Friday Devotional

April 4, 2024

From Resurrection To Ascension: New Identity

2nd Corinthians 5:16-18 So from now on we don’t think of anyone from a human point of view. If we did think of Christ from a human point of view, we don’t anymore. Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence. God has done all this. He has restored our relationship with him through Christ, and has given us this ministry of restoring relationships. (www.biblegateway.com /2 Corinthians 5:16-18) 


This month, we will take some time to meditate on what Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection mean to each of us personally. What it says about us; our position, who we are, and where we are heading. 


Specifically, we will study the scriptures that teach us the powerful impact that Jesus’ forty days between His Resurrection and Ascension have to shape the new creations that we have now become because of Christ.   If Jesus has not risen from the dead, our faith, hope, and purpose to live has vanished and is useless (1 Corinthians 15). But because Jesus indeed rose from the dead, the implications for us are enormous.   


We begin with Paul telling us who we have become because of Christ. This is a very familiar text, and most translations remind us that we are new creatures and therefore have a new identity “IN” Christ. Today let us take a closer look at the new identity. 


Like the disciples, we sometimes build our identity on our traditions, education, cultural values, careers, money, family, or happiness. There is nothing that is necessarily wrong with these things.  But, when our identity is built on anything of this world, we are focusing on the “here and now,” and there is nothing more unstable than the “here and now,” as we see that our lives can change in a heartbeat.  


Our lives are filled with choices and actions that we’re never meant to carry. Despite the work of Christ on the cross, wee still hold too tightly to our fleshly desires. We believe the worst in ourselves when Christ sees the gold. 


Like Jesus, who committed himself to death for our sake, we, too, must release and crucify the things that are hindering our identity in Him. 


Christ suffered to pay for our sins and restore us to God. As we move past Easter, remembering that pivotal moment in salvation history, we know Christ accepts us as we are, but loves us too much to leave us as we were. We must, as Paul puts it, put to death the old, sinful self, and strive to become the new, redeemed self, becoming a new person in Christ and by his Spirit. 


When we have a revelation that Jesus’ story is our story, when we see it as our reality, something happens. Faith arises. We are transformed. 


It is called “identification with Christ. Take a look at what these verses tell us about this new identity.  


  • “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (www.biblegateway.com/Galatians 2:20 NIV) 

  • “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4 NIV) 



 Today, take some time to meditate on what Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection mean to you personally. 
What it says about you; your position, who you are, and where you are heading.  


“The new is here.” Your new is here. 


March 29, 2024

The Ultimate Promise Keeper Is Our Protector

Psalm 121:1-8 (TLB) – “Shall I look to the mountain gods for help? No! My help is from Jehovah who made the mountains! And the heavens too! He will never let me stumble, slip, or fall. For he is always watching, never sleeping.  Jehovah himself is caring for you! He is your defender.  He protects you day and night.  He keeps you from all evil and preserves your life.  He keeps his eye upon you as you come and go and always guards you.

As we look at this passage from the book of Psalms, specifically referred to as a “Song of Ascents” we find that God has promised to protector.  These were songs as the people traveled to Jerusalem and the temple for special times of worship. The temple that the Jewish people traveled for their traditional worship was a rough climb in the oppressively hot sun which led through the wilderness.  As God’s people made their way to the temple the relentless heat drained their strength, and there was a real threat of heat stroke and the danger of attack by robbers.

So, the promise keeper assured His people here in Psalm 121, that they would receive every protection. The psalmist is affirming that God provides comfort and protection from life’s heat.

The moon reminds us of the dangers that hide in the shadow and lurk in the darkness. Likewise, God is always there to protect us from all harm physically or spiritually.

In other words, the Lord is our helper and our keeper throughout the entire journey of life. God was with the pilgrims night and day as they went to Jerusalem and as they made their way home. God will be with us, His children, until we safely arrive to our heavenly home.

The promise of being kept by the LORD is echoed in John 17:15 (ESV) when Jesus prayed for us in to the Father, “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me.”  And in John 10 when Jesus declared, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  The Promise Keeper covers us with His Protection. He has used His own flesh to cover us from everything.  In fact, we are so protected that the devil cannot snatch us from God’s Hand.

Take note of these verses from Psalm 18:30-31 (TLB) that says this about our Promise Keeper:  “What a God he is! How perfect in every way! All his promises prove true. He is a shield for everyone who hides behind him. 31 For who is God except our Lord? Who but he is as a rock?”


