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“Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” Romans 12:16 NASB

     It’s easy to get caught up in how the world operates. Especially now with the way social media lets everyone have a voice. I am for having a voice. However, a lot of times, what we see is not helpful or even cordial toward one another. A positive post that is uplifting and edifying can be overlooked while a post that smears someone has a million views and thousands of hateful comments. As believers, we are called to be set apart from that and to be different with one another.

     One thing God has made clear to me through the course of my life is everything except redemption and all that comes with receiving God’s gift of salvation is fleeting. If we are blessed to see old age, the super-smart must contend with losing memories just as those whom the culture labels as intellectually lacking. The well-to-do person who looks down on those not in the financial position they are blessed to be in can just as easily find their business in the toilet from one ill-timed decision, or as many learned back when the economy tanked from circumstances beyond their control. How the world chooses to be in these matters is on the world. How we as believers are instructed to be is quite clear. We are to be of the same mind toward one another!

     Something about this passage that would not let me alone, though, was that word lowly. I understand how it can be taken today, but I had to look at what Paul meant by it. I was surprised to find that it means to be brought low with grief, depressed, as well as those that we encounter who are internally beaten down and come across as beneath everyone they encounter. It ties in with what Fair-Weather Friends talks about and broadens the scope of that to say, “Hey, don’t look down on those that are low with grief, depressed, feel broken.” Here, we are told to be with them, to associate with them.

     This passage makes me rethink some things, particularly what Christ would say to me if I were treating the downcast as lepers to be avoided because they might suck the life out of my joy. It also convicts me in other ways, especially in how I react to things that people say. Who am I to come across as haughty? What about you? Where do you see room for improvement? How can this passage be better applied to your life? How can we be better about being of the same mind toward one another?

Until Next Time
God Bless

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“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep,” Romans 12:15 NASB

     It is easy to rejoice with those who are rejoicing. We celebrate the couple that are having the baby. Congratulations spill out of us with relative ease. We are excited for them. The couple getting married or just married, we relish the sweetness of new matrimony and find ourselves smiling at how those friends who just tied the knot are still in their honeymoon phase. Even schooling! My wife recently graduated from her bachelors’ program and I was overjoyed to see how people congratulated her hard work, there was even a card and cake! There is something about rejoicing with others that makes us feel good.

     However, it is not the same when it is with those that are weeping. How many of us see tears and immediately want to go the opposite direction? How often have we sat through the heart-wrenching sadness that someone else is experiencing and wept with them even though it is uncomfortable? There is a stereotype that women can sit around and cry with each other but is that even true? I know for men, tears tend to be viewed as weakness and are avoided. However, as believers we are told here to weep with those that weep and that word weep doesn’t just mean shed a couple tears, either. It means mourn, weep as a sign of pain, and grief, bewail, and sob aloud.

     From my experiences, when I was emotionally at my lowest, having anyone around me that seemed to understand what I was feeling was a comfort. It helped me to not feel isolated, completely alone and disconnected. There is something distinctly human about crying, too. In fact, a quick Google check will show that scientists even agree, crying is a human thing. We also know that Jesus wept (John 11:35), when faced with the death of Lazarus.

     Yet, the major take-away for me in this verse is the contrast between rejoicing and weeping, the difference in the highs of life and the lows of life. It makes me wonder, are we doing life with people when they are at their worst and at their best? In what ways have we failed to rejoice and weep with our fellow believers? Is it out of jealousy that we do not rejoice? Is it out of the selfishness of not wanting to deal with someone else’s stuff and how we might feel that keeps us from weeping with others? Pride? Fear of what others may think?

     We are to bear one another’s burdens as well as cherish the blessings that we receive. So, perhaps we need to consider whether we are fair-weather Christians and what we can do to change that.  

Until Next Time
God Bless

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     When you think about persecution, what comes to mind? Maybe it was that coach who hounded you through High School. For some of us, it was probably that click of people through our childhood years that tormented us in the halls of our schools. Maybe it’s a manager or boss, or even a spouse? Whatever persecution looks like to you, let it resonate inside for a moment. How does it make you feel when you think about it and the mistreatment? How does it feel when people are hostile toward you? When they harass you? Make fun of you?

