Archive for September, 2012

Appreciating Your Pastors

October has been designated as Pastor Appreciation Month. Usually the second Sunday of October is the day that many congregations show their pastors how much they appreciate them.

 I Thessalonians 5:12,13 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.

To honor a pastor is not so much about honoring the person, but it is about honoring the dignity of his office. Although some church members highly esteem pastors who carnally please them, the Bible says that church members should highly esteem all pastors in love for the work that they do. Esteeming or honoring a pastor has more to do with showing great respect for the office that he holds.

Although a wealthy church down the road might be able to send their pastor and his wife on a Caribbean Cruise or buy them a new car to show their appreciation does not mean that your church has do the same. There are smaller ways during the year to show your love and appreciation. It is nice to remember their family on special days.  Nothing will thrill your pastor and his wife more than knowing that their church family is concerned about their children.

My husband and I helped a small church a few years ago. On Pastor’s Appreciation Sunday, they called us forward and presented us with a card that had cash in it. That token of appreciation meant as much to us as an extravagant gift, because it showed us how much they truly appreciated our service to them.

One missionary wife wrote me and shared what her church did to honor their pastor and his family.

One year for Pastor Appreciation Month, we did something different each Sunday of the month. One Sunday, we honored his children with some gifts. Another Sunday we honored his wife with a new dress and sent them out to her favorite restaurant. The final Sunday was the big finale. We had scheduled months in advance to have their grown children with us on Sunday. We put them up in a hotel so that they would not know about it. We hired a photographer to come in after Sunday morning and take pictures of the whole family. We then sent them out to lunch. Our pastor and his wife talked about that Appreciation month until the day the Lord took them home. It was special time for them and for us!

Tips for Showing Your Pastor and Wife Appreciation

  • If your pastor plays golf, purchase a gift card from his favorite golf course.
  • Present a candle with a card saying “Thank you for lighting the way in our lives.”
  • Leave a bag of gold chocolate coins with a note saying, “You are worth your weight in gold to us.”
  • Leave box of Andes mints or peppermint patties with note saying, “Your service is worth a mint to us!”
  • Buy a clock and present it from the pulpit saying, “Thank you for all the time that you sacrifice for us.”
  • Present the pastor with a new shirt with a note saying, We know that you would give the shirt off your back to anyone in need… so here’s an extra one for the next time you give your all.”
  • Buy a plant with a note saying, “Thank you for helping us to grow spiritually.”
  • If the pastor has children, give him and his wife a gift card to a restaurant and a paid night of babysitting.
  • Send an electronic greeting card thanking them for their love and service to the church.   http://www.bluemountain.com/             http://www.123greetings.com/
  • Place a Mounds candy bar Place a Mounds candy bar with a Mountain Dew soda on a pastor or staff member’s desk with a note saying, ‘”Mounds of thanks for all you Dew.”

When Your Faith Fails

3rd Session: When Our Faith Fails
For the women at Open Door Bible Baptist Church (NYC)who attended the seminar 9/8/12

Down through the years, there have been many women who have sacrificed everything to serve God in difficult places. Sarah was an example of one of the earliest pioneer women.  God told Abraham and Sarah to leave the wicked city of Ur. This city was located near the Euphrates River and about 150 miles southeast of Babylon. It was a city where priestesses and male worshipers practiced sex acts of sodomy and prostitution.

The challenges of making the unknown trip must have been difficult, but Hebrews 11 tells us Sarah accomplished it by faith. She is commended twice in the Bible, once for her faith (Heb. 11:11) and once for her submission to her husband (1 Pet. 3:5, 6).

Compare Genesis 11:4 with Genesis 12:1

Gen 11:4 the people’s faith was rooted in their human effort and desire. The people said, “Let us — make us.” It was man’s ingenuity.
Gen 12:1 Abraham’s faith was rooted in the Word of God. God spoke to him. God says,I will-I will-I will.” God took this pagan idolater and made him a man of faith. Abram was 74 years old when he got a Word from the Lord.

Genesis 12:1-3 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Abraham pulled up stakes, along with his father Terah, his nephew Lot, and his wife Sarah, and began the long journey. Along the journey, he had several lapses of faith.