March 22, 2024

Way Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper

Isaiah 43:16-19 NLT) – “This is what the LORD says – He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

These words come from the lyrics to a song, “Way Maker” by Nigerian gospel singer Sinach, which won her the 2020 Gospel song of the year award.  As we have looked at our Ultimate Promise Keeper, The words of the refrain seem so appropriate to what scripture says about our Promise Keeper: 

“Way maker,

Miracle worker, promise keeper Light in the darkness,

my God That is who you are.”

 

Here in this passage from Isaiah 43:16-19, he reminds the people of Israel that even when they do not know the way to take that God has made and kept promises to them and will continue to lead them along even when they like us will face the challenge of having to take a new path.  We have all found ourselves in a place in life when we have thought, “I don’t know where to go from here” or “I’m not sure if I’ll make it through this”?

This song has been playing in my head as I have looked at the all-powerful Promise Keeper, God has reminded me of the promises made and fulfilled to you and me.  Think about all of the tough places that you have found yourself in and praise God because:

When we feel defeated, trapped, or just exhausted, remember that God has been a way maker.

When we don’t see any way to get through this remember that God has been miracle worker.

When we don’t know how to trust anymore just remember that God has been a promise keeper.

When everything around us is the dark remind yourself that God has been light in the darkness.

He is all these things to us as we allow Him to be. He desires to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords of our life. When we look at the struggles of the Israelites as they headed to the Promise Land, we see the lesson that God taught them on their journey just as He teaches us on our journey. He blessed them just as He blesses us. He loved on them just as He loves on us. God promises to be with us and to make a way through the messiness of life. He promises to be our strength and our wisdom. Isaiah remined the people of God’s promise to make a way for the Israelites even before their journey started. We too read throughout the Bible His promises for us. We may not know what trials wait for us in the future, but we know we serve a God who has promised to lead us through them. The people of Israel spent a lot of time struggling in the wilderness or in captivity. As followers of Jesus, we might not appreciate the care that went into the 40 years of wandering in the desert, but we do know the wilderness of a dreaded cancer diagnosis, we know the darkness of being held captive by depression, we know the pain of childlessness, marriage failures, and especially losses of parents, children, and spouses. But when we trust the Way Maker, Promise Keeper, and the Light in the Darkness, we will find that these are the struggles that cause our faith to grow when we let God fight our battles. The more we trust God the more He will become real to us.

So, there are stories of Jesus working miracles out all through scripture, one thing remains the same, when we are obedient to His commands and we give Him lordship over our lives He is faithful to meet our needs, break chains that have us bound by fear, provide a way out of temptation, or give us the direction that He wants us to go. Not only is He our way maker; He is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6) He is still in the business of working miracles and keeping His promises. When we find ourselves in situations that seem dire, we need to remember His promises and speak them over our own lives to remind us that He is faithful. Hebrews 13:8 says that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” I hope that we find comfort in that today because He is faithful and as long as we have breath in our lungs He is still at work in our lives. Remember and trust this:

Even when I don’t see it, You’re working
Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working
You never stop, You never stop working.

 

March 15, 2024

THE PROMISE KEEPER IS NOT SLOW TO KEEP HIS PROMISES. 

2nd Peter 3:8-9 (AMP) – “Nevertheless, do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. The Lord does not delay [as though He were unable to act] and is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is [extraordinarily] patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 


As we continue to study our Ultimate Promise Keeper, here in these verses, Peter insists that we cannot apply human demands about time to the promises of God. Peter's point is that God does not suffer the limitations of time, or confusion about time, the way human beings do. He is not slow in keeping His promise. God is the one who made the schedule: He cannot be "late." Instead, God keeps every promise at the perfect time for His glory and for the good of those He loves. 


In this case, Christians should view the delay in Christ's return as evidence of God's patience, not of His tardiness. In His love-driven patience, God is willing to give more time for more people to come to repentance. This is God's plan to allow more people opportunity to place their trust in Christ in order to enter into eternal relationship with Him. 


As Peter tells us, that is one reason God allows more time—the very time mocked by the false teachers—prior to the return of Christ. God is mercifully creating more space for more people to repent and turn to Him. 


So, Peter tells us to not let this fact escape our notice: “that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day.” 


We may have all said at one time or another or in certain situations that God is an on-time God. Well, fellow believers, our promise-keeper’s timing is always perfect. 


God’s never early, never late, but always on time. Our timing is not God’s timing. For us, God’s timing often feels like a long, desperate delay.  