     Whatever persecution looks like to you, for me, I have all manner of instances that come to mind. Yet, none of them matter when I think about the persecution that Jesus contended with. I am not making light of our struggles and this is not an over-spiritualized ‘we should just accept our plight’ sort of declaration. Our struggles are real. Be it the way other people look down on us because our situation is not the norm, or the way they cut us to the core with snide, backhanded remarks. However, if we think about the persecution that Jesus suffered, we can see that He suffered just like we do and worse.

     Looking at the Gospels, much like many of us, Jesus came into conflict with His family, His brothers did not believe in Him, and He was scoffed at in His own hometown. He had people talking trash about Him, Influencers and the Who’s Who saying He was a false prophet and even a demon. His closest friends tried to manipulate Him and vie to be His favorite.

     Then, He was tried for a crime He did not commit and found guilty by popular opinion. That is not even considering how badly He was beaten, His skin flayed open by the whip and He was thrown around with no regard to how it hurt Him. All his stuff was taken from Him and divided up in front of Him. Then He was made to carry His cross and was nailed to it. His friends had abandoned Him, some of which denied Him and one of which sold Him out.

     Everything He went through gives me pause. Because rather than be vengeful, He asked God to forgive everyone! Including the thief on the cross next to Him giving Him flack as He hung there. That is the Christ that died and rose again so that we may have eternal life! That is the Lord we are called to live our lives for. He could have ended it at any moment but chose to be obedient to the Father. He chose to bless rather than curse!

     Romans 12:14 is at the heart of what Christ did for us. He could have cursed all of us but chose to bless us with reconciliation with God and eternal life if we accept His gift. It also challenges us to become more like Him. I pray none of us must endure the persecutions that Christ, Paul or any of the believers of today face in various parts of the world. Yet, I pray that we can look within and see where we need to do more blessing, rather than cursing! To be more like Him, and less like who we have been.

Until Next Time,
God Bless

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     I know…no Scripture header! What is this blog coming to? Today, we are looking at Romans 12:12-13. But, I ask that you take the time to either pull it up in the YouVersion app or turn to it in your Bible.

     I’ve struggled with these verses both as a Believer and long before I ever accepted Christ. I’ve had to work hard on my prayer life and feel it’s finally become a serious strength. I pray quietly to myself, as well as out loud around my house and in the car. But, I admit that I have struggled with rejoicing in hope at times. I have struggled with persevering in tribulation. Sometimes, I’ve felt like my contribution to the needs of the saints has really amounted to nothing and entertaining strangers is not one of my spiritual gifts. However, much like my prayer life, these are spiritual disciplines that I have had to cultivate as a follower of Christ, and that I am still cultivating daily.

     It’s not easy. In fact, there have been times I tried throwing in the towel altogether. If I can be totally transparent, in those moments I had no hope at all. The suicidal thoughts that brought me to get the gun out which ultimately cost my sister Cierra her life was one instance. If you haven’t watched my testimony located on the ‘My Testimony’ page of this blog, I encourage you to do so! Then there was another suicide attempt in my early twenties after being sexually assaulted while I was incarcerated, which left me feeling hopelessly broken. In both of those moments, I struggled with what verse twelve says. Yet, for some reason God brought me through all of that even though I was not on His team back then.  

     Those are extreme cases. Perhaps you have never been through anything close to what I have, but you have felt meh or blah. I am not one of those that will make light of what you’re experiencing. Your struggle is just as real as anyone else’s, including mine. Yet, I have found that really getting into His Word, praying and focusing on Him has helped me tremendously. I mean, yeah, I take medication for PTSD and Clinical Depression. However, that medicine is for the chemicals in my brain, whereas God, the Word, church, doing life with other church members and Celebrate Recovery are the medicine for my spirit! I think that a lot of us need to start looking at Church as the place for the spiritually sick rather than as the spiritually arrived.  

     I want to take this moment and say that as someone who has attempted it, and who has lost friends, acquaintances and loved ones to suicide: THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE! Even if it does not seem like it right that moment, there is always hope. I am reminded of a worship song that I have clung to at times of great heart-heaviness, “Pain comes but joy comes in the morning.” It’s true. It is easy to let the Enemy use other people’s opinions, judgements and ridicule to make God’s desire for our life seem unrealistic. But, He is God and they are the created. I have been on both sides of hopelessness. I have laid there writhing in despair, I have typed all night to ensure a loved one made it through the night. There is always hope. He is our hope if we don’t give into what the Enemy wants for us, which is always the opposite of God’s plan!

