Women's bible study

May 27, 2022

God’s Mercy is extended to every generation that fears Him

Luke 1:50 (NIV) - His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

This verse today comes from the section of Luke chapter 1 verses 46-55 know as the Magnificat or Mary’s song. Here Mary speaks of the blessings that will come to the world using words like the words she spoke about herself. She sings of what God has done for her; He will also do for the world.  

Here in verse 50 of Luke chapter one, we read that God’s mercy extends to those who fear Him from generation to generation.

Mary begins by saying that mercy will be shown to those who fear God. Mercy is when God does not give us what we actually do deserve, and is a theme that is found in prophetic writings concerning the coming of the day of the Lord. Such mercy will be shown only to those who fear God, that is, live in respectful obedience to Him. Mary is certainly an example of this, but she reveals that she is not only speaking of herself, but is thinking of all those who live in the future, “from generation to generation.”

Now, we need to understand that it is not that we ought to be afraid of God, because when dread is the motivation for behavior, people do good only begrudgingly and with mediocrity. It is rather the fear that is awe and wonder at God’s majesty that builds sanctuaries of people who can speak the truth in love to one another and thus live in safety. And it is when we live in this awe and wonder that we discover the depths of God’s mercy and make it our lives’ work to help spread the reign of this mercy. That is how I interpret Mary’s statement that His mercy is for those who fear Him. Mary’s Magnificat shows us the path into the holy fear that discovers mercy.

So, it is when we read that “His mercy is for those who fear Him” in Luke 1:50 that we see that we receive mercy to the extent that we submit to God’s will just as Mary did.

The object of our fear is a king who came to us as a baby. It’s a lot easier to be “afraid” (or enjoy making others afraid) of a powerful tyrant, far off kind of supreme God who we project onto the universe (with all our prejudices and priorities). To fear a king who made Himself into a helpless baby does not seem sensible coming from an all-powerful God.  This is where it is good for us to remember the words of Proverbs 9:10 (NLT): “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom.  Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. When we are able to be humbly submitted to God’s perfect will, then we will be able to hear the still small voice of God and taste the mercy which is always there but is so often ignored. God doesn’t want us to tremble in front of Him; He wants us to be as devoted to His will as Mary was to every need that her baby had. That is the fear that knows God’s mercy.

God’s mercy comes to all who reverence Him and it is from generation to generation. 


May 20, 2022

The Testimony of God’s Grace

Acts 20:24 (AMP) – “But I do not consider my life as something of value or dear to me, so that I may [with joy] finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify faithfully of the good news of God’s [precious, undeserved] grace [which makes us free of the guilt of sin and grants us eternal life].”

How important is grace? Paul said that God's grace and telling others about that grace was more important than his own life! In fact, sharing God's grace with others no matter the cost was Paul's life! I have said it before an it is worth saying again, besides Christ, there is not a better example a life fully committed to God than the Apostle Paul.  

Paul’s conversion shows us what it means to live to testify to the good news of God’s amazing grace.  Paul emphasizes that grace is not about avoiding hell but that it is all about gaining Christ and all of the benefits that Christ so richly gives. Paul says we now have a life where grace and the good news of the gospel reign in our lives as we have received Salvation through faith in Christ.

So, our testimony of grace should go something like this. We recipients of God's grace will readily speak from the depths of grace that the Holy Spirit ignites in us. Those around us should feel the heat of our souls that have been set on fire in the Lord.  This should be a continuous, slow, steady burn.  Paul told young Timothy in 2nd Timothy 2:16 to ‘stir up the gift.’ The Greek word translated “stir up” denotes the kindling of a fire.  Anyone who has ever tended a wood fire knows that stirring up the glowing embers of a dying fire can cause those embers to flame up again and burn more brightly. Timothy was to see to it that his spiritual gift did not grow cold through disuse; he was to “stir it up” and keep the fire going. This is the same for all of us. We must let God delight our hearts so that we have a steady testimony of gospel grace in our heart. That’s it in a nutshell: the Christian life is ALL of grace, ALL of Christ, not about me producing anything good in me, but me being utterly dependent and surrendering myself to the truth of God and relying on Him totally

Let’s think of the gospel grace like a car. We don’t start the ignition without intending to move forward and it is the same with God. We must intentionally start with God living through God’s grace and be ready to move forward through God’s grace. Don’t forget Hebrews 12:1 that tells us that: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” That is the race of grace.   Therefore, testifying the gospel grace is the most important thing in life and worth doing at the risk of life and with the whole of our life.       

God cannot be glorified without our testifying to the gospel of grace through Jesus Christ. We need to hunger for God more than we hunger for the world. Will that be hard? - definitely. Will it be glorious and worth it? Yes, it will be because God does not break a promise.  Jesus said that if someone wants to gain the world and lose their soul then they are foolish but if they lose the world for his sake then they gain their soul. This is what Paul is talking about. We need to be ready to receive, live in, and then testify to the gospel of God's grace in Christ. 


May 13, 2022

Abundant Grace – Grace Upon Grace

John 1:16 (AMP) – “For out of His fullness [the superabundance of His grace and truth] we have all received grace upon grace [spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift].”

Are you all like I am? Do you have so much going on in if your life every day that you question whether God has gotten tired of listening to your issues?  Or even worse, has God’s grace gone from a stream to a trickle to an occasional drip.

If that is how you feel, there is good news from Jesus in John 1:16 about the abundance of God’s grace. Jesus is full of grace, and John says that, from that fullness, we and all who will come to Christ and who have trusted in Him have received grace and more grace. One of the identifying marks of our Christian walk is our receiving and giving the grace of Jesus. Christians receive grace and then more grace—grace served on top of grace—grace and then, in place of that, more grace. The point is that Christ is full of grace, and those who know Him get showered with grace. Jesus does not ever have less grace but always has more grace.  It is the primary reason that Jesus tells us that we are to give grace as we have received grace from His Father – we will not exhaust our supply of grace because interacting with Jesus’ grace keeps us in a state of grace.

The Amplified Bible translates John 1:16 this way: “Out of His fullness [the superabundance of His grace and truth] we have all received grace upon grace [spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift].” What’s abundantly clear is that, when we come to Christ, He dishes out grace in heaping, huge servings.  You do not even need to have a to go box of grace because there is a guaranteed fresh supply for each day. (Lamentations 3:22-23) Grace is the generosity of love reaching out toward us, giving itself to us. To those who come to Christ, God's promise is that every day we can take a new supply of his love. Because we have been loved, when we reach out in love to someone else, when we give as fully and freely as we have received, then we fulfill the Law, for love is the fulfilling of the Law.  So, we can know that we are loved. We know we are cherished, protected, and blessed. We are strengthened, kept, and supported by His love, grace upon grace, day after day, like the manna to the Israelites in the wilderness. God gives us a daily supply of love.

That does not mean that our days will always be easy. It means that we can call on God to fill us to overflowing with His mercy and grace for the tasks and decision-making that lie before us. What situation are you in right now? Are you lonely? Are you fearful? Does life seem uncertain?

God wants us to lean on Him. He wants us to surrender all our burdens to Him and He wants us to expectantly receive His grace to go through the season of life that come to us.

So, what do you need God's grace for, His grace upon grace?

The key to understanding this is to begin to understand all that Jesus attained for us through His death on the cross. When we acknowledge that we needed Jesus to die to bridge that sinful gap between us and God, this allowed wave after wave of God's grace to be poured out on our lives.

We could paraphrase John 1:14 this way: All that we have in Jesus comes to us through God the Father because their relationship is full of grace and truth. Without this relationship, we are incomplete. But because of Christ we have benefitted from God’s grace and mercy. Grace is available to and for everyone because we live. We have all witnessed God’s sunset’s, the glory of the seasons, the wonder of birth and death, and so much more. All this beauty is not just for the believer but for everyone. In fact, the Word of God says in Matthew 5:45 that “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” So, all have received the grace of life but because of our salvation through Jesus we have “grace on grace.” Prepare for a drenching in grace and just a sprinkle because the grace we have in Christ is abundant. Thank you, Jesus, for our fullness of grace.     


May 6, 2022

God’s Goodness Twins – Grace and Mercy

Psalm 23:6 (AMP) – Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days] in the house and in the presence of the Lord.

Today, we begin our theme for May: God’s Amazing Grace And Mercy. I have often heard sermons that refer to God’s grace and mercy as the Goodness Twins. They are found together in scripture and we often mention them together in prayer.

But take note that we are far more likely to discuss grace in our conversations, prayers, thoughts because so many of us are more comfortable talking about and receiving God’s grace than we are about receiving mercy. 

We know that Grace is God’s gift of goodness toward us that we did not and could never earn. Grace is God’s unmerited favor. I do not believe that there is anyone of us who does not love a good gift, especially when we do not have to do anything to receive it. It is easy to accept God’s gift of grace because as His children through Christ we have learned that for all who trust God all we need to do is trust in His goodness being there for us.

Yet, we willingly overlook the very reasons why we don’t deserve the gifts of God’s goodness and that is our sins. We minimize our sins, excuse our own wrongdoings or place blame on others for causing us to fall. By sweeping our sins under the rug of our thoughts, we separate grace for it’s twin, mercy.

Let’s review what God’s mercy is. Mercy is God’s compassionate forgiveness of the consequences of our actions that should rightfully occur: It is God’s willingness to overlook our shortcomings and disobedience because of the work of God’s Son to set us free. We no longer are condemned to death and being cast into eternal darkness with no hope of being forgiven. This is not just for some sins but for all sins. Sin is sin with God. There is no degree of sin.

This is why Mercy is not as fun to talk about because in doing so we have to acknowledge the sin that was forgiven to receive the mercy. God already knows the sin and He extends His mercy every day.

As a matter of fact, we have this promise in Lamentations 3:23(NLT) about the goodness twins: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

When we acknowledge the ways, we don’t exactly measure up, we are honest about our faith walk and we open dialogue with others about God’s gracious love and His merciful forgiveness.

This is the reason that it is so important for us to understand and to not separate God’s goodness twins; we can’t have His gift of life (grace) without His forgiveness of sin (mercy).

We will continue to look this month at how God’s amazing grace and mercy shape our lives as believers. On tomorrow we will look at the confidence of God’s Amazing Grace from Hebrews 4:16.   


April 29, 2022

The Power of Christ’s Resurrection

2nd Timothy 2:8 (NLT) “Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach.”

Hebrews 1:3 (NLT) “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”

These two verses: one from 1st Timothy and one from Hebrews direct our attention to the appropriateness of our reflection as God’s children on the place of God’s power in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We looked at our hope in His Resurrection but today we will focus on the power that Jesus’ resurrection power provides for our lives today. When Jesus died on the cross, and was buried, it didn’t stop there. The final picture of all that the cross provides lies in the powerful Resurrection of our Lord. He won. He didn’t stay dead. He could not be closed in a tomb and forgotten through the ages. His power broke through, and that same power is alive within us today. As believers, God gives us the power of the Holy Spirit, living and moving through us each day. Sometimes we forget it’s there. Too often we don’t ask Him for a fresh filling of his Spirit breathed into our day. But He’s still there, waiting to help us and to live mightily through our lives.

Jesus’ promise to His followers in Acts 1:8 (NLT): “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” was not only for those believers present with Him but for us who come after to follow Him as well.

It does not matter what Satan throws at us; we are never alone. The power given to us through Jesus’ resurrection provides the way to have victory over the enemy. We do not have to fear him or his assaults. As we live aware of his traps, the power of Christ over our lives gives us a covering and protection from his evil schemes. We’re not left to fend for ourselves. We do not fight in our own strength. We can stand in the Mighty Name of Jesus Christ, “for in him, we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

It is for this reason that the words of 1st Corinthians 15:57 (NKJV) is so encouraging to us in every circumstance: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

It provides for us an eternal heavenly home. We no longer need to fear and worry about what will happen when we die. In Christ we have been given the gift of eternal life. This earth is only our temporary home. God is preparing a place for us, with him, to live forever. And we can be assured it will be far greater than we could ever imagine. 

Jesus our Mighty Savior, we thank for the price You were willing to pay on the cross so that we could live free. Thank you for the power of the Resurrection that brings ultimate victory over sin and death. Thank You that this same power still works mightily within us today. 

We praise you that you are the Victorious One, the Mighty Conqueror, the Prince of Peace. We ask you for the fresh filling of your Spirit today, so that we could live out your purposes in this generation, free, brave, and strong.


April 22, 2022

After the Resurrection

Matthew 28: 5-7(AMP) – But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.  He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said [He would]. Come! See the place where He was lying.  Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee [as He promised]. There you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”

As we come to this Monday after Easter, I would like to change directions from the nearness of God to looking at what comes after Easter. The story of Easter doesn’t end with Christ coming out of the tomb.  Instead, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all tell us of exciting events that occurred after the resurrection as Christ appeared unto His own.

Here in Matthew, we read the story of the women at the tomb, who have come to anoint Jesus’ body.  We know that their hearts are filled with grief but imagine the confusion that follows when they did not find His body there.  In that time and place of uncertainty Christ came to them with reassurance and comfort. Not only does the angel tell them that Jesus is risen but that He has gone ahead of them and that He will soon see them.

That evening when the disciples sat in a locked room fearing those who might kill them because they had been followers of Jesus, He miraculously appeared to them and brought them peace and joy.  Eight days later Christ again appeared to the doubting Thomas who had not been present when Jesus appeared to His other disciples the evening before. With His very presence Jesus dispelled all doubt and Thomas believed.

Then we know the story of the two disciples of Christ who walked and talked on the way to Emmaus.  When their physical sight failed to recognize Christ Himself, He came along and opened their eyes when He taught them from Scriptures about His death and resurrection.

Even when the eleven disciples went back to fishing, they could not catch any fish from their own efforts. But Jesus came alongside their boat and told them to cast on the right side of their boat and their nets were filled with fish.  In all these instances, the Resurrected Power given them by Jesus filled the needs of His followers.  

Jesus was preparing His disciples to continue His teaching by telling others all that He had done and was doing in their lives. After the cross, they are given the charge In Matthew 28:19 (NLT): “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

After Easter, we should understand that Christ’s abiding presence is with us. Even when He tells the disciples and us to go and make disciples and us, will never be without the equipping and empowering needed because He also promised them His ever-abiding presence. 

In all of these instances, Christ knew exactly where His disciples were, and He knew what they were facing.  He knew their sorrow, grief, despair, confusion, fear, doubt, uncertainty, situations that don’t make sense, failed efforts, and so much more that only He can understand them all.  His resurrection was their consolation and hope.  After Easter, stay faithful to Christ and Him be our hope and consolation as well.

 

April 15, 2022

When God Draws Near – The Broken Hearted Are Comforted

Psalm 34:18 (VOICE) – “The Lord is near to the heartbroken and He saves those who are crushed in spirit (contrite in heart, truly sorry for their sin).”

King David who is the author of Psalm 34, reminds us in verse 18, that God is not only present with us, but near to us and near to the pain we feel. God is near to the void in our lives that we don’t know how to fill. He is near to the needs we have and can’t yet express. For the brokenhearted, God gives us His nearness.

We have often heard this verse from Psalm 34 quoted as a verse of encouragement in the loss of a loved one. It is a promise that God will be our rock, our encouragement, and the comfort that we need when our heart has been broken.  

A broken heart is not limited to the grief we feel at the death of a loved one but includes all our life situations that crush and hurt us.  It includes the emotional pain that can be felt in a very real way, in the body, the mind, and the heart in such a way that we are affected physically.  Emotional pain sometimes leaves us speechless. In this Psalm, David’s words remind our hearts to talk to God when we cannot find the words ourselves. God’s presence with us in our messy moments is of great comfort.

David offers more encouragement in verse 19 of Palm 34 when he says “Many hardships and perplexing circumstances confront the righteous, But the Lord rescues him from them all. Even in the worldly view, a rescue requires one to get close. The whole definition of a rescue implies that we have been set free of a situation, like that of one being held hostage.

Our enemy wants us to believe we cannot escape our situation and would love to keep us from knowing God’s love deeply and receiving the courage we need to move forward when life is hard. But God loves to help us know Him and know His presence with us, especially when life is hard. God will rescue us when we call on Him and when we put all our trust in Him.

God is not removed from knowing about the pain, or from our experience of pain. He is always available and close to those who suffer. Not only is He near, but he stays with us and will help us get through. He is not surprised or deterred, no matter how deep the brokenness feels.

God is always close.  In fact, God remains exactly the same in His closeness to us.  We must remember that we all feel His presence. We just feel His presence differently at different times in our lives.   However, it is often the case that we do feel His presence more clearly when we are facing challenging times.  We should be grateful for that. It isn’t necessarily that God is closer, rather our hearts are more open, eager, and hungry, so feel that presence more vividly.  God always wants to get close with us, but in moments of need, we want the same thing as God: His nearness.  God cares about us and wants to be there with us in those hard times.  “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  If your heart is broken or burdened, you will find God right there to comfort and console you.  When you feel crushed and alone, He shows up and helps us pick up the pierces and even picks us up too.  When you feel like life has kicked you in the gut, God will catch you and hold you so you can catch your breath.  When you can’t muster up a single prayer, you just have to say, Jesus, and He will be there.  The Word of Hebrew 13:5 (NKJV) says, “For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Brighter days will come as we place our hope in the Lord and take the necessary steps, He asks us to take to walk by faith despite the feelings that tempt us to walk by sight.

God is not going to promise to do a thing and then not do it. But we must just reach out to Him.  He is closer than we think.  

 

April 8, 2022

When God Draws Near – We Are Filled with Hope in Him

Psalm 62:5 (NIV) - “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.”

When you see all that goes on around the world, it’s enough to make you lose hope in a better future. But when we are near to God, we always have hope. In psalm 71:14 (AMP) the Psalmist describes the hope that we believers should have in God like this: “But as for me, I will wait and hope continually,
And will praise You yet more and more. With God, you have hope that you will overcome every troubling situation in your life.”

We must understand the importance that comes from faith in God. Our hope in God will deliver us from all our troubles. With this hope, we become very bold because God is with us. This hope in God means that we trust God continually knowing that He will never disappoint us.

Today you may be experiencing a storm with dark clouds and winds that are continually blowing you in every direction except the right direction. So, let’s look here together at the fresh hope that is available to each of us when we have God’s nearness.

Why do we live as if God isn’t near to us? Why do we fumble through life on our own when Jesus paid the ultimate price that we might have restored relationship with our loving Creator? God’s promise to be near His people, and the great lengths that He takes to communicate with us through the Holy Spirit, has the power to change every moment of our lives. And one of the most powerful changes his nearness provides is hope, and the peace that comes with it.

It is the reason that drawing near to God draws God near to us. There is no greater source of hope than God’s resounding declaration of His nearness. Jesus paid the ultimate price in order that you and I might never again be separated from God. His presence now dwells within us through the Holy Spirit. And that fact brings an encompassing hope that can profoundly impact every aspect of our lives.

At a time when the rest of the world is filled with fear and worry over what the future holds, our God is leading us in the path of peace that comes from trusting in HIS presence. God does not force us to come into His presence, but He is waiting for us with open arms to come to Him, but the choice will always be ours.  What will you do? Will you place your hope in your own ability, or that of others, or in the world, or in God? If we try and build our hope on the foundations of this world, we will find ourselves tossed about by the ever-changing waves of what the world values. But if we choose to find our hope on the rock of God’s nearness, our lives will be filled with all the goodness and mercy of God’s steadfast love.

God has made available a better way of living and has called us to walk in it. He wants us to know his will, love, and power moment by moment. He wants our thoughts, emotions, and actions to be fully founded in his unshakable nearness. Paul’s prayer in Romans 15:13 is my prayer for you today: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” 

 

At the worst times in my life the Holy Spirit has always reminded that God is holding me up and will keep holding me until I can stand. This reminds me of the lyrics of the song by Walter Hawkins: God Is Standing By:  

Everywhere you go there is trouble (there is trouble)
Everywhere you go there is strife (there is strife)
Everywhere you go there is something that worries you
But remember (my God is standing by)

no need to cry
(God is standing near), no need to fear
Jesus, He'll be right there, (He's everywhere)

yes
(He'll hear you when you pray) oh yes

yes
(He'll catch you before you fall) oh yes

yes
(He'll guide you until the end)
My God is standing by

As we make space for His presence today, I pray that He fills us with a new measure of hope and life in His nearness. May your day be filled with the peace that comes from trusting in God’s nearness.


April 1, 2022

The Benefits of Drawing Near to God: God will draw close to you.

Psalm 145:18 (NLT) The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.

James 4:8a (NLT) Come close to God, and God will come close to you.

We began our theme of drawing near to God by looking at the ways that scripture reveals to us if we want to live intimately with our God. God clarifies for us in James 4:8 that our drawing closer to Him is not in vain. In fact, He will in return draw close to us. He too will take steps towards us. Approach God with a pure heart because He is holy and desires holiness in you.

God knows we need His presence daily to feel His love, peace, protection, and care. He wants us to be secure in our relationship with Him. When we have approached God with pure motives, without sin in our hearts he will earnestly reward us. (Hebrews 11:6)

So, if you have been asking yourself where is God in your life? Why does He appear to be silent?

Let’s break it down quick: “the Lord is near to ALL who call on him.” What do we have to do to be near to God? Call on him. Talk with him. That’s it. When we think of him like your best friend, just picture yourself calling him up on the phone and having a conversation. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or thought-out. You should hear some of the random stuff that comes out of my mouth when I’m talking with God! When you have grown so close to God you are so comfortable that whenever you seek God, you don’t have to go on a lengthy search because He is so close that you are never out of touch.

We benefit from God presence when we seek God, and He draws close.  But the other advantage that comes from God and I drawing close to each other is that, when we build a close relationship with God, we begin to see things through His eyes. It is a bond that is forged in love and nurtured through continual communication and trust. By stepping back and putting our complete faith in God and the outcome of all of our affairs, we are inviting God into our lives with loving trust and friendship. As your relationship deepens, you begin to see how God truly does oversee your growth as a soul and how he steers your course as you navigate your way through this lifetime.

Here are the facts for us about God always being close to those of us who want to be near to Him:

  • 1.       We have confidence in Godly living: Nearness to God puts us in the path of our every need.
  • 2.       God’s nearness fortifies us against every temptation.
  • 3.       God’s nearness allows us makes us to have a spiritual enjoyment and peace as we crave the bliss of heaven more than the best that earth can offer.
  • 4.       When God is near, we become an instrument for service because we place ourselves in His hands.

So, if we want to enjoy our Christian walk as God’s BFF, thank Him for His presence. Appreciate the God who draws near when we call!


March 25, 2022

How to Draw Near to God: Be doers of the Word

(James 1:22-25 (NASB) “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.  But one who has looked intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom, and has continued in it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an active doer, this person will be blessed in what he does.”

Our last few devotions have outlined our responsibility to draw closer to God by reading, studying, and meditating on His Word. Our immersion into Scripture is about so much more that growing in knowledge. Reading and studying the Bible are good and time in God’s Word is never wasted.

But even Satan knows the Bible. He knows it so well that he will quote it and attempt to use it to destroy our faith by distorting it. (Remember the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4)

So, Peter paints the picture here of where our reading, studying, and meditating on the Bible should lead.  If the enemy of God knows the Bible well, it calls for us to be more that a life-long learner of the Bible.  There is a very necessary reason for us to read, study, and meditate and that is to know Jesus and not merely have knowledge of Him. It is all about our relationship to Jesus. The Bible is God’s Word to us. It’s how we understand who He is, what He loves, what He hates, how He works and as a result draw as close as we possibly can to Him.

Jesus, who fulfilled the Word of God and is himself called the Word (John 1:1), set the standard for Christian living. Comparing ourselves to anyone else will never give an accurate picture of who God wants each one of us to be through Christ.

So, in these verses from James 1:22-25, we have another command to follow in drawing closer to God’s Word and that is that we put God’s Word into practice. James says that we are to prove ourselves doers of the Word of God.

Obedience to God and His Word is key for our relationship with our Heavenly Father (John 14:15). However, it doesn’t come naturally to us. We need to take the path of practice to acquire the discipline to obey God’s words through His Holy Spirit. We can begin with one of Jesus Christ’s commands, like forgiving people who hurt you. Pray about it and make the effort to obey it.

James uses the example of looking into a mirror but doing nothing to improve our appearance. The kind of mirror James is talking about was not made of glass like our mirrors today. It would have been a highly polished piece of metal, and to get a clear image, you would have to look intently, holding it at just the right angle with just the right amount of light. James explains that we must look intently into the law of God to see what God wants us to be. Notice that the focus is not on looking at oneself or at anyone else. The ­focus is on God’s law—the image of the person God wants us to become.

With God’s Word as the standard, says James, we must be doers of the Word, and that means putting God first in all we do and showing Christlike love to everyone around us. The fact that James words it this way indicates that it is simply not a process of doing something, but rather, being a doer is how we identify ourselves. The word of God should be evident in every aspect of living as a doer of the word because that is who we are. Obedience to God is meant to infiltrate every aspect of living. Whatever we think, whatever we say, whatever we do is meant to be guided by the Word of God and the Word of God alone. This is the call to be a disciple in that we are to be obedient to God and to not do so means that we sin against God.  James 4:17 says that when we fail to do the right thing, we sin. The right thing to do is to follow the Word of God, which here in James 1:23 is to be doers of the Word. If we are not a doer, we are in sin! James is issuing a call to every believer that their lives is to be characterized by obedience to God’s commands.

Therefore, as the previous days devotions have established a need to seek the word, the need to receive the word, now there is need to act on it. As we endeavor to be in the Word of God on an everyday basis, now we must seek to apply it. Actively think about the ways that we can take the text and put it into action in our lives, through specific circumstances, conversations, and events. It is not simply an understanding of the text that we seek, but it is also a reaction to the text. As we sit and study, take time to make some action points, being specific to list ways that all of us can, and will, put the text into action in our life. This must be part of our daily study, daily devotion, and should be part of everything that we are in the word of God and that is “doers of His Word.”


March 18, 2022


Draw Near to God Through a Thankful Heart

Psalm 75:1(NCV) - God, we thank you; we thank you because you are near. We tell about the miracles you do.

Psalm 75:1 (NLT) - We thank you, O God! We give thanks because you are near. People everywhere tell of your wonderful deeds.

Thankfulness and praise are two positions of the heart that keep us close to God. Today we are going to look at how having a thankful heart draws us into God’s presence. As we have looked at James 4:8 as our focal verse, we are told that when we draw near to God that He will draw near to us. 

DRAW NEAR TO GOD with a thankful heart, and let God know that you are aware that your cup is overflowing with blessings. Gratitude enables us to perceive that God is truly near to us in all of our times. We may not rejoice in hard times but here in Psalm 75 Asaph lets us know that regardless of our circumstances we clearly are clearly in our Love-relationship with God. Romans 8:28 assures us that “Nothing can separate us from GOD’S loving Presence!” God’s presence is the basis for our security and is all the reason that we need to always have heartfelt thanks for the security that we have in the God who is near.  Whenever we start to feel anxious, we need to remind ourselves that our security rests in GOD alone, and GOD is totally trustworthy. We will never be in control of our life circumstances, but we can relax and trust in GOD’S control. Instead of striving for a predictable, safe lifestyle, seek to have a deeper and more meaningful relationship with GOD. The LORD longs to make your life a glorious adventure, but you must stop clinging to old ways. GOD is always doing something new within HIS beloved ones. Be on the lookout for all that GOD has prepared for you.”