His first lapse of faith was when Abraham took his father Terah and his nephew Lot with him. God told him to depart from his father’s house.  Abraham didn’t fully obey the Lord because he took his family with him. When they all reached Haran, Abraham’s father, Terah, refused to continue the journey. He was an idol worshiper, and Haran was a perfect place for him to practice his idolatry.

Although this stop delayed God’s purpose for Abraham, it did not destroy it. When Terah died, Abraham, now seventy-five years old, left Haran and set out for the Promised Land.  Although he stayed in Haran about five years, God showed him—this is not the place.  You must move on. (Gen. 12:5). The days ahead Sarah would see her faith tested and her submissiveness tested.

Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

Although Sarah is not mentioned in that verse, her faith was every bit as steadfast as Abraham’s. She believed that God would sustain her through the arduous journey and show her husband the place he had chosen for them. Sarah was not a weak, spineless, overly dependent, empty-headed woman. Although Sarah was an intelligent and capable woman when she married Abraham, she made a decision to make it her fulltime job to help her husband fulfill God’s purposes in his life. Some wives try to sabotage God’s plan for their husband’s life. They are not willing to trust God’s wisdom to work through work through their husbands. They feel that they have to help God by dominating their husbands’ decisions.

Even though Abraham and Sarah are both praised for their great faith, God records their failures to give us instruction and encouragement. Our faith always grows best under attack.  Although our faith falters under stress, it grows during those times.

One day Winston Churchill was speaking to the House of Commons and he gave this advice, “We must always be ready to meet at our average moment, the thing that any possible enemy could hurl against us at his selected moment.”

Satan is a constant enemy who hurls deadly temptations at us at any given moment. The phone might ring today with terrible news about a close friend or relative. A police officer could knock on your door to inform you of a terrible tragedy in your family. Trials can come with such a force that they might cause us to have a lapse of faith. We must be ready at a moment’s notice to meet whatever Satan hurls at us or whatever God allows to come?

Second lapse of faith for Abraham and Sarah came when there was a famine in the land, and Abraham decided to flee into Egypt (Gen. 12:10-13).  Abraham put his confidence in Egypt and not in God’s promises. Egypt was a pagan place-Abraham was looking for worldly help—he trusted God to lead him, but he didn’t trust Him for material things.

Isaiah 31:1 Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!

When they arrived in Egypt, Abraham told Sarah to lie about being his wife.  Technically, Sarah was Abraham’s sister, his half-sister (Gen. 20:12). Although such marriages were not unusual in that day, Abraham told a half-truth—half-truths always equal to whole lies. The Egyptians did see that she was beautiful and praised her to Pharaoh. She was then taken into Pharaoh’s house” (Gen. 12:14, 15) Some might wonder why Sarah went along with her husband’s sinful scheme and did not obey God instead of her husband. (Acts 5:29)  She could have refused, but this shows how deep her faith and submission was to her husband. Maybe she thought that God would intervene and deliver her before she had to be immoral with the king. It’s hard to imagine that Abraham would sink to such a low level. Even the pagan king rebuked Abraham for what he did (Gen. 12:18-20). Although Abraham failed Sarah, God was faithful to her, and honored her faith and delivered her.

The journey into Egypt not only cost Abraham and Sarah time, but it proved to be a terrible testimony to Lot—Think of the choice Lot made later—I am sure he thought, “That land is just like Egypt—it is just like the place where Uncle Abraham took me.”

We must be careful to not allow ourselves or our families to go down into Egypt. We camp out in Egypt by allowing our family to watch worldly television programs; we allow them to listen to worldly music; we allow them to go to places where God would not be pleased.

Think of the things Abraham took with him when he left Egypt.  He took cattle, Hagar, and a bad testimony to Lot. Consider the reason for the conflict between Abraham’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen. Abraham had been a shepherd; now he had cattle from Egypt. Cattle graze, but sheep browse. Sheep have two sets of teeth which clip the grass. Sheep curl the grass around their tongues and cut it. This undoubtedly caused a conflict because the cattle were eating  much more grass than the sheep.

Third lapse of faith came 20 years later. Abraham didn’t learn his lesson. He did the same thing with Abimelech (Gen. 20:1-8). We think that after we have failed the Lord and sinned, that we will never commit the same sin again, but we must continually be on the lookout. Satan looks for any place he sees we are weak. The amazing thing is that Sarah submitted again to the same sin.