God’s perfect timing does two things: It grows our faith as we are forced to wait and trust in God and it makes certain that He, and He alone, gets the glory and praise for pulling us through. As Psalm 31:15a (AMP) let us know that “My times are in Your hands …” Psalm 31:15. 


At the right time, God will provide our need. At the right time, God will deliver us. At the right time, God will rescue us. 


It is all in God’s hands. He will not take us too soon or too late, He is always on time, every time in every situation. That is one of the beautiful things about our Christian faith. Nothing is left to chance, or luck, or good fortune, or accident or anything else. 


At the RIGHT time. His time is never slow or delayed. It is perfect! 


March 8, 2024

The Ultimate Promise Keeper

Acts 4:12 (AMP) - And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among people by which we must be saved [for God has provided the world no alternative for salvation].” (https://biblehub.com/acts/4-12.htm)

It is amazing that today is the first day of March.  As many of us continue to our commitment to Our Lenten prayer and fasting, we also prepare for the coming of Spring and the most holy of times in the Church calendar, Resurrection Sunday. During this Easter season, we are invited to take a deeper look at our life journey and reflect on the promise of God’s life in abundance.  Easter solidifies for us that God is the Ultimate Promise Keeper and we are going to go to God’s word so that we know more about our Promise Keeper and the challenge to not just take God’s promises for granted but to also honor our promises to God.

Today we look to God as the Ultimate Promise Keeper and the importance for us to remember that God keeps every promise. Think about this: anyone can make a promise, but if we are honest, we do not. How many of us have actually kept every promise we have made in our lifetime? A promise only has real value when it is based on commitment, faithfulness, and perseverance. Broken promises hurt. They have the potential to sever relationships, bring heartache and wound deeply.

God began His promise in Genesis 12:3 where He promised to Abraham that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed. We may wonder why this promise is so important to us. It is because we find that because of Jesus, who was Abraham’s descendant, we have all been blessed, including all of us.  

Jesus is the answer. In Jesus resides the ultimate fulfillment of this promise… and thus the ultimate blessing.

As we read in Acts 4:12, Jesus is the ultimate promise because our eternal salvation rests in Him. One day, we will pass on to the other side, and the only promise that will still carry us, the only promise that bridges the gap in our life here with our life in eternity, is this promise! The promise of salvation found in Jesus Christ.

All the other promises live in this reality of Jesus our Savior as well.  Without this ultimate promise, we would not be able to have faith in all the other promises of God.  Jesus is our ultimate promise, our ultimate strength, and our ultimate support every day of our life.

On that cross, Jesus took all of my sins, all of your sins and all of the sins of every believer in Him, including the past, present, and future sins upon Himself. He fulfilled God’s promise to the world. He paid the price for our debts – death. He conquered death when He rose from the dead after three days. So, we can declare from the Word of God this Ultimate Promise in 1st John 2:25 (NIV) “And this is what he promised us—eternal life.

This promise is realized when we come to know Jesus intimately by having a continuous relationship with Jesus through our abiding, walking, and talking with Him.

 

March 1, 2024

Preparing To Serve, Serving To Prepare

Exodus 19:10-11 (AMP) – The Lord also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow [that is, prepare them for My sacred purpose], and have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai [in the cloud] in the sight of all the people.

Here in today’s passage from Exodus 10:10-11, God tells Moses that He wants the children of Israel to consecrate and prepare themselves for God’s sacred purpose.  

When we have special assignments, it is always necessary to make every preparation for the successful completion of our assignment. God has finally fulfilled His promise to bring His people out of Egypt and all of the way to the base of Mt. Sinai in order to meet with them and communicate His covenant. He wants them to appreciate the privileges of their covenant relationship of being His people, His possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation that will carry His name and reputation to the watching world. God wants them to commit to obey his laws of the covenant. He wants them to prepare for the initiation of this covenant relationship by consecrating themselves to Him and spells out through Moses how they were to purify themselves and then consecrating themselves to all that boundaries that God set aside for them. God wanted to see that the people would respect the balance between approaching God by faith and yet responding in awe and holy fear to His majestic transcendence.

This word on setting ourselves apart for God’s sacred purposes is found again in Romans 12:2 (MSG) where Paul writes: “And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].” Then Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians 7:17 (AMP) says, “Only, let each one live the life which the Lord has assigned him, and to which God has called him [for each person is unique and is accountable for his choices and conduct, let him walk in this way]. This is the rule I make in all the churches.”