Now our thankfulness to God is not just on the personal level, but Asaph also indicates that this thankful heart is collective when he uses ‘we.’ This indicates that he is speaking to the congregation of Israel and in the passage of time to us as well. We as the Body of Christ must also draw near to God with our thanks, a thanks whereby God is lifted by our declaration of all the wonderful things that God is doing for us? It is the responsibility of those who are in the Body of Christ to collectively thank God. Our thanks should be focused on the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our corporate praise. We must not let ourselves be grumbling churches but grateful churches. We must realize that God has a path for each of His churches and we must not let the demon of comparison rob us of being thankful for the work that He is doing in our church. Stop complaining and use your spiritual gifts to grow in the spirit fruit of gratefulness.

1st Thessalonians 5:18(NLT) reminds us that we are to: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. This ‘IN’ everything, give thanks, is not calling for us to give thanks for evil or a fallen world. But we are called to give thanks in all circumstances, for it is God’s will to draw us closer to Him. Giving thanks changes things. It takes us from despair to hope.  It is the sigh that breaks the tension in our bodies.  Giving thanks doesn’t always allow us the grace to escape the pain and sorrow but it gives us the grace and strength to endure it while we must. It acknowledges that God is true to His Word – He never abandons us. A thankful heart brings peace to the soul even when the body is tormented. Giving thanks is one of the keys to our healing.

Let your heart become a garden of thanks. Even when you don’t feel thankful, you can choose to plant the seeds of thankfulness and then watch them grow into mature thanksgiving. For those in Christ, sorrows will not last forever. The goodness of the Lord is sure to be revealed and it is new and fresh every day. Draw near to God with a heart of thanks and God will draw near to us.

 


March 11, 2022

How to Draw Near to God: Through our Praise 

Psalm 22:3 (NKJV) “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.”

Psalm 22:3 (VOICE) “Still, You are holy; You make Your home on the praises of Israel.”

I believe that the desire of every believer is to be as close to God as we possibly can. We want to feel God’s presence both spiritually and physically. In our scripture verse from Psalm 22:3, we read that God dwells, inhabits or makes His home in our praise.  This suggests that when we praise God that God draws closer to us because He is at home in that praise. We see that drawing closer to God requires action on our part.  It is the same in all love relationships. Praise and worship can only flow from a relationship of love and devotion from us to the Lord. Praise is directed at God because of the things that He has done, and that praise is not based on your current situation.  We do not praise God to get what we want but Praise is rooted in gratefulness and gratefulness flows from a heart that acknowledges the things God has done.

Praise is something we were created to do. Our lives are full of praise. We praise our kids even though their grandparents praise them more. Teachers praise their students. Coaches praise their teams. Praise is something we were born with deep in our spirit-man. It is an integral part of life. We praise what we value. We praise what we support. We praise what we love.

And there it is! If we love God first and foremost, then our praise for Him should reflect that. Why is it that we do not take advantage of this opportunity to come into God’s presence singing, shouting, dancing, and praying to God? Well too often our praise is determined by our circumstances.

I have often heard it said that praise does not change our circumstances but that praise changes us as we go through our circumstances.  When we praise God, we are changed even if our circumstances are not. We serve an omnipresent God. God is present everywhere, all the time but King David tells us that He is present in a special way when His people praise Him.

When we come before God with a humble heart, in submission to His will, and with a desire to glorify Him as Lord over our lives, we can experience the closeness of God and all the blessings that follow. 

Praise gives us key access to God. Psalm 100:4(GNT) says, “Enter the Temple gates with thanksgiving; go into its courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise him.” This verse is a reference to Moses’ Tabernacle in the wilderness. The Tabernacle was divided into three parts. The Outer Court, The Inner Court, and The Holy of Holies where God dwelled. There was only one gate - one entrance - into The Outer Court. If we want to approach God, we must go through the gate, into the courtyard, and finally into The Holy of Holies. 

Because we have gained access to come into God’s presence through Jesus Christ, Hebrews 4:14(GNT) tells us this: “Let us, then, hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we have a great High Priest who has gone into the very presence of God—Jesus, the Son of God.” Praise should mean so much to us because we do not have limited access to God, but we have full access to God. We can come to God at anytime and anywhere and the good news is that God will rest and abide in our praise.

Now scripture is not telling us that God is only present in our praise, but it is telling us that praise leads us to live our lives aligned with God’s will for us. Praise brings us closer to Him. Praise helps us to recognize God’s greatness and our need for God. It changes us and helps us grow in our faith.

Look at what scripture tells us about the nearness of God in Isaiah 65:24 (CEV): “I will answer their prayers before they finish praying.” God is so near to us that He answers before we finish calling, He is already answering.  God will not only hear but help those faithful who call upon him.

Praise then is a part of the lifestyle that we have when we love God, because we know His presence is certain, we can know in our hearts that God is there: in good times and bad, always listening, always with us. In the words of Moses, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

So, if we want to feel God today, if we want to experience more of His presence, if we want more of God’s power in our lives: then begin to praise the Lord, raise your hands, glorify the Name that is above every Name named in Heaven and earth! As we lift up to God, God will reside, inhabit, and move in our praise and worship. And with Him comes all of His mighty saving, healing, delivering power.


March 4, 2022

Drawing Near to God

James 4:8a (ESV) “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”

Today we begin a March/April scripture leading up to Easter. In March and April our thoughts turn to Spring and Summer, warmer temperatures, travel and fun times with family and friends.

It also leads us into the season of Lent, the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Not every church observes Lent, but the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter for many, is a time that is set aside to praise and worship the Lord; to read the Bible more, and to pray more often. Christians who observe Lent correctly anticipate a deeper intimacy with the Lord. It was a time that Jesus to draw close to God, God will draw close to you.   

Many people look at this time as a time of making resolutions to fast and pray but the whole idea of resolutions focus on meeting self-set, self-motivated goals rather than goals established by God and may not align with His purposes. Resolutions reflect a desire for autonomy from God instead of recognizing that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthian 3:16, 6:19) and the work of the potter, to be regarded as precious (Isaiah 64:8). But Lent is a good time to give up one’s own resolutions and listen for God’s leading.

It is for this reason that I feel led to focus on our need to be obedient to the Word of God and spend this 40-day period in looking at this command here in James 4:8a: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”  This time in our community, country and our world are all reminding us of the responsibility we have in our relationship to God.

The phrase, “draw near,” means, very simply, to approach or get close to a thing. To draw near to God, means then, to get close to God. If we get close to God, James is saying, God Himself will come to be close to you. In The Living Bible, in verses 7-8 of James 4 says this: “So give yourselves humbly to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  And when you draw close to God, God will draw close to you.

First note that we are to give ourselves humbly to God. When we do not make room for self and only for God Satan will flee. Then notice that we see the word when. You God says that at the time that we humble ourselves and draw near, God will be doing the same with us.  

That seems a bit redundant at first. If you get closer to someone or something, of course they are going to naturally be closer to you as well, but James is describing a spiritual relationship, not a physical proximity.

It might help us to think of the example of the Prodigal Son. When he humbled himself, and thought of the goodness of his father, the son made up his mind to come home and be a servant for his father. (humbled) But we know that as the Prodigal Son gets closer to the house, his father sees him from a long way off, and rather than waiting for the son to close the full distance, the father runs from his place to greet the son and embrace him (Luke 15:11-32). The son sought to draw near to his father, and the father in turn drew near to Him.

This is God’s desire. He wants us to come to Him. But as we begin that journey, we should not be imagining God waiting at the end of the road, toe tapping impatiently to see us get where we need to be. Rather, God is, figuratively speaking, rushing to meet those of us who are sincerely drawing near to Him.

Which raises the question: what does it mean to draw near to God? How do we do such a thing in practice? What does it meant to diligently seek after Him? My hope is that together, through the Word of God, that we all draw nearer to God, and he draws nearer to us.


February 25, 2022

The Restorative Power of Forgiveness

2nd Chronicles 7:14 (NLT) – Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

We have seen from our last three lessons a connection to confession, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Today, I want us to consider the restorative power of forgiveness.  One of the essential elements required for restoration and blessing from the Lord is Godly sorrow and heartfelt repentance. This scripture is often quoted but the significance is powerful if we apply it to our lives.  Solomon had just completed the building the temple and he prayed to the Lord. The Lord then said, “I have heard your prayer, “but here is the prerequisite for my blessing when I shut up heaven; “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2nd Chronicles 7:14) 

Four things we must always remember if we want to see the hand of God move: humility, prayer, seeking the face of God, and turning from sin. When we do these things, the Lord said, “I will hear from heaven, forgive your sin and restore your land.” Repentance is the key to revival, restoration, and healing. Today take time to examine yourself, confess and repent of anything that would cause you to fall short of the Glory of God.

As believers, we should want God’s will, plan, and purpose to be central to our lives. Scripture tells us that in Psalm 37:4 (NIV) this about our delighting in God: “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” When we align our lives with God, he will align us with His word. We all want to better our lives. What if the only thing standing between us and the change that we want is us? As God’s children, we have direct access to the creator of the universe with all His infinite power and wisdom.

God is alert to our prayers. Day and night, He is ready to hear from His people. If we’ll humble ourselves and ask for God’s help, He promises to hear us and to heal us. Forgiveness and healing can start anywhere, at any time if we’ll turn to Jesus.

What part of your life needs God’s healing touch? And in this search for healing, where are you looking for answers? Are you seeking God’s face?  

Remember that forgiveness has restorative power. We hold the power in our words and in our actions to forgive one another, but only God can forgive us our sins and restore us to right relationship with him (righteousness). The plea of 2nd Chronicles is for God’s forgiveness and for his favor to return to his people. When the author of 2nd Chronicles wrote this, he didn’t know what we know: that we have been restored through the wonderful work of Jesus!

 

Forgiveness through Jesus is a free gift of God’s grace, but our response is simple: We are to repent and believe. When we make mistakes, may we adopt the posture of this song in Chronicles and cry out to God for his restoration and be reminded of the shining face of Jesus who takes away our sin and shame.

Seek restoration by seeking the face of God.


February 18, 2022

Forgiveness: The Key to Answered Prayer

Mark 11:22-25 (NLT) – Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God.  I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.  I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.  But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”

We know that Jesus came to offer to all who believe in Him the one thing that we could not gain for ourselves and that is access to the presence of God. Before God sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins, we could not enter a relationship with God. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) It is through this gift of forgiveness, this reconciliation, that Jesus said the following: “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14) Receiving the forgiveness that Jesus offers us—through His payment for your sins on the cross—gives us access back into the Father’s house and gives you the right to pray like a son or a daughter, just like Jesus did.

So, prayer is one way in which we connect with God and talk to him about what’s happening in our lives. Our hurts and worries, our concerns and joys, our hopes, and dreams: God wants to hear it all. He loves to hear it all. And when we are forgiven in Christ, we are assured that He not only hears, but will answer our prayers.

But here’s the thing, because we have received this powerful gift of forgiveness, it is imperative that we share this same forgiveness with others. Forgiveness is the key to answered prayers. It is the foundation of your relationship with God.

Let’s think about it this way. Every time we come to a locked room; we need a key to gain access. When we have the key our access to the room is easy as opposed to trying to get into the room without the key. Too often we pray without the key to answered prayers. We pray with every effort trying to gain entrance into the throne of God but fail to gain God’s attention because we are either asking amiss or we have unforgiveness in our heart.

Therefore, when Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray right in the middle of the Lord’s prayers that immediately after asking for daily bread, the next thing that followed is forgiveness: “and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. (Matthew 6:12). This is because forgiveness must follow our request to God for our prayers to be answered speedily. We read this again in Mark 11:24 when Jesus tells His followers that “you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.” But immediately after the open promise was given to us by Jesus, He immediately followed it with the condition through which the door of our prayers can be Opened by God in verse 25 (AMP): “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Jesus always links prayer with forgiveness, because forgiveness breaks the power of resentment, retaliation, and bitterness that can so easily dominate our hearts when we don’t forgive.

We must dig deep and ask ourselves if there are some people in our life that we need to extend forgiveness to? The Bible teaches that when we withhold forgiveness from others, we are hurting ourselves and hindering God from answering our prayers.

When we forgive the inexcusable that someone has done to us—because God has also forgiven the inexcusable in us—we free ourselves up to come to God knowing that our prayers are heard and will be answered.

Dear Father God, please make us mindful that the key to answered prayer is to forgive as we have been forgiven. 



February 11, 2022

Why We Must Forgive!

Colossians 3:12-13 (ESV) – “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

I have heard so many of us express our opinions on forgiveness. We are all about the forgiving but not forgetting.  Because Jesus first forgave us, we should be willing to forgive others. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes we hold on to bitterness and grudges. How can we find freedom in forgiveness by following Jesus’ ultimate example?

Have you ever held a grudge against someone who was mean to you or offended you in some way? Here Paul speaks to that part of our flesh that wants to hold a grudge. When someone has hurt me, I carried that around a grudge that ended up hurting me as well. It weighed down my spirit, stole my joy, and kept me tied to the past because it was a weapon the enemy used against me. Paul reminds us that because we are God’s chosen ones that we should put on these qualities: compassionate hearts, kindness, meekness, and patience. Get this: because we have faults, we are to bear with one another.  We are quick to assess a situation in our favor when we feel like we have been hurt or marginalized by another but then we have so often been guilty of being the one who has injured another either purposefully or inadvertently.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room. We struggle with forgiveness because the idea of forgiveness makes us think that if I forgive that person then I must associate with them as well. This is us trying to validate our grudge.  It gives us a reason to react immaturely and gave us a reason to not act like a Child of the King in avoiding that person at all costs. But through God’s word, we have learned that forgiveness does not mean that we condone the other person’s behavior, or that we are condoning continued bad behavior. It means that by God’s grace and mercy and love, we are freeing ourselves from the pain and grief of the offense: understanding it is not our fault and understanding that the other person is human and capable of mistakes. The other person is also one of God’s creations. God will forgive them when they ask; that is their reconciliation. We do not have to remain in fellowship with the person, especially if their behaviors are sinful or unchanged. All that we must do is forgive the rest is up to them and God.  This is how we set ourselves free in forgiving!

So, to answer the question why we must forgive, here is what scripture tells us. Because Jesus said so. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:32 (NIV) that we are given this command by Jesus: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. He told the disciples (and us) to forgive endlessly and unconditionally. Because of the cross where Jesus died for me. Jesus forgave my sins when I repented and professed Him as my Lord and Savior. With His forgiveness, Jesus gave me the ultimate bonus gift: eternal life. No questions asked. I am not required to give away that gift, only to forgive. If I cannot forgive others, how can I live free in God’s grace? Yes, I am forgiven. I am a born-again child of God. However, when I do not forgive others, I am hindering my walk with Jesus.

Jesus has reminded us that act of forgiveness reflects all that we have received through Him. We are convicted by His forgiveness to extend the same to someone else. Jesus wants our relationship to be right. Take a minute to think about all the ways that we have offended Jesus in our lifetime. Ouch! This should make us want to hang our head in shame, when we feel the weight of what we have done to HIM AND WHAT HE has done for us.   We don’t have to hand our head because we are forgiven, and He still loves us. 

Forgiveness is not easy, but it is powerful and beautiful. Forgiveness does not condone the hurt against you. Forgiveness acknowledges the very real hurt you have experienced and then seeks to let go of feelings of anger and desires for revenge. Holding on to anger, harboring grudges, and wanting an offender to feel our hurt—or even more—can quickly consume our lives and trap us in bitterness and resentment. God wants so much more for us! Forgiveness opens the door to fully live and experience all the joy, power, and freedom that God lovingly offers us.

May God’s love free you to forgive today.

 

 


February 4, 2022

Forgiveness without Hesitancy

Psalm 86:5 (AMP) – For You, O Lord, are good, and ready to forgive [our sins, sending them away, completely letting them go forever and ever]; And abundant in lovingkindness and overflowing in mercy to all those who call upon You.

I have heard so many of us express our opinions on forgiveness. We are all about the forgiving but not forgetting.  Because Jesus first forgave us, we should be willing to forgive others. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes we hold on to bitterness and grudges. How can we find freedom in forgiveness by following Jesus’ ultimate example?

The psalmist here paints a beautiful picture of the sweet blessing of forgiveness that God has for us.  What makes God’s forgiveness so sweet is that He does more than forgive! He cleanses and forgets. His love is not metered out or carefully rationed. God pours love on us when and only when we genuinely seek him as our God and Father.

God cannot allow man to simply sin without consequences because of His holy and righteous character demands a righteous judgment. But God’s Word proclaims that the Lord is “good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all of them that call upon” Him (Psalm 86:5).

It is important to realize that the Lord’s ultimate desire involves His desire to forgive a us of our sins. The key to a relationship with the Creator involves trusting wholly in God’s provision. This is what the Scripture means by 2nd Peter 3:9 (TPT), “Now the Lord is not slow about enacting His promise—slow is how some people want to characterize it—no, He is not slow but patient and merciful to you, not wanting anyone to be destroyed, but wanting everyone to turn away from following his own path and to turn toward God’s.”

Punishment for sin is death and our only hope rests in God’s mercy. God has no hesitancy to forgive as evidenced that the Father sent His only begotten Son to shed His blood for the sins of the world. Salvation is not the end all for forgiveness. Even after salvation, the Lord desires for us to remain in close fellowship with Him, but sin separates. The Bible again holds the key when it says that the Lord “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  We are clean at salvation, but we must look to God for an ongoing cleansing. God is good but it is still up too us to pursue God and asking for God’s forgiveness when we have wronged God first and foremost is a part of not only turning from our sins but also in showing our gratitude for His goodness.

God is good in His perfect, unconditional love. He is good in how He protects. He is good in how He provides. God is good even when our world is chaos. He is good when a friend betrays us. He is good when a parent dies. He is good when you’re battling a life-long illness. He is good when an accident leaves you with chronic pain the rest of your life. God is ready to forgive and abundant in mercy.

There are no sins that are “too big” for God to forgive. We must remember this about God and apply God’s kind of forgiveness to others.  The truth is that we all have that one deep, dark secret sin that only we and God know about, and we wonder how God could possible forgive that. He is good. His faithful love endures forever. He’s ready to forgive. He is abundant in mercy to all who call on Him. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or how long you’ve been doing it or who you’ve been doing it with or who you’re keeping it a secret from, God already knows about it and He’s ready to forgive us.

God’s mercy is greater than our sins. All we have to do is call out to Him, tell him about your sin and ask Him to forgive you. “He will again have compassion on us; He will overcome our sins. God will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19) “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12) All we must do is call out to Him. God’s mercy is greater than your sin. His love is greater than our shortcomings.  His forgiveness is greater than our sin.

Let go of the sin that holds you captive. Lay it at the foot of the cross and with a repentant heart ask God for His mercy and forgiveness. He is good and He is ready to forgive, and He loves us.


January 28, 2022


Joshua: An Example of Steadfastness

Joshua1:9 (NKJV) – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 24:15 (NKJV) – “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

At some point in life, we all falter and our hope wavers.  Every so often we are confronted with problems that seem too big for us to deal with. This is one of the reasons that those who are in Christ are commanded to remain steadfast in Him.

Sometimes we all need to hear this command that God issues to Joshua when he is charged to lead God’s people into the Promised Land. I need to hear these words: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” We all need to be reminded that He commanded us to be “determined and confident.”

You see, God has a plan for each of us. A plan that will give hope, prosperity (in Spirit) and peace. Even if life throws challenges at us, God wants us to remain steadfast, determined to continue His work. We need to remain true to Him, trust in Him, pray constantly and be confident in faith. He knows we will falter, simply because we are human. That is why He reminds us to NOT be afraid, because He will NEVER abandon us, even in times that you feel you are in battle against pure evil. We may be warriors, but even warriors get discouraged and scared, but with God on our side, who can stand against us.

This is the encouragement that Joshua received from God for his God given call. Have faith, put your trust in Him and never lose hope. See Joshua 1:5-6 as God tells Joshua: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land, I swore to their ancestors to give them.” 

It was Joshua’s steadfast faith that paved the way for God to do the impossible. Joshua called upon the people to consecrate themselves, to dedicate themselves to God and His will. They looked at the Jordan river and saw an impossible, but Joshua remained steadfast as he remembered the miraculous deliverance of God many years before. Joshua had wandered for forty years in the wilderness but the deliverance of God’s parting of the sea and passing through on dry land was firmly etched in Joshua’s memory bank.  Joshua had steadfast faith in this mountain moving God that He would again see Him work on behalf of His people. We know from Joshua chapters 3-4 that God would once again make a path through the river for His people. Joshua’s steadfast faith is rewarded.  Just like with Joshua, God acts when we step out in faith.

Joshua’s steadfast faith in his all-powerful God had been rewarded. The faith of the people was restored as they set out to claim this Promised Land as their own. This new generation of Israelites were convinced that their God would be with them wherever they would go.

God wants to see that we believe Him for who He is and what He can do in our lives. He is our mighty God. He wants us to trust Him absolutely. When we take that step of faith, He acts… setting in motion that which only He can do. His power is manifested in miraculous ways.

Do we have the steadfast faith of Joshua? Are we trusting the Almighty One unwaveringly? Do we look to Him to do the miraculous in our lives?

For this reason, Joshua is able to determinedly declare that “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." – Joshua 24:15 (NKJV)

What did Joshua mean by as for me and my house we will serve the Lord? Within this verse, Joshua is making a declaration about what matters most to him and his household. He is stating clearly and without any doubt who he will serve. It didn’t matter to him what any other Israelite and their families decided to do he was establishing what was right for his house.

The decision to follow or serve God though it begins in the heart must eventually come out of your mouth. This is what Joshua declared. He said from his own mouth as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. You must do the same. If you look at salvation notice what Romans says,

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Romans 10:9

The truth is this is a choice we make not just one day but every day. There will always be things that will try to tempt us into replacing God as number one in our heart.  But we must be the steadfast example that Joshua was. Our determined declaration to the Lord must be: “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”



January 21, 2022

The Steadfast Love of the Lord Is Our Standard

Psalm 136:1-2 (ESV) – “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Psalm 136 is a declaration of praise not only for the goodness of the Lord, but it also is a litany to the steadfast love that God has for us.  Today as we continue to consider what the says to us about the state of steadfastness, let’s meditate a little on this steadfast love of the Lord. In Psalm 136 in the ESV, the words steadfast love endures forever is repeated 26 times. If we are to be steadfast then we must understand this steadfast love in light of how tender God’s love is towards us. God loves us with a gentle loving touch, He heals the brokenhearted and binds our wounds. God is as gracious in the manner of His steadfast love as in the matter of it. It is a great steadfast love. There is nothing little in God; His steadfast love is like Himself—it is infinite. We cannot measure it. His mercy is so great that it forgives great sins of great sinners after great lengths of time and then gives great favors and great privileges and raises us up to great enjoyments in the great heaven of the great God.

Now, consider that this steadfast love that endures forever is undeserved.  We should see the path to our own steadfastness reflected in this love that God bestows upon us.  We must see that this steadfast love is the love that will boost when this world has trampled all over our spirit and broken our hearts. But God won’t stop there as the Psalmist writes in Psalm 147:3 (ESV) that God will “bind up our wounds. Because of God’s steadfast love which endures forever, He will go so far as to carry us through when we have no strength to move ahead. 

This is what gives me the boost to want to run on for God because in Psalm 136, this steadfast love is just what God’s love for us has always been: it is unconditional.  There is no condition to God love here, He gives us His love because He loves us even in our unlovable condition.  How do I know this?  The Word of God in Romans 5:8 (ESV) tells us this: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God was loving on us before we even accepted, confessed, and professed our faith in all that Christ has done for us in His work on the cross.

There is no single steadfast love. We may think we have only one steadfast love, but it is really a whole cluster of mercies toward us.  Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV) tells us that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Millions have received it, but far from its being exhausted, it is as fresh, as full, and as free as ever. It is unfailing steadfast love. It will never leave us. If mercy is your friend, mercy will be with you in temptation to keep you from yielding, with you in trouble to prevent you from sinking, with you in living to be the light and life of your countenance, and with you in dying to be the joy of your soul when earthly comfort is ebbing fast. There my friends in our help in remaining steadfast in our walk with God.

We say it but today we need to mean it.  Who wouldn’t serve a God like this?

So, claim the truth of God’s unwavering love for yourself. Write out your personal history of God’s faithfulness and recite, “His steadfast love endures forever,” after each item. Cling to this truth during your current dark struggle. Nothing can endure longer or stronger than God’s love for you.

As the next big challenge looms dark and ominous on the horizon of your life, choose to praise God for His steadfast love, which endures forever. Join with the psalmist in proclaiming: “It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever; and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever; He who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:23-26).


January 14, 2022

Walk in Steadfastness

Proverbs 4:26 (NIV) - Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.

The book of Proverbs assumes that the reader will progress from learning to knowledge and then on to wisdom.  Those who have wisdom and use it based on learning and knowledge about God the Father act according to godly knowledge.  Solomon maintains that good use of wisdom, must be purposeful and careful (Proverbs 4:20–21). When we walk, we deliberately consider our steps so that we don’t trip, stumble or fall.  It should be the same in our walk with Christ that we are careful not to fall into the traps that Satan tries to snare us with.   In life—often compared to a path in Scripture (Proverbs 4:27)—the same is true. We should not make hasty decisions but discern the Lord's will and then do it (Proverbs 4:2).

Answers.com gives us this additional information to consider. “Did you know that if you are off course by just one degree then for every mile that you travel you get 92 feet further away from the right heading?” 

The apostle James warns against making plans without considering the Lord's will. He writes in James 4:14–16, "You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'" Ephesians 5:15–16 affirms Solomon's advice by telling us: "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." Psalm 1:1 characterizes as blessed or happy the person who refuses to walk in the way of sinners. Solomon assures his son that a well-pondered path establishes a secure direction for life.

So, we should see here that being a little off the course makes a big difference in the direction that we travel and where we land. We must embrace these words: “be steadfast in all your ways” – Once we’ve determined we’re on the correct path, we need to be steadfast in following the path. Once again remember that our definition of steadfast from Merriam Webster is “to be firmly fixed in place: immovable.” If the direction is from God, we need to make sure nothing stops us from reaching the goal.

In 2nd Chronicles 27 we read the story of the young King Jotham. Jotham did all that he could to correct the corrupt practices of the people and in verse 6 of chapter we read this about Jotham’s efforts: “Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God.” Today, we are to follow suit. God expects us to be unwavering in our dedication to Him just as He is unwavering in His dedication to us. Is it easy? No, because this world offers so many temptations that seek to lead us into sin and away from God. Our flesh cries out to have its selfish desires satisfied and wars against the Holy Spirit, who seeks to guide us on the path of righteousness. With this, we need to realize one key point:

We don’t possess the strength to withstand the temptations of sin on our own. We can only stand steadfast through allowing the strength of the Lord to live and abide within us, and that requires us to surrender ourselves and allow Him to be in control. When we do this, and only when we do this, we will be able to walk steadfastly with the Lord.

Look with me at these other benefits of our steadfast walk with God supported by scripture here.

  • 1.       We need not fear for as we walk steadfastly with God, we know He is walking steadfastly alongside us.

Psalm 112:6-8a (NIV) “Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear.”

