is raging around you? But, God does know and He is waiting for you to find your prayer closet. He will give you peace that you cannot imagine!

Day 14: Health (part 2)

“What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” I Corinthians 6:19-20

First and foremost today, let us be reminded that we are not our own (physically nor spiritually) … we are GOD’S. Secondly,   because our bodies are God’s, our physical health (or lack thereof) has now become a part of our spiritual warfare. Is everyone with me so far? Thirdly, because IF we did not know #1 and #2 before, we do now, and, therefore, are accountable to God for this knowledge (James 4:17). Fourthly, as this is a spiritual warfare, how we fight (or more specifically what we do about this) will speak for itself. Let me explain … if I believe that my child will be harmed or killed by walking out in the highway, I will do ALL in my power to prevent that from happening. If I do not believe that, then I will go about my way doing NOTHING. Am I not correct? Are you just going through life letting your health run out in the highway as it pleases … or are you doing all in your power to prevent that from happening?

Now, let us look closer at this spiritual warfare called our physical health. I realize that genetics can play a big role in our physical health, but I do not believe that we can use that excuse … nor “it is just old age” … because God knew when He formed us what we were made of. Yes, genetics can play a role, but there is so much more that we can do to slow down or change that course.

An important truth that we need to see and acknowledge is that poor health is simply a tool of Satan himself. He is not stupid, my friend! Oh, no! He goes around SEEKING who he can eat alive. Do you know which ones he likes the best? He likes the ignorant, the naïve, and the weak … hello! Those are the fattest and the juiciest! Yum! He loves them!

Healthy bodies are STRONG bodies because they are obedient to God (Ephesians 6:10). If we are not healthy physically, we are WEAK! Satan LOVES weakness! He loves it because he knows that when we are weak physically, he is strong … and when he is strong (and we are weak), guess what? We are not able to live for Christ as we should. Now is the light coming on? Our weak physical health hinders us from living for God and serving Him as we should.

Why do you think so many Christians (and especially those in ministry) are so unhealthy? Because Satan is a master deceiver and liar! Beware, my friend! He will try to deceive you too! They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so let me try to paint a picture here … “I do not have the time,” “I do not have the money,” The government will help me,” “I do not have insurance,” or “That is too expensive. I cannot afford it.” Can you see it now?

Bottom line … one day you and I will stand before a righteous and holy God and have to give an account of how we took care of His temple. We may use lack of time, lack of money, etc. as our excuses now, but I guarantee that they will not cut it then! You may have messed up … BIG time … in the past, but there is no reason why you cannot do something now. Stop doing nothing!

I do not want you to look at my life and judge me by what you see. Why? Because I am still just a work in progress (most definitely so!!). God is not finished with me yet (physically or spiritually). We all have to start somewhere and I hope you have found that starting point today!

Day 13: Health (part 1)

What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” I Corinthians 6:19-20

I do not want to come over too strong in this issue … and, if I do, please forgive me … but God has gotten ahold of my heart on this and I cannot let go. As I write this devotional, please know that I write in love and that I write while seeking the Spirit’s help and guidance.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that “each year, nearly 900,000 Americans die prematurely from the five leading causes of death” … that is nearly 1 MILLION people!! Not only that but “up to 40 percent of annual deaths from each of the five leading US causes are PREVENTABLE.”1 Do you realize what this is saying? You and I have a say so in a large portion of our health through decisions that we make every day. Just a few chapters over in I Corinthians we find in chapter 10 and verse 31 that “Whether therefore ye EAT, or DRINK or whatsoever ye do, do ALL to the glory of God.” Our health is part of that doing ALL!

When thinking of our spiritual warfare with the devil, our physical health is not the first thing that comes to mind. But, our health (or lack thereof) is truly a deadly battleground (physically AND spiritually). In verse 20 above, Paul tells us that we are to “glorify God in your BODY, and in your SPIRIT, which [by the way] are [not yours to begin with, but] God’s.” I think that the devil has deceived us long enough … making us think that we are only to please God in our spirit, when Paul so plainly tells us that we are to please Him in our bodies as well.

God has convicted me of this personally. I have repented of this sin (yes, it is sin) and I am striving to live a more pleasing life to God in my body, His temple … His abiding place. I will be the first to admit that I am not the most perfect housekeeper, but I try … and I am much better than I was. When I know that someone will be coming over, I especially get motivated to clean. I start picking things up and doing some extra cleaning so that everything looks all nice and shiny. But, what about all of those times that we have people coming into our home without notice … which is a perk of our ministry? I must be prepared at all times, correct? I would be ashamed and embarrassed to let anyone into my house when it was a mess.

What about our physical bodies? We should be just as meticulous about keeping it healthy and clean as we do our homes. Why? Because God’s Spirit resides there! I would not want to go to someone’s home or a motel that is dirty and unkept. You probably would not either. So, why do we not do what we can to keep our physical bodies clean and healthy for Him?

To be honest (and quite frank), we have been slowly conditioned by man for so long that for the majority of us this is the farthest thing from our mind … that our physical bodies have anything to do with God. It is sad! Let us change this, my friend! Find time today to let God examine your physical health. Are you needing to repent and seek forgiveness from Him today?

1 https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0501-preventable-deaths.html