We see that there is a connection between preparing ourselves to serve God and serving to preparing to serve for Jesus’ second coming.  Often times when we start a new job, we go through some sort of training and preparation so that we are able to do the job successfully.

Whatever type of training we go through, it is to prepare us to fulfill your calling, do our job effectively, making sure we are equipped to handle what is going to come your way.

As much as that is true for an earthly job, it is also true for the ministry that God has called you to. We will be prepared to serve God in the way He desires, where He desires, at the time that He desires.

Our Risen Lord through the Holy Spirit will prepare us for our ministry in His service. Of course, we have to have a willing heart to serve Him at all, obedient to the call on our lives—a call that everyone has, just in different capacities. So, may we join Him in the effort of preparing to serve Him.

As Christians, we have often heard or said to one another that we are “saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost.” But what is our reality in making this statement. It should be much more to us than a Christian catch phrase. “To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be filled with the immediate presence of God Himself. It will result in feeling what God feels, desiring what God desires, doing what God wants, speaking by God's power, praying, and ministering in God's strength, and praying with the knowledge that God is.”  

Knowing this truth, should move us to prepare ourselves to serve as we prepare for the immediate and continual presence of God at salvation.

 


February 23, 2024

Preparing A Strong Spiritual Foundation

Matthew 7:25 (NIV) – “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

As believers, we have heard this parable about the two builders. Here, Jesus teaches uses this lesson to emphasize the importance of preparing our spiritual temple by building our lives on a solid foundation.  Jesus uses this analogy to illustrate the importance of building our lives on a solid foundation. When we begin preparing our spiritual lives by building up a solid foundation, this foundation must be rooted in our unwavering faith and steadfast obedience to God’s Word. When make God our everything, we are better prepared to weather the storms of life that will surely blow in our lives. So, Jesus encourages us establish a solid relationship with God, ensuring stability and endurance.

How do we prepare this solid spiritual foundation? When we look at the context of Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV) we read that, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Jesus says that as builders of a solid spiritual foundation, we should prepare to build our house (our spiritual temple) by becoming hearers and does of His Word. Those who fail to heed Jesus’ words and do the things that Jesus did, will definitely find just how shaky their preparations have been when they encounter storms. 

The “house” we are building represents our whole lives in Christ. Our foundation in Christ is like the relationship that we read about in Hebrews 6:18-19 (NIV) that promises us this: “God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Take note that our entire house must be built on this solid foundation, not just a room or two.

Some of us may regularly attend church but not Bible study. Some of us may regularly go to church on Sundays, and even participate in a weekly Bible study or small group but we have no prayer time or take time to meditate, pray and fast. When we are preparing to build our spiritual foundation, we must consciously include Jesus in every area of our daily living.  Not using the spiritual building tools in all areas will leave us with parts of our foundation on shaky, sandy ground. Jesus is an important part of our worship and praise, our prayer and fasting, our call to ministry, the use of our spiritual gifts and our stewardship.

Remember, the Bible calls Jesus the Chief Cornerstone. Jesus knows all about setting a secure foundation, and He is also an expert in repairing and resetting a foundation that needs help. As Matthew 7:24-27 encourages us, let us build our lives on the Word – it is a foundation that will never change, never give way, never let us down.

 

February 16, 2024

Be Prepared to Respond Quickly To God

Exodus 12:11 (AMP) – “Now you are to eat it in this manner: [be prepared for a journey] with your loins girded [that is, with the outer garment tucked into the band], your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; you shall eat it quickly—it is the Lord’s Passover.”

Here in today’s passage, we have a lesson on readiness in preparation. God gives specific instruction to Israel through Moses about their preparations for their upcoming Exodus from Egypt and the “Lord’s Passover.” At first glance, these requests may not make sense to us, but we know that God is not a God of chance. God’s desire is that His people trust Him with every aspect of their lives.

Look at the things that seem like minor details in light of the journey that the people were preparing to take. They were to "tuck their cloaks into their belt, have sandals on their feet, and a staff in their hand."

But in this instance, having long flowing robes was not practical for everyday use. The only way to work or even fight was to either remove them or tuck them into a belt or waistband. This is what is meant by “girding your loins” in Scripture.  In battle, the Roman soldiers would gird their waist with a belt because every weapon that they needed in battle hung from the belt and could be grabbed quickly. It would be terrible to not be able to escape an enemy because we could not move quickly and easily.