  • 2.       We can rejoice in gladness knowing we are steadfastly with God and Him with us.

Psalm 108:1 (NIV) “My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.”

  • 3.       We will live in peace knowing that the God who can help us through all matters of life is by our side as we remain steadfast in our faith and trust in Him.

Isaiah 23:6 (NIV) “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

We should all want this kind of life that we read about in Scripture, and it is all within our reach but it requires us to walk steadfastly with the Lord God Almighty each and every day of our life.


January 7, 2022

A New Year: Be Steadfast

1st Corinthians 15:58 (NRSV) - Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

We all have, hopefully, come into 2022 anticipating better than 2021. The economy and COVID-19 have proven themselves to be unpredictably predictable. Instead of reacting to whatever 2022 delivers, maybe we should develop a personal life plan which focuses on writing the best chapter in our lives and I believe that as overcomers, victorious believers in Christ, we can do just that.  As we move into this month, I would like for us to focus our thoughts on what scripture tells us about being steadfast.

I think steadfastness is a hard topic to write about sometimes. The only major references to the term are in Christianity. We don't walk around our daily lives saying to one another, "I'm just trying to stay steadfast." Well, maybe you do but personally most of us reserve the word ‘steadfast’ for when we are trying to sound extra holy.

As we are three days into 2022, this year is now an unwritten chapter of our lives. As the authors of this chapter, we can write the table of contents and every word on each page. This is a time to reflect, imagine and dream. This is also a time for amends, do-overs, repairs, pivots, improvements, and changes.

From Paul’s text on steadfast, we understand that this is a command: be steadfast, immovable. The dictionary defines steadfast as: sure, dependable, reliable, unwavering, undeviating constancy, and a continuousness that may be depended upon. Steadfast, at the root of the word, means to be loyal. Committed. Devoted. Solid. Constant. These are words we know and understand a lot better than this idea of "steadfastness." These words sound like a perfection description of God!

And there it is. We are to mirror Jesus’ life here on earth. We are to be servants as He was, showing others the way to salvation through Jesus. As in Hebrews 6:19a (NKJV), we know that “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil. We have been given a path that has been chosen for us from the beginning of our salvation through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can stay on this chosen path and as Paul points out to us, that we are also to help as many of our brothers and sisters we can along the way.

In the Bible, it says suffering produces steadfastness in us. Throughout the month, we will see all these writers telling us to remain steadfast and to be thankful despite hard times. Be thankful when it gets rough. Be thankful when you are tested. Be thankful when it's hard to get out of bed and the depression is clinging to you. Be thankful when your heart is broken.

Lamentations 3:22-23 says: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

As we are given new mercies each day, we can give new mercies. The new year is a time when the Lord affords us another opportunity to get it right, be better and fulfill our purpose. Ahead are 52 new weeks. What can you do with your 365 days? An act of goodness or a decision to do good for 12 months can trigger a chain reaction of generational goodness, which means you can change someone’s life for the better.

The thing is this: faith in God doesn't equal perfection. Perfection is not your goal, consistency is. Devotion is. Discipline is. All of life is the showing up to try to be steadfast towards what we love: God, people, causes. Again, you won't ever be perfect. Again, there is so much room for growth. Growth should stir excitement in your heart because the chance to grow is the chance to live and live better. You're still here. You're still breathing. Even when the heartbreak sits on your lungs, you're alive. You woke up today. There's still more time. Embrace the struggle cause struggles are what make us shine.

Welcome to the fight: be steadfast!


December 31, 2021

God Sent JESUS: The Author and Perfecter of Our Faith

Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV) – “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2 (NIV) – “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

Look at what we are told here in Hebrews about God’s indescribable gift of Jesus:

  •         Author- this word literally means the creator, founder, or leader
  •         Perfecter- finisher, completer, one who makes perfect
  •         Faith- “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” 

It is the reason that Hebrews 12:1 (NKJV) tells us to: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

It is not always easy for us to understand what the Hebrews writer is telling us because of the translation from the Greek. Some words are hard to translate from one language to another. We have a case of this with Jesus' title "pioneer and perfecter of faith." The author uses the Greek word archegos to describe Jesus's relation to our faith. The word originally meant "hero or founder of a city." Since the Greek word doesn't neatly translate into English, it is translated variously as "pioneer," "author," "originator," "guide," "initiator," or "source."

First let’s consider Jesus as the Author or Pioneer of our faith. An author, pioneer is an originator or creator. The Greek word translated “author” here can also mean “captain,” “chief leader” or “prince.” This means that Christ is the originator of our faith in that He begins it, as well as the captain and prince or our faith as he maintains it. Jesus controls our faith, steers it as a captain steers a ship, and presides over it and cares for it as a king presides over and cares for his people.

Then, Jesus is the Perfecter of our Faith.  The Greek word translated “perfecter” in Hebrews 12:2 appears only this one time in the New Testament. It means literally “completer” or “finisher” and speaks of bringing something to its conclusion. Putting the two words together, we see that Jesus, as God, is both the creator and sustainer of our faith. We know that saving faith is a gift from God, not something we come up with on our own (Ephesians 2:8-9), and that gift comes from Christ, its creator. He is also the sustainer of our faith, meaning that true saving faith cannot be lost, taken away or given away. This is a source of great comfort to believers, especially in times of doubt and spiritual struggles. Christ has created our faith and He will watch over it, care for it, and sustain it.

Jesus is not only the creator and sustainer of our saving faith, but He is also the sustainer of our daily walk and the finisher of our spiritual journey.

So, the truth of the gift of Jesus is simple and profound: Jesus, who initiated our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit, will remain with us until we see him face to face. He is the founder and finisher of our faith.  Let's take comfort in this truth and run the good race of faith by following Jesus.

December 17, 2021

Unwrapping the Gift of Christ: Grace and Mercy

Romans 3:24 (NCV) – “and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ.”

Hebrews 4:16 (NCV) – Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it.

How often do we visit some store, or other business and see that wonderful sign over a box of items that says: Free While supplies last? The first thing we note here is that most freebies will run out. Free is not sustainable.  Eventually the supply of items that are being offered for free will be exhausted.   This is not so with the “Free Gifts” given by God.

Today, we are told how God gives us two free gifts and these gifts are always there when we need them.  We don’t have to earn, work for, or buy God’s grace or mercy. They are free gifts given to each believer. There is a pattern to the gifts that God gives. Through the gift of His son to us “He has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (2nd Timothy 1:9).

God’s grace and His mercy are given from God’s love for us and reassures us that we are not alone. God’s grace empowers and encourages us to start each day fresh and put the past behind us. Despite the varying seasons and challenges that we will face, God’s grace continues to cover, guide, and lead us each day.

Let’s consider what these gifts of grace and mercy men to us as believers. First, God’s grace is given from God’s love for us, and reassures us that we are not alone. God’s grace empowers and encourages us to start each day fresh and put the past behind us. Despite the varying seasons and challenges that we will face, God’s grace continues to cover, guide, and lead us each day.

We also know from 2nd Corinthians that God’s grace is our sufficiency: ““But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” There is nothing that we can do or have done that exempts us from God’s grace. It carries us and sustains us when we are weak and feel overwhelmed.

Then there is the free gift of mercy, given despite our past shortcomings, God’s mercy covers us and gives us strength to move forward. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1). When we feel like we want to quit, God’s mercy empowers us to keep going with new energy, vigor, and purpose.

God’s mercy propels us to start again tomorrow and don’t look back. Each new day that God allows us to wake up is a new opportunity to try again and trust Him more. Our circumstances may not immediately change, but God’s mercy allows us to shift our perspective and trust in His direction.

In addition to God’s mercy moving us forward, God’s mercy is calming and available to you. Say it aloud: “I receive God’s mercy today.” This daily affirmation is essential for you to not only say, but fully believe. When you know that you have received the blessing of pardon, there is a calmness in living because God has removed the penalty phase of our court appearance.  We must not forgot that we are convicted sinners who have been pardoned by God to move forward to do better and serve others.

Today, receive God’s grace and mercy as the best free gifts you have ever received. You don’t have to ever wonder if this will be available, because it is always more than enough. God’s sufficient grace and covers all our inadequacies, shortcomings, flaws, and sin. Continue to walk in God’s abundant and amazing grace and find new mercy for your journey each day. Isn’t that Good News?


December 10, 2021

Unwrapping God's Gift: Eternal Life in Christ

Romans 6:23(AMP) - "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God [that is, His remarkable, overwhelming gift of grace to believers] is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I am reminded of a gospel song here that we all know how the song lyrics go: “You can’t beat God giving, no matter how you try.” No truer words can describe our gift giving at Christmas. As imperfect men and women, everything that we receive and give to each other this Christmas all have expiration dates. We cannot hold to money, jewels, trips, cars, or any worldly thing from beyond the grave.  But thanks be to God that Paul tells us that despite who we are (sinners) and what we deserve (death) we have a gift in Christ that brings us the sufficiency of eternal life. Unlike our gifts that cannot last forever, God gives us the gift of grace and eternal life in Christ.  Notice, too, that this gift is not partial as an earthly gift would be — it is eternal and everlasting. It cannot be removed from us and will never expire because “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39, ESV).

Jesus said, “God loves the world so much that he gives his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Paul spends a lot of his letter to the Romans describing and explaining this gift and what it means to us.

Christ is our sufficiency, salvation, perfection, and eternal life. Paul tells us that physical death does not have the “sting” of finality for believers that it does for unbelievers when he writes in 1st Corinthians 15:54-55 (AMP): “And when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then the Scripture will be fulfilled that says, “Death is swallowed up in victory (vanquished forever).  O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we will also be resurrected to live forever in Heaven.

So, no matter what happens in this life, we can praise God for his faithfulness instead of worrying about our frailty, knowing that when God does allow us to die, we will receive a life where there is no more “death… nor mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, ESV).

In fact, instead of spiritual death being the final judgment (as it is for unbelievers), it can be seen as the doorway to eternal life and joy with God for believers (turning death into a positive instead of a negative). It is for this reason that Paul boldly claims in Philippians 1:21 that, “to die is gain.”

But the good news is that God offers all of this and even more. Just like all our gifts in Christ this gift of eternal life is not something we could earn. If it was, it would not be a gift. Instead, it is based on God’s grace that he extends toward a fallen humanity. In Ephesians 2:8 Paul also talks about this gift of God.

The gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus. I think we often misread this expression and just see it as saying that the gift of God is eternal life. But it is more than just eternal life. It is eternal life in Christ. It is a loving and personal relationship with our savior and redeemer. A relationship that will never end or grow old. And it is a relationship that we have now, not something that we have to wait for in the age to come. John 17:3 identifies eternal life as knowing both God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ.

What an amazing and undeserved gift that God has given to us. Eternal Life Is a Precious Gift, Bought and Paid for By Jesus’ Death, Have You Unwrapped This Precious Gift?

 


December 3, 2021

Unwrapping the Gift of Christ this Christmas: Our Sufficiency

2nd Corinthians 9:15 ((NLT) – “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!”

Welcome to December and the month that we celebrate the greatest gift that has ever been given. Paul describes the gift of Jesus as a gift that is too wonderful for words.  It doesn’t matter what you may be longing for or hoping for in this Christmas season, God has already provided the gift that never stops giving.  When we see T-shirts, bumper stickers, Christmas cards and jewelry imprinted with these words “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” it is because He truly is.   

Because we celebrate Jesus in our Christmas season, as believers we need to understand that this gift from God is not a single gift but rather multiple gifts like a set of nesting gift boxes, one present after another that rests inside a larger box.  Each set of boxes in wrapped and place inside another larger box. That is how I envision the gift of Christ. He is the gift that we needed but have we embraced the truth of all that the gift of Christ brings to the mind body and soul that has wholly embraced Him.  So, as a scripture focus this month, we will unwrap the gift of Christmas in the person of our living Savior.

Gifts are wonderful to give and awesome to receive. It’s especially nice when the person giving the gift knows you well. They know what you need and anticipate what you like. The gift fits your personality. “It’s just what I needed,” you reply with gratitude.

So, we begin with Jesus our gift of sufficiency.  Sufficiency is like those nesting boxes and will require that we look at sufficiency in some other areas as we move forward this month.

We established that God through the gift of Jesus has given us everything that we need. The sufficiency of Christ makes Him such a unique gift because He has provided for everything that we need for godly living when we live through Him.

Everything you need …
Everything you desire …
Is completely satisfied in the person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is 100% sufficient for you. He sufficiently saved you.  There’s no need to add to the finished work of Christ.  He has sufficiently secured you.  There’s no need to fear falling away.  And Jesus Christ has sufficiently empowered you to live a victorious life.

Consider these words from 2nd Peter 1:3-4 (NLT): “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.  And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

I am not enough. Christ is sufficient for me…what about you? Paul writes here in Philippians 4:18-19(AMP), “But I have received everything in full and more; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent me. They are the fragrant aroma of an offering, an acceptable sacrifice which God welcomes and in which He delights. And my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

God will liberally supply, fill until full, our every need according to His Riches in Glory in Christ Jesus. This is His Promise to you. However, to have the Kingdom means one must reside in Christ. To live in Christ means that I must decrease, and He must increase. (John 3:30) The sufficiency of Christ is a daily dose of God’s Favor in every circumstance and situation. It is acquired when He becomes Lord of our life which means that I must step down. Hands up! Heart open! He will not challenge me for control of my life but accepts the position fully when given the opportunity through our complete surrender to His Sufficiency.

This gift of sufficiency through Christ is not a matter of if I am enough or if you are enough, but it is a matter of our trust that Christ is enough.

We sin, we fail, we fall short, and cannot rescue ourselves from the consequences. The path to perfection is impossible and defeating.

The good news is we have reason for hope!

One man, Jesus of Nazareth, came upon this earth without a mark of disgrace against His Name.

He descended from heaven as the Son of God, holy and righteous, and offered Himself to wipe away the wrongs of the world.

He is sufficient in every way!

Tomorrow: Let’s Count the Ways!



November 26, 2021

Gratitude Results in Rejoicing

Philippians 4:4 (GNT) - May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice!

Philippians 4:4 (GW) - Always be joyful in the Lord! I’ll say it again: Be joyful!

When I look at this verse from Philippians both in the Good News Translation and in God’s Word Translation of the Bible, take note that Paul uses the adverb always here in both versions as he describes our state of being joyful in the Lord.  We know from scripture that Paul is not talking happiness.  Remember that biblically joy and happiness are not one and the same. The reason being that happiness is an emotion in which we "experience feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure, but joy on the other hand is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness." We experience joy when we achieve selflessness to the point of personal sacrifice. Biblically, Paul points to our feeling joyful when we are spiritually connected to God and to God’s people.

Based on biblical truth Joy does not lead to gratitude but gratitude does lead to joy. Thanksgiving and joy operate in a cycle in that one leads to the other.  “The Lord is my strength and shield.  I will trust Him with all my heart.  He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.  I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”

Heavenly joy is a natural result of this practice of gratitude and love. Immanuel, or “God with us,” becomes a tangible feeling of God’s nearness and dearness. We can expect, freely accept, enjoy, express, and share God’s goodness, and lose all fear of there not being enough to meet our needs.

There are things we have, and things we lack. Blessings and disappointments. And our default seems to be for the bad things, the disappointments, to get all our focus. So, we must be intentional to focus on the blessings. When we begin to experience the habit of directing our focus on the good things in my life has the most incredible power to create joy.

Did you know you have a supernatural tool at your disposal that can change the course of your day and even your life?

That tool is simply being thankful. But wait! Don’t brush it aside too quickly. We often think of thanksgiving as something optional for when things are going great. Yet it’s so much more. Having an “attitude of gratitude” is important, yet there is a whole other layer to this business of thanksgiving that can have powerful results.

It’s referred to in the Bible as “rejoicing in the Lord.” It’s not just “being positive” or grateful in the moment. It is a true joyfulness that bubbles up from a deep place of confidence far beyond us. It doesn’t spring from a sunny day or a great bargain or a raise at work. Those things help make us happy. Yet true joyfulness, even despite circumstances, springs from knowing and believing who God really is.

A rejoicing, thankful heart actually opens doors for God to work. Listen to his promise: Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me, and to the blameless I will show my salvation” (Psalm 50:23).

That is the supernatural tool of thanksgiving!


November 19, 2021

Learning to Say Thanks

Psalm 34:1-3 (GNT) – “I will always thank the Lord; I will never stop praising him.  I will praise him for what he has done; may all who are oppressed listen and be glad!  Proclaim with me the Lord's greatness;
let us praise his name together!”

Giving thanks is not something that is spontaneous. Expressing our thanks to another person is a deliberate act. We learn to be thankful people by watching those around us.

Can you remember learning to say thank you? Our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and teachers all played a role in helping us to learn the importance of acknowledging the good that others had done for us. I am sure that I am not the only one who remembers a gift or privilege be held up by our own lack of thanks.

As we got older, your mother or father probably said, "Remember to use your manners," if you forgot to thank someone for a kind word or act. Then, as we became the adult, we heard ourselves saying the same thing to a child, a niece, or nephew.

Gratitude and appreciation are important. People who are thankful are happy people. People who are thankful have lots of friends. People who are thankful have learned to say with Paul, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11). Thankful people know real thanks- giving springs from a heart that is focused on God.

Something like this is true for God’s children as well, no matter what age we may be. Psalm 34:1–10 is a well-known example of thanksgiving that God’s people have recited and imitated for thousands of years.

We know that this Psalm of David reflects his attitude of thanks to God. Take a look at the attitude of someone who is thankful in verses 1–3 of Psalm 34. Something had happened in David’s life that he simply could not stop talking about. David is literally so grateful that he brags about God’s blessings and not only that he wanted everyone else to join him in giving thanks. Bragging about God is a simple way to serve Him and encourage others. And when you really understand how good He is, it will be the easiest thing you've ever done.

David goes on in Psalm 34: 4-7 to give us a fascinating way of putting a thankful attitude into words. It tells us that one of the best ways to say “thank you” to God is to tell the story of what he has done. Unlike other psalms, David’s story in Psalm 34 amounts to only a few verses that tell the story of all that God has done. God had answered his prayer and delivered him. He had cried out and God had saved him from his troubles. But as brief as David may be here, the point is not lost: if you want to say “thank you” to God, come before Him in the presence of family and friends and tell the stories of what He has done: be a witness.

The result of David’s thanksgiving at that moment in his life was not only to honor God; it did something to him as well. In verse 10 he writes, “The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” Wouldn’t you like to take stock of your own life like David, where even in the face of terrible trials, he had learned to still say Thank You Lord? It would help us to remember to sing the words of this old hymn as we learn to say thank you: “Count your many blessings. Name them one by one. And it will surprise you what the Lord has done!” Every time that we tell someone about Who God is to us and What He has done in our lives we are saying “Thank You.”


November 12, 2021

Uncommon Contentment While Waiting

Psalm 27:13-14 (NLT) - Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.  Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

I am always struck by this word “Yet” in scripture. Officially, the word “yet” has a few different uses/definitions but for the sake of our devotional today I want to focus on the following meaning of the word: “Sentence connector–nevertheless, still, in spite of that”– “Yet” usually connects something negative with something positive, something painful with something comforting; “Yet” often brings together in one thought or sentence both the storm clouds and the bright sunshine. Today in these verses from King David “Yet” is a POWERFUL word of hope and encouragement!

This word ties to our thoughts on contentment in that this “yet” encourages us, gives us endurance and hope in our season of waiting. David remains us to not lose the contentment that we have in waiting on God to bring us through seeming hopelessness of our situations with the true hopefulness of His love, His power, His faithfulness, and His willingness to show that we can trust Him always, no matter what we are going through. This is true contentment born out of trusting God in everything.

I think it is safe to assume that none of us are fond of waiting. The world has tried to minimize our wait for so many tasks that it has in turn made times of waiting that much harder. We can deposit a check into our checking accounts, from our cellphones.  If we want we can order groceries that will arrive on the same day and make orders that will ship within a few hours of clicking the order button   We don’t like to wait and, unfortunately, our society has us conditioned this way. 

But all of us must learn that finding the way of contentment is the only way to find joy in a time of waiting.  At first, contentment may be a daily choice, but it will eventually become a way of life.

The truth of the matter is: God sometimes find it necessary to take us on a long, scenic route in an area of our lives grow us spiritually. Restful Anticipation is about finding contentment in waiting seasons.

So, how do we find contentment in God’s waiting room?

The first thing that we need to do is count our blessings. It is so easy to get caught up in what we don’t have.  We sometimes seem to dwell on the things we lack. Instead of reminding yourself of the job you had hoped to have, the house that you wanted, or the car that is beyond your reach, count your blessings.  As believers we must not become bitter but better in the waiting season: David says stop instead and look for joy in your situation.  Take a minute to think about your blessings!  Stop dwelling on the things you don’t have.  No matter your situation, there is always something to be thankful for.  

Next, when we are in the middle of a time of waiting, it is extremely easy to start comparing ourselves to others.  It is almost human nature, we do it without realizing it.  Comparison is a form of jealousy and envy and is a source of discontent. We become insecure when we begin to compare ourselves to others.  Jealousy begins when we feel insecure about an area of our life because we feel that we are lacking something that someone else has.  It’s not pretty and can be very costly to our wallet and our relationships.   

The Lord told us very clearly in the 23rd Psalm in verse 1 that He has provided ALL we need, we lack nothing. Find contentment in knowing God will provide us with exactly what we need, the moment we need it. 

When Godly contentment has its hands on the wheel, rather than being the back-seat-driver, when we have made the choice to trust God’s unconditional love and protection, when contentment chooses to override our circumstances even when all else is falling apart, when we remember that Jesus has conquered sin and death, then and only then will our hearts be content.  There is nothing and no one who can dismantle the contentment of a child of God unless we choose to let it go.

While we cling to hope in anticipation of what will be, it’s possible—essential, even—to find contentment in what is. We must learn to let go of our timeline, perceived expectations, and self-criticism. From there, we can simply ask: How can I wait well today, as if the things I hope for are already here?

For what is meant for us is ours already. Striving will not speed up the process, but it may rob us of the satisfaction today holds.

It takes courage to wait well. Before we know it, the next season will be upon us with its unexpected surprises and unique challenges, and we will likely look back in gratitude for the time we had to prepare, anticipate, and become.

Psalm 27:13-14 (NLT) - Yet I am confident I will see the Lord’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living.  Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.


November 5, 2021

Content for Christ’s Sake

2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 (GNT) - But his answer was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak.” I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ's power over me.  I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christ's sake.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Today we start our theme for November. In this month that we celebrate Thanksgiving, we will look at scripture that focuses on this theme: The Spiritual Attitude of Contentment, Thankfulness and Gratitude. We will begin with contentment. 

Paul describes Christian Contentment in this text not as a concept but as a person and that Person is Christ Jesus living in us.  Paul writes this in Colossians 1:27 (GNT) that, “God's plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God.” Paul writes that all Believers in Christ have a source of strength and happiness that those who love worldly pleasures and comforts find strange.

By nature, none of us are content with in our weaknesses or with insults.  None of us, by ourselves, delight in difficulties and distresses and naturally speaking none of us are happy to be persecuted or ridiculed by others.  But this verse contains a very important modifying phrase - FOR CHRIST'S SAKE. It is for Christ's sake that we are content to be insulted and to suffer persecutions and it is by His grace that we can be content in the middle of the difficulties and distresses that will certainly come into our life.

Like the Apostle Paul tells us in 2nd Corinthians 5:17 (GNT) that, “Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come. When we understand these things, our former life no longer satisfies like the new life as we embrace Christ as the life and joy of our heart.  Sin cannot hold a candle to the contentment that this life in Christ brings.  We now have a new mind, new affections, new interest, new will, a new outlook on our trials and our lives.  

As we examine some of the things that make our heart appreciate all that we have received through the redemptive work of Christ, we must remember that this change, this transformation is a change in our very nature.  It is such a significant change that Jesus described as a rebirth, a change of heart.  

So, it is for Christ's sake that we are content in our weaknesses and insults. It is for Christ's sake that we can be glad in our difficulties and rejoice in our distresses and it is for the sake of Christ Jesus our Lord that we can be content in persecution and pain.  It is for CHRIST's SAKE that we are also called to be content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions and with difficulties - for when we are weak, then we are strong.

It was for Christ's sake that Paul could find contentment in so many difficult circumstances and it was for His sake that Paul was able to pen the words when I am weak, then I am strong. And we are called to follow in his footsteps and discover a godly contentment even when we appear to be weak and foolish in the eyes of the world because we know that our strength is found in the Lord - for in Christ we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us and gave Himself for us. What a way to live your life—content in everything—knowing that divine strength comes when human weakness is evident.

So, let’s find contentment today and every day FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!


October 29, 2021


Don’t Let Satan Trap You With Worry

John 10:10 (NLT) – “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Jesus sums up spiritual warfare in this verse from the gospel of John. Jesus tells us that Satan purpose in our lives is to kill and to destroy.  In our study of the enemy’s tactics, we know that his battle strategy is to attack our minds.  The Bible says that our thought life is an extremely important and vital aspect of being a Christian. What we are is determined largely by what and how we think. Proverbs 23:7 says, "As a person thinks within himself, so he is." The Bible teaches the responsibility of mind control. It also gives us definite guidelines to follow, so that our thought life will be controlled and pleasing to God.

Interestingly, right before Jesus spoke about having life abundant, He reminded His followers about the thief that comes in to steal, kill, and destroy. He didn’t share that to burst their bubble or discourage them. He said it to alert them to a very real and present temptation.

Worry is one way the enemy robs us of enjoying the fruitful life Jesus spoke of. If Satan can get us to focus on the stresses around us, instead of focusing on the Holy Spirit within us, he has succeeded in stealing our abundance in Christ.

I believe that the stumbling block for us becomes the way that we view abundance. In a spiritual context, the notion of abundance or plenty is less about material conditions, revolving instead (once basic needs are met), around an appreciation of life in its fullness, joy and strength of mind, body, and soul. It is the respect that we have for our Sovereign God and the belief that He hold us in His hands and will do what is best for us. We will look at the context of spiritual abundance next month when we look at content, thankfulness, and gratitude. But, for now think of the abundant life as one that leaves negative feelings of lack, dissatisfaction, and emptiness behind. Instead, it is open to light and love that come from God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit Comfort that He gives to us.

But here in John Jesus tells us about His purpose in coming to us in the New Living version where He says He wants us to have “a great full life” and in the New Century Version that, “I came to give life—life in all its fullness. In the Message Bible it says it this way: “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” Now if the life that Christ came to bring is focused on the real and the eternal, every believer is guaranteed the abundant life.  Think about this: not only do we have food, but we have leftovers: that’s abundance. You don’t just have Sunday outfit or work clothes, you have a spring, summer, fall, and winter wardrobe: that’s abundance. We do not live lacking, but we live in the overflow. I know that there are those who live in need but remember that Jesus has made provisions for them as well when He says, “For, whatsoever you do to the least of your brothers and sisters, you do unto me,” says the Lord Jesus.” (Matthew 25:40).  If we believe and embrace the Word, then there should be no lack for all those who belong to God.

Chasing anything other than Jesus will steal what God has blessed you with, kill your dreams, and destroy your purpose in life. Only Jesus can restore the blessings that have been stolen, bring life to dreams that have died, and give our lives purpose. Possessions come and go, as does the enjoyment they bring. The only way to experience joy that never leaves is to have something that cannot fail. An abundant life comes from Jesus, who never fails.