Fourth lapse of faith came when Sarai didn’t bear Abraham any children (Gen. 16:1).  It was Sarah’s turn to devise a clever human scheme. She offered her Egyptian slave girl, Hagar, so that Abraham might have a son by her. Her plan revealed her belief that God would keep His Word and give Abraham a son, but it was obviously motivated by her love for Abraham and her desire for him to have that son. Although sharing her husband with another woman might have been one of the most sacrificial things that she could have done, it was not God’s way.

There might be times in our lives when we resent God for taking too long to answer our prayers, and we decide to take matters into our own hands. We must learn to trust God even when our situations look the worst

Sarah’s impulsive sin had its effect on her relationship with Abraham. Hagar got pregnant and eventually became proud and unmanageable. Sarah blamed Abraham for the whole problem when it was actually her own idea. Abraham told Sarah to deal with the situation. She exposed her own bitterness by the way she dealt with Hagar.

Fifth lapse of faith came when Abraham and Sarah both laughed at God.

Genesis 17:17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? God told Abraham he would bless Sarah and make her a mother of nations. Kings of peoples would come from her. Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

Genesis 18:12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, after I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?

Aren’t there times in our lives when we laugh at God?  Satan throws darts of doubt at us, and he tempts us to snicker skeptically at the very thought that God could solve our terrible problems.

Gen 18:13, 14 we see the turning point in their lapses of faith.  The Lord said, “Why did Sarah laugh?” God quickly asked, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” That challenge from God pierced their hearts and rekindled their faith.

Paul wrote years later Romans 4:19-21 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform

The writer to the Hebrews declared, “Hebrews 11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

Abraham and Sarah’s faith was rewarded. Sarah had a son, and they called his name Isaac, which means “laughter.” Sarah shares the reason they call his name Isaac. “God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.” (Gen. 21:6) Her laugh of doubt had turned to a laugh of joy.

There would still be obstacles to Abraham and Sarah’s faith. Hagar and Ishmael were still around to mock Isaac. One day when Sarah saw Ishmael mocking her little Isaac, she lost control of her emotions. She demanded that Abraham drive out Hagar and Ishmael. (Gen. 21:10).

Could this be the same woman the Bible praises for her submission and obedience? Even though she was completely submitted, she still had strong opinions. Sarah said what was on her mind, and she was right! , Ishmael was not to be heir with Isaac, and God wanted him to leave the household. God told Abraham to listen to Sarah and to do what she said (Gen. 21:12). Imagine that—even though Sarah got emotional, God wanted Abraham to listen to her and heed her advice. Sometimes God uses wives to correct their husbands, to advise them, to mature them, to help them solve their problems and give them insight. Hagar and Ishmael were finally sent away. Ishmael was old enough at this time to provide for his mother. (Gen. 21:20). The irritation was removed and this happy little family of three enjoyed a time of unhindered faith and fellowship.

The most severe trial to their faith was yet to come. Genesis 22:1-14  Although we seldom mention Sarah in the sacrifice of Isaac, she certainly knew what Abraham was about to do. She probably helped him prepare for the trip.  She watched them disappear over the horizon, and though her  heart was breaking, she did not utter a word of protest. It was probably her greatest display of faith in God and submission to her husband’s will and purpose.

What do we do when we have lapses of faith?

  1. Realize that God has a plan for our lives. In Mark 4:37-41, the disciples didn’t know that God wouldn’t allow them to perish in the storm.  They didn’t understand God’s plan, and their hearts were full of fear.  Jesus knew that He didn’t come into this world to drown in the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus was following God’s plan, and death by drowning definitely wasn’t in the plan.  Jesus had such close fellowship with God that He knew God’s plan by heart from start to finish.  Jesus knew he had nothing to fear from a storm at sea.  The same thing can happen to us. Without a close personal relationship with God, we will not understand His plan for our lives, and we become fearful.
  2. Obey, even when we don’t understand. Faith is not believing in spite of evidence, but it is obeying God in spite of circumstances.
  3. Separate from sin. God told Abram, “Get out of this land-Be separated from sin and idolatry” Faith brings us out. Many times we want to live in land of faith and land of idolatry at the same time. We won’t have faith until we separate ourselves from sin.  Heb12:1-2—lay aside every weight—if we want faith, we must lay aside sin.
  4. Understand that God will reward our faith. God rewarded Abraham’s faith—I will bless thee-I will make your name great. Abram became a blessing to the Jewish nation and to us today. God will do the same for us–our faith will be a blessing to others. Our faith  gives us assurance of God’s presence, and it shows to others that we have full confidence in God and His plan for our lives.