The important lesson for us today is this: While seemingly unimportant on the surface, the asking them to tuck in their cloaks, get their sandals on, and have staff in hand were the simple things, but the things that were of great importance in order to make a clean escape. So often it is the simple things that God uses to help us escape bondage. Too often we complicate the escape by having too many loose ends. Most Christians get tripped up by simple things, not important things. The simple ideas or things are often the most powerful.

Everything they did here was to speak of the priority of leaving bondage so only those things that helped this process were important. It is the same with us, when God calls us out of the bondage of sin, we are to prioritize our life in such a way that those things which do not help us escape are eliminated or put into their proper place. There could be no compromise here with these unimportant things or it could slow them down enough to prevent their escape!

1st Peter 1:13 (AMP) tells us this: “So prepare your minds for action, be completely sober [in spirit—steadfast, self-disciplined, spiritually and morally alert], fix your hope completely on the grace [of God] that is coming to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  The call of Scripture is to prepare our lives for action this is really what God was asking of them be prepared for action! As believers, we should show unquestionable evidence that we are prepared for quick action when it comes to acting in God’s will.  What does Peter mean? The same thing Moses meant in Exodus: prioritize your spiritual life – and be ready.

Who would have ever thought such simple things could be so important? But this is still true today, who would have ever thought that such simple things of obedience to God's Word could have such a huge effect on the success of living the Christian life, but it does!

If we are going to be relaxed in the presence of the enemy, we will be held captive by him too!

Do you want to escape the bondage of sin in your life? Have you prepared yourself to escape? Have you tucked away all the loose ends that might make you trip up your walk with God?

Remember this: “Living a successful Christian life is not just what God does, it is also what we do!”

 

February 9, 2024

The Importance of Spiritual Preparation

Matthew 25:1-13 (AMP) – “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish [thoughtless, silly, and careless], and five were wise [far-sighted, practical, and sensible]. For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take any [extra] oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delayed, they all began to nod off, and they fell asleep. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! The bridegroom [is coming]! Go out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins got up and put their own lamps in order [trimmed the wicks and added oil, and lit them]. But the foolish virgins said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No, otherwise there will not be enough for us and for you, too; go instead to the dealers and buy oil for yourselves.’ But while they were going away to buy oil, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut and locked. Later the others also came, and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open [the door] for us.’ But He replied, ‘I assure you and most solemnly say to you, I do not know you [we have no relationship].’ Therefore, be on the alert [be prepared and ready], for you do not know the day nor the hour [when the Son of Man will come]. 


I do not know about you all, but January seemed much shorter than usual. So, we have arrived at the second month of 2024, and during February, we are going to God’s Word to discover what is necessary in preparing ourselves for living out God’s eternal purposes for our lives. 


There are few things that we do that do not require some level of preparation. Cooking a meal requires that we begin to with the necessary ingredients, and equipment to complete dinner. Any activity or performance requires getting ready, warming up or practice to be successful.  Students in school are taught to prepare their minds for getting to the next level in their education. Athletes prepare physically for the next level and careers in professional sports. Teachers prepare mentally for teaching by taking classes that allow for practice teaching. Physicians prepare both mentally and physically for medical practice through internships, research, and residency programs in medical school. This list of preparation is on-going because preparation also requires practice to stay on top of things.    


This Benjamin Franklin quote, By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail,” has it exactly right! If we have not made adequate preparations for our journey or project, we are unlikely to succeed.  


It is no different in our lives in Christ. Jesus says being prepared is especially important for living the Christian life while we wait for Christ’s return. Here in Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus uses the parable about the wise and the foolish virgins to teach about the importance of being prepared as one of His followers.   


It is important that we understand that Jesus uses this lesson to emphasize preparation over planning. Notice that the wise virgins brought extra oil for their lamps, but the foolish virgins made plans to get extra oilThey had a plan, but their plan caused them to miss the bridegroom’s arrival (Jesus’ second coming). While they made their way to find the additional oil the bridegroom came and only the prepared were able to go into the wedding with Him.  


The plan was for all the virgins to greet the bridegroom when He came (the plan). But a lack of preparation (no extra oil) caused five of the virgins to be shut out.    


The biblical truth that Jesus wants to teach us is that God does the planning, and we must do the preparingThroughout scripture we find stories like Abraham in Genesis 12 where the word says in Genesis 12:1 (NKJV) that: Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house To a land that I will show you. Abraham had to prepare his family, pack his tent, and make the move. Noah prepared but it was God’s plan for the building of the Ark. Moses prepared the people for the Exodus, but God planned every detail of Israel’s exodus. John the Baptist does not tell us to plan the way of the Lord because we are to prepare for the plans that God has already planned.  