Look at the two verses of John 10:8-9 (NLT) that tell of our connection to the Good Shepherd: “All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them.  Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.” Biblically pastures represent that we receive from the Good Shepherd is everything that we need to sustain our spiritual life.

God wants us to have a rich and satisfying life. This doesn’t mean that our life will be problem free, but it does mean that Jesus will be there to walk with us through the problems.

This verse also shows us that trouble doesn’t come from God. Things that steal and destroy are from the devil. Jesus doesn’t send those types of things to you.

So today if you’re in the middle of a difficult situation, be encouraged. Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. He’s there to walk with you during difficulty and is to be where you go in tough times. So, decide to get closer to God in tough times and let Him show you how rich and satisfying life in Him can be.

 

October 22, 2021

Predictable in the Middle of the Unpredictable

Isaiah 12:2: (GW) Look! God is my Savior. I am confident and unafraid because the Lord is my strength and my song. He is my Savior.”

Isaiah is a book filled with gloom and doom. It seemed that he was a weatherman and that his forecast was always calling for story weather. Israel had not been following God and living in obedience to his directives for them. They had rejected him and were worshipping and serving other gods. And, as a result, Isaiah’s prophesies told of the foreign armies that God would send to conquer them, to destroy the nation and carry off its people. The picture that Isaiah painted was pretty bleak.

This is a fact of life: Dark clouds will gather from time to time, and the storm will eventually roll in. It is useless to worry about this or too simply hope it will disappear. Instead, as believers in Christ, we are called to stand firm in our faith when it happens. We are to remain calm knowing that God the Father in Heaven is in control of every wind and wave.

However, threatening the circumstances of life may seem today, it is imperative not to let anything take our attention from God and His promise. Our focus must always stay fixed on Him and His Word, trusting in His power. When we keep Him as the priority — at the center of our lives — we will remain in balance and undeterred no matter how hard the wind blows.

But today, in the middle of all these gloomy storm clouds, Isaiah spread a word from God that unpredictably brought a ray of light into the darkness. A looking ahead to when God’s anger with the people had been turned away. To a time when they have been restored to his favor. This is the assurance a person can have when they know that they are loved by God. The predictable outcome would have been punishment and not being in constant communion with God. But God does not give us what we deserve: mercy and then goes on to give us what we have not earned: grace.  There is a reason for us to sing, shout and fall at God’s feet and worship Him.

But we must not let this be our expression of faith only when circumstances around us are good. Even when it seems the world is falling down around us, we should be able and willing to trust God and not be afraid. To hold to him as our strength and defense. To know that he is our salvation. How much better will it be when we can pass through the trials of life knowing that our life is in God’s hands and trusting him in all things?

The fact is that anxiety can feel unpredictable. One minute is fine. The next, we’re swept up in a wave of debilitating emotional and mental chaos. We take deep breaths. We close your eyes. Practice the calming physical responses we’ve been taught to do when attacked by anxiety. But anxiety doesn’t just impact us physically. It takes over everything.

That’s why we must partner our physical responses with spiritual truths that help us shift our focus. Our minds must find rest. The Bible helps us re-calibrate and calm our hearts.

First, we have to arm ourselves with Scripture when we’re in the right state of mind so that when the attack comes, we’re ready to fight. Memorize Scriptures that you can use as weapons when those waves of anxiety hit. Those verses remind us of the truth about God and fix our eyes away from what’s leading us to dark places.

Isaiah 12:2 tells us that we can trust God to save us, and that we don’t have to be afraid. How powerful is that? We don’t have to fear. We can trust God. He will save us. He is Lord. He is over everything, and He can rescue us, no matter how far we feel that we’ve gone. He is there.

When we fill our minds with statements like these, we give God permission to take the load off our burdened hearts and give us rest. These statements also give us the power to fight and win the battles we’re up against.

What a comforting thought to know that no matter what we are going through in this life, God will be our Savior, our Salvation. Nothing can separate us from His love. Romans 8:38: “For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below – there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, if you are filled with fear or feeling particularly desperate and depressed today, know that you are not alone. God is always around you, listening, ready to give you the peace you seek. God did not mean for us to live in fear or be filled with sorrow and sadness:

Isaiah 41:10: “Do not be afraid – I am with you! I am your God – let nothing terrify you! I will make you strong and help you; I will protect and save you.”

This is God’s promise to us. Are you ready to humble yourself in His presence and ask for His help? Remember, it doesn’t matter what your trouble is or if you feel unable to put it into words, God knows your heart and He will lift you up, help you to see the light and find comfort and peace.

Psalms 139:1-6: “LORD, you have examined me and know me. You know everything I do; from far away you understand all my thoughts. You see me, whether I am working or resting; you know all my actions. Even before I speak, you already know what I will say. You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power. Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding.”

Repeat these statements until you feel the waves of anxiety pass because repeating truth sets us free from the lies of anxiety.

Rest assured, our loving and all-powerful Father in Heaven is working everything out for our ultimate good.


October 15, 2021

GOD HAS YOU COVERED

Psalm 91:1-2 (TPT)When you abide under the shadow of Shaddai, you are hidden in the strength of God Most High. He’s the hope that holds me and the stronghold to shelter me, the only God for me, and my great confidence.

Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV) - Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

I’ve got you covered. No doubt we have all heard that phrase and perhaps have used it on occasion. But what exactly does it mean? What do we mean when we say I’ve got you covered? It essentially is referring to the idea that when one is in a shaky situation where we can't easily watch out for everything, that we have someone else to step up for us.  It may be a simple a gesture as someone covering the cost of our meal, to a true 911 call where someone steps in to truly save us from in a time of distress.

There are times when we don’t how we will work our way through the situations of life.  In times like these, when we don’t know how we will get through a situation unscathed, that we have someone else to step up for us.  It may be a simple a gesture as someone covering the cost of our meal, to a true 911 call where someone steps in to truly save us from a hardship.

You step up to the counter to pay for your soda and candy bar and you reach into your pocket to pull out some money and you realize that you don’t have any with you or you used it somewhere else. Your face goes white, then red as you begin to tell the cashier, “I forgot my money.” But your friend that’s in line with you leans up and says, “It’s okay, I’ve got you covered.” When you had no possible way of paying that debt someone else stepped in and paid it for you.

The Psalmist here describes the covering that we have from God. Just as we have confidence that 911 can help us in time of physical need, have that same confidence that Psalm 911 (for Psalm 91) can help you in time of Spiritual need!

This cover is designed to conceal, to protect. In Psalm 91, many synonyms for cover are given. 'Refuge' and 'fortress' are just two of them. However, to stay protected, our job is to dwell (live) in the secret place of the Most High – that is, at the center of God’s will for your life. When we listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and we obey His leading, we can say with all confidence that God has us covered. This is a place for us that is free of worry and stress because we are in the safest place and that place is in the will of God.  That is the safest place that you and I can be.

The Psalmist says that He will trust in God. But it is hard to trust someone that you don’t know. So, take time to get to know God’s character through the person of Jesus Christ. One of the best places to start is the book of John in the bible. We will see Jesus’ loving heart in action, and we will see His obedience to the Father modeled for us – even to the cross. We will see that He loved us so much that He gave His life for all of us.

And if He was willing to give His life for us, how much more will He care for us as we deal with the problems of this world?

When we recognize that the Lord is our cover, we can face life without worry and anxiety as to what might happen. We may not know the future, but we know the one who does. Past, present, and future – He’s got us covered!

Similarly, as we hold on to our Heavenly Father, He holds on to us. When we dwell in Him, He is our refuge and fortress. Though our grip may waiver, His grip is sure. Though our strength may fail, His strength remains. Thank you, Lord, for always having us covered!


October 8, 2021

Don’t Talk to Your Worry: Talk to God

Philippians 4:6-7 (TPT) – “Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ.”

God never instructs us in Scripture to fight anxiety by arguing with it. It never works. Scripture only instructs us to cast our anxieties on God in prayer and trust him to meet our needs, whatever they are (1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6–7, 19).

One of the greatest mistakes we make when anxiety and worry comes to rob our peace is that we start up a conversation with them. Before we feel anxiety two things happen. First, we experience stress (could be an emotional injury or any challenging situation). We feel hurt, afraid, angry, sad, guilty, or needy. And then we deny or avoid that feeling, even though it’s a natural and healthy response to the stress. (Perhaps we feel we’re too busy to pause and feel our feelings or the feelings don’t fit our expectations of who we should be.) This combination of the “triggers” of our stressors is like a chemical reaction that creates anxiety.

We must understand that once we have allowed the stress into our lives, the stress will want to have a conversation with us. Yes, our anxieties talk to you. Don’t talk back to them. Talk to God. We like to think that we are playing our imaginary scenarios sin our minds about the people, places, or things that we encounter, especially in our tough times.  The truth of the matter is that whoever or whatever place these conversations start and travel, they provoke anxiety in us. The fact is that we have engaged in a lengthy argument in our heads that arouses all kinds of anxiety blown out of proportion in our state of worry. But we haven’t talked to a real person at all. We’ve talked to our anxiety — we’ve talked to ourselves and h faithless anxiety but have indulged in a conversation with the author of lies and have failed to have trust and faith in God. It is like we are diving around with one foot on the gas pedal and the other on the brake.  The only outcome of this is to damage the car’s engine and four us we take our mind and hearts off God and give Satan access to our thoughts.

Few of us have endured the kind of problems encountered by the apostle Paul. Yet in spite of all the threats on his life, the beatings, and the imprisonments, he wrote in Philippians4:6-7 (TPT): “Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ.”

When we are worried, we need to take that worry to God. We need to talk honestly to God about all our fears and worries and ask for His help. God is seeking honesty when we petition Him.  He is waiting to bring us the strength and peace of His presence.  Remember Jesus said of his Father that we are to ask, seek, and knock and He will give, help us find, and answer (Matthew 7:7–8).

 

 

Prayer is the key to escaping the snare of sinful anxiety. Don’t listen to your anxieties, and don’t talk back to them. Especially beware of anxieties in disguise. Direct your talk to God and cast all your “what if” concerns on him because only he can give you the assurance that everything will ultimately be okay.

That God will fight our battles means we do not have to anguish, be anxious, or be discouraged when bad things happen in our lives. When it seems, a situation is hopeless or the matter at hand is too overwhelming, we may be tempted to doubt God. But as Christians must remember that no problem is beyond the scope of God’s sovereign care for His children. Paul reminds us of God’s promise to us in Philippians 4:19 (TPT) when he writes:  “I am convinced that my God will fully satisfy every need you have, for I have seen the abundant riches of glory revealed to me through Jesus Christ! Then look at these familiar promises in Jeremiah 29:11(NLT) about good plans: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” And let’s talk to God and not anxiety because God’s love is beyond measure as we are told in Romans 8:37–39 (GNT) that “No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us!  For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below—there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” So, Talk to God and not to your worry!

 

 


October 1, 2021

WORRY: THE ENEMY OF OUR FAITH

Matthew 6:25-27 (VOICE) - Here is the bottom line: do not worry about your life. Don’t worry about what you will eat or what you will drink. Don’t worry about how you clothe your body. Living is about more than merely eating, and the body is about more than dressing up.  Look at the birds in the sky. They do not store food for winter. They don’t plant gardens. They do not sow or reap—and yet, they are always fed because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are even more precious to Him than a beautiful bird. If He looks after them, of course He will look after you.  Worrying does not do any good; who here can claim to add even an hour to his life by worrying?

Worry can be described as the most subtle enemy of our faith. In the most subtle of ways, worry can erode our faith. We can understand this better when we understand the language of use here. The word used by Matthew (translated in the RSV as “anxious”) is the Greek term merimnao. It is a combination of two smaller words, merizo, meaning “to divide,” and nous, meaning “the mind.” In other words, a person who is worried or anxious suffers from having a divided mind.  When our minds are divided, we are distracted and unsettled. Worry attacks our minds and controls our behavior. We begin to listen to the lies we tell ourselves instead of speaking the truth to ourselves. This enemy is called worry. I have seen this quote several times in studying our reaction to worry that comes from Corrie Ten Boom: “Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength." 

Jesus, in this scripture from Matthew 6:25-27 is probably one of the best-known biblical stories which highlights the command from Jesus to us about the necessity of not worrying. Note all the things that Jesus reveals to us that the things that we worry about are beyond our control but under the control of His Father.

When we worry, we are indirectly telling ourselves that God is not absolutely in control.  We saw this same sentiment in Friday’s devotion from Philippians 4:6-7 where Paul commands us: “Don’t worry about anything but instead give it all to God.  Worry is our greatest enemy, and it attacks everything. Worry has no redeeming value at all. It rots and destroys our minds. It drains and derails our emotions. It paralyzes and binds our present. It perverts and distorts our future.

Fearing a return to bad times, fearing present situations and the fear of “what if” are natural.  Fear can be a positive in helping us to assess situations and measure danger to keep us safe. But being afraid to step out and do what God is calling us to do is an unhealthy fear. I dare say that most of us have come across this inspirational Christian quote: “If God Brings You to it, He Will Bring You Through It.” Though we need to be careful to not use these quotes as substitutes for the Word of God. It does point us to the promise that God’s Word gives to us. Verses like the one this Bible promise in Psalm 23:1 (NKJV) that states “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” and like Philippians 4:19 (NKJV) that assures us “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” These are the verses that we need to quote to ourselves when the enemy comes to steal our peace with worry.

So today put away the ‘What If’s.’ The “What if” question can plague us and keep us from living our lives with purpose, power, meaning and mission. What if I get sick? What if I can’t work? What if I lose my job? What if my business fails? What if the results come back positive? What if I lose my spouse, my child, my parent?  Worry … Worry … Worry.

Good news: We cannot control the future. If we knew with certainty what the future holds for us, we wouldn’t need to trust God. Paul gives us the antidote to worry in Philippians 4:6-7 (TPT) where we read: “Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ.” When we soak our hearts, minds, and souls in prayer, then we find the way our of our anxiety and worry. Worry about nothing and pray about everything!

 


September 24, 2021

THE HEART REVEALS OUR CHARACTER

Proverbs 27:19 (VOICE) Just as water reflects a person’s true face, so the human heart reflects a person’s true character.

Proverbs 27:19 (NIV) As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

Proverbs talks about a person’s life as a reflection of his or her heart. Talking about someone’s “heart condition” and how it shows in their life, one might ask, “How big-hearted is he?” or “Does she have the heart for it?”

A physical heart condition may prevent someone from strenuous activity, but a spiritual heart condition is more dangerous. If we have a heart condition that makes us miserly, we are not apt to share from the abundance we have been given. On the other hand, a heart condition that leads to sharing the joy of Jesus, who lives in our hearts, gives us the stamina for a life of faithful obedience.

This truth is that your heart reflects that you are guilty before God - in need of His mercy and grace.  The truth is that we need the grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We need our sins to be forgiven and to be made acceptable in God's sight by what Jesus Christ did at the cross.  We need new life - to be born again - and to experience God's life which is the only life that can change us and reflect a different image in our hearts. 

Jeremiah the prophet brought us a message from God.  His message was that the heart of man is deceitful above all else and is desperately wicked.  No one can understand his own heart.  But God is the one Who searches the heart - Who helps us understand our need - and Who then meets that need in what He has done through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  If we can only see our hearts in that light - in the light of the mirror of God's Word - then as our heart is reflected to us, we'd see our need and run to Jesus Christ for forgiveness, grace, and new life.

Let’s face it, sooner or later what we have concealed in our hearts is going to eventually come out, in one way or another.  Most of the time it’s hard to miss because it’s all over our face, as it talks about in this verse. There are other times when it’s less noticeable. If we know and fully understand how the heart limits us by the beliefs we choose, we will start to see words, actions, attitudes, and situations that line up with those beliefs.

We have all types of health monitoring systems.  We have monitors for blood pressure, blood glucose, heart monitors.  All these monitors, record vital output that is needed to keep our body’s regulatory systems in good working order. It should be the same for the Heart of the believer.  We have a crucial monitor in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Some changes are allowable because they allow for spiritual expansion of our heart, the help our hearts to endure and reset our heart to sustainable degrees.  When we get off track the Holy Spirit helps us to reset and readjust our lives so that we continue to reflect a heart filled with God’s given purposes.

When we investigate a reflective surface, like water or a mirror, it gives us a reflection of ourselves. It’s the same with our heart and lives- the way we live is an exact replica of what fills our hearts. Where we give our time, what we put our hands to, and how we behave, all testify to what has taken up residence in our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Fill your heart with God’s word, let the Holy Spirit fill it with God’s love then your life will reflect His love, His compassion, and His holiness.


September 17, 2021

Hearts That Fear God

Deuteronomy 5:29 (NLT) – “Oh, that they would always have hearts like this, that they might fear me and obey all my commands! If they did, they and their descendants would prosper forever.”

This verse from Deuteronomy follows God speaking to Moses and the people of Israel and the giving of the Ten Commandments.  The people had heard the voice of God as he spoke to Moses and all the people assembled. The people feared that God would speak to them again from the fire and that they would die so they pleaded with Moses to go, listen, and hear everything that God tells him, and then they would listen obey.  The people feared that if God spoke to them a second time that they would die, so they made this request of God, with Moses acting as a mediator. (Deuteronomy 5:25-27)

Deuteronomy 5:29, gives us God’s response to the people.  God confirmed to the people that they were right in what they said about Him – but how much better it would be if only their hearts could be like that always! God knew that even though they'd seen how glorious and powerful He is, it wouldn't be long before they would forget it all and give in to temptations and sin. Sadly, that's how weak we all are in our human nature. And so, Moses became the spokesman for God and taught them how God wanted them to live.  

We see that all too often a proper fear of God is not a prominent part of the Christian's life. Fear (standing in awe) of God just isn't a continuous part of the spiritually conformed. Fear is viewed as harmful by our culture. We see our children have no fear of their parents, teachers, or other authority figures. We are the same with our God. As world citizens, we are more and more seeing a worldview that says, “I fear no one and no thing because I have a right to do what I want, when I want and how I want, regardless of who is affected by my decisions.” But today we read in Deuteronomy that we are being told to live out our lives in fear (awe). Everything is to be shaped by this heart of fire. God is not talking about the words “my God is awesome but the reality that He is so awesome that when we recognize that we are just a speck on the horizon that it should make us quake before the presence of the Almighty just by thinking about His marvelous attributes. This is the heart of fear that is vital to our Christian faith.

We desperately need to recover a sense of awe and reverence for God in our day today living. We must begin to view Him in the infinite majesty that belongs to Him who is the Creator and Supreme Sovereign of the universe. There is an infinite gap in worth and dignity between God, the Creator, and the Mankind that he created.  The fear of God is a heartfelt recognition of this gap.

We can learn from this. The way to a fulfilled life is surely to walk in the path God prescribes in His word. This means keeping in mind just how awesome and majestic God is. He is not someone we approach on our terms and when we fail to come to keep this in mind there is a big problem. We know we lack the sincerity to fear God consistently. We forget Him so easily and our promises to be faithful often flounder in the helter-skelter lives. That's why we needed to be born anew. This is the reason that on yesterday we looked at the wonderful promise that God gave in Ezekiel 36:26-27 when He said: “I will give you a new heart - and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” That's what happens when we come to Christ for salvation. And it is by holding fast to Christ that we will keep on God's path always. That’s the wonder of the new heart God has given.

The Bible teaches us that God is Holy and we are to fear Him. So, would you classify yourself as a God-fearing man or woman? God desires that every one of His followers would have a heart to fear Him. That with this humble heart we would desire to keep all of God’s commandments, even always and in all places. The Lord desires that we keep Him in remembrance always. That wherever we go, He is leading us. If we do this, then doing God’s will, will not be burdensome but a blessing. It is a great joy to serve God from the heart of fear or awe that we have for our King.



September 10, 2021

Trust God With All Your Heart

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLV) – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not trust in your own understanding. Agree with Him in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight.

One of the great promises of the Bible is found in the book of Proverbs, which came from the writing of Solomon, often called “the wisest man who ever lived.” Solomon knew with all his wisdom that he was no match for the God’s wisdom.  So, when Solomon wrote, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not trust in your own understanding; Agree with Him in all your ways, and He will make your paths straight.”  Solomon understood that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the promises of God and their fulfillment. He knew that with almost every promise there is a condition attached to it. He also knew something of the conflict between the known and the unknown and then trusting God for what you cannot see.

But what does “trusting with all your heart,” as Solomon advised, really mean? The Hebrew word for trust includes the idea of taking refuge or throwing oneself down on the ground before someone. Trust in God, then, means to lie down before Him and give Him all the concerns that are frustrating us. The Apostle Peter said it this way in 1 Peter 5:7, “[cast] all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.”

The word “trust” here implies confidence or security. It is a concept that is associated with firmness or something that is solid or secure, according to The Hebrew-Greek Study BibleSimply stated, we can put our confidence or security in the Lord because we know that He can be trusted. That’s exactly why Hebrews 11:1 says that trust, or our faith in God has “substance.”

We get that. Our God is real – and He is certainly all-powerful, and He is absolutely loving. We can absolutely trust Him. He has substance. His Word and His promises are secure. We can and do put our trust in Him.

But what are we to make of “with all your heart?” We know from previous days that this word “heart” in Proverbs 3:5 is an old English concept that was used to refer to the ruling center of the whole person. The heart was seen as the center of a person’s will, mind, and feelings. It does not mean the physical, life-sustaining organ that distributes the flow of blood throughout the body. When the Bible uses this term “heart” it usually indicates the control center of life.

That brings us to the word “all.” An old cliché fits this verse, “All means all; and that’s all ‘all’ means.” The idea of trusting the Lord “with all our heart” adds some quantitative detail to our faith.

When someone uses the phrase “with all your heart” it means there is no more room for anyone or anything else. For years, some Christ followers have encouraged others to be “sold out for Christ.” What is understood by that phrase was if someone was sold out in their faith in Christ there would be no more room to love or trust anyone or anything else.

That’s the focus of the statement, “trusting the Lord with all your heart.” It means that we have put our faith and trust alone in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We have given Him His rightful claim to the throne of our lives and there is no room for anyone or anything else to have that place in our lives.

What Are Practical Ways to Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart? First, put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as your own personal savior. The first step toward trusting the Lord with all our hearts is to accept His gift of eternal life. Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for our sins. The price was the shed blood of Christ on the cross for us.

Then, Romans 12:1-2 tells us to give our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.  It is imperative for all believers to be “living sacrifices,” putting ourselves on the altar of sacrifice and allowing Christ to be the head of our lives.  If we are going to trust the Lord with all our hearts, we will give ourselves completely and unreservedly to Him.  

Finally, trusting with all your heart means that we stay close to the Lord and allow Him to continue building your faith in Him. God Himself is the source of that trust and He provides it through His Word. If we desire to trust Him with all our hearts, we will make a commitment to study His Word and to follow His direction.

Followers of Christ can be sold out for the Lord. The Lord Himself has provided all the resources we need to be totally reliant upon Him, and if we are trusting Him with all our heart, there’s no room for anything else to be in control because Christ is!


September 3, 2021

The Believer’s Heart – Christ’s Home

Ephesians 3:16-17 (NLV) - I pray that because of the riches of His shining-greatness, He will make you strong with power in your hearts through the Holy Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

Today we begin our new study theme about our spiritual heart or what I like to call the “Heart of the Matter.” The heart is repeatedly described in scripture as the core of our inner being. We read a lot about the heart in the Bible, because in Biblical times it was thought that our decisions, feelings and thought processes all come from the heart. The heart in the Bible was thought to be a sort of “control center” from which all our decisions were made. So, when we read about the heart in the Bible, it is about the place where we have our will, our attitude, and intentions, and which is the source of our thoughts, actions, and words.

This heart is the core of who we are as a person. Our heart is, essentially, who we are. What lessons do we gain from these references to the heart in scripture?  For the believer what is the heart exactly? What is the significance and importance?

We have all heard the saying that “home is where the heart is.”  Well, that is exactly what Paul tells us here. Christ desires to make His home with us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that makes our heart His home. 

The beginning of our spiritual heart comes when we confess Christ and receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We find this confirmation in Paul's epistle to the Ephesians, where we find these words: “He will make you strong with power in your hearts through the Holy Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

Paul was praying that Christ would dwell in the heart of every believer. Paul wants all believers to be people who have a relationship with God, Paul describes this relationship like this: “Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as we trust in Him.”

In the Bible the heart is considered the seat of life or strength. Therefore, it goes to reason that it means mind, soul, spirit, or our entire emotional nature and understanding of God is described as able to know, search, enlighten, open, recreate, examine, strengthen, and establish our heart.

Paul here describes the heart of the believer as being strengthened or fortified as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  By having this fortified heart, Christ has a permanent dwelling place in our heart.  Paul goes further by saying that this dwelling place roots us in God’s love as we trust in Him. 

However, to Christians, to people who have a relationship with God, Paul said, “Then Christ will make his home in our hearts as we trust in Him.”

Paul was praying that Christ would settle down in their hearts, not just living inside the house of their hearts, so to speak, but being at home there, settled down as a family member.

In the same way, Jesus Christ wants to be at the very heart of our lives. He wants to be at the center.

Is Jesus Christ at home in your heart today? If you have put your faith in Jesus, then He has taken residence in you. But the question is this: Is He comfortable there? Is He settled down there? Is He at home there?

It can be difficult to settle down and feel comfortable in some homes. Then there are other homes that feel comfortable the moment you walk in. We should live our lives in such a way that Jesus would be at home in every room of our hearts and where He would have the master key to every lock.

We should be able to say, “Lord, make yourself at home. Go where you want to go. Want to look in that closet? Look in that closet. Anywhere you want to go, it is all yours, because you are a permanent resident.”

Is Jesus settled down and at home in your heart?


August 27, 2021

Our Secret Weapon – Keep Praying and stay on the Lookout

Ephesians 6:18e (VOICE) - Pray always. Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every way you know how! And keeping all this in mind, pray on behalf of God’s people. Keep on praying feverishly and be on the lookout until evil has been stayed.

Today we look at another aspect to our secret weapon of prayer and that is that we need to keep on praying. The last sentence of verse 18 contains two cautions for us about our weapon of prayer.  First, we are to pray with passion and perseverance and then we are to stay alert in our prayers.

Verse 18 in the NKJV reads “being watchful to this end with all perseverance.”   We need to persevere, continue, keep on praying and we are told to do this while we stay alert to the movement of the evil one. So, we read that for the persistent pray-er that the outcome of this persistence is that Satan is stayed.  This means that persistent prayer stops, puts a hold on all of Satan’s attacks. Prayer allows our air support from God to withhold and to restrain the devil from getting a toehold in our lives.

We may feel that persistence in prayer is difficult because we are so much fervent in praying in our hard times than we are in our times of prosperity.  Paul says that we are to continue to pray, and he says feverishly. When we pray, we should have an excitement and a passion because of this wonderful opportunity to communicate with God.

But the Bible here and elsewhere tells us to keep on praying. Why is this? Persevering in prayer is required for some prayers to get through—especially since we are in spiritual warfare.

One of the words Jesus used was the word ‘watch’ in combination with prayer. We are to ‘watch and pray.’ A spiritually alert people are a prayerful people. We must keep our spiritual eyes open.

When our eyes are open to the dangers of temptation, we must pray. “Watch and pray,” Jesus said to His disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, “that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). When we see the danger of temptation lurking, pray passionately against it.