One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, “Jump! I’ll catch you.” He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: “Jump! I will catch you.” But the boy protested, “Daddy, I can’t see you.” The father replied, “But I can see you and that’s all that matters.”

Progressive Sanctification

1st Session: Sanctification
For the women at Open Door Bible Baptist Church (NYC)who attended the seminar 9/8/12 

There is much confusion about the word Sanctification. Some religions believe that you can completely eradicate your life from sin and become sinless. This is a lie from Satan. We will one day be sanctified body, soul,  and spirit when we get to heaven. The positional sanctification was established at our salvation (justification). Just as if I had never sinned.  The ultimate or final sanctification will be at our glorification (death).

There are three aspects of Sanctification: Positional, Progressive, and Ultimate, perfect, or final.

Positional Sanctification is our standing or position before God the moment we accept Christ. We are set apart from Satan unto God;  set apart from darkness unto light; set apart from death unto life; set apart from hell unto heaven; set apart from the dominion of sin to the dominion of God’s glory.

Sanctify means set apart or make holy.  At salvation, our spirits are placed “In Christ”.  God covers us with Christ’s robe of righteousness, and He sees us righteous in Christ.  (Isaiah 61:10)

At the point of salvation our spirits desire to obey God, to love Him, and to hate sin, but we still struggle in our souls and spirits. Paul prays in I Thessalonians 5:23  And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray that you whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Progressive or Daily Sanctification is our personal willingness to set our physical body and soul apart to the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It is that daily transforming process in our lives that makes us more like Christ.  After salvation, we soon realize that there is a new inner battle being waged within us. It is a battle between our old sin-lead nature and new Spirit-lead nature.

Paul describes this inner struggle in Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Ultimate Sanctification occurs at death when God perfects us (body, soul, and spirit) and we are glorified. At death, we are absolutely and permanently free from the very presence of sin.

1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Daily sanctification is that inward spiritual process God is bringing about holiness and changes to our lives. The Bible declares, 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.

After we accept Christ as our Savior, we all face different issues. Although we struggle with sin and past hurts, the Holy Spirit enters our life and begins this transformation process. The Holy Spirit convicts us in areas that need to be changed, and He helps us to grow in holiness.

After salvation, we begin to view the world, people, and personal difficulties from a more biblical perspective. Our choices begin to be motivated by love and truth and not selfishness. Before we got saved, we placed confidence and security in Satan’s false values of  gaining material possessions and out performing all others. Since Satan’s lies continue to creep back into our minds, we must continually use God’s Word to purge our minds of his lies.  

Timothy 2:21-26 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

Paul advises Timothy to purge himself from the lusts of the flesh and to take every possible measure to keep holy.

Although Timothy was probably about 40 years old at this writing, Paul tells him, “Timothy, since you will be prone to the same lusts that you had as a teenager, you must purge yourself from these lusts…but Timothy, if you want to be sanctified, follow after righteousness, faith, charity and peace.”

Paul advises Timothy not only to purge himself from the lusts of the flesh, but lusts of the mind. Lusts of the mind are ambition, pride, and vain-glory.

Lusts of the mind can be as dangerous to our holiness and daily sanctification as lusts of the flesh. Paul advises Timothy to purge himself from asking foolish and unlearned questions.  Paul says, “Timothy, you are going to think that you are wiser and more spiritual than those around you. You must not ask questions that will generate controversies and arguments”.

Ladies, we can have lusts of the mind. We begin to question leadership “Why do we have to dress that way? What is wrong with this or that? That is just someone’s opinion.”  If we begin to ask foolish questions, and we don’t get answers we want, we might get bitter and angry.

Paul says, “Instead of asking foolish questions, follow after righteousness and faith, peace and charity with all persons, but especially with all our brethren (sisters) who love the Lord with a pure heart.”