Remember the Words of God to his prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NKJV) which says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  God does not tell Jeremiah to get a plan and then He will bless his plan but that He has the plan.  


Jesus is calling on us to prepare ourselves as spiritual vessels by calling upon the Lord, coming to God in relationship, praying, seeking the Lord with all our heart.  I hope that you will me join me in this journey to find all the ways that we are to biblically prepare ourselves for God’s purpose. 


February 2, 2024

How To Abide in Christ

1st Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  

As we come to our last day of the first month of 2024, it seems appropriate for us to review what God’s word tells us about abiding in Christ. How do we practice abiding in Christ our daily lives?  

Jesus often used parables as a teaching tool to help us understand the many unique features of our faith in Jesus Christ.  We have this kind of lesson in John 15, where Jesus gives us a simple representation of how our relationship with Him should look: “Jesus being the vine and all who believe in Him being the branches on the vine.” Just to review, Jesus describes how the branches cannot bear fruit without abiding in the vine. Any branches that do not abide and do not bear fruit are thrown away by the vinedresser and burned. However, the branches that abide and bear fruit are pruned and tended, so as to bear more fruit. (John 15:1-8)  

I always find it helpful to have the scripture that gives us the lesson on how to abide IN Christ. Colossians 2:6-7 (NKJV) gets us started as Paul states that “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” 

Then we are to depend On God by abiding in His word. We read in Matthew 4:4 (NKJV) that, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Jesus wants us to know that the Word of God is the only path we can follow for us to truly live. We will give God the glory that He deserves if we do not acknowledge that depend on Him for our very being. Once we recognize this truth, we can experience complete joy.  

Then remember that to abide means that we must be intentional for the Lord. Look with me at Colossians 3:17 (NKJV) where Paul wrote, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  Abiding requires that we have our minds made-up for Christ and that are deliberate in our service, our praise and worship and our ministry to those both in relationship with Christ and those who have not yet come to relationship in Christ. 

Paul tells us living intentionally requires this: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2 (NKJV). We must set our mind and heart on the things of God.  

Throughout the everchanging landscape of our lives, we can continue to remain strong in in our walk in Christ when we have a continual prayer life, we depend on God and we trust Him for the outcomes in our lives we read and meditate on God’s Word, and we live intentionally through Christ. When we do these things to abide in the Lord, we trust His plan and purpose for our lives. We are living by faith and not by sight. We believe the truth of God's promise that we are saved through His Son, Jesus Christ. 

We can bring glory to God in all circumstances by abiding in Him and bearing fruit according to His mission. Jesus said in John 15:8 (NKJV) that those who abide in Him do three things: we glorify the Father, we bear much fruit, and we prove that we are His disciples. 


So, let us keep abiding in Jesus our Savior!  


January 26, 2024

Abiding in Christ Requires Pruning to Keep Us Fruitful

John 15:1-2 (AMP) - “I am the true Vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit].

Today, we return to John chapter fifteen verses one and two.  Here again we look at Jesus words to His Apostles on abiding.  But we are looking specifically and the word prunes.  Jesus goes on to tell us that this is a process that His Father does for those who abide in Him repeatedly. It is safe for us to say that God takes us from fruit-bearers to bearers of super fruit.

First let us look at the pruning process that takes place in the natural environment. Dictionary.com defines pruning as the process, act, or practice of cutting or lopping off undesired twigs, branches, or roots.  This process is used to encourage growth and flowers and fruit in trees and other plants. This process is not done to injure a plant but to make the plant more productive.

It is the same for believers who abide in Christ. Pruning is not a punishment for a Christian; it is a reward. God is the vinedresser who prunes the life of everyone who abides in Christ and bears the fruit of Christ. Spiritual pruning enhances spiritual growth by removing whatever stunts spiritual growth. Jesus uses the example of the vine because those that He was teaching would be familiar with how vines and even olive trees grow. The vine nor the trunk of the tree produces fruit. Fruit grows from the branches that are attached to the vine. It is necessary for us to note that vines produce fruit and bear seeds. So, the continued growth depends on the those who accept the benefits of pruning.

It is interesting to note that the spiritual pruning is a repetitive process.  We are not pruned because we are not fruitful but because God wants us to be more fruitful. Let that sink in!