But our eyes are open to more than temptation. The pains of this world and life, not just for ourselves, but for others, are an important part of our prayer lives. Like soldiers on watch, we look out for potential threats to others and cry out to God on their behalf. We open our eyes to see what to pray for, asking the Spirit to show us how and what to pray. Each person, each catastrophe, each church, needs prayer. Our discerning eyes must look upon them, process the situation, and ask of God.

Let’s make sure inn this way that we are “Keep-Going Prayers.” The work of prayer — real, true, battling prayer — takes perseverance, for the work is so invisible. It takes perseverance to regularly do anything in life. Writing, running, and study all take perseverance in my life. But none of them require the endurance and perseverance that prayer does. There are a million things easier than prayer. Prayer requires faith. Prayer takes a pushing through the stuff of life, the lackadaisical attitudes, the distractions of the moment.

 

Grab a friend or spouse or someone you look up to in Christ. Pray with them. Set a time, regularly and then Keep it! This might help us as we endeavor to pray with perseverance.

We cannot think we are going to win a battle by going out and swinging our sword only once and then sitting down and saying, “Well, I swung my sword, but I didn’t get victory, so I guess I’ll just give up.”

No! Keep swinging. Keep standing. Keep fighting. Keep praying. Prayer is our most powerful weapon of spiritual warfare because God Himself sends the reinforcement to overcome and to stop the enemy. 

 


August 20, 2021


Spiritual Armor: Pray in the Spirit!

Ephesians 6:18 (VOICE) – “Pray always. Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every way you know how! And keeping all this in mind, pray on behalf of God’s people. Keep on praying feverishly and be on the lookout until evil has been stayed.”

Even though we have come to the end of the pieces of armor that Paul has described for us in Ephesians 6:13-17 for putting on the Whole Armor of God, we still have one vitally important piece left. We will see that this weapon, which is just as powerful, maybe even more powerful at times. We have been presented with first 5 pieces of armor that were for our defense from the devil: these 5 pieces of the armor were the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes with the preparation of the gospel of peace (peace), shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. Then Paul added the only offensive piece of the armor and that was the sword of the spirit/word of God. Now after having described the pieces of the armor of God, Paul adds another important part of spiritual battle: prayer. This is not a piece of our spiritual armor, yet, it is essential to winning spiritual battles. Why? Prayer connects us to the power of God, which is necessary to defeat spiritual enemies. Communication in battle is often the difference between victory and defeat. This is especially true when referring to soldiers hearing the instructions of their Commander.

In studying chapter 6 of Ephesians, most readers don’t consider this last item to be part of the spiritual armor because Paul doesn’t compare our prayer to a piece of armor that the Roman soldier wore into the heat of their battles. 

Prayer then is like the other weapons that are not mentioned here by Paul.  The Roman soldier has other weapons like spears and bows with quivers full of arrows, battering rams and the catapult that were all weapons of war. Sometimes soldiers even trained their horses to use their hooves as a weapon.

Notice that Paul doesn’t make a comparison to any of these to this last weapon he wants to talk about because none of them come even close to the power and precision and effectiveness of this last weapon. So, since Paul doesn’t give us a piece of battle gear to equate this to, we will just call this our Secret Weapon.  There is nothing like hitting Satan with this surprise attack.

This weapon is something that the enemy does not have, that the enemy cannot see (Satan has no ability to read our minds) or stop. There is no defense for this type of weapon. James 5:16 (MSG) says to “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with.” Satan has no power over our prayer life and God’s Word says that He

Paul, if he were writing today, would have written to us about the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Word of God, and finally, in verses 18-20, the air support of prayer, or maybe we could say, the laser-guided smart bombs of prayer. Obviously, this last one I’ve come up with doesn’t really fit in with the Roman Soldier imagery…but the point is that prayer is vitally important to spiritual warfare.

There’s no denying that we’re engaged in spiritual battles every day and, as Christians, we often feel the effects of the enemy’s attacks. Each time we take a step forward, we’re met with resistance in the form of doubt, fear, persecution, or any number of other strategies Satan uses against us. However, God will never leave us and we’re not fighting the battles alone. He has armed us with several spiritual weapons, and prayer is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal.

Our prayers connect us with God, strengthen us for the fight, and keep us grounded. They open a dialogue with Him and reveal things to us we can only learn from Him. “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3).

Make prayer a part of your spiritual armor!


August 13, 2021


The Whole Armor: The Sword of the Spirit

Ephesians 6:17 (NLT) - Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The sixth piece of armor that Paul discusses in Ephesians 6 is the sword of the spirit, which represents the Word of God. For a Roman soldier, the sword served as an offensive weapon against enemies. When sharpened, the sword could pierce through just about anything, making it a very dangerous tool.

The armor of God in the Bible is an outfit of spiritual protection against the schemes of the devil. Christians may notice something interesting: every piece of armor (except for one) is defensive. The defensive pieces help us block the blows of Satan.

We have only one offensive piece of armor: the sword of the Spirit, or the Word of the Lord (the Bible). To understand the connection between the sword and the Word of God, it is first important to understand the power of God’s Word. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

All the pieces of the armor come from God, but this piece, in particular, is God himself, the Holy Spirit. In John 1:1 we read that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” When we enter spiritual warfare, we must arm ourselves with the Truth of God by refusing to compromise to the world’s standards. 

Through God’s Word, we can distinguish between right and wrong. As a result, we can strive to live in a way that is free from sin. His Word is the ultimate truth, and we can find confidence in knowing it is our greatest weapon.

This sword of the Spirit has the ability to trample any objections to Christianity posed by Satan. A single text can reassure us when the devil suddenly hits us with heavy blows. The Spirit supplies us with this sword through the Word. Like a trainer, He teaches us how to use it properly. 

We must take every opportunity to grow in knowledge of God’s Word because without it we will struggle to fight against the enemy. God’s word in John 5:24 gives us this assurance from Jesus where He says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

So, how can we use the sword of the spirit in our lives? We are not meant to keep the knowledge we gain from God’s Word to ourselves. When we are asked to defend what we believe, we can use God’s Word to point back to Him.

Sometimes, it is not easy to take up our swords and fight against the enemy. However, we are not called to do this by our own strength. When facing trials, we can find peace in knowing that God is on our side. Romans 8:31 says, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

I encourage you to take up the sword of the spirit in your daily life. Remember that God’s Word is the ultimate truth and that we can stand on His promises. With God on our side, we are unstoppable.



August 6, 2021


The Helmet of Salvation

Ephesians 6:17 (NKJV) – “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;”

As we continue to study the whole armor of God, today we come the fifth piece of our armor: the ‘helmet of salvation.’  The helmet of salvation is part of the spiritual armor that points to the truth that God is the One who saves and delivers.

The Arabic version of the phrase, from Gil’s exposition of the Bible is ‘the helmet of the Savior.’ In other words, we put on Christ himself. Christ protects our heads (and our whole beings) from spiritual death.

Head, symbolically in the Bible, tends to mean the whole person. It’s the most essential part of a person, in Scripture. People would place their hands on the head of a person when that person was being blessed (Matthew 19:15). Curses would fall on someone’s head (Genesis 49:26). When Jesus crushes the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15) he delivers a deadly blow. By destroying the head of the serpent, He essentially destroys him completely. 

Therefore, Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:17 that we must protect the head at all costs by taking up the helmet of salvation.  Paul essentially putting on salvation is the action of putting on Jesus.

In Isaiah 59:17 (NLT) he says, “He put on righteousness as his body armor and placed the helmet of salvation on his head.” In the Roman army, the helmet would go on last. Why not first? After all, if a soldier experienced head injury, his ability to fight in the battle would be neutralized.

Remember that early on we discussed that our righteousness comes to us through God himself. Well Salvation is a protection that comes only from the Lord. We cannot ‘put it on;’ he puts salvation on us. However, we do have to put on a helmet of salvation every day.

In other words, the devil likes to plague us with doubts about our salvation, inject worldly ideas and have us focus on what does not matter instead of eternity.  Paul tells us in Romans 12:1-2 the importance of renewing and transforming our minds every day.

Therefore, before we enter any battlefield, and every day is a spiritual battlefield, we need to ensure we put on this helmet. But how?

We need to refresh our memory every day by staying in Scripture, pray during all circumstances, and remember who has the ultimate victory.

Satan wants to keep us trapped in the here and now. We see awful tragedies on the news, we encounter doubts, and we worry that we’ve lost our salvation. But in times like these, we must renew our trust in the Lord. 

We must remember that if because it is the God of the universe who will save when we’ve put our trust in Him, then He will not abandon us to the punishment of hell.  We read this promise from in both Psalm 16:10 and again in Acts 2:27 in the NLT about God’s promise of salvation and eternal life: “For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.”

The helmet of salvation protects us from that. The helmet has a purpose in assuring us of salvation. It helps us when we enter the battlefield of the mind, where the devil can deal harsh, sometimes fatal blows. 

If the devil plagues us with doubts about our eternal standing, of course we are going to be susceptible on the battlefield. Of course, we will not spend time spreading the Gospel through the sword of the spirit, because we’re busy nursing head injuries.

Today let us all put on this helmet of salvation and look to the One who started the work of redemption and will one day complete it.

 



July 30, 2021


The Shield of Faith

Ephesians 6:16 (GNT) – “At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One.”

The fourth piece of the whole armor of God that Paul discusses in Ephesians 6 and that is the shield of faith. Paul tells us that we must take up the shield of faith to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. To have faith is to believe God created the world and sent His only Son to die for our sins so we might have eternal life.

The shield of faith as with all the pieces of armor were designed to be always worn. The shield of the Roman soldiers was used as a form of protection. It was worn strapped to the soldiers arm so that the it could be available at any time. It could be used to deflect attacks and it could be used as an offensive weapon to knock enemies over with force. 

Let’s think about this in relationship to our Christian faith in spiritual warfare. In Hebrews 11:1 we have this truth about faith: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. We have been given this boldness and confidence to approach God, through faith in Jesus Christ. He has made the way, by His death and resurrection, for us to be reconciled to God. We can come to an approachable and relational God, who is attentive to us, because of Jesus’ sacrifice. What greater encouragement could there be of God’s love for us! We receive, by faith, a fresh revelation of His love, and renewed strength. For God’s Word promises that when we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.

Even though we cannot physically see God, He has manifested Himself through creation. Paul wrote in Romans 1:20 (GNT) that “Ever since God created the world, his invisible qualities, both his eternal power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things that God has made. So those people have no excuse at all!” Therefore, our faith in Him is based on this truth.  If we have faith in Christ, this will influence the way we live. Our faith can guard us during trials in the same way a shield would during battle. For example, when doubt creeps in and our beliefs are questioned, our faith in Christ will protect us. We can stand firm in knowing what we believe. The author of Hebrews reminded the early Christians and us that to endure the adversity and persecution like those listed in Chapter 11’s Hebrews Hall of Faith.  They testify to God’s faithfulness, that He will see us through all the ups and downs of life.

In addition to our faith shield guarding us in battle, the shield of faith can protect us when we experience anxiety and fear. Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” If we have faith in God’s promises, we do not need to fear.

It is important to realize that doubt, fear, and anxiety are the tactics of our enemy. Taking up the shield of faith will protect us and allow us to fight back against these attacks. In addition, as the body of Christ, we can help each other to grow stronger in our faith by living in community.

Today let us apply the concept of the shield of faith to our lives. Remember that when we put our faith in Christ, we are unstoppable.

 


July 23, 2021


Put on the Shoes of Readiness!

Ephesians 6: 15 (NRSV) – “As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.”

We know that Paul uses the illustration of the Whole Armor of God to emphasize our need as Christians to prepare ourselves for spiritual warfare in the same way that the Roman soldiers prepared to face their enemy in battle.

During the time of the apostle Paul, the shoes worn by the soldiers of the Roman Empire were specifically designed to keep soldiers’ feet healthy during the rigors of long forced marches and were very different from the sandals worn by most of the people.

These shoes were constructed from three layers of leather, which were pulled up and laced around the ankle. This helped protect against blisters and foot diseases. In addition, small spikes or iron hobnails were often driven into the soles of the shoes to give firm footing on uneven terrain.

Paul does not use this historical information haphazardly. He understands the importance of peace in the life of a Christian soldier, and how much we need the shoes as well as the other elements of the armor, such as the sword or shield. 

Paul is teaching us the importance of proper preparation for us to proclaim the gospel of Christ. Preparation means having a firm foundation or solid knowledge of something. In this case, preparation is knowing Jesus and the Peace of His Word.

As Christians, we are called to share the good news of Christ with others. Having our shoes fitted with the gospel of peace allows us to do this successfully. Our shoes equip us to walk through rough areas. In the same way, having hope in Jesus helps us walk through the trials we face. John 16:33 says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Like Roman footwear, these shoes protect us on the spiritual battlefield. A barefoot soldier will likely encounter debris or rough patches of ground, which will throw his fighting off course. 

So, what can throw off our peace of mind? Or throw off our peace about our circumstances? The answer is: any of the devil’s schemes. The devil, during any day, can hurl debris like family feuds, job insecurity, friendship betrayals, or any other rocky situation at us in a way that can weaken our resolve and steal our peace and our strength.

John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” With God’s strength, we can be brave in sharing our faith with others. Jesus already defeated death, so we do not need to be afraid.

In other words, we are to advance onto the battlefield unafraid, because we carry with us the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection. No matter what debris the enemy throws as us, amidst the war and chaos, we know God has everything under control and that his plan cannot be overcome by the devil. 

So, putting on every part of the armor of God is important, including fitting our feet. No matter how much the earth gives way, God gives us these shoes of the good news of peace to help us stand our ground, to stand together, and to advance effectively. 


July 16, 2021

The Breastplate of Righteous: Put it on!

Ephesians 6:14b (TPT) – “Put on holiness as the protective armor that covers your heart.”

Ephesians 6:14b ((NKJV) – “having put on the breastplate of righteousness,”

Today we focus on the second piece of the armor of God that Paul discusses in Ephesians 6: the breastplate of righteousness.  The piece of the armor of a Roman soldier, the breastplate, served as protection for some of the most important parts of the body. Just under this breastplate were the vital organs needed to sustain life: the heart, the lungs and the parts need to support the respiratory and the circulatory systems.  Without this vital piece of the armor a soldier was vulnerable to an attack that could result in instant death.

Paul uses this illustration of the breastplate of righteousness in a soldier’s armor to help us to see the need to protect ourselves with righteousness so that we do not open ourselves up to attack from the enemy and thereby fall into sin.

When Paul compares the armor of God with military gear, each piece represents a part of God’s strength that He extends to us when we become His children. 2nd Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) says “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. The breastplate of righteousness then refers to the righteousness purchased for us by Jesus at the cross.  In the same way that a soldier going into battle is issued a breastplate to wear God has issued   a “breastplate” to every born-again Christian. This breastplate of righteousness protects our heart and soul from evil and deception. We know that we have a sin nature, and that Satan wants to exploit that nature so that it gets in the way of our living an upright life. When we decide to live based on our own desires instead of God’s, we make decisions that are harmful to ourselves and others. Romans 8:6 (NLT) says, “So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”

Our own righteous acts are no match for Satan’s attacks (Isaiah 64:6). The breastplate of righteousness has Christ’s name stamped on it, as though He said, “I have covered all of your vital parts against the devil.”
So, how do we put on this breastplate of righteousness? We can start by being knowledgeable of God’s Word, which will allow us to understand how to live a righteous life. When trials and temptation come our way, we can base our decisions in His Word.

In addition, through prayer, we can ask God to empower us to resist living in sin and to do what is right according to Him. 1 John 3:22 says, “And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey and do the things that please him.”

As Christians, we can put on the breastplate of righteousness in our daily lives. In becoming aware of the decisions, we make, we can determine whether they are based in God’s Word. In addition, we can ask Him to give us the strength to live righteously. Ultimately, this will allow us to withstand attacks from the enemy and live a life that glorifies Christ.

 

Our righteousness is a choice that we make when we choose to obey God’s commandments and live in a way that is honorable to Him. Psalm 106:3 says, “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!” Let us make every effort to put on the righteousness that Jesus secured for us.


July 9, 2021

The Belt of Truth

Ephesians 6:14 (NIV) – Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,

As we begin looking at the parts of our spiritual armor that Paul describes for us in Ephesians 6:10-18, the apostle Paul lists the belt of truth as the first element in a Christian’s armor against evil.

Paul who was known for his military and athletic illustrations, again does this here when he references this belt of truth. Historically a belt was not the accessary that we may think of today.  The belt has held a significant place in history.  When a Roman soldier wore a belt around the waist it was a vital piece of their armor. From their belt hung all the tools that that a soldier needed to defend himself in battle.  The belt had strips of armor hanging from it to protect the lower portions of the body. If a soldier did not have this thick belt secured correctly, if it went crooked, he put his own life on the line in the heat of the battle. battlefield.  If a soldier did not take proper care with how he fastened this belt, he could very well not be able to get to his weapons when they were needed.  properly secured, he would have limited use of weapons, which could cause the enemy to deliver a fatal blow.

What is Paul telling all of us Christian soldiers about the importance of the belt of truth and the proper way to handle this belt of truth? Paul is saying that for the Christian soldier’s belt of truth means that "honesty," "truthfulness," "integrity," and "sincerity" surrounds every part of our life.

God is our Savior, and our hope is in Him throughout the day and night. How important therefore to learn the ways of the Lord. How vital to discover which paths He would have us to follow. And the Word of God is a light to our path and a lamp to illumine the way that God would have us tread. The Word of God is an instruction manual to teach us His ways, as well as a love-letter to all His children. The Word of God is the absolute truth that we must use to cover ourselves and offers us protection against Satan and all of his attacks and attempts to take our focus off God.

Through God Truth, we are to separate ourselves from the self-absorbed, anything goes and anti-biblical way of living, and rather we are to rest in utter dependence on the Lord, Himself, as we submit to the leading and guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Jesus defined Himself as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He also defined the Word of God as truth: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). In a world that drifts without absolutes, these words are an anchor! Jesus Christ and the Bible (the Word of God) represent absolute truth!

Jesus explained, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” If the belt was a central part of the Roman soldier’s identity, then taking up the belt of truth tells us that truth ought to be a central part of our identity.

The belt of truth is designed to encircle us. As a support for holding our sword, the Word of God, protects us and keeps us safe.  Truth allows us to follow God without deviating from the right path.

Today each of us has a decision to make.  Putting on the armor of God means dedication ourselves to the truth that ultimately comes from God and then trusting God to guide our steps along the way.

Will you put on the belt of truth?


July 2, 2021

Put on the Whole Armor of God!

Ephesians 6:10-11 (NKJV) – Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 

For July, we are going to focus our devotional thoughts on what the Bible has to say about the Whole Armor of God. We will focus on each piece of the armor and additional supporting scriptures during this month.

First, we need to understand the first command to Put on The. Whole Armor of God. This is an important truth to understand and apply. It is not just for children’s coloring pages with a cute soldier in full armor. It is after all, a command in the Bible, to put on the Whole Armor of God.

Together as we look at the words of Ephesians and our supporting scriptures for each piece of armor, I pray that the Lord will shed light on what the armor of God in Ephesians 6 really is and how we can put it on.

God has given us with the protective armor that we need to fight the spiritual battles that we will encounter.  It is so important for us to be aware daily that Satan wants to poison our thoughts and emotions away from the purity of God's truth? His attacks center in two areas: our mind and our emotions. In John 8:44 (GNT), Jesus describes Satan in this way: There is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he is only doing what is natural to him, because he is a liar and the father of all lies. Jesus warns us that we face the onslaught of the Devil in the realm of lies vs. truth daily. That means to stand for the Lord today we must arm ourselves for battle.

Putting on the whole armor of God is not about a technique or paying attention to darkness and evil. It is not about a prayer, a spiritual experience, or encouraging ourselves in our hard times.  To put on the full armor of God means that we apply all of the Gospel to all of our life.

The whole armor is the expression of our full trust in God and what He has done for us through Jesus Christ. Revelation 12:11 (NKJV) describes our victory in spiritual warfare like this: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Our   victory in spiritual warfare was secured at the cross of Christ and the blood that was shed there.

To understand where Paul is going in Ephesians chapter 6, we must take the whole of the first five chapters of Ephesians.  Paul tells us in chapters 1-3 about the position that we now have in Christ, the one who has secured our home in the heavenly places. 

Then in chapters 4 and 5 Paul describes how we are to walk or live as a follower of Jesus.  He ends this Epistle by instructing us how we are to stand even in the face of the lies and deceit of the evil one.

So, for us to put on the full armor of God is for us to act upon the blessings that we have received through Christ.  Ephesians 1:3(NLT) gives us this assurance: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”  

He gives us the belt of truth, body armor of righteousness, shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit. On Friday we will begin examining our first piece of the armor: the belt of truth. 


June 25, 2021

Be Obedient to the Sabbath Rest!

Hebrews 4:11- Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

We know that because of their disobedience and unbelief, the children of Israel did not enter into the rest that God had promised them. They treated the promises of God with disrespect and paid little heed to His Word. Today, like them, we are called to give diligence to enter into God's rest - but we are also warned not to go astray in our hearts, as they did.

Here in Hebrews the author writes about the Sabbath Rest promised to the people of God. We read in Hebrews 4:9-10 (NIV) that, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.” This rest is the same rest as God’s own rest in which He enjoys Himself and His work. We will also enjoy God and His work when we enter His rest. The author of Hebrews tells us that the rest of Canaan was only a type of the full rest to come (4:8). He also warns us that, like the first generation that left Egypt, the new covenant people of God include unbelievers who disobey the Lord, who will be cut off from His rest (v. 2). With this background, verse 11 tells us to strive to enter God’s rest so that we will not fall away like earlier generations of God’s people did.

This word translated as “strive” in verse 11 means to concentrate our energies on the achievement of a entering this rest. This kind of diligence is the opposite of the attitude that characterized the first generation of Israelites. The church must not follow the example of old covenant Israel and disobey the Word of God. Rather, we must diligently believe on Christ, or we will fall as the first generation of Israelites fell.

God has made every provision for us and has granted to us everything needed to grow in godliness.  We must learn to rest in the salvation that Christ has already won for us and the only way to do this is for us to be obedient to these provisions that God has made to grows us in godliness, the things that grow us in His image and likeness. God has given us promises that will come to pass for His people.  While all this is true, we are also told in 2nd Peter 1:5-8 that, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

With this verse in mind, let us remember that the lesson for us here is that there are some things in this Christian life in which we are to rest, to which we can contribute nothing.  We must not de-emphasize them but must put even greater emphasis on them in the Christian walk.  There is nothing, praise God, that you and I can add to Jesus Christ’s atonement.  For our sins. That is something to rest in.  There is nothing that we can add to, praise God, to the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  That is something to rest in.  There is nothing that we can add to the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ has ascended and sits at the right hand of God.  Whether we are believers or not, it is still true.  And whether we recognize the significance of that today for our life, it is still true.  And another truth for us to learn to rest in. Take note: the rest into which we are called to enter is a rest which we can experience today. Christ is our rest, and we are called to give diligence to obeying His teachings and enter into that rest - today.

We are called to remain in Him, to abide in Him, to rest in Him, to submit to Him - to depend utterly and entirely upon Him. At salvation we received peace WITH God. However, throughout our life on earth, we can receive the peace OF God, which passes all understanding.

The peace of God will guide our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, if we abide in Him, rest in Him, submit to Him -and utterly depend upon Him.



June 18, 2021

There is Victory in Obedience

Joshua 6:2-5 (NLT) – But the Lord said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors.  You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days.  Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns.  When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.”

Joshua 6:20, 27 (NLT) - When the people heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it. (27) – So the Lord was with Joshua, and his reputation spread throughout the land.

Joshua’s obedience to the Lord is unparalleled.   Not once do we see Joshua doubt, falter or waver in the Lord’s commands. Joshua actively and boldly acts out in obedience, yielding FULLY to the Spirit. Joshua’s obedience is an example of conviction by faith for all followers of Christ. Talk about being convicted! Joshua never allowed His own wants and needs or even those of the Israelites’ get in the way of God’s commands.  He outright listens to the Lord and puts actions to His commands right away.   

Too often we think that if we get it done it means that we were obedient. We like to think of obedience as happening in our own time frame. This is having a WRONG MENTALITY about obedience.  Delayed obedience is straight up disobedience. It shows a lack of trust towards the Lord on our part.

We know from the book of Joshua that the city of Jericho was actually Israel’s from the very day they began their first march around its massive walls. They had God’s promise, and that was the same as if Jericho already belonged to them, but they were unable to see the walls destroyed until they acted in obedience.

The powerful key to their great victory, in taking the city of Jericho, was not based upon Israel’s natural abilities, their military strategies, their wisdom, or their strength. It was based upon their trusting in God and walking in His promises.

We need to let our trust in God’s commands nudge us in the direction that God wants us to move and to do it wholeheartedly. Trust and obedience go hand in hand.  When we trust the Lord and trust that His ways are so much higher than our ways, we will be in a better state to obey Him, to fully yield just as Joshua did. We must understand when we delay and defer to our own will we are doubting God and there is no victory for us.  We must remember that because of the sovereignty of the God that we serve that He can work in ways outside of what we can see or imagine. (Outside of our control) By not surrendering and yielding we are telling God that we do not believe in His power to give us a victory.. OUR RESPONSIBILITY IS to always trust the Lord.  After all, He wants His people to fully commit to Him and believe that He is faithful to do as He says He will in our lives.   Are we listening to that voice?   Joshua was. And he trusted what he heard.   Joshua 5:15 says “And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, ‘Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.”   Joshua did so! Nowhere do we see a pause where He questioned or thought about other options he could pursue. HE DID IT!  Just like Joshua this should be our most reasonable response to God’s commands. Joshua was in total submission before the Lord which in turn led him to act in obedience when the Lord told Joshua to fight other cities because the Lord had already given him victory.  He did not doubt that. He trusted and obeyed.

We must understand that through our obedience that God has already prepared our victory just like He did for Joshua.  Don’t let ‘what ifs’ make us put off acting upon the commands that God gives to us. Decisiveness is important part of obedience. it is important to remember that before great things happen, we must already be in the obedient stage.

So, trust, claim, cling and live on the voice of the Lord and obey all He has to say. Because victory is already here. We just need to step out in faithful obedience. 


June 11, 2021

Obedience: God’s Plan and Purpose for us

Esther 4:14 (NLT) – If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

We have so often heard a part of this part of this passage from Esther quoted: “for just such a time as this. To me it means that God has put us on this earth at this time and has placed us where we are and with the people we are with for a reason.  

At the time that Esther’s uncle and mentor Mordecai speaks these words to the Queen the Jews still living in Babylon find themselves facing a certain death because of an enemy of the Jews named Haman. Haman convinced King Ahasuerus to issue a law calling for the annihilation of all the Jews. Mordecai and the rest of the Jews are distraught, and this leads Mordecai to ask Esther (who is also a Jew) to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish nation. Queen Esther is concerned that this request for an audience with the king could have deadly results because audiences with the king were done at the king’s discretion of the king.  We know that Queen Ester takes the risk and by her actions the people were all spared.

Our lesson in obedience from Mordecai and Queen Ester draws us to an important aspect of obedience. By obeying God, we as believers acknowledge that we all have a calling, a specific purpose that God has set before each of us.  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) confirms this call for us by telling us “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.”