     Where are you struggling? What can you do to cultivate hope and perseverance? How is your prayer life? I pray that this may be a light to those who need it! If you or someone you know are not ok, please feel free to follow the provided link for resources and encouragement! 



Until Next Time
God Bless
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“Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:11 NASB

     In the moments where I’ve been full-swing into the lows of depression, I know I have seriously lagged in diligence, been lackluster in spirit and straight up tanked when it came to my serving the Lord. It is hard when those waves of self-loathing, anxiety and heaviness of heart hit. What is harder is not wanting to bother or be bothered, which is interesting because the words lagging behind in the Greek can be understood as grievously slothful. That is like saying dangerously apathetic, gravely lethargic, and seriously sluggish. Those words paired together sound a lot like what I have experienced amid my clinical depression. Paul is basically telling us that we are not to give into this, we are to serve the Lord and one another with a fervent spirit and love.

     Now, whether Paul had depression in mind when he wrote that statement, I can not say. That is the application I glean from it. As I have examined this scripture, though, it has given me peace to think that depression could be something God has provided me an out from. I mean, I can choose to focus on the good, the promises He has made, and relish in the joy of my salvation. I can choose to renew my mind with that which is pleasing to Him. I can decide that I am going to get out in the sun more and exercise, all of which have been known to help increase mood. I can choose to talk to friends I trust when those feelings creep up and find accountability if I start to droop. So, there are steps He has provided to being in a better state of mind.

     I also find it interesting that being fervent in spirit, and serving the Lord comes on the heels of lagging behind, because sure, while clinical depression is an extreme application, Paul probably had laziness in mind when writing about lagging behind. It is interesting that Strong’s also defines it as tardy, indolent and irksome. As believer’s we can look at that in the context of the chapter and apply it to our commitments to one another, the way we perform at our jobs, our schools, within our marriages, even in our walk with Christ and how we serve Him! He tells us in the preceding verses to be devoted to one another with the highest respect and dignity, and then says to be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, after challenging us to not be irksome, lazy, indolent, gravely lethargic, all of which embody that phrase: lagging behind.   

     So, as believers, some of us could be better with our time management, the way we serve our loved ones at home, the way we serve our fellow believers at church, serving at our respective churches period and even the way we serve our communities! I know I have dropped the ball on this so many times. However, if I am to serve the Lord with a fervent spirit, my attitude and my heart must reflect that at home, at work and at church. After all, it is to Him that we owe our attitude of gratitude and He has asked us to be fervent in serving Him!

     Where are you lagging behind? What is keeping you inactive and idle? Have you prayed on it? Have you considered serving at your local church or being of service to your neighbors, loved one’s?

Until Next Time
God Bless

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“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” Romans 12:10 NASB

     I am going to jump out on a limb and say none of us have a problem doing this, right? Every single one of us that call ourselves followers of Christ—we all live this verse out daily, right? I know, if you are like me, it is difficult sometimes. Personally, I get stuck on that word devoted. I spent half my life being devoted to surviving. Now, granted, my surviving probably looks different than most. But, if you have ever lived paycheck to paycheck, ate Raman noodles so often you tried crushing them up to eat them like chips with the packet sprinkled on top, or faced odds stacked against you so high that despair became as normal as breathing—you can probably relate.

     This verse isn’t talking about that sort of devotion, though. It’s talking about the loving affection sort of devotion. The kind we have toward our spouse, our kids, our loved ones. And, the real kicker I found is it’s not how we personally would do that sort of devotion, either. It’s based more on how Paul understood and showed devotion because he is the one that the Holy Spirit used to write the words. I mean, let’s face it, while some of us have devotion on an all-time affectionate spiritual-gift level, a lot of us see devotion as a task-oriented activity, or as perseverance itself.

     So, I started thinking about how Paul was devoted. Obviously he wasn’t married from what I could find, nor did he have kids. But, if we really look at his life, the man was married to spreading the Gospel. He loved the Gospel. He suffered for the Gospel. I mean, he went to prison for the Gospel. He laid down his life for the Gospel. Just as he said that husbands were to submit to wives like Christ did in dying for the church, Paul did that for the Gospel, too (Ephesians 5:25-30). Then it hit me, his kids were really the believers that he ministered to. He loved them, traveled to them, wrote them and did what he could to encourage, uplift and strengthen them in their faith. He praised them for their growth in Christ and corrected them when they were screwing up. I mean, the man was devoted.