We must use God’s Word to purge ourselves. God gave us the Bible guides to guide us day by day. Its words have the power to sanctify us. When Satan tempted Jesus in Matthew 4, He used the Word of God to overcome temptation.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart

When we study, hear, or teach God’s Word, His Word sanctifies us to recognize Gods’ truth and power. John 17:17 Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth. We purge out minds by taking our thoughts captive. II Corinthians 10:5 We purge out bad thoughts and replace them with holy and pure thoughts.

I Peter 5:8 tells us that Satan is our great enemy. This verse tells us that he is like a hungry lion walking around looking for victims that he can tear apart. He knows all of our weak points, and he makes himself aware of all our circumstances. He looks for ways to pervert our judgment and to doubt God’s plan and purpose for our lives. Just like a roaring lion, that wants to destroy his prey, Satan wants to destroy our lives and our testimonies. He continuously tries to infiltrate our thoughts with his thoughts. His unending goal is to replace God’s truth with his lies. He knows that if he can control our thoughts, he can control our behavior. Satan wants to fill our minds with negative thoughts about our circumstances and other people. . He infiltrates our minds with doubt and pride. He is a military strategist. He has many schemes to wage spiritual warfare on us. His ultimate plan is to overthrow God, Jesus Christ, and every believer in our churches. He will attack us because he is trying to get at God.

Like Paul, our heart’s desire is to please and obey God, but our flesh is weak, and we find it difficult to resist sin. Ephesians 4:23 and be renewed in the Spirit of your mind.  We must continually  memorize Scripture, listen to Godly preaching, read biographies of great missionaries and great Christians, and listen to godly uplifting music.

When evil or negative thoughts enter our minds, we must replace those thoughts with good and wholesome thoughts.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; … think on these things.

Watch your thoughts because your thoughts become your words.

Watch your words because your words become your actions.

Watch your actions because your actions become your habits.

Watch your habits because your habits become your character.

Watch your character because it becomes your destiny

Our day by day sanctification is the most challenging aspects of our Christian walk. We all have a natural tendency to sin, yet God, in His divine wisdom, gave us the responsibility of working out our own sanctification.

We must use prayer to purge ourselves. Prayer is an important part of our sanctification. Although prayer is hard work, it’s vital.

Dr. Sidlow Baxter said, “I can just imagine Satan gathering all the demons in hell and discussing what they can do to destroy Christians. Satan says,’ Keep them from praying. Because no matter what else they do, it they don’t pray, we can beat them every time. But if they learn how to pray, they’ll beat us every time.’”

No human effort can sanctify, but what a wonderful principle Paul gives us in Ephesians 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.

It’s Christ’s power in us. Sanctification is God working in and through us. We must obey Christ in everything His Holy Spirit reveals for us to do. When we don’t obey, we quench His spirit.  1 Thessalonians 5:19 Quench not the Spirit

Little Foxes That Spoil Our Vines

2nd Session: Little Foxes That Spoil Our Vines
For the Women at Open Door Bible Baptist Church (NYC) who attended the Seminar 9-8-12

The colonial women had to be strong women. They had to help in the fields, watch out for animals that would harm the other animals or crops. One small animal they had to battle was the fox. These little critters would come into vineyards and steal blooms of the fruit before they could come to maturity.

Take us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes. Sol. 2:15

These furry little creatures appear cute and harmless, but they are clever.  They prowl around at night and steal and destroy the blossoms of the immature fruit off the vine so that it cannot come to maturity.   They appear so cute, but they are very cunning.

Little foxes in our lives can destroy our spiritual fruit.  Jesus said, “I am the true vine and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit, He taketh away, and every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth it, that it may bring forth much fruit. Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine: no more can ye except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit for without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:1-5).

Even though all of our fruitfulness depends on the Lord, there are little foxes that can come into our lives that can spoil our spiritual fruit.

Let us go down into our gardens see whether our vines are flourishing and see if our grapes are developing. We must ask ourselves,  “Are we bearing fruit for the glory of God or have we let some foxes slip by us and get into our gardens?

Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you. If ye abide in Me, and My Words abide in you ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:16-17).

Since we have been chosen, ordained, called, and equipped to bear fruit for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must watch out for those foxes!

Today, let’s picture our vineyards as our testimonies. Our vines are our budding testimonies in our churches, our homes, or our workplaces.  The lost are watching us. Some Christians think that as long as they don’t commit what they perceive “major” sins such as murder or adultery, God will overlook the “little” things.