Maybe God has you where you are in life so that you can be an influence on the people that you work with and go to school with. Maybe He brought on a major life-change that you weren’t expecting or wanting because He wanted you to be somewhere else to influence someone else. Maybe He has you where you are so that you can be more involved in ministries or Bible studies to strengthen your Faith. He may be opening and closing doors in your life because He is leading you to bigger and better things. If we are patient and are open to His calling, we can realize the plans He has for us and for the people we will influence. This verse in Esther is talking about when a woman in the Bible named Esther was told that “you were born for such a time as this” and in your life, you can make a difference where God has placed you.

God has given each of us a job, position, resources, education and more. God has opened opportunities to optimize His kingdom purposes. He did not place you or me where we are so we could post pictures on social media all day.  He has placed us wherever we are because we are in a battle, a war. You and I are in the middle of an epic conflict involving good versus evil.

We must not miss the opportunity to obey God on our kingdom assignment because we’ve become too caught up in our personal kingdom. That would be one of the greatest tragedies we could ever face. Remember God spoke to Mordecai when he says to Ester if she did not act that God would find another path to salvation for the Jews. None of us should be satisfied when we fail to do the work that God has set before us/ Remember that an entire nation was grateful for how Esther responded to Mordecai’s rebuke. Their lives were spared. How many souls can be spared in our community where we live today when we choose to step up to service by obeying the calling that God has placed in our lives, even when that call for obedient submission involves sacrifice?

We may not see the opportunity now, but if we stay willing and open to obey God’s calling, we will find so much fulfillment in His plans!

Maybe we were born “for such a time as this.”  This is the moment in time. This is the stage of life.


June 4, 2021

Obedience is BETTER THAN SACRIFICE!

1st Samuel 15:22 (NLT) - But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.

Welcome to our June scripture theme for this month: Obedience.  We begin our month with this month with these words written by Samuel who the answer to his barren mother Hannah’s prayers, and was dedicated to the Lord when he was a very small boy. Trained by Eli, Samuel succeeded Eli as the high priest and judge of Israel.  Samuel, though counted among the greatest of the judges, like Moses, is also numbered among the prophets.

When Samuel wrote these words, He was speaking to Israel’s first king, Saul. Saul had a form of godliness, but he openly chose to disobey God by reinterpreting scripture. He set out to fulfill his own selfish ends, rather than obeying God's word, and relying on the Lord to lead and guide him, in the governance of God’s people, Israel.

Saul’s thoughts of partial obedience is much like that of a child who when given a task to do, does not start in a timely manner nor finishes with any enthusiasm for getting the job done.  So, Samuel calls Saul out here because Saul was only willing to obey God in part and not totally submit himself or the people to the command given by God. (See 1st Samuel 15:1-21)

As with so much that is recorded in Jewish history, there are many lessons for us to learn and so many reasons to honor the Lord, to listen to His voice and to obey His word. And Samuel teaches us an important lesson with the simple truth, that to obey the word of the Lord our God, is better than offering Him sacrifices, and to heed the voice of the Spirit of God is more important than offering the fat of rams.

Obedience is very important to God because it implies a right relationship with Him as our loving Father. We are constantly in a battle with what we desire and what God requires. Total obedience is impossible for humans because of sin. Ever since the garden of Eden, God has been simultaneously reminding his children about the seriousness of sin but giving them a substitute in the form of sacrifice. Sacrifices were never meant to be an end in themselves but pointed to the foretold coming of Jesus, who through his perfect life and sacrificial death once and for all made atonement for sin and empowered those born of Him to love, which represents the sum total of obedience to God’s commands and is also how we obey them. Because of his obedience, we can obey, offering our very lives as “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” as our “spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

Jesus said to his disciples the book of John: “‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Elsewhere, John says: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3). God’s commands are given because he loves us.

Listening to the voice of God, reading the Word of God and trusting completely in God’s leading is the obedience that God desires for His children.

There is a song written by Lynn Keesecker titled: “Yes, Lord, Yes.  The song goes like this.

I'll say, "Yes, Lord, yes"
To Your will and to your way
I'll say, "Yes, Lord, yes"
I will trust You and obey
When your Spirit speaks to me
With my whole heart I'll agree
And my answer will be, "Yes, Lord, yes"

As we continue to look at our call to obedience let the words of this hymn be daily reminder to us to say to the work of God, the will of God and the way of God: “Yes, Lord, Yes.” 


May 28, 2021

Godly Friends are Prayer Warriors!

James 5:16 (NLT) – “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

It’s wonderful to have great friends who love to hang out, eat good food, share the joys and sorrows of life, and see you at your worst and yet love you.

But, in our study this month we are looking beyond these qualities and activities that we have with our friends.  God has inspired James to write to tell us to look beyond these qualities that go beyond the worldly bonds of friendship and to see that it is of the utmost importance to have a circle of friends that includes godly friends who are prayer warriors, because when you get to your breaking point, there are some things that only prayer can change. Here are some reasons that we must have godly friends who are prayer warriors.

We find it so helpful to have friends who are resourceful and can help us to fix, find and accomplish things that we might not otherwise get done, especially the things that cause us to feel stressed out. But no matter how many resources one has, at some point we all will face the kind of trouble that cannot be fixed or figured out in and of our own power. In these cases, a prayer warrior will know exactly where to go to get answers: they take their lead from Hebrews 4:16 and know when to go to the throne of grace and James says that the “earnest prayer of a righteous person produces great results.”  

Godly friends are led by faith. Notice that James says that we should confess our sins to each other as a part of the healing process that we all need.  But before this James tells us that: Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. you need someone who will trust the Lord and come into agreement with you. We do not want to connect to someone too small-minded, negative and pessimistic to encourage our faith. A prayer warrior will say, I believe with you too, and then, they’ll cover you in prayer.  

A consecrated person is dedicated to the Lord which makes them spiritually stronger and more in tune with Him. We call people like this “prayed up.” And one thing we know about prayed up folks is that they know how to get a prayer up. You can call them in difficult and desperate times, and they will always stand ready to intercede for you. Their prayers are effective because a consecrated person is in right-standing with God (James 5:16).

Godly friends know that we cannot be strong all the time.  Therefore, James says that when we are sick and too weak to pray that we need to call on the elders of the church (a godly friend in Christ because there are seasons when we will be too sick, grieved, depressed, lost or confused to pray. In such weak and vulnerable moments, you need a friend of God to call on who will hold you up in prayer and ask God to give you supernatural strength.

A prayer warrior is spiritually minded. They pray from a biblical perspective and positively influence your life choices. When we get too upset, discouraged, or feel like quitting altogether, they’ll remind us to seek God first and to obey His word, and they’ll pray on our behalf.

When James says the effectual or earnest prayer of a godly friend, he means that they will speak God’s Word over you. Our godly friends know that Scripture teaches us to know and fulfill God's will. Psalm 1:2 says that our godly friends meditate on the word of God day and night.  They maintain an open channel to God and can help us get back on track and stay on track because of their desire to see us lay ourselves at the feet of Jesus ad to know His heart.

We all need those friends that we like to call “prayed up.” And one thing we know about prayed up folks is that they know how to get a prayer up.  I pray that God leads each of us to desire and to pray for godly friends who are truly effectual, fervent prayer warriors. 


May 21, 2021

Godly Friends Keep It Real!

Romans 12:9-10 (NLT) - Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.

We have so much fake stuff in the 21st century that is frequently passed off for the real thing. As a matter of fact we have coined a new phrase in the urban dictionary “knock off.” A ‘knock off’ is a copy of an original brand, often priced dramatically lower than authentic version. Commonly, the designs will have been altered a bit, or they will appear the exact same, but some small detail may prove they are not authentic. We pass off many things as real. But here in Roman Paul is saying: real love should not be one that substitutes for the real thing.

The five verses from Romans 12:9 to 12:13 contain 13 exhortations. As we look at our godly friendships, we look at five here today starting with: “Don’t pretend to love others.” Paul says that if it isn’t love then, it is hypocrisy. He said in 1st Corinthians 13:6 that love “rejoices with the truth.” But hypocrisy is all about falsehood, concealment, deceit, cloaking, misleading, hiding. Hypocrisy is the opposite of loving the truth. So, it is the opposite of love. So, Paul says, that we must love with a love that is genuine.

Love must be real – absolutely true. My dictionary states that “genuine” means “Not affected, or hypocritical; frank, sincere, true.” Paul says that a godly friend ditches flattery and speaks the truth in love not to hurt but full of compassion. Love cannot just be sentiment, but we must commit also to self-giving help and service to others and to pray for them. Love must be genuine!

Paul goes on to tell us that true love hates evil.  We must vehemently agree with God in what He condemns and pray for strength and grace never to do anything against God’s will. And if we would be like Christ, we must be forgiving and gracious to the sinner, only hating the sin, not the sinner; for which of us is not a sinner? Jesus set us the example on the cross when He poured out love on His enemies, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Then Paul says we are to hug the truth. This is a joyful instruction – doing this will steady our lives. We need to determine that what God has said is good for us, and because God knows better than we do, what He says is what we will do! For all that God has written in His Word teaches us what He considers “good,” and we are to treasure it, embrace it, cling tightly to it, hug all His commands to our minds and hearts, and discipline ourselves to actually do what He has told us to do. Friends who do this will guide us to wise choices and help bring us indescribable blessing from our Heavenly Father, and that include our salvation.

Then Paul’s last instruction in today’s verses, from Romans 12:10 says: “Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other. I love this command!!! It’s not something that we turn our attention to often enough! What would it mean to outdo others in showing them honor?  Godly friends always look for the good characteristics and behaviors and service of others and commend them for it.  It would mean that I would always encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ in all they do for our Lord – and help them if they need it. It would mean that I would speak well of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and praise God for their part in serving God.

Paul says that it is time for us to jump into loving our godly friends with a real love. Keep it real!


May 14, 2021

Godly Friends are there for Hard Times

Galatians 6:2 (NIV) - Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.

It is thought that in the United States that an estimated 18 million people are providing care for chronically ill relatives and friends. Those who shoulder the burden of caregiving know that it often feels like an impossible task.

How can we help each other when the load seems too heavy to bear? Paul gave these simple, straightforward instructions to the Christians at Galatia: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)

What does Scripture mean when it tells us that we are to carry each other’s burdens? It means that we bear the weight that would be too great for a person who is already under a unbearable weight.  Paul says that when we are that person, we step in so that those who have been doing all the heavy lifting can find relief.  When we are aware of someone who must constantly be with a relative, we can take his or her place for an hour or even for an afternoon. Taking a caregiving buddy to lunch or a ballgame gives them a much-needed break and someone to talk to.

In Rosalyn Carter’s book Helping Yourself Help Others, the former first lady writes, “There are only four kinds of people in this world: Those who have been caregivers. Those who currently are caregivers. Those who will be caregivers. Those who will need caregivers. That pretty much covers us all.”

To “bear one another’s burdens” means to share another’s sufferings in a practical way. Fulfilling “the law of Christ” includes joyful, unselfish service of love.

Hang around Christians long and you’re likely to hear the word “fellowship.” It comes from the Greek word koinania, and in the New Testament it often denotes “sharing,” “close association,” or “mutual participation.” But what makes Christian fellowship distinctively Christian?

I believe that it is the way that we come together on one accord.  A Christian brother or sister understands that we are a community of believers and that as we are friends of Christ, we are also friends with each other in the body of Christ.  As worry and anxiety arise in our daily walk, we turn to God first and foremost for our strength. But within the body of Christ, friends and family have cared enough to help each other during a crisis. We realize that we do not have to go through these trials alone but could turn to their church and community.

We are like the plants in a garden. Some plants, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, or green beans,  need extra support in order to thrive. Their flowers or fruits are usually too heavy for the plant to support, and sometimes that fruit could rot if it touches the soil or scald if not protected by foliage.

The solution to this is staking. A branch, a length of bamboo, or even a store-bought stake will work. Gardeners simply take a thin strip of cloth and, at intervals, tie the plant to the stake. Whatever staking system is used, the function is the same: provide extra support to the plant when its blooms and fruit are more than the plant itself can bear.

This is how it is when friends in the body of Christ bear one another’s burdens.  Take not that burden bearing is reciprocal.  No one is only meant to be a burden bearer because all of us will have trials. This is the beauty of the body of Christ in that no one is meant to bear their burdens all alone. Godly Friends are there for Hard Times. They come alongside another person, link arms, and take on some of the load. They are like the plants that need to be staked to hold up under the weight of the fruit that God wants them to bear. We are so much stronger together. Let’s look around and see who is weakening under the weight of a burden, and let’s carry it for them. It might be as simple as having dinner delivered to their door but the relief from carrying that burden will be unmeasurable. 

When we work together as a Body in this way, every need will be addressed and met!

 


May 7, 2021

A True Friend is Like Super Glue

Proverbs 18:24 NLT - There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 22:11 (GNT) If you love purity of heart and graciousness of speech, the king will be your friend.

We spent the month of April looking at some of the Biblical teaching on how God wants us to use our words not just to each other but to Him as our Father. Psalm 19:14, NLT: "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer" really lead us to consider the way that we speak.

As we have come to the month of May, I felt a pull from God to search Scripture on the topic of Godly friendship. We know that God created us to be in fellowship one to another. The Bible has a lot to say about godly friendships and why we should pursue them.

Friendships are important to living as God intended. It is important, however, to point out Scripture that helps us discern between good and negative types of friendships and how pursuing the wrong types of friends can pull us away from God. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not friends influence us whether we want them to or not. We should seek to have Most of us do not like the idea of accountability, but the truth is that we need it.  Every one of us needs a friend who will tell us when we are derailing out own spiritual train. You know how we have joking said that a person doesn’t have any real friends when we see them dress, speak, behave in a way that is contrary to the person that we believe they are on the inside.  We are saying that a true friend (another believer) never lets us go down a path does not also reflect our relationship with God. 

So, we begin with this tidbit of wisdom from the book of Proverbs that tells us that friends are rare. A goal in Solomon’s Proverbs is for us to grow in favor with God and men, which is a choice on our part to have desirable character and conduct. Solomon says in Proverbs 22:11 that it is only natural that a friendly person will attract friends but here he warns that because of friendliness it is possible to mistake acquaintances as friends, even those in high positions like the king. Solomon as king realized that all those that he was friendly toward were not true friends.  If true abiding Christian friends were common, they would not be so special. Solomon goes on in Proverbs 18:24 to give us one of the characteristics of a godly friend. He basically states that great friends are better than family, for they will stick closer than any mere blood relative. Our brothers or sisters did not choose us, but a true friend that comes along side us through the bond we have in Christ choose us for the best reasons. They will be with us and for us because they love like Christ loves. They do not move on without but rather move forward with us.

God knows that navigating this world can be hard.  He wants to provide us support systems that point the way to Him.  He knows there will be great sorrow and great joy and He wants us to not only walk with Him but also supply godly friendships to carry us through.

Friendships are such an important part of living a healthy life. We were created to be in community with others and to do life together. I pray that as we move through our Scripture this month that we will seek to be that friend and to value that friend who reflects God in our lives. I pray with you and for you that God brings you more godly friendships!


April 30, 2021

Believe It – Speak It

Mark 11:23 (GNT) - I assure you that whoever tells this hill to get up and throw itself in the sea and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.

There’s power in your words. When you speak words of faith, awesome things can happen. In Mark 11:23 when Jesus taught about faith, He stressed the importance of what you say. Real faith not only believes, but it speaks what it believes. The world would have us believe words are not that important. They think we can just say anything, and it does not matter, that "it's just talk!"

But the Bible teaches that our words are extremely important. Here are just a few verses on the subject. Proverbs 18:21 NIV 21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Matthew 12:37 NIV 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

Romans 10:10 NIV 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

The question is how do we begin to speak words that are faith-filled.  It is a certainty that if we cannot speak in faith, we also cannot pray over our circumstances in faith. We must begin by seeing our circumstance through eyes of faith. The woman with the issue of blood, could see the end of her illness when she said the words: If only I can touch the hem of His garment. (Matthew 9:20–22, Mark 5:25–34, Luke 8:43–48). She had a vision in her mind’s eye where she was made whole by God’s touch.  Then she spoke to that vision.

Once we see something in our mind’s eye, it’s a lot easier to speak faith over it. So, if we can imagine it happening, you can speak it into existence. As children of God, and His representatives here on earth, all our words should also be in agreement with God's will (revealed in the Bible).

Scripture tells us that we, as Believers, have the same spirit, the same power, and the same potential as Jesus Christ within us through His Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of Faith that lives within all Believers. What this means is that the faith that David, Samson, Daniel, Peter, and Paul had, you and I have the very same.

There are two parts to the Spirit of Faith. There is a believing part, and there is also a speaking part. You cannot have one part without the other. Scripture calls all Believers to speak, or proclaim with confidence and authority, the good news of Jesus Christ. Yet so often, some of us make Jesus our Lord and Savior and then stop there. But even Jesus told His disciples that we will do works even greater than the ones that they were witnessing. The problem is, nothing will happen if we do not proclaim the words, the promises, and the truths of God to every situation in front of us.

As we have read in Tuesday’s devotional thoughts, that we are called to say what God says about us. We are called to talk about our situation the way that God talks. We are supposed to speak in agreement with what God says. When we know that God is speaking to us and through us, we have been given with the gift to change and speak to a circumstance through the power of God working through us.  The best way for us to align ourselves with what God is speaking to us through prayer, worship, and reading His Word. When we read His word, meditate upon it, and ask His Spirit to reveal and speak to us, He does! When we reach out to Him, He will always be faithful to reach back. Through that, our faith grows, and we find our voice in Him.

Let our focus this week be to nourish the Spirit of Faith that is within us and begin to speak out His truths and promises over all situations we may face and the situations that others are facing as well. Believe it and speak it!


April 23, 2021

Speak Continuous Praise

Psalm 34:1 (NLT) – “I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart.”

Praise is one kind of offering we bring to God, giving him the best of our heart and soul. It’s a way to give God our full focus and acknowledge he is the One we will follow and obey.

Praising God keeps our eyes fixed on him, instead of our problems. It allows God to step in to shelter us from the storm, fight our battles, and deliver us from our troubles. God’s glory shines brightest when we praise him, overcoming our enemies. 

It is a law of nature that our thoughts and feelings are encouraged and strengthened as we give them utterance. While words express thoughts, it is also true that thoughts follow words. If we would give more expression to our faith, rejoice more in the blessings that we know we have, like the great mercy and love of God, we should have more faith and greater joy. No tongue can express, no simple mind can conceive, the blessing that results from appreciating the goodness and love of God. Even on earth we may have joy as a source, never failing, because it is fed by the stream that flows from the throne of God.

So, let us educate our hearts and lips to speak the praise of God for His matchless love. Let us educate our souls to be hopeful and to abide in the light shining from the Christ’s work on the cross at Calvary. We should we forget that we are children of the heavenly King, sons, and daughters of the Lord of hosts. It is our privilege to maintain a calm resting place in God.

In Psalm 34:1-2, David gives us instruction on how we should be praising God. This Psalm was penned by David during the time he pretended to be insane in front of Abimelech, who sent him away. David’s sets for us the necessity of praise in all things and in all circumstances.

First David says that we should speak praise continually: “I will praise the Lord at all times.” Praise God through all times, the good and the bad. Praise him even when you don’t feel like it. Make praise a constant part of the spoken word of our prayers every day.

Then we are to praise God openly.  Speaking God’s praise is not just for you, but it is a declaration on our part about the goodness and faithfulness of God. Do not just praise God in private and then go out and speak words of complaint, blame, or despair. Let your praise so fill your heart that it spills out into your conversations. Praise God publicly and openly, even as you talk about the trials you are facing.

Then in verse 2 of Psalm 34, David says to praise God heartily: “I will boast only in the Lord.” Praise with all your heart and all your soul. Don’t just give lip service to your praise, reading a prayer or saying some words of praise. Let it permeate your soul so that you are praising with sincerity. Give all the praise to God, giving him the credit for everything. Do not just praise God on one side and then on the other give glory to yourself, your solutions, or other worldly gains. 

It is easier to praise God when life is going well, but how do you praise God on those days you don’t feel like it? How do you raise a hallelujah when life is hard? In Hebrews 13:15 it says that praise is a sacrifice:

“Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.”  Praise is a sacrifice. It takes intention to give God your praise, so decide to turn your heart to continuous praise. As we do, our love for God will grow, and praise will be on our lips always!


April 16, 2021

Speak in Love and Truth

Ephesians 4:15 (NLT) – Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.  

We have heard it said that truth is the light of the world but is often used as a cover-up for speaking the truth in a way that is not always motivated by love. The same can be said for the phrase constructive criticism. These phrases suggest that we will be providing feedback in a manner that acknowledges both the positives and where there is room for improvement instead of solely focusing on the negatives. Yet there are times when we tell people the truth, no matter how kind we are, they don’t react well. We like to think people are objective and rational, yet when the truth steps on their pride, insecurity, or idols, watch out!

Here, Paul gives us a common quote among Christians: "Speak the truth in love." It is also one of the greatest challenges of being Christian. Even those unfamiliar with the Christian faith and this scripture verse battle with balancing truth and love. It is why the "white lie” a common tactic to avoid sharing unflattering truths to loved ones is so popular.

Paul says in verse 14 of chapter 4 that as we grow in our relationship with Christ, that we will “no longer be immature like children.”  When we speak in truth with love, we are on our way to reaching maturity.  We can decide to always tell the truth, but our words can be so harsh and unkind that others are crushed and lose confidence in wanting to share their ideas and gifts with us. On the other hand, we can be so fearful of hurting someone’s feelings that we never confront wrong behavior or tell people when they have made a mistake. Proverb 28:23 (NLT) states that, “In the end, people appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.”

So, what exactly does it mean for us to speak the truth in love? Many, if not all, of us have been on the receiving end of hurtful remarks made by a brother or a sister under the guise of speaking the truth in love. Does Ephesians 4:15 give us the right to hurt others with the things that we say just because they are true? Does it mean that we should always make the truth known in every situation and never remain silent under any circumstance?

If love is what is driving us to speak to others, we will, first, be concerned about how we speak. We will seek to watch the words that we use as well as the attitudes, motives, and tones of voices with which we speak them. We will strive not to give offense by the way we speak the truth. This is precisely what Solomon is talking about in Proverbs 15:1: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Second, if love drives us to speak to others, we will also exercise restraint in the truth that we choose to speak. We will recognize that “speaking the truth in love” sometimes means saying nothing at all, as it seems to on at least two occasions in the life and ministry of Jesus. Both Matthew 5:38–40 and 27:11–14 teach us that there are times when it is better for us to remain silent rather than to speak the truth, either because the individual involved is not yet ready to hear the truth or because saying it would do more harm than good.

Whatever the reason may be, the point is that love for others ought to cause us to think very carefully about what we say before we say it. We need to examine our intentions. Are we chiefly concerned for the best interest of the other person? Or is it a selfish desire to clear the air or get things off our chest?

No doubt, there are times when the best interests of others will require us to speak the truth in ways that may sting. But we need to be incredibly careful and very prayerful in those situations and in every situation to ensure, as much as we can, that we are motivated by love and not by selfish pride. Let the words of Paul in 1st Corinthians 16:14 (NLT) be our guide: “And do everything with love.” Jesus did everything in love and because He is our model, we are called to do the same! 


April 9, 2021

Speak No Evil Tell No Lies!

Psalm 34:12-14 (NLT) Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous?  Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.

David writes to us in Psalm 34 about living the good life in God.  David begins this psalm with these words, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad” (v. 1-2).  Then in verse 8 David writes: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”   All these words that David writes to us involve using our words for good, for praise, for glorifying God in the way that we speak to God about God and for God in all that we do. The David writes in verses 12-14 that the good life, the life that is full of good days is the life that remembers God, the life that is set on Him. 

So, the question here is how would you describe the way you talk? Are your words positive, constructive, comforting, supportive, and uplifting? Or are the words that come out of your mouth most often cutting, negative, and hurtful? To see good life, we should live lives marked by careful speech that is free from evil and lies. Christians are called to speak what is good and what is true.

God reminds us that our words and the way we use our speech greatly impact the quality of life we enjoy. Nothing cuts short a vibrant life like evil speech and lies we tell. They set loose a force of deception and damage that we cannot control. The power of these unleashed words not only damages those about whom and to whom we speak, but they eventually they act like a boomerang and come back and bring their deadly poison back into our own lives. Paul warns us in Ephesians 4:25-32 not to grieve the Holy Spirit in our speech: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.  And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” 

The Bible makes it truly clear in Matthew 12:36 (NIV) that we need to be careful about the things that we say: “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words, you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

We all need to give a little more thought to what we say before we say it. “Speech acceptable to God (Biblical speech) involves applying God’s Word to our lives daily. For all believers, this means that we allow the principles of scripture to influence our words and how we use them. It means we build people up; it means we use words of challenge in loving ways, and it means we use words of grace.

Proverbs 21:23 (NIV) gives good advice: “He who guards his mouth, and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” Griping, grumbling, or complaining does not accomplish anything. When we focus on engaging in this kind of talk, we distance ourselves from the good life and it almost always results in our feeling worse than we would have if we had not said anything.  

Then Titus 3:2 (NIV) instructs us “to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.”

My prayer is that we speak according to God’s Word, that our behavior and our words reflect our devotion to God. We need to pay attention to the way we conduct ourselves! Our words impact our lives, the lives of others, and our relationship with God. Commit yourself to studying God’s Word and applying his principles to your speech. May our words be acceptable to you God each day! 


April 2, 2021

Words Acceptable to God

Psalm 19:14 (NKJV) - Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer.

Welcome to April and our scripture focus for this month: Words Acceptable to God.  We must consider that God weighs the very words that proceed from our mouth and examines the motives that are manufactured within our heart, for nothing is hidden from Him. How important it becomes that our speech should reflect all that God is to us in our daily walk with Him.  Our words should be seasoned with salt; full of grace and truth and glorifying to His holy name.

There is a story in the Bible of a centurion who had a sick servant who asked Jesus to heal him. He believed that Jesus only had to “speak the word” and his servant would be healed (Matthew 8:8). The Bible also says in Matthew 15:11 that “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Many of us have suffered with Reverend Kirk Franklin as the profanity laced audio call between, he and his son were made public.  Rather than crucify Kirk, we all need to say to ourselves “there but by the grace of God go I” because we all know that there is the potential for Satan to sift our minds and shift our focus from godly meditation and the result of that momentary lapse can devastate us because we thought we had grown beyond that kind of knee-jerk reaction.  We have to do all that we can to guard the new being that we have become through Christ that could make those around us question our commitment to having our minds and heart fixed and focused on God.  

The only time that I have heard this in passage from Psalms used has typically preceded preparation for teaching or for preaching.  I have used this passage to remind myself and to call on God to not let anything come out of my mouth that God would not approve.  The words in this one verse should make us mindful of the words that come out of our mouths. It also reminds me of Proverbs 18:21 (NLT), “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”

We all need to think about the key lesson of this verse that the Psalmist writes to us.  We need to think about the things that we are asking God for or the situations where we need God to act on your behalf. The Psalmist says that he is praying that the words that come from his mouth would be pleasing to God.  Think about how your words affect your friends, your co-workers, your parents, children, church members, your spouse.  Would God be pleased, or will your words only bring a selfish moment of pleasure for you and pain for others?