     To me, looking at devoted through Paul’s eyes, it reinforces just how much brotherly, fraternal love is a big deal to God. I think that He is asking us in this Scripture to be devoted to leading and loving one another with respect and admiration, while valuing one another with the highest dignity. Not just the people we are close to but ALL who follow Christ. Ourselves included. 

     I admit, sometimes this has not been the easiest for me. I have done this wrong. Especially when looking in the mirror, as well as without a mirror. I am grateful for his mercies and forgiveness, though. He is so merciful and forgiving to give us new opportunities to be devoted and do our best to follow the examples He has given us! What about you? What does this spark in you? How can you be better devoted? In what areas of your life are you missing the mark?

Until Next Time,
God Bless

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Experience how God can save and redeem ALL OF US no matter what we have been through! Encounter Christ in this Easter Service and know that NO MATTER WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN, WHAT YOU HAVE DONE, or WHO WHO YOU HAVE BEEN:

CHRIST'S LOVE ON THE CROSS CHANGES EVERYTHING!

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“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9 NASB.

     I wonder how many of us have struggled with someone that reminds us of this verse? Someone whose love is just three hollow words and a sidestep of what is good? I wonder if we can look at ourselves for a moment and see our own loveless hypocrisy? Our spiteful two-facedness? That calloused drive to do the wrong things? When I lived according to the sinfulness of my flesh, I had more self-loathing and hypocrisy than I care to admit. Especially when love is taken to mean benevolence, affection and good will; and hypocrisy is understood as insincere, feigned and artificial.

     Before I understood what God’s grace did for me and still does for me daily, I had a lot of self-hatred. I hadn’t experienced the genuine love of God where I sincerely knew He had my best interest at heart. With my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Clinical Depression, I experienced cycles of this overwhelming sense of unworthiness, of being unfit to love, of being undeserving of being liked, and of not being genuinely connected to others in a sincere way. At times in my life, it’s been easier to remain sectioned off, to not engage where real feelings exist and to do all I could to earn approval. But, I learned the hard way, approval fails when we fail; and the self-loathing continues even worse than before.

     However, all that changes when we start to truly understand the depth of God’s love for us. He demonstrated just how much He loves us. Christ laid down His life so that we could have a relationship, a connection, a genuine bond with God. He did this despite how we look at ourselves or each other. He laid His life down to reconnect us to the Father in the face of our insincerity, our ‘not feeling it’, our warped need to be validated by others. He endured being beaten and hung on the cross for us while we were still out there in our sins, while we were enemies and even frenemies of God so that we could discover what it means to feel loved by God, to be made valid in a way never before possible. To discover what it means to know the sincerity of God. That reality has been sinking in for me for about a year now. This past week it’s really sank in.

     About 10 months ago, I heard some very talented musicians from my church do a rendition of ‘Reckless Love’ and I remember crying when I listened to it. It still wrecks me. It hits me so hard because I have been that lost sheep. I have been that out-there, empty, hypocrite and He left the 99 to bring me back. He has shown me His sincerity by being merciful and loving even though I don’t deserve it and every day I find myself wanting to be more like Him, and less like me, because of it.

     Each of our stories are unique, we all have different backgrounds and different paths to where we are today. Yet, one thing is true if you are a Christian reading this, and that same thing is still true even if you aren’t, Jesus Christ loves us with an overwhelming, wholehearted love. He always has, He always will. He calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, even to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us; as well as cling to what is good and to love without hypocrisy! Why? Because He did and He does!

Will we let Him show the world His love through us?

https://soundcloud.com/erick-sostre/reckless-love-acoustic-version

Until Next Time,
God Bless!
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“For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” Romans 12: 4-8 NASB.

     I have heard Romans 12:4-8 preached on a few times as a believer. I have even soaked up some messages where sports analogies were used even though sports aren’t my thing. The sports messages make sense and I can get it logically, but it has always been hard for me to connect with the sports parallels because I’m simply not into sports. This past week, though, when listening to a sports analogy on this passage, I connected Romans 12:4-8 with music for the first time as a believer. Mind=blown.