As believers we have seasons when pruning is necessary.  James 1:6-9 (AMP) states this about the reason we need this pruning: “In this you rejoice greatly, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, which is much more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested and purified by fire, may be found to result in [your] praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not even see Him now, you believe and trust in Him and you rejoice and delight with inexpressible and glorious joy, receiving as the result [the outcome, the consummation] of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”         

James’ writing here indicates that the reason for this season of pruning follows a time of great trials.   If we are not careful, our trials will make us focus on what is not important because we may no longer be able to focus on the important work that God wants us to do.  Loss can especially slow down and change the focus of the most faithful believer.

The temptation then comes for us to give up or draw back into safe, comfortable, or controlled environments. In the vulnerable moment of pruning, Satan will tell us to give up and draw back from the purpose of God. But remember that the testing of our faith proves it is the genuineness of our faith. Now because of abiding in Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the Vinedresser keeping the branches spiritually nourished, going back to the comfort of a risk-free life is not an option. So, we are pruned in this season of loss and even heartache to refocus not to retreat.  

We need to remain fixed and focused as Christians. The evil one comes in the weak state of the pruning process to try to convince us we have failed, and that God has abandoned us. But nothing is further from the truth.  The truth is that we are not being pruned because we failed, but because we are succeeding. Only the fruitful branches are pruned. The loss is not the result of our failure but of our success. The good news is that by abiding in Christ more fruit is just around the corner!

 

January 19, 2024

Abiding in Christ Results in Our Righteousness

Philippians 3:9 (GNT) – “and be completely united with him. I no longer have a righteousness of my own, the kind that is gained by obeying the Law. I now have the righteousness that is given through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is based on faith.”

It is the person who abides in God that God will produce works of righteousness, just as abiding in the branch produces fruit in season. One is the outgrowth of the other. The outgrowth of the root or the tree produces and causes fruit to be manifested. Psalm 15:1-2 says, “Lord, who may abide in your Tabernacle?

We must see that his is the reason that Jesus says to His disciples and to all who believe that “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). All branches attached to the true Vine will display righteous fruit. Which is why Jesus warns us to look at the fruit produced.

The Old Testament used a similar phrase as Paul: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.” (Prov 11:30) Then Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians 5:22-23 to explain this fruit of righteousness that the Lord produces in us and says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” 

We do not produce these qualities, but it is these qualities that the Holy Spirit creates in us through the new life that we have received by abiding in the vine.  The Holy Spirit creates new life in the believer, and the evidence of the new life is the fruit the Spirit produces in that life. The source of the fruit of righteousness is not “righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil 3:9).

Paul in Philippians 1:11 that the purpose of this fruit of righteous in us is made “to the glory and praise of God. The fruit displayed in our lives comes from God and is not for our own praise and glory and not to gain honor or to puff ourselves up; it is to glorify God. Others should see our good deeds and “glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

We must realize that there is no good in us apart from Christ. The Word of God tells us in James 1:17 that everything good comes from God. Then Psalm 107:8-9 says that He fills our souls with good. Elsewhere in Psalm 119:68 We are told that God is good, does good and gives good gifts to all of us who belong to Him.

Our being joined to Christ brings about every good that we enjoy in our new life, and we should not take the credit for this good that Christ has produced in us.

No saving good, no eternal good, no God-exalting good, no soul-satisfying good comes to us except as we are connected to Christ.

Therefore, we can claim that abiding in Christ results in our being made Righteous in Him!


January 12, 2024

WHEN WE ABIDE IN CHRIST, WE ENJOY HIS REST AND PEACE

John 16:33 (NIV) - “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

As we continue to look at what comes to us from abiding in Christ, today we find the comforting promise of our Lord Jesus linked to the deep and abiding peace that flows from our relationship with Him.  As we journey through life, in an increasingly alien world, abiding overcomes the difficulties of the journey that we experience in this life.  This was true for the disciples and for us as well. When Jesus speaks these words to the disciples, they were about to experience the fear and uncertainty at the coming crucifixion and death of Jesus and from the growing hostility of the ruling religious leaders in Jerusalem towards Jesus and His followers.

So, Jesus took time to reassure His inner circle that His perfect peace would flood their heart and mind, if they would trust the words, He had spoken to them and believe the things He had taught them. They had to know that in this fallen world system they would endure storms. But Jesus says, "But take courage," He said, "I have overcome the world."