Even though we are not living during Colonial Times and many things have changed, we must not compromise our values. Today many Christians will not take a stand against. I have heard many Christians say, “Times are changing, and we must change with the times.”  Although times are changing, sin is sin, and it’s our responsibility as Christian women to uphold God’s Word, especially when society is calling evil good and good evil.  Today many Christians would rather blend in with the world rather than be set apart from it.

We must be on guard for those little foxes that can spoil our testimonies.   It is those “little sins” that undermine our love and service to the Lord.

You might say, “This little fox or sin won’t hurt anyone. Then all of a sudden, you begin to experience turmoil and stress in your life because you allowed that one little fox or sin to come into your vineyard.

Think about little things in life.

  • The atom bomb was little, but it brought down the whole nation of Japan in just a few minutes.
  • A flea is very little, but enough of them can kill the largest dog.
  • Termites are very little insects, but they can destroy a three story house if they are ignored.
  • One little moth can ruin a whole garment; and though it works in the dark, its fruits are seen in the light:
  • A little wasp can sting but the pain and the swelling can remain for hours.

Some might comment on a little child when he uses bad language or he dances, shakes, or gyrates, they say, “Isn’t that cute?” But one day when that child grows up, it will no longer be cute!

It’s those “little” foxes or little things that can spoil our (testimonies) vines. We must not allow our convictions to change in order to be popular or to be accepted.  Many times we try to manipulate the Scriptures to justify our worldly actions rather than allowing the Bible to transform us.

The fox is a peculiar animal. Its tendency is to dig underground, to settle in holes or burrows, and to feast on grapevines. It travels alone silently.  It has an incredible sense of sight, smell, and hearing. It exhibits tremendous cleverness in going after its prey. At times, a fox will actually play dead in order to attack a bird which is within its range. They are cunning, devious, and capable of misleading its pursuers with the utmost skill.

We must catch those little foxes before they destroy our fruit (testimonies).

What are some of the foxes in our lives?

1. First little fox is busyness. Everything today is instant. We are always in a rush. Just throw a meal in the Microwave, nuke. Too busy to say “Honey, I love you.” or give a good bye kiss. Too busy to pray—Too busy to have family devotions and teach your children God’s precepts—Too busy to be a blessing to others—Too busy to witness—Too busy to attend church—Too busy making money.

Sometimes we can get too busy serving the Lord that we don’t have time to fellowship with Him. Remember when Mary sat at His feet, but Mary was so busy that she didn’t have time to fellowship with the Lord.

Luke 10:38-42 …Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered her and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Mary and Martha both loved to serve. Mary knew when she should stop serving and sit and the feet of Jesus, but Martha became overwhelmed and stressed because she was serving without the Spirit’s leading. She wanted to do the right thing by preparing a meal for the Lord, but she was more focused on her sacrificial service than loving the Lord. Many Christians today are more focused on the busyness of serving rather than knowing and loving the Lord.

Sometimes in church women get in performance traps. They feel that they must somehow prove to God and others how much they love Him. They fail to spend time with Him and rush into busyness of service for Him.

We must make sure that we do not serve the Lord because of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Philippians 2:3-5 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.

When we serve others, we must serve them with a sincere love. This is a love that is without hypocrisy or deception.  Romans 12:9-10 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil, cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another.

God’s Word tells me in Matthew 25:35-40 that when I attend to the needs of another, I am doing this as a service for Christ, whether anyone sees me or not.

Our tasks should be divided into three areas: useless, urgent, and important. Useless things are the things that will not matter in eternity such as watching too much television or spending too much time on the computer. We must never get too busy to spend time with the Lord.

Here are some of the consequences that we might face when we fail to read our Bibles.