Then the Psalmist continues by telling us that the thoughts behind the words should please God as well. We are not to be pleasing just when we are meditating on the words of the Bible. But we also want the words that we use in traffic to be pleasing to God. Are our words pleasing when stewing over some wrong done to us, or to someone close to us? We are asking that our thoughts always be God honoring and pure. We must never let the words of our mouth negate our faith in God through the work of Christ Jesus.

If we read the first 13 verses in Psalm 19, we get instructions in how to accomplish this. Immerse yourself in God’s word. Let it fill you and root out the sin and error in your life. The Bible has great value for those who will dwell in it. Allow it to fill you. And then you will find that your words and thoughts will more and more be pleasing to the Lord.

Dear God, we pray that as we walk together in your Word in this month that we stay mindful of what is acceptable to You when we speak as Your children.  We pray God that this is the case not just in the words that we speak when we are gathered with the church but also, when we are socializing with friends, when we are talking about politics or other social issues, when we post on Social Media or when we are in debate, or dispute, with another person. May our words be filled with grace and honoring to you or Lord our strength and our Redeemer. Amen!


March 26, 2021

Keeping the Faith

2 Timothy 4:7 (NLT) - I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

Paul has long used the illustration of running and completing a race.  There is an old saying that has been used and rebranded hundreds of times, and yet it still remains powerful; “Life isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.” Sprints are about running fast, not about running for long periods of time. It’s all about getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Whereas marathons are about energy preservation. The focus is about crossing the finishing line, not the time in which it took us to get there.

For the believer, the Christian journey is much like a marathon. It is not done in sprints but like the marathoner in a race, we have to build slowly, train smart, stay spiritually healthy and maintain our pace, our regimen must include the right spiritual disciplines to remain strong in our relationship with Christ. Paul says that the key to success is that we remain faithful in this journey towards Christ and keep the faith until the end.

Paul writes this letter to his young protégé as he is nearing the end of his life, and after years of service to God, he looks back on his life and admits that even through the ups and downs of his journey he had remained faithful. He had kept the pace of faith and he had finished the marathon of life. Like life, faith is not a sprint. It is a marathon which requires us to set a sustainable pace.

We too, as followers of Jesus, are called to remain faithful in the journey of life. To find a pace of faith that is sustainable. And one of the best ways to do this is to make space for God in our lives. Because faith requires time. It requires space to develop and grow. And all too often, when we get busy in life, the first thing to go is our time with God.

One of the first things that we lose is this busyness of life is the time when we pray, read our bibles, listen for the voice of God, and just ponder the beauty of creation. When we get busy, we lose track of God, because there is so much that needs to get done, and so little time to do it all.

So, what does this all mean to us.  The sad truth is that we will often treat God like we do those around us. We will make plans to “to meet for coffee or lunch or I will call you: but in all honesty we do not set a time or place for this activity to take place and of course the result is that it generally does not happen.  There were no specifics. The plan seems tentative. There is ultimately nothing anchoring us to the plan, and so when something “better” comes along, we skip getting coffee altogether. “There’s always next time,” We think. The sad reality is that this is how we often treat our time with God. We set a time that eventually becomes more and more vague until it does not happen at all.  

We can see throughout the gospels, Jesus leaving the crowds, leaving his disciples, or leaving those he was spending time with, to go off and be by himself and pray. For example, in Matthew 14:23 (NASB), “After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.” Or in Mark 1:35 (NASB), “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.”

We need space to be with Jesus. We need to set a time and a place to meet with God daily like we a training for a marathon.

This journey of faith is no sprint. If we are not careful, we will treat it as such, and chance burning out. The journey of faith is a marathon in the direction of Jesus, and it requires us to stay faithful and keep the pace set before us. This means making space for God, prioritizing our spiritual development and growth towards becoming more and more like Christ. This is one way in which we set a sustainable pace that will help you run a marathon, not just a sprint.

Because one day, I hope we can echo the words of Paul, “I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”


March 19, 2021

Faith in God’s Power

1st Corinthians 2:4-5 (NKJV) - And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words human of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

We have heard it said that sometimes we have to” fall back on” what we know. It is not a good saying for a believer. Generally, we are saying that we need to rely on our own know how.  Our basic human instinct is to rely on self. Paul who had an excellent reputation and standing with the Jewish leaders was well educated but all that did not keep from being humbled before God almighty.  Paul quickly learned that the wisdom of the world, which is so prized by men, is foolishness before God. Our physical abilities, human wisdom and mental capacities are of no account, before the omniscient power, of our holy and just God.

So, Paul says that none of us can base our service in the body of  Christ on human wisdom but we must be rooted in the manifestation of the Spirit and the faith that comes from the power of God. This was in evidence when Paul first arrived in Corinth, to preach the word, he didn't dazzle them with superiority of speech or amaze them with his articulate abilities. Paul did not floor them with persuasive words. But, being moved by the Spirit of God, he was determined to share nothing but other than Jesus Christ when he writes 1st Corinthians 2:2 (NKJV): “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” For Paul and for us it is all about Christ bearing our sins and our being raised with Him to eternal life.

To put even more emphasis on how worthless worldly wisdom is, Paul did not come preaching and teaching in the power of his own academic abilities, and articulate excellence. Paul says in verse 3 that he came to them in weakness, in fear and with much trembling.

We must remember that this is the example that Jesus taught us. Jesus laid aside His heavenly glory to teach us all those things that He heard from His Father, and so it is up to us to set aside the things that draw attention to us rather that the wisdom and faith in the power of God that we have received from the indwelling of the Spirit of God through Christ in us.  Through faith in Christ, godly wisdom is released in the believer. When we serve God, a hidden wisdom is available to the world, heavenly truths, that are only unveiled to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.  

He wanted to show that there is a godly wisdom, that comes from above, and that God's servants should speak only those things that come from Him - a hidden wisdom that is unavailable to the world - heavenly truths, that are only unveiled to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul knew that the wisdom of God appeared to be foolishness to the world but that did not prevent Paul from maintaining his dependence upon the power and wisdom of God, and his willing, to submit to the God’s authority over his life as he shared the simple gospel message. The message of the gospel is the power of God to save everyone who believes as Jesus Himself promised. The word ways that the Spirit of God would draw all men to the Lord Jesus.

The salvation of another person’s soul is not dependent on you or me. It is not tied to how many impressive words we use. We are simply entrusted to tell the truth of the glorious gospel of Christ. It is not our responsibility to 'save' someone. Salvation is the responsibility of the convicting work of the Holy Ghost in their lives. However, we who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, do have a responsibility to share the good news with others as led by the holy Spirit, so that their faith and ours, does not rest on man's wisdom, but on the power of God, alone.


March 12, 2021

Blessed by Faith in the Unseen

John 20:27-29 (NLT) - Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.  Then Jesus told [Thomas], "You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me."

When I read this passage about the Apostle Thomas, I think of him in terms of a 21st acronym: FOMO, fear of missing out. I like to think that Thomas’ doubt may have been motivated by his anxiety at having missed the opportunity that others had to witness the resurrected Christ like to the two Mary’s, or Peter, and on the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Thomas did not see the Resurrected Christ until a full week later.  Thomas had hearsay evidence of the risen Christ, but he had no firsthand knowledge.  So, we have often referred to Thomas as ‘doubting Thomas.’  But it was Thomas who cried "Let us also go, that we may die with Him” to the other disciples when they expressed their reluctance to go Jerusalem for fear of the Jews.  Thomas was also the disciple who prompted the Lord to say, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" when he questioned Jesus, by saying, "Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?" So, we come to this passage today where Christ says that we who have not seen and have believed are blessed for still believing.

The approval and blessing of God is on the one who has faith in His Son, trusts His Word of truth, and believes the Holy Scriptures. We are to live by faith, not by sight or sense or situations. We are to live by trusting God's Word and believing His promises, not because of what we see or what we feel, and there is a special promise for those who have not seen the risen, ascended, glorified Lord Jesus but have believed on Him.

Whatever value we place on bodily senses or emotional awareness to stimulate and inform us, God's divine approval is given to those of us who are not influenced by physical senses, human emotions, or life's circumstances, but who simply trust His Word. "Blessed are they that have NOT seen, and yet have believed". 

One of the things I love about the Gospel of John is that we get to see Jesus specifically thinking about us, those who come after the generation of the apostles and those who walked with Jesus. We believe, but without having seen. For all who have changed their lives based on their conviction of Jesus' resurrection as our starting point we can take great comfort that Jesus looked beyond the apostles' ministry to our ministry in Him today and until His return. He saw those of us who would later believe without having seen him alive either before or after his crucifixion, and he gives us God's blessing!

Although God knows that on occasion our trust may be triggered by our senses, emotions, and daily living, He also knows those things can as easily be shattered into a thousand tiny fragments and sifted like wheat by Satan, if faith is not securely anchored to Christ as fact. No wonder the Lord Jesus in this gentle disciplining of His dearly loved disciple, who had walked with Him for three long years, was to explain the secure and better way, "Blessed are those that have not seen Me, and yet have believed in Me, for they will not be disappointed."

There may be times we wished we had lived in the days of the apostles and SEEN the Lord with our own eyes, and felt His gentle touch, but how blessed are we who have not seen Him in the physical realm but have SEEN Him with the spiritual eye of faith and are still able to cry as Thomas did, "my Lord, and my God."


March 5, 2021

Faith to Endure Suffering

Habakkuk 3:17–19 (NLT) – “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.”

Have you experienced times in your life where you cannot feel God’s presence? When the worst happens in our lives, while we do our best to cling to our faith, it is easy to question God. We ask where God is when a loved one dies far too young? Where is God in divorce, disease, and death? Where is He while the entire world battles COVID?  These questions have been asked for centuries, in the face of tragic times and continued to be asked today. It seems as if the world is on the brink of disaster, so we are left searching for God through all of it.

Habakkuk gives us a picture of faith in the face of hardships and not for a day, or a week or for months but for every day of our lives in Christ. When I read this passage here from Habakkuk, I thought of an old Gospel hymn, “It is Well with My Soul.” I did not know of the background of the lyricist Horatio Spafford. Prior to this song: his two sons died in the Chicago fire of 1871 and the rest of his family perished two years later when their ship crossing the Atlantic sank. Just as Habakkuk says Yet: Spafford even after all those things, he was able to write: “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.” This is what those who hold tightly to their Faith in God declare: It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Habakkuk lists all the evidence of emptiness and despair and sorrow in this world, a fig tree that does not bloom means no fruit and on the vines, the olive having no produce, the fields yielding no food, the flock being cut off from the fold. There is no herd in the stalls. It was just empty. Everything is empty and dry and barren in this world. This is the picture here, and then Habakkuk says, “Yet in the middle of the dryness and the barrenness and the emptiness of everything in this world, everything we look to in this world, we long for in this world, we need in this world, even food, in the emptiness and barrenness, He says yet, I will rejoice in the Lord. I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

Even in the middle of great sorrow and suffering, because of Christ conquering sin and death, we can take joy in the God of our salvation.

What a statement of faith that, when this world is totally empty, it is possible to still have joy, to rejoice. How is that possible? When we look to God? This is what Romans 5 means when Paul says, “We rejoice in suffering.” How do you rejoice in suffering? Here is how. Think about what suffering is.

Suffering is losing things in this world that we love that we desire, that are in many ways good for us and comforting to us. Like if we lose someone we love, that is suffering. When we lose our health and we are in pain or we are fighting cancer, that’s suffering. When we lose a job, when this thing in this world is taken away, this person in this world is taken away, this treasure even in this world is taken away, that’s where suffering comes in, but the beauty of those, all whose faith, hope and  trust is in God, then we have in God a joy and a satisfaction that supersedes even the best things this world has to offer us, that even when we lose great things in this world, great people in this world, and it’s not that the we will not shed many tears because we will.  The suffering is real, but we have in God a treasure that is far better, far greater, far more wonderful than good health.

Dear Sweet Jesus, we know that you have the last word, and we rejoice in you. We praise you. We exalt you, and we pray that you would help us to have Habakkuk 3:18 kind of faith in a Habakkuk 3:17 kind of world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.


February 26, 2021

Manifested in Guidance

Exodus 13:21-22 (NLT) - The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. The pillar of cloud was always in front of the people during the day, and the pillar of fire at night.

This is what came to mind when I read this passage.  The Israelites had no need of a Global Positioning System (GPS) because the one true God was with them and led them everywhere, they needed to go. This is the principle of manifestation in the pillar of cloud and fire. The Great I Am is with us in our desert wanderings. Though it may not look good at present, He is here to guide and care for us in this moment. He is not just the God of the future promise, but the God of Today: what a way that travel!  When it is time to go somewhere, this cloud rises and starts moving. The interesting thing about the pillars was that they were present all day and all night.  It did not matter if it was day or night, God’s presence in the pillar of cloud and fire was always present. This is a great truth about the manifestation of God: even when we do not feel Him or see Him, God is always with us who have accepted His Son and now have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

What a great picture of God’s loving leadership and guidance in the life of His people. He does not leave us to just figure these things out on our own. He personally provides direction, and guidance, and where to go, when to go there. Remember we said that God is not limited by time, space or distance.  God can use everything that He has created to influence us and bring us to “the plans that He has for us” (Jeremiah 29:11).   

When I think about the children of God as they journeyed through the wilderness, I think about all of us who believe in God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What are we doing with God’s presence in our lives? I know that we all have decisions about the directions of our lives, the decisions that we struggle to make, and we wonder what God wants us to do. Sometimes we want to obey God, we want to follow His will, but we are not sure exactly what the right decision is to make in every circumstance. But here is the good news from Exodus chapter 13. God has shown us very clearly in His Word, that He does not try to hide His will from us. He wants to lead us. He wants to guide us, to direct us. Our steps, our every step, just like He did here. Now, you might think well, I wish I kind of had a pillar of cloud or a pillar of fire to lead me. We have something better. So much better. As a follower of Christ, you have the Spirit of God in you.

Meditate on God’s desire and ability to lead you.  We do not have the pillars of cloud and fire that we can look to, but we have the Holy Spirit of God living inside of us. You want to know how much God wants us to experience His will? He wants us to experience His will so much that He has come to live inside of us, to transform and direct our thoughts, our desires, our dreams, our plans, our decision-making. Jesus says, “I will give you the Comforter, my Holy Spirit, who will dwell in you. He is the helper. He’s going to live in you.” He is not going to give you directions on where to go, He is going to direct you daily. That is a glorious reality.

So, I just want to encourage all of us today, that as a follower of Christ, we have the Spirit of God in us. We understand the oneness of the Father, Son and Spirit that works in all things for us.  Because of God we have someone, something in that sense, better than a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. Let this be our prayer as we look to God and we pray, God lead on. By the presence of your Spirit in us, lead on. Lead us all day long. We pray, help us to stay in step with your Spirit. Help us not to wander from you into temptation and sin. We are so grateful that you God help us to be pure and holy. Help us to walk in obedience to you, your word, your commands. And as we do, we trust that you will lead us. You will guide us, and you will direct us, just as you have done for your people throughout all time.


February 19, 2021

The Glory of the Lord Departs

Ezekiel 10:18 (NLT) - Then the glory of the Lord moved out from the entrance of the Temple and hovered above the cherubim.

Ezekiel 11:22-23 (NLT) Then the cherubim, with the wheels beside them, spread their wings, and the glory of the God of Israel was above them. The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it.

In our previous passages on the glory of God, we have seen the presence of the Lord manifested to His people throughout Old Testament. We have read about the glory of the Lord in a pillar of cloud by day and as a pillar of fire by night, from a whirlwind, and manifested in angels and in men speaking as God.  We read in Exodus 40, that after the Israelites built the Ark of the Covenant that the Lord descended and resided with the people there.  Twice in Exodus 40:34-35 we read “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle’” This is really significant. God’s presence in the cloud is descending on this tent means that God is showing himself to his people because He is their new neighbor. But here in Ezekiel, we have these verses that tell us that the Glory of the Lord departed the Temple.  We must understand what happened here in order to appreciate what God does for us in the coming verses from New Testament Scripture.

After God’s Spirit and glory left the temple in ancient Jerusalem the people could tell the difference. Life was not the same, something was missing!  When the people of Jerusalem started having problems, they asked their prophets for a vision and they went to the temple priests who worshipped idols and asked them for understanding and for the law of God, but Scripture says that the prophets and priests had nothing to give the spiritually hungry people.  And the elders who always gave good advice also lost their gift of counsel!  (Ezekiel 9:26b) It is scary!  Without God’s Spirit life goes flat!  The spark of life is gone!  

When we read Ezekiel chapters 8-11, we find that the Spirit of the Lord did not withdraw all at once. No, God gives us a chance to take stock and change by the power of His Spirit. We see even here that the Spirit of the Lord paused many times as He exited the temple. He hovered, covered and then reluctantly left His place among the people.  God is always waiting to see if anyone might care that He is leaving and repent and ask Him to return?  God removes by degrees away from a provoking people, but He would quickly return in mercy when we turn from our idols and worship Him.

We must understand that like the ancient people of God that the Holy Spirit does more for us than we realize!  Scripture tells us that the Spirit holds us together and keeps us on the right path.  (And all that time we thought we were doing that all by ourselves!) It is our call to be guided by the Spirit or not. Just like these passages today when God’s Spirit left the temple in ancient Jerusalem, today God’s Spirit can leave us humans when we rebel and stop worshipping Him.  Genesis 6:3 says that the Holy Spirit will not always strive with humans.   God will not force his Way onto us today against our will.

But we lose so much when reject and grieve the Spirit until He sadly leaves!  Scripture says that the Spirit helps us do what we need to do!  Sets us on the paths that we need to take!  Guides and teaches us to say what we need to say!  Gives us joy and peace and faith and truth and a gentle spirit! (Galatians 5:22)

Does this Bible story from so long ago have any relevance for us today?   Today God’s Holy Spirit still abides with his people, but in a different way!  This ancient story from the Old Testament happened nearly 600 years before Jesus came and died on the cross for our sins and sent our Helper the Holy Spirit.  Scripture says that the Spirit gives us strength and upholds us. (Isaiah 41:10) The gifts and blessings the Spirit brings us just keep on coming!  They are new every morning!  Having the Spirit in our lives is having the good life!     Holy Spirit we pray and ask that you come to rest, rule and abide in our temple.


February 12, 2021

God Manifested in the Storm

Job 38:1-2 (NIV) - Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: "Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?

Here in chapter 38 of Job, God speaks to Job from a storm or whirlwind from other Bible versions.  We know from Job’s story that he has been afflicted by Satan and has experienced terrible loss of material wealth and his loved ones.  So, we find in this first verse of chapter 38 that Job receives answers to his questions. It may appear to us that the answers are not to the questions that Job, and his friends asked but the thing that I note is that God manifested to Job in the middle of his storm.

There is this fact to remember: when we have questions, our level of satisfaction with the response – if it comes – depends a great deal on the one offering the response. When God speaks out of the whirlwind, he ends up giving Job a long list of questions, none of which can Job answer. In effect, he scores zero out of eighty-eight! Yet, Job seems greatly relieved that God has at least responded in some way.

How would you feel if the answer that you wanted does not appear to be the answer that you received? Well, therefore the Word of God is the voice in our whirlwind, storm or tornado. The answer in God’s word should be our great relief just like it is here for Job.  with great relief, we come to the Word of the Lord. What is the answer to the problem of suffering? What is the answer to all the problems and questions that Job, in his suffering, has thrown in the air and asked of his friends, experts, and of God? Where can we find an answer to human pain, degradation, viciousness, and mindless, apparently pointless evil? When God speaks the answer that we seek is not a what but a who. We must understand as Job comes to do here that the answer to our suffering is not what but who.  Remember that Job had wanted to speak to God because he had questions. God did just that!   God had heard enough from Job and his friends and was now going to remind His people that He was in control, that everything was in His hand.

God begins His answers by establishing that we do not have the answers. When God said in Job 38:3, “Now prepare yourself like a man.” He was telling Job to get ready for battle against Him. Most of us would not think of it that way, but that is exactly what is happening whenever we speak against God and His Word. We are issuing a challenge to God, setting ourselves up against Him as an opponent. God reminded Job, and us, that we are not able to judge God’s actions. God did not owe Job (or us) answers, and He did not need to explain His ways to him. But, since God does care about us, He gives us some answers in His word. Not all the answers, but enough to encourage us and sustain us, reminding us of His power and love.

God is not being cruel to ask Job such penetrating – and humbling – questions. Remember that scripture teaches us that these manifestations from God are meant to bring us to the place that God needs for us to be in order to be our best in Him. Here, He is bringing Job to the place that he needs to be to worship and to praise. God positions us in our suffering in a place to look up to Him in his suffering, not down at God in bitterness and anger and spiritual distrust.

Things happen to us that we cannot explain. We know that God has a purpose. This does not necessarily mean that we can discern what that purpose is. If you are struggling with accepting that what God is doing in your life is good, then let God speak to you out of the storm. Accept that not just what God knows is best, but who God is in himself is so much above your own comprehension that the only right response is amazement – and worship. 


February 5, 2021

The Manifestation of God

Exodus 3:1-5 (NIV) Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So, Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up." When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground."

Welcome to February of 2021 and our new theme from Scripture: The Manifestation of God.  The Webster’s dictionary defines the word manifest as an occurrence that is evident, obvious, apparent, and plain for everyone to see. There is much in scripture that shows us how God has manifested himself to us just as he has done since He created mankind.

One of the greatest teachings of all of Scripture is that the God desires to have a personal relationship with his people. In His desire to establish a relationship with humanity, God does not always wait for people to come to him.

Throughout Scripture God takes the initiative and reveals himself to humanity. This manifestation of God is commonly known as a theophany (an appearing). The Old Testament contains many stories demonstrating God’s immense love for his creation and the extent to which he is willing to go in order to bring human beings into fellowship with himself. Manifestations do not always mean God appears in the form of a man as working through the prophets. We will look at times where God sometimes manifest Himself in fire or a tempest as in today’s passage from the burning bush. Let us look at how this revealing of Himself to Moses leads to bringing His people into the land that He has promised.

Moses shows us that we do not have to be engaged in some exceptional activity to get God’s attention. Moses was in the middle of doing what he always did—tending the sheep. An ordinary, everyday task was suddenly interrupted by the extraordinary! He sees that a bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. When he went over to the bush to see what it was, the Lord called out to him. God told Moses not to get too close. Was He concerned that Moses might be burned? No, He told Moses that this was a holy place, holy ground, and that he must remove his sandals. I have often wondered what the sandals represent. Perhaps the sandals represent all the places where our feet have tread—all the places where our shoes have gotten dirty and the filth of the world has soiled our lives. In order to stand in front of a holy God, they must be removed. Or perhaps the sandals represent our humanity—our sin that cannot stand before a holy God. We do not know for certain, but we do know that Moses obeyed and hid his face because He knew that this was a sacred place. We know that by this coming into God’s presence Moses was then commissioned by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and God promised that His presence would go with Moses.

We learn from this manifestation of God in this burning bush that God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us in His creation and that He is at work to bring all His creation back to himself: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).  The burning bush experience reveals to us that God’s Presence is not to be taken lightly; He is a holy God who is seeking to make us holy.

What is the burning bush that you face knowing that God is summoning you to follow His call? Just as He told Moses, God promises to go with you Exodus 3:12 (NLT): God answered, "I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain." 

God is not limited in the ways he reveals Himself to his creation. God takes the initiative of when, where, and to whom he will reveal himself. God’s revelation of himself is designed to help people become part of His redemptive purpose for the world.

When you know that God is present in your burning bush will you make sure that you are willing to accept God’s invitation to come to him?  Jesus said: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). 


January 29, 2021

New Seasons

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT - For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:11a (NLT) - “God has made everything beautiful for its own time”

 

Life is full of contrasts. We go through mountains, and we go through valleys. We go through successes, and we go through failures. We have wins, and we have losses.

In weather, there are four seasons. But in your life, there are dozens of different seasons. And every season of life includes both good and bad times.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NLT) gives us a representation of all of the different seasons of life: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven; A time to be born and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to harvest; A time to kill and a time to heal;  A time to tear down and a time to build up; A time to cry and a time to laugh;  A time to grieve and a time to dance; A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to turn away;  A time to search and a time to quit searching; A time to keep and a time to throw away; A time to tear and a time to mend;  A time to be quiet and a time to speak; A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace.” 

Life is a combination of contrasting seasons. My Pastor uses this quote: “All sunshine and no rain make a desert.” If you’re following God’s will, if you’re trying to live your life according to the way God wants you to live, then you’ll eventually see that these new seasons can have purpose and value in your life.

There is a song by Ray Stevens where the lyrics say that “everything is beautiful in its own way. We all know that this is not always true in life.  Terminal illnesses are not beautiful. Murder is not beautiful. Social injustice is not beautiful and child abuse is definitely not beautiful. But the Word of God in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes says it differently.  Ecclesiastes 3:11: “God has made everything beautiful for its own time” (NIV). That’s very different from “Everything is beautiful in its own way.” Because the Bible is saying that God can take even the bad things and, in the proper season, turn them around and use them for good in the way he intends.

Our seasons of life are like these seasons on the calendar. We all have favorite seasons but no season on the calendar or in life is wasted.  God acknowledges that we may experience seasons of great abundance or great loss. We can experience great joy or great pain. But the beautiful thing of all is this: is that none of these seasons or experiences is wasted; God can use everything we experience and make it beautiful. (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Here are a few wonderful promises to remember in our hard seasons: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4) What was meant for evil, God meant for good. (Genesis 50:20)

No matter what season you’re in; whether it is lack or abundance, remember that God is with you. He loves you and everything you experience is meant to grow you closer to Him and advance His kingdom. Cling tight to Him, whatever your season. There is a time and a season for everything under heaven.

Lord help us to not cling to seasons that are gone. Let us walk in faith to understand that our lives do not move backwards but are always moving forward and bringing us closer to You.  There is an old saying that says “Don’t look back, you aren’t going that way.” Help us also to see that by stubbornly refusing to move on we may be missing what our Almighty Father has in store for us in the future.

We cannot freeze time. That season you have enjoyed so much may end but that doesn’t mean the end of joy, just that joy may have a different shape. And more positively, that season of pain and sadness you endure will not go on forever. A new season will come.

We can’t refuse change. We can only trust in an unchanging God to help us not only bear the change but embrace the change.


January 22, 2021

Good News

Proverbs 15:30 (MSG) - A twinkle in the eye means joy in the heart, and good news makes you feel fit as a fiddle.

When I have had a lengthy storm pass through my life, I have often said that I don’t need my own good news to feel better.  I would gladly welcome second hand good news to give me a lift.  We have become too programmed for bad news.  We have our Smartphone’s set to light up when there is breaking news stories on the latest shootings, disasters, or some similar crisis. We see post after post from people asking if we would ride the next greatest roller coaster or take part in some other great adventure. Lately we have watched the attack on the capitol of our United States repeatedly.  Daily we have witnessed people around the world in their ICU beds who are suffering from Covid and are dying from this pandemic. We watch with fear and trepidation the preparation around the country for possible violence in every state capitol as we prepare to inaugurate a new president. We are all longing for something to cut through this endless assault on our senses, something to refresh our soul and something to bring hope to a world that has become stagnate in the midst of all of this chaos.  We need good news.

