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Planted | STEADY as WE GO

#storychanging

Planted | STEADY as WE GO

Monday Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.  Psalm 92:13

Most Sundays, the Smith-Todds were at Unity Tabernacle. The kids took unity classes and the parents hosted unity gatherings every other month. But twenty years later, the kids were atheists, Dad had left Mom for another man, and Mom’s cosmetic surgery bills had landed her in bankruptcy. Across town, the Clarks invested their time and resources at Calvary Church, serving the Lord and reaching the lost. And they carried that investment into their daily lives. There was no difference between church life and home life—both honored God. Twenty years later, the kids were serving the Lord in their own churches and Mom and Dad were headed to the mission field. Both families were planted in a church, but only one flourished. Why?  

Church activity is not a guarantee of spiritual success, and not every group calling itself a “church” is “the house of the Lord.”

It matters WHERE we’re planted. Without soil, no seed will grow. But the KIND of soil also matters. Salty, rocky, or dry soil is little better than no soil at all. And a me-centered fluff church is little better than no church at all. The difference is life and death. Unity Tabernacle’s version of truth made attenders feel good but couldn’t save anyone. On the other side of town, Calvary Church equipped its members to BE the church and they lived it. They took responsibility for their own spiritual lives and followed biblical commands both home and away. Because they were planted in the house of the Lord, they flourished.

Final Thought: Are you simply an attender at a church or are you planted in the house of the Lord?

Prayer: Father, you created the church as a place where your people could grow, learn, and then BE the church to a lost world. Please forgive me for sitting on the sidelines as an observer. May I stay planted in your house. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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TuesdayHe is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.  Psalm 1:1-3

“I wish life had an instruction manual!” It does. Psalm 1 is God’s Quick-Start Guide to doing life. It’s a short chapter packed with step-by-step instructions to help us avoid the prisons that enslave us. It also promises that if we follow those instructions, our lives will prosper! Open your Bible to Psalm 1 while you read this quick overview:

  1. Don’t let ungodly ideas occupy ANY headspace. (Be careful what you read, listen to, think about, and enjoy. Is it godly?)
  2. Don’t hang out with ungodly people. (Bad company corrupts you. You can’t fix toxic people. Manipulators don’t love you.)
  3. Don’t join with ungodly agendas. (Satan fools us by suggesting that his way is better. If it isn’t biblical, it isn’t good.)
  4. Learn to love scripture. ALL scripture. (Cultivate a desire for it. Let it be the air you breathe. Crave it, drink it, bathe in it.)

The people who follow this counsel are so rooted in truth that nothing can dislodge them. Even when slander, trouble, or pain hits, they continue on the right path and strength others along the way. Good news—life does have an instruction manual

Final Thought:  Meditate on Psalm 1. Read it in every Bible version. Let it be your roadmap for this new decade.

Prayer: Father, I need to get a grip. This last year was almost too much. I need the strength you promise in Psalm 1. I purpose to mediate on your word and let it give me deep roots. Help me turn away from evil and offer life to those around me. Amen.

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Wednesday On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place.  Acts 2:1  

“It’s just me ’n Jesus. Don’t like crowds. I can worship God anywhere. Don’t need the church.” Most people who declare those words with confidence are convinced that they are an original, brilliant in their spiritual analysis, uniquely equipped to be all God wants them to be outside of the church He established. They can’t see the web of pride and spiritual deception because they’re caught in it. It makes as much sense as saying, “I can tithe without giving any money,” or “I love God but I hate people.” Those words only make sense when we have become a law unto ourselves. Without the regular balancing and challenging of a church body, every idea that flits through our heads seems right. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to counsel.” God places us in churches to keep us balanced, humble, and on the right track.

The second chapter of Acts begins a whirlwind description of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the radical changes He made in the followers of Jesus. But we need to look closely at this. While salvation and surrender are individual decisions, God uses His Church to accomplish His work on earth. It was while they were all gathered in one place that the Holy Spirit came. He could have visited each person in his or her own home, but He chose to come when they were together praying. Jesus told them as a group: “Wait in Jerusalem for the gift God is sending you.” So they waited as a group. They prayed as a group. Then, as a group, they experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. As a group, they changed the world. We can too.

Final Thought: If those first believers had not been gathered, they would have missed the Holy Spirit. What will you miss?

Prayer: Jesus, I don’t think I have the commitment to your church that you have. I sometimes view it as optional. But the Bible was written to churches, not individuals. You expect those you save to become part of your family. Help me act like it. Amen.

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Thursday Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. Hebrews 10:25

This verse has never been more relevant. Read it again. How did the writer of Hebrews know about COVID and online church? He didn’t, but that’s what it’s talking about. Have you noticed how tricky Satan is in exploiting this worldwide pandemic? When we need each other most, we’ve found it’s more comfortable to stay home in our jammies and watch a service on YouTube. We tell ourselves we’ve “been to church” without actually having to interact with any other Christians. Is that possible?

Not according to scripture. The first Christians would have had no concept of what we mean by “going to church” or “watching church online.” They understood that they WERE the church. Not many days went by before they got together again to worship, participate in communion, encourage, and pray for each other. Those who drifted away from regular meetings did not fare well in their pagan culture. We don’t fare well either if we substitute passive viewing for active worship. Notice what the writer of Hebrews tells us about the reason for meeting—the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. The Bible warns that the closer it is to Jesus’ return, the worse the world will get. Gathering regularly for prayer and worship helps us stay planted in truth while the world celebrates deception. The Day of the Lord is coming quickly. Stay planted to be found faithful when He comes.

Final Thought: “Church” is not a building we visit once a week. It’s a garden where we must stay planted to thrive.

Prayer: Father, am I as planted as you want me to be? Am I a church-consumer or am I sinking my roots deep in your garden? I want to be found faithful when Jesus comes again. Show me what I can do to stay planted. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Friday They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42

Everyone knew what Keith was devoted to—baseball. He was a good dad, good worker, and good friend but his true passion was sports. Sheril’s devotion was also obvious—Zumba. You didn’t talk to Sheril very long before Zumba entered the conversation and she was trying to sign you up for her class. When people are devoted to something, it oozes from them like sweat from glands. You can almost smell it. They sacrifice for it like true worshipers and their passion dominates free time, conversations, and finances. Devotees may claim otherwise, but when someone is truly devoted to something, it shows.

To be devoted means to be given over to someone or something. A person may claim to be devoted to the Lord, but actions say otherwise. In the same way, a church may profess its devotion to God but is actually devoted more to popularity, money, attendance, or power. The first Christians were devoted to scripture, godly relationships, taking communion, and prayer. Together, they sacrificed reputations, finances, peace, and many times, their lives because of this devotion. No one wondered about their priorities because love for Jesus influenced everything they did. The word “Christian” was meant as a slur, a way to make fun of Jesus followers because they acted like “little Christs.” What passion so dominates your life that others know it?

Final Thought:  First Christians were labeled “little Christs” because of their devotion. How would people label you?

Prayer: Father, what am I most known for? Is my devotion to you evident in everything I do? You’ve given me a church to encourage devotion. May it be said of me what was said of the first Christians: “There goes a little Christ.” In His name, amen.