It seems contradictory that Jesus told the disciples to “take heart” (John 16:33) just as they were about to face the darkest, most troubling time of their lives. The Lord would soon be leaving them (John 16:5–7), and He knew that severe persecution, suffering, and the possibility of death awaited each of His followers.

In the original language, the words translated as “take heart” (NIV) or “be of good courage” (NKJV, ESV, NLT) can also be understood as “be bold,” “be confident,” or “be courageous” (CSB). Jesus takes this opportunity to teach His disciples that there is no other source of inner peace and courage when facing trials outside of abiding in Him. (1 John 2:28)

Think again about the word “abide” which Jesus uses fifteen time in the first ten verses of John 15 in the New King James Version.  Understanding the meaning of this root word in the Greek helps us to understand even better the meaning of abide. To abide is to “dwell,” “remain,” “be present,” and to “be held and kept.” Abiding addresses our posture and place. We must ask where are we and how are we resting in Christ?  The example of the vine and the branches also brings us the imagery of resting in our Lord. This resting suggests that when we dwell in God’s presence and remain in His Word, we experience His power and peace. Abiding is not about any work we do on our own, but it is all about what Jesus has done for us.  Jesus has overcome the world, and we are now held and kept in His peace and promises so that we can enjoy His deep rest.

So, here is another result for believers on abiding in Christ. Jesus’ promise of peace is given all of us who hear and believe His Word. The resulting blessing of abiding is the peace of Jesus is only achieved from abiding in His love. The Lord offers us His perfect peace which can be found “IN HIM.”  "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God (GOOD!) Believe also in Me."

 

January 5, 2024

What Does It Mean to Abide in Christ?

We find the word abide throughout scripture. It is always presented as a means to stay intimately connected with Jesus.  And it is often contrasted with the negative consequences of not abiding in Christ.

As we begin a New Year, I have focused less on New Year’s resolutions and more on finding ways to live a life that honors God.  I have concluded that if I could pinpoint one thing in my journey of faith that I would like to see grow stronger, it would be the strength to abide in Christ with all consistency in every situation.  So, to begin this New Year, I want to look at understanding how to abide in Christ.

To understand abiding in Christ, we must begin this month’s devotions on finding the biblical meaning of what abiding in Christ should mean to us as believers.

John 15:1-4 (NKJV) - “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He [a]takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

There are many verses in Scripture that paint for us a vivid picture of what it means to daily walk by faith.  The image given by Jesus in John chapter fifteen, uses the compelling relationship of “the vine and the branch.” These verses highlight the difficult challenge we face; in remaining deeply connected to Christ so that we might live in the fullness of His joy and the abundance of His grace. 

Our Savior used the simple image of the vine and the branch as he gave us a symbol to help us connect that, for the believer, abiding is a relationship that cannot and must not be broken.   We can understand that a branch cut off from the vine cannot produce fruit or contribute anything of value for that matter.   A branch cannot provide nourishment for itself. The branch is dependent on its nourishment from the vine and not an outside source. The difficulty for us is that the world is more than happy to present “sources” that not only keep us from growing and producing fruit. Our enemy is only to glad to present us with options that he wants to convince us that they will satisfy our souls. 

So, we must learn to identify what is the source of our soul nourishment.  If our response to that question is anything other than Christ, we are in danger of becoming a dead branch.

Celebrated author, pastor and theologian, John Piper stated it this in a sermon on abiding in Christ, “I think the essential meaning of our active abiding is the act of receiving and trusting all that God is for us in Christ.” If a branch remains, or abides, attached to the vine in such a way that it is receiving all that the branch has to give, then that is a picture of what John means by believing or trusting Jesus. He says in John 1:12 (NKJV), “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”  Believing is a receiving of Christ into the soul, welcoming Him, trusting Him, as it were, drinking and eating, and savoring Him. This is what Jesus says in John 6:35 (NKJV), “And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”  Abiding is an attachment to, a coming to Jesus, and a receiving from Jesus. It is trusting in Jesus.  It is remaining in fellowship with Jesus.  It is connecting with Jesus so that all that God is for us in Him is flowing like a life-giving sap into our lives. That is number one: abiding is believing, trusting, savoring, resting, receiving.”

Take a few minutes today to join me in evaluating our source or sources of daily nourishment.  Is Christ our only source, or do you have competing idols seeking to convince us that they will satisfy our soul?

Our spiritual survival and growth depend on us daily choosing the right sources of abiding.

May this New Year lead to grow a deeper and more meaningful connection to Christ. Happy Abiding in Christ!


2023 Friday Devotionals