  • We won’t understand how to solve our daily problems. God’s Word has a solution to any problem that you might face in this life. If you don’t read and discover these truths, you will not find these solutions. 2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.
  • We will become nervous and fearful. We begin to think about all the “what ifs” of life. What if I can’t pay my bills? What if my husband leaves me? What if I get cancer?  Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect  peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
  • We will become spiritually malnourished. Getting into God’s Word daily gives us the energy we need. If we allow our minds to feed on only on the bad news of television and radio, we will become spiritually malnourished. Job 23:12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
  • Our minds will become easily deceived and confused. By getting into His Word, it helps us understand His precepts and recognize the false ways of the world. We will not try to justify sin by our own opinions and opinions of the world. Matthew 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.  Psalms 119:104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
  • We will make wrong choices. We will not have the wisdom to make the right choices in our lives. Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

We must not get too busy to teach our children to be courteous or to be courteous ourselves.  By giving a smile, a kind word, an understanding nod, a sympathetic tear, a little note of love and appreciation, or some small act of kindness could bring joy into someone’s life. On the other hand, by saying an unkind word, giving a critical opinion, or lacking to show some act of appreciation could bring someone a heartache or disappointment. Even in church, we fail to be courteous to each other.  If someone says something sharp to you at church, don’t get upset and bitter. Romans 15:1 We that are strong out to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Take those bitter thoughts captive and say, “I am going to be spiritually mature in this situation. Devil, you are not going to allow what they said to hinder our relationship.”

After a few years, husbands and wives are no longer courteous to one another. If one of them makes a mistake—watch out!

We get too busy to see the people in our neighborhoods. Today people will pet dogs and ignore neighbors. They take in stray cats, but close the door to a hungry neighbor. Jesus was people oriented, concerned with the needs of those around Him.

2. The second fox is gossip– A little gossip can cause untold suffering. It is so easy to repeat a thing whether we know it is true or false. You say in your heart, “Oh, this little piece of gossip won’t affect anyone.” Then all of a sudden, someone’s testimony is completely destroyed or a church becomes divided.

Romans 1:28-32 … Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

As Paul described this evil conduct, we might expect to find mention of such vile things as greed, deceit, adultery, and murder, but take note.  Paul put gossips and bad-mouthers in the same category as murderers, sexual perverts, and God haters — and those sins were worthy of a death sentence! Slander is the work of the Devil, and those who slander are on his team. It is the same Greek word in New Testament as accuser translated as diabolos “slanderer”. In fact, the Bible says that Satan is called the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). Are you being an accuser of the brethern? Although it may not be your intention, Satan could be using you as one of his agents.

According to James, any Christian whose mouth is out of control can’t have a right relationship with God. James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart; this man’s religion is vain.

“Gossip” is derived from the idea of “whispering.” Gossip means to indulge in idle talk or spread rumors about others.  Gossip is a close cousin to slander. God’s Word places both in the same category as murder or other wicked sins. 1 Peter 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Peter puts a “busybody” in the same place as “murderers, thieves, and evildoers.”

  • Gossip is not just a little bad habit, but it is in the same category as murder.
  • Gossips use their mouth as weapons – In John 10:10, we see that it is a weapon which is always aimed at people to fulfill Satan’s desires to “steal, kill, and destroy”.

How to recognize Gossip

  • Gossip is one of the most dangerous sins because it is so subtle that many don’t even recognize it. Be on alert against gossip whenever you hear of “secret information” being circulated, or if you hear anyone else’s name is used in a conversation.
  • Gossip often masquerades itself as “just a concern” for someone. Rumors or gossip will seem more palatable if they first hide behind a pretentious expression of concern. “I hate to say anything about this to you, but I’m ’concerned’ about so and so. I don’t know who else to talk to about it.”
  • Gossip is not usually concerned about solving problems, but only in talking about them or stirring them up.

Although there will be times when people need to confide their own problems with a friend in the Lord, avoid revealing anything to a person who gossips and can’t be trusted.  Proverbs 11:13 A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.

Things to Remember about Gossip

  • Gossip is as sinful as murder and will suffer the same consequences unless there is repentance. (Romans 1:32).
  • God holds you accountable for your words. (Matt. 12:36-37).
  • The person who gossips to you about others, will probably gossip to others about you.
  • Gossip defiles the whole body. (James 3:6).
  • Gossip often masks as pretentious concerns for others.
  • Gossip always contributes to a problem and never to a solution.
  • Gossip always distorts and exaggerates, and is never a reliable source of truth.
  • Those who gossip rarely get answers to prayer, and often face persistent, unexplainable problems. (Psalms 66:18, Prov. 21:23)

What to do about Gossip

  • If you have been a gossiper, confess it as sin and ask Christ to forgive you. Surrender your tongue to Christ. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.
  • Make sure you have all the facts. Proverbs 15:28 The heart of the righteous studieth to answer.
  • If you can’t say something good or encouraging about others, keep your mouth shut. Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
  • When others start bad-mouthing someone to you, change the subject. Proverbs 26:20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.

Psalm 39:1 I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.

3. The third little fox is complaining-Complaining is expressing discontent or unhappiness about your present situation. Complaining doubts God.

When the Israelites experienced danger, shortages, and inconveniences, they complained and wanted to go back to Egypt (Exodus 16:1-10) verses 2-3 says “and the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.  And the children of Israel said to them, would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for you have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Sometimes when we get so busy serving the Lord, we begin to complain. If the Lord gives us a gift to serve Him, we shouldn’t complain when He asks us to use it.

Many times difficult circumstances lead us to complain. In the pressure of the moment, the Israelites couldn’t focus on the cause of their stress but on their lack of trust in God; they could only think about the quickest way of escape their inconveniences.  When pressure comes our way, we need to resist the temptation to complain for quick escape.  We must focus on God’s power and His wisdom to help us deal with our everyday stresses. Many of us are good at complaining to each other, but we need to learn to take our problems to the Complaint Department. The Lord is the only One who can do anything about our complaints.

The Bible says in (Philippians 4:6-7) “be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.

Complaining comes when we shift our attention from what we have to what we don’t have. The people of Israel had forgotten what God had done for them. They got so wrapped up in what God wasn’t doing for them that they couldn’t think of anything except the delicious food they left behind in Egypt.  Somehow they had forgotten that the brutal conditions of Egyptian slavery were the cost of eating delicious food. They had forgotten how God had opened up the Red Sea for them.

God might give us exactly what we complain to Him about, but it might not be want we want. God gave the Israelites what they asked for, but they paid dearly for it when a plague struck the camp. (Read Numbers 11:18-20, 31-34)

Paul warns us in Philippians 2:14-15 …do all things without murmurings and disputing. Colossians 3:16-17 says Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  And whatsoever you do in word, or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him. When we go through difficulties without complaining, it is a witness to the lost world of God’s power in our lives.

4. The fourth little fox is pride-Pride is sinful because I am giving myself credit for something that God did.  Anything I accomplish in this world would not be possible if God did not enable me to do it. Pride is the attitude that caused Satan to try to lift himself up above God. He wanted to be equal to God! It was the same lie that he told Eve in the Garden of Eden: Genesis 3:5 …God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.

Pride drives a wedge in our relationship with God and others. Read in II Chronicles 26:6-23  the account of King Uzziah. Although he was successful with foreign, domestic, and military affairs, the Bible give us a glimpse of his pride when he boldly burned incense in the temple. This was something that was only to be done by the priests. King Uzziah got angry when Azariah, the priest, withstood him. King Uzziah let his pride turn to anger, and God gave him leprosy.  King Uzziah was disgraced at his death because had to be  buried in a cemetery next to the tomb of the kings.

Most problems that we experience in life begin with that little word “I”.

  • Problems we experience at work—How “I” felt—“I” didn’t get the treatment “I” deserved.
  • Problems we experience with leaders—They didn’t treat me like “I” should have been treated?
  • All categories of sin fall into three “I” areas. I John 2:15-16 Lust of the flesh-Lust of the eyes-Pride of Life.

My Name Is Pride

My name is Pride. I am a cheater.
I cheat you of your God-given destiny…
because you demand your own way.
I cheat you of contentment…
because you “deserve better than this.”
I cheat you of knowledge…
because you already know it all.
I cheat you of healing…
because you are too full of you to forgive.
I cheat you of holiness…
because you refuse to admit when you are wrong.
I cheat you of vision…
because you’d rather look in the mirror than out a window.
I cheat you of genuine friendship…
because nobody’s going to know the real you.
I cheat you of love…
because real romance demands sacrifice.
I cheat you of greatness in heaven…
because you refuse to wash another’s feet on earth.
I cheat you of God’s glory…
because I convinced you to seek your own.
My name is Pride. I am a cheater.
You like me because you think I’m always looking out for you.
Untrue. I’m looking to make a fool of you.
God has so much for you, I admit, but don’t worry…
If you stick with me you’ll never know.