     Now, most everyone loves music, right? Some of us like metal, some of us love Christian Contemporary, some of us like Rhythm and Blues, I mean the list of musical styles goes on. Within our respective genres, though, each band has the much-needed musicians who create the music we enjoy. Imagine trying to listen to Lauren Daigle’s song “You Say” with no vocals. It would not be the same. Imagine trying to listen Tauren Well’s song ‘Known’, with no guitar track. It would be kind of strange. Just like trying to listen to Skillet’s ‘Monster’ without a drum track would be a bit weird.
Obviously, as a drummer, this resonates with me. Especially when I get the opportunity to worship God Almighty with my gift and look out at the congregation to see all the believers with their hands up, eyes closed and hearts wide open in praising the Father. There is something so humbling and renewing when God affords me those opportunities. The musician in me imagines what it would be like to see an entire world of believers worshiping God in such a manner, all at once.

     Now looking at the Scripture from a musician’s perspective, each person that is on stage has a gift set. If I jumped up in the middle of Worship and abandoned the drums, snatching a SM-57 microphone from the snare to start singing—I am pretty sure that that would not be God-honoring or very well-received by anyone present. Someone needs to tackle me and make sure that I am never scheduled again. LOL. But, we all have our place in the Worship of God. Mine is staying in my lane with the drums! So, as a Worship Drummer, I have my part, as do the vocalists, the keyboardist and the guitarists; and let’s not forget the audience who is worshipping God from the congregation! Because, yes, while the band may be leading the worship, we are all members involved in glorifying God. It is not about any one of us in attendance in that moment, it is about us connecting with the Father! Opening our hearts to Him and giving it all to Him!

     After seeing it through the musical lens, how do you see it? Do you recognize the unique gifts that God has given you to encourage and lift other believers? Have you ever considered what you are in the Body of Christ? Perhaps it is time that you start thinking about it! After all, what if you are the smile that God wants to use to brighten someone else’s day?

Until Next Time,
God Bless

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“For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to thinkso as to have sound judgement, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith,” (Romans 12:3 NASB, emphasis added).

     Recently, I’ve had the privilege to start doing research on Billy Graham. It’s for a project that I am doing on historical leaders and what they have contributed to the Christian faith. Amid that research, Billy Graham has quickly become a major inspiration to me. In fact, I was not sure where I was going next with this blog until I was blessed to hear a High School and a Middle School Youth Pastor discussing Romans 12:3-4 night before last. It was then that it occurred to me, why not keep on with Romans 12?

     What does that have to do with Billy Graham, you ask? Well, everything. To be 100%, it hit me two nights ago after sharing what I’d learned about Billy Graham backstage and then hearing the two Youth Pastor’s respective messages—Billy Graham is the epitome of Romans 12:3!

     In 1950, Graham began the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. By 2014, he had preached in front of 82,774,083 people! That is more than eight times the number of people in my state of Georgia! Over the course of his ministry, God led 4,563,436 people to Christ through Graham’s crusades! Essentially, all of Los Angeles!  Think about that. Four million+ to Christ! In Graham’s lifetime! Yet, by all accounts, Graham was a very humble and unassuming man, a dairy farm-boy from way back. How crazy is that? Of all the people in the world to be given over to arrogance, pride or vanity, the guy that God used to save four million + people could have been that guy! But, he wasn’t!

     As believer’s, we understand that the gift of grace that was given to us is the loving-kindness of coming to know and being able to have a relationship with Christ. Being able to accept salvation and have a connection to God is the greatest gift we could ever hope to have. He gave that to us out of His mercy. He did not have to. He chose to. Just as Christ chose to go to Calvary so that we could be welcomed into the Family. Ridiculous Grace!

     Think about this, too, how much grace did Paul feel God had shown him? I mean, he went from being a Pharisee, was probably at the gate when they stoned Stephen, and was killing Christians in God’s name; and then after Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus, he was willing to do whatever he had to do, tell anyone that would listen, face imprisonment and he even died for the grace he received through Christ. So, when Paul says, “For through the grace given to me…” I’d say he felt God had been incredibly graceful!

     In my opinion, it’s part of our spiritual service of worship to use our measure of faith to glorify God, as well as be humble in knowing that it’s by God and through God all of it is possible! Who comes to mind for you when you think about this passage? How may we implement this passage into our own lives? In what ways are we ensnared by arrogance, vanity and pride?

Until Next Time,
God Bless
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