Here in the Wisdom of the book of Proverbs we read that good news brings fitness to our whole well being. Well there is good news for us every day and it is found in the Good News of the gospel. What if God’s gospel is big enough to comfort the lonely, set the captives free, minister to us in our despair, and mobilize a generation to push back against the evil we see in our world? Is the gospel big enough for all of this?

Yes the fact is that today's proverb tells us that this good news is a good thing - and that the wise man will fully embrace it.  Therefore it would definitely be good to understand just what this proverb speaks about - so that we can be blessed in this way.

This proverb is a "restated" proverb, meaning that each half restates the other.  Thus this brightening of the eyes - is similar to the good news that puts fat on the bones.  So we can know that the effect on the eyes here is from seeing good things.  What is fascinating though is looking at the word "twinkle" in the ways that it is used in other places in the Old Testament.  The overwhelming use of this word is in reference to the light of the seven-fold lap in the tabernacle of Moses.  The reason this is fascinating is because of the imagery that this picture.  The lamp was filled with holy oil - a picture of the ministry and work of the Holy Spirit.  The lamp was the only source of light in the Holy place.  It gave light to the table of showbread - which is a type of God's Word and to the altar of incense, which represents the place of prayer and worship.  Understanding these things, let's look at this proverb again. 

We can see that this news that makes us fit as a fiddle is the full measure of the light of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We have Him opening the Word to us.  We have Him opening our hearts to pray and to worship God.  This would definitely make our hearts glad.  This is the best news of all - God is worthy - God wants us to make our requests known to Him - God wants to speak to us through His Word! 

This also makes wonderful sense when we see what the Hebraism, "fat-bones" means.  This particular Hebraism means a sense of prosperity.  When someone has fat on their bones - they are prosperous and blessed.  It is good news that does this.  Indeed there is a sense that this proverb can simple mean having eyes that are brightened by seeing good things and ears that hear good things - makes us glad and prosperous.  But there is also a deeper spiritual meaning that takes us to a different level.  When we hear and see the good news that the Scripture tells us about God - it brings joy to our heart and spiritual fatness to our bones. The gospel bears witness that we live in a kingdom, we belong to a king, and we have faith, hope and love at our disposal for every moment—big or small.


No doubt about it - it is a good thing to start our day with a quiet time where we seek the Lord - and submit ourselves to the Spirit of God as a teacher and guide.  Doing that will truly make us a twinkling-eyed and fit as a fiddle Christians!


January 15, 2021

A New Heart and a New Spirit

Ezekiel 36: 26-28 (NIV) - I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

Ezekiel presents us with the promise of a new heart and a new spirit from God.  There are numerous OT and NT references to the heart in the Bible, because in Biblical times it was thought that our decisions, feelings and thought processes came from the heart. The heart in the Bible was thought to be a sort of “control center” from which all of our decisions were made.  So when we read about the heart in the Bible, it is about the place where you have your will, your attitude and intentions, and which is the source of your thoughts, actions and words. In 1st Kings 3:12 (NLT) we read: “I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!” Then we read In Psalm 24:3-4 (NIV): “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? It is the one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false God.” This heart is seen as the core of who we are as a person. Our heart is, essentially, us in a nutshell.

So we know what God was saying when He promised His people, through the prophet Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you.”

This prophecy is in line with the new birth Jesus spoke about when He said, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3). We receive new birth, new life, through the Spirit of God.  Before Christ gift of new life, we had hearts and spirits that were dead to the things of God. But because of God sending His Spirit to fill us with new life, we are revived and given a new heart of love for God and all for people.

This new heart and new Spirit are at the core of God's promise to make a new people, a people with an undivided heart, a tender and responsive heart that moves us to be the people who God wants us to be. The things that human willpower and dedication and the old Mosaic Law could not do, God does by living in us. The Spirit is more than just the power that enables us to be God's people; the Spirit is also God's transformational grace that lives in us, unifies us, and leads us truly to be God's own.

This new heart and new spirit is something God will do, but it also requires some action from those of us who have heart and spirit that is cold and hard. It is a both case scenario: God does something, and we do something. The warning is that people whose hearts are still divided and devoted to other things won’t be transformed. Having a stone-cold heart is a miserable thing. It makes life harder than it has to be. Turning back to God can be a huge, courageous step, espe­cially if it means leaving old habits and attitudes behind. But the promise of having an undivided heart and God’s Spirit in a heart of flesh is definitely the better way. It’s what God desires for our lives. It makes a radical change in life worth every effort, and we can do it in God’s strength.

Paul writes concerning the work of God in the human heart that: "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Lord we pray that our new heart is prepared to yield every heavenly fruit to the honor and praise You oh Lord, and therefore delights in bringing you glory. Help us to know that a tender heart is the best defense against sin and the best preparation for heaven. Lord we thank you for giving us this new heart that reflects through us the image of the Living God. In the name of Jesus, Amen


January 8, 2021

One New People

Ephesians 2:15 (NLT) - For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.  Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.

The world we live in has lots of divisions among cultures, races, traditions, and even families. Some divisions are natural, but many of them, as we know, are painful and negative. Racism and other forms of ethnic strife have no place in the church, for we are all one body in Christ Jesus. Paul in Ephesians 2:11-22 speaks to the importance for all believers for tearing down the walls that separate believers. 

He speaks here to the church at Ephesus as they continued to insist that the Gentiles and the Greeks had to become or follow Jewish practices to become a part of those who were a part of the Body of Christ.  Paul makes the point that that they could not continue to use the Mosaic laws because Jesus came to bring salvation to all not to a select group of people. The Mosaic law established a moral compass for the children of Israel and it served the purpose of pointing to the Messiah, but Paul emphasizes to believers that they were to now to live by this new covenant that Jesus established that brings us all into one faith, one Baptism and the Holy Spirit and who works in us all to lead us to one path and purpose for the glory of God.

Christians are united into a new reality in Christ. The effect of God’s grace, as revealed in the good news of Jesus, is that Christ “is our peace, who has made the all believers as one.” And as Paul points out, we who are followers of Christ need to live by that sense of unity in Christ.

Let’s look at how we became one new man in Christ. First, through the cross, Christ reconciled us in one body to God, having put to death the power of trying to live blamelessly on our own (Ephesians 2:16).  The point is that Christ’s reconciliation is effective for all who follow him, so all believers in Christ are now united in him. We are brothers and sisters in Christ because of Him and are told there is one Christ for all.

Then Paul says (2:18), “through Him [Christ], we both [Jew and Gentile] have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” At the heart of the gospel is that we now have access to God, whom Paul here calls, “the Father.” This means that Christianity is not a religion of rituals. It is a personal relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. We are one in the Spirit and we are one in the Lord.  There is no place for us to give another believer the side-eye because we think that because of whom we are that we are more important. Our access to God is because of Christ and outside of Him we are all nothing.

Christians are united into a new reality in Christ. Heaven will be a place of diverse people characterized by one thing: The effect of God’s grace, as revealed in the good news of Jesus, is that Christ “is our peace,” and His grace and mercy has made all who believe one mankind.  And as Paul points out, we who are followers of Christ need to live by that sense of unity in Christ. This means that if you are counting on getting into heaven because of your religion or your good deeds, you will not succeed. If you cannot respect those who are different from us in the universal Body of Believers, then you have entirely missed the message of unity that Christ came to bring to us.  Peace with God comes only through the cross of Jesus Christ. He paid the debt in full for all that believe in Him!

Heavenly Father, we pray today for forgiveness for any divisions that we have cause within the body of Christ.  Help us to not only speak against the divisions that cause weakness and divide believers but we pray that we look for ways to heal and to mend disunity that weakens our service to you.  Help us to live in the unity that Jesus has made possible for us. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

 


January 1, 2021

Bright Morning Star

Revelation 22:16-17 (NLT) - “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come." Let each one who hears them say, "Come." Let the thirsty ones come – anyone who wants to. Let them come and drink the water of life without charge.

John writes here in the last chapter of Revelation that, Jesus calls Himself “the bright Morning Star”. In Revelation 21:22-24, we read that there will be no need for the sun or the moon in heaven. Here in Revelation 22 Jesus’ declaration that He is the bright and Morning Star signals the end of night and the beginning of God’s perfect day. 

The bright Morning Star is an actual celestial occurrence that happens while the sky is still completely dark and just before the sun is about to rise. The Morning Star is actually the planet Venus and not a star at all. Science says that the time the time of utter darkness that Venus appears as a vibrantly bright light in the sky.  When we see this phenomenon, we know that the dawning of a new day will be near.  
This is a beautiful picture of hope in our darkest moments and the promise that if we continue to persevere in our faith in God in whatever we believe Him for, that Jesus will show Himself in our lives, encouraging our faith till the full light of day appears. Take note of this verse here in Proverbs 4:18, NLT: The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.

Revelation 22 signals the full light of day ahead. This passage has everything to do with Christ’s return. The prophetic words of God and His Son give us hope throughout all of Scripture. We have seen that the bright morning star rises while it is still dark, before the sun dawns, to give the hope of a coming new day. That is what this title means for us. Let's explore this: God promised to David that He would establish the throne of his kingdom forever and would never remove His love from him.  (2 Samuel 7:12–16). Then the angel Gabriel prophesied that Jesus would reign over His kingdom from the throne of His father David (Luke 1:31–33). But Jesus is also "the bright morning star." Malachi 4:2 promises Israel that the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in its wings. Revelation 22:16 identifies Jesus as "the bright morning star." Just as the morning star appears before the sun rises, so Jesus will come for the church before He returns to restore His church to himself.

What does this mean for us?  Because Jesus is our Bright and Morning Star, it means the rising of the morning star brings hope. It is hope for the coming the new day. When the Lord returns to take His people to their new home all of our greatest hope will be realized!

It means that even though we still have dark times here, we have a light (His word) that illuminates our path. But when the morning star arises in our hearts at His return we will have full light! Then we will know even as we are known. (1st Corinthians 13:12)

It also means that the rising of the morning star in our hearts will change us from the inside out.  In 1st John 3:2 (NLT) we know that this morning star will be transformational when we read: “Yes, dear friends, we are already God's children, and we can't even imagine what we will be like when Christ returns. But we do know that when he comes we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.”

Remember - Jesus is the morning star! He gave a promise to the true believers that He would give all who lived under 'the morning star' (Rev 2:28) the full realization of hope, full illumination and full transformation.  As you watch and wait for Jesus' return, take comfort and act to bring the glory of the Morning Star to all that God has given to do today.



December 18, 2020

THE TRUE LIGHT: JUST THE FACTS

John 1:9-11(NIV) – The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

Some of you will remember a weekly crime drama that aired in the 50’s and 60’s and wrapped up in 1970 titled “Dragnet.”  It was a precursor to our current NCSI: Los Angeles type investigative police shows. What I remember most about the show was the no-nonsense, poker faced police officer, Joe Friday and his signature to witnesses: “Just the facts, ma’am.  It was important to prove each case that only the facts be considered.   

Today we look at this passage of scripture on Light found in John 1 verses 9-11 where John is giving us “just the facts” on the true Light about the God-man, Jesus Christ.  Scripture has much to be said about this Light that has come into the world and for now John wants us to think about and examine “just the facts”.

John has always taken a simple approach in how he describes our Savior. John makes us see the simple and profound truth of this statement: “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.”  Let’s consider the word “true” which in Greek can mean genuine, real, valid and trustworthy.  John establishes for us that Jesus was in the world and part of the world that He helped to create.  As the true light John establishes for us that it is Jesus who gives the Light of Life and Truth to everyone who comes into the world.  In the New American Standard Version, the word enlightens is used.  Fact: for all who recognize Jesus as the true light receives this enlightenment.  Only Jesus can be the light to every person.  The true light came first to the Jews but then to us as well.  When we say that God is no respecter of persons, we are acknowledge that the light is not just for the wealthy or respectable but for every single person on the planet.  Isaiah 9:2 spoke of the coming Savior when he wrote: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned” and then Matthew tells us in 14:16 (NIV) that: “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."  For all who wanted to receive the true light it was available. It is hard to imagine that someone would choose to deliberately live in the dark but that is the case.  When we choose to value anything and anyone over the True Light of a relationship with Christ, we put choose to sit in darkness. 

It is an unfortunate reality that some of us choose things in this world over the True Light of God.  John lets us know that this had to grieve God’s heart. Have you ever had spoken to someone and it was clear that they were ignoring you and your greeting. They treat you like a stranger.  When we do not come to embrace the True Light of Christ, we have essentially ignored what the relationship with Christ offers.   Paul says that even though we have knowledge of God but don’t honor Him, we have exchanged the life of glory in God for this worldly living.

Then in verse 11, John states the last fact of this passage. Even though Jesus came to His own first, they received Him not.  We are a people who have no problem exchanging and returning gifts that don’t meet our expectation. The people of Jesus’ day were no different.  Despite the announcements that surrounded His birth, His ministry to the people and the Truth of our Salvation through Him, He was not the Savior/King that the people wanted. We are the same because sometimes we just want the rescue not redemption. So we reject the gift because like the Jews, we want something else. Belief is a choice.  Let’s make sure we base our beliefs on facts, not just on our own personal preferences.

Only the Spirit of God can open our eyes to the true light. Only the Spirit of God can enable us to recognize and receive the truth of these words with joy: “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world”.  Just the facts at Christmas!

 


December 11, 2020

Be the Light in Your Community

Matthew 5:14-16 - “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

2020 has been the year that most of us just want to see come to an end. When we look at the news, we see violent crime on the rise as well as an alarming increase in the number of COVID cases across our nation.  Along with that, we are trying to maneuver our way through the darkness of the political landscape, a lack of social interaction with those that we love and school and work that does not resemble anything close to what we are used to doing. It has been tempting to ask what or where God is in all of this darkness. We know that God created light and that His light is the light that gives all believers the light that dispels our darkness. God has promised us light.  Well, Jesus says here in Matthew 5:14-16 that we too are the light of the world. We are a light in the world that should show Christ in the good deeds that we do.

We know that as Christians that we are waiting for Jesus’ return. We know that at His Ascension that Jesus didn’t take His light from us and that He didn’t put us into heaven immediately after saving us. Instead, He chose to put us on a stand to give light to the whole world. We are a hillside city glowing in an otherwise dark landscape. We are lamps standing in otherwise dark rooms.

In a world of darkness, we are to be the ones who have come from darkness into light and we are to reflect the light we have found in Jesus. But Jesus' point is that we are not just to shine our lights in our own little circle of influence, but we are to shine them so that every place of darkness is either brought to the light or is exposed for what it is. So how do we let our light shine both in our home (church) but in our community as well?

To be the light means in times of darkness Believers offer hope, encouragement, kindness and compassion. In times where others are struggling, we offer a way to help them to regain their glow and to shine. To see the good and the beautiful - it is in this that truth is re-established. To “Be the Light” may be to offer wisdom and guidance, or just to sit with someone, and be the presence they need. It may be offering strength to those that are in a moment’s weakness, or offering a smile and joy to someone in random parts of your day.

When I think of being the light, I think of a random hello or wave, and how it makes me feel. I think of the ways other people have helped my heart to glow even brighter than it has in the past, from a kind word that is said, through encouragement, through a smile that is given or joy that is shared.

Sometimes to “Be the Light” means to give of yourself in a new way to a situation or cause or relationship that we are in. It may also mean to just be still and show that nothing really needs to be said at a given time, until the time is right. “To be the light” is to foster peace and to show others the joy that is present. It also means that you try to protect your flame from being blown out so that you can be the light, and so that light remains. In all truth, beauty, and goodness, we are the light. In times of trial and struggle it means that we shine light on the wonderful blessings of God and the truth and wisdom of His Word.  This is not always an easy task because in our hard times we sometimes find it difficult to be the light, but, in these moments, when we focus on what God has poured into us, we are more able to be the light.

In reality, being the light means that we love despite flaws.  It may mean helping people through situations they do not know how to overcome; it could be empowering others to overcome whatever they are facing. It could be holding someone’s hand so they can feel love and know it to be real. It could be reaching out to that person you have not talked to in a long time, to let them know you care and that value them and want them to know they are not forgotten. It may be to radiate joy and celebrate the blessings that are present in life. It is all of these things and more for all of us who follow Jesus’ command to: “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Be a light in your home, in your church and in your community for the Glory of Him who brought the light into our life!


December 4, 2020

“Let there be Light”

Genesis 1:1-4 (MSG) – “First this: God created the Heavens and Earth--all you see, all you don't see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God's Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.  God spoke: "Light!" and light appeared. God saw that light was good and separated light from dark.”


For the month of December, we are going to look at God’s Word on the subject of light.  We will begin in the beginning with God’s Word here in Genesis on the creation of light.  By nature we humans have a natural love for light. It is no wonder, that light and all it represents was the very first thing that God introduced into His creation. Many of us can remember ourselves or one of our children or grandchildren being totally fascinated by flashlights.  I would read by flashlight long after I was supposed to be asleep and would think to myself that I was quite resourceful for being able to keep light shining long after the darkness had rolled in. 

We see here in Genesis verses 1:1-2 that God created heaven and earth and but this creation was formless, lifeless, and lightless and a watery chaos that God was preparing to develop in the following verses from Genesis 1: 1- 31.  We like to think of these verses as the six days of creation but think of this time as God enlightening, ordering, filling, and enlivening his creation and He begins this process with marvelous light.  Life could not be created without light.  God separated the light from the darkness and created order and from this order God created life. Not only is light marvelous, but light is our first introduction into the sovereignty of God.  So we note especially the power of God’s words: “Let there be light and the implications that it will have on all of creation. The beginning of creation is awesome to imagine.  There was nothing; no – thing and then God began to create.  The very first thing that God created was light. Let’s consider two things that we learn from the light.


First, light represents truth and wisdom from God.   Moses didn’t miss this. God’s prophet wanted us to get this: that light—and all it stands for—comes not from any created thing, but from God himself.  God is the source of illumination, wisdom, knowledge, and truth. By creating light three days before He created the sun, moon, and stars, he made this crystal clear. The sun is merely God’s tool, God’s torch. We could say that in the same way the moon dimly reflects the light of the sun, the sun dimly reflects the light of God. And that is why in the new heaven and earth there will be no sun, for it will have fulfilled its purpose: “They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light” (Rev. 22:5).


Secondly, we note in verses 1-4 of Genesis 1 that darkness cannot endure long before God flooded it with light. God is good, so everything that he makes is good. He is incapable of mistakes, of lying, of fumbling, of misdirecting, of mismanaging, of failing, of botching. This applies to history, and this applies to all of us.

It is a tremendous thing when we open the Bible and read in it the truth about light.  Light diminishes ignorance because it lets us see things as they really are. Light (wisdom) reveals our wrong thoughts as we are able through light to see things as God’s light gives us a complete view again and again of the person that we are becoming because of Jesus.  We will talk about the Jesus who is ‘the Light of the World,’ as we get closer to celebrating the birth of Christ. But right now God’s light should make each of us view our lives, reason in our lives and live our lives in this light that God our Father spoke into existence and the reason for this is that God Himself said that, “The light is good.”


Dear LORD Jesus, help us to come to the light every day.  Let your light shine in every corner of our room. Submit to the true light. 


November 27, 2020

The Gratitude of Contentment

Philippians 4:12 - I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little.

Philippians 4:12 reminds us that as Christians that we are to learn the importance of contentment when he says that he is content no matter if he has much or little. Paul also instructs us along these same lines when he tells us in 1st Thessalonians 5:18 to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God.”  When we look at gratitude and contentment during this season that we celebrate as thanksgiving we can conclude that gratitude and contentment go together like turkey and dressing. Giving thanks and finding contentment both depend on our measure of faith. When we are content we are grateful because we remember how God has so richly blessed us. In our contentment we should be overwhelmed by the generosity that God extends to us by His grace and mercy every day.  There is our salvation in His son Jesus for which I am eternally grateful. Since there is no way that I deserve God’s twin gifts of mercy and grace, I am grateful for the freedom from the penalty of sin and God’s forgiveness.  I know that I have a sin nature and the fact that God’s perfect love is poured out on me, I am grateful for the ability to love and be loved. I am grateful for the transformed living that I have in Christ.  I know that I am not perfect but I am so grateful that God continues this regeneration of my mind, heart and soul to become more like Him every day.  I am that God is to be trusted always and that His promises will always come to pass. 

All of this and more should make us know that Paul is telling us to not live for the stuff that is only temporary.  So whether we have much or little in possessions, there is the wealth that we in God through Christ that is covered by the Holy Spirit and that is more than anything that our hearts and mind can imagine.  

So the next time we find ourselves yearning for stuff, remember that a grateful heart will increase our contentment for the things of God. We may not have everything that we want, but in Christ we have all that is necessary. Take note of Proverbs 19:23 which says: “The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.”  Proverbs reminds us to rest in Christ, trusting He is in control. Circumstances, good or bad, are an opportunity for God to show Himself faithful. So, once we go to God in gratitude, we can live life in contentment knowing Christ is in control. Contentment is not passive and uninformed, but rather it is engaged and educated. It is not anxious. It replaces worry with work, pity with prayer, pride with humility, and grumbling with gratitude. Our peace and stability is the fruit of contentment, which grows out of the ground of gratitude. When we sow the seeds of prayer in the soil of gratitude and contentment, God will make His abundance abound towards us. We will be able to give a knockout punch over adversity because God will be fighting our battles for us if we just remain steadfast in trusting that He is doing what is best in all of our circumstances.

Contentment comes when we rejoice in the Lord. Think about your life right now. Can you learn to love what you have instead of what you don’t have? What you have in Christ is far greater than anything that you don’t have in life. You have Jesus. Therefore, you have everything you need for now and eternity. And Jesus has you. Gratitude helps us to see that this makes all the difference in the world. Psalm 103:1 reminds us to “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Gratitude and praise bless the Lord. 


November 20, 2020

Establishing a Pattern of Intentional Gratitude

Colossians 2:6-7 NASV – “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude." 

Paul was never unintentional when he wrote his Epistles to the early believers. He had a pattern of greeting his brothers and sisters in Christ with love, encouragement and also in admonition for the wayward practices that did keep them rooted in Christ. His letter to the Colossians was no different.  Here in Colossians 2:6-7 Paul’s reminds the early church and us as well that we have all received Christ Jesus the Lord and that fact changes everything about our walk of faith in Him.  Our calling is to walk in Him. We cannot walk in Christ if we do not daily read God’s Word and then carry it out to the best of our ability in the path that God has planned specifically for each of us.  We know that each of us has a path and that some of us have more hardships and heartaches on our paths than others. But Paul let’s us know where God leads us He has equipped to walk boldly. Paul reminds us of this privilege that we have been given to be “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.” I think that one of the things that sets us apart from the early believers is that we have the truth, instruction, and God’s revelation of Himself available in the Bible.  The early believers did not have all of Scripture available to them.  We have our bibles available on every smart device we own.  If we don’t want to read we are blessed to be able to listen to audio versions of the Bible.  To enhance our understanding, we have every version of the Bible available to us at our fingertips.  With all of that, we should be moving toward Christ like no one has done before.  Paul says that we have been given every opportunity to get close and personal to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  Paul ends verse 7 of Colossians 2 by telling us that we should be overflowing with gratitude because you are in Christ!

This Biblical gratitude that Paul speaks about here is much more than quick list of “counting our blessings” like we do with a to-do list. No Paul tells us that as we grow in faith we overflow with gratitude.  This gratitude will spill over not only to God but also for God in what we do for others.

Paul’s gratitude for the grace he received from God most assuredly fueled his fire and drive for his service to God and to others.  When Paul proclaims that we are to overflow with gratitude that’s how he saw the Christians expression of thanks for all that God has done for us.  The love of Christ so overwhelmed him that he could no longer live for himself but only for Christ. We too should be so deeply conscious of whom we are becoming because of the grace of God.

Let’s not only thank God for what he gives. Let’s also thank him for who he is. These are two distinct acts. We should be intentional about daily thanking him for both his character and his provisions for us. As we make this part of our mind-set, it will become second nature. What is starting to look like a lost art in our culture today will reveal that we are grateful children of the Most High God.

This attitude of gratitude towards our great God will spill over into our encounters with others — both believers and unbelievers. Remember, we are to abound in gratitude, so it’s not a small part of who we are. Model and teach those whom God has placed under your influence how you work hard to express gratitude for matters big and small. Realize that your simple expression of thanks accompanied by eye contact and a quick nod behind of our masked faces may be the bright spot of the day for so many who feel overworked and underappreciated. This is truer now than it has ever been before. I have never thanked anyone who said in return, “Please, stop. I am always hearing words like that, and it’s really unnecessary.” So let’s be intentional and show our gratitude by the way that we walk for Christ!



November 13, 2020

Grace is Certainly Worth our Gratitude!

2nd Corinthians 4:14-15 (NIV) – “because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Theses verses from 2 Corinthians 4:14-15 come in a chapter where Paul is describing his ministry to the believers in the Corinthian Church. Paul explains to the church here at Corinth of the challenges that come from working in ministry and he is explaining here that in spite of those difficulties the reason that he keeps doing it: “because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.” (2nd Cor. 4:4)

Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth and us that his primary motivation for continuing to endure so much hardship is so that he can continue to spread the truth and the light of Christ to more and more people.   Paul says that all of us have been raised up with Christ and will be presented to God the Father with Jesus.  

How many times do we have that nagging little thought (sometimes big and frustrating) that if God really loves us as He says He does, then why are we not shielded from so much pain and suffering? Shouldn't God prevent all of His trusted servants from experiencing so much pain? Paul's says that God does not spare those who serve Him from suffering, but that God provides for them through their suffering.  Paul declares that this service to the Corinthians is worth it, in part, because as more people believe in Jesus, more people will receive God's grace. The more people who receive God's grace, the more people who will give thanks to God. More and more glory will be brought to God. Paul is willing to endure anything, enabled by God's power, to achieve this outcome. So we should be ready to overflow abundantly in thanksgiving and faithfulness to God.

Let’s take a moment to think about thanksgiving in terms of our level of gratitude. A heart that is grateful understands the message that Paul writes about here. We want to always the child of God who can find God’s grace in the midst of the storm.  These are the people that know that God’s grace was with them when they could hold the hand of a loved one when they took their last breath. They see that God’s grace turned unemployment into making income from sewing masks. These are God’s children that are still rejoicing that they can tune all of their smart devices to a live streamed worship service.  Paul says show someone the grace that God has bestowed on you. Let’s apply ourselves to producing thanksgiving in other people by freely giving out the grace we’ve received from God through Christ.    There is a blessing for us in every storm when we are using the lens of God’s grace.

So as we move deeper into our Thanksgiving season, let these verses today push us a step further than we usually go as we think about giving thanks. Let it give us a uniquely Christian approach to thanksgiving and point us to the highest expression of gratitude toward the God of grace.


November 6, 2020

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT) – No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

I will admit that I have been guilty of not appreciating the instruction that Paul gives here in 1st Thessalonians 5:18. After a less than stellar day, I far from the ‘always be thankful’ that Paul’s says that as a believer I should be.  So I decided that there is more than meets the eye here in looking at an attitude of gratitude this month. It’s worth noting that Paul doesn’t instruct us to give thanks to God for every circumstance. Instead, he urges us to give thanks to God in every circumstance.

Paul’s words remind all of us that gratitude isn’t rooted in the ease of our days but it is anchored in the intimate relationship that we have with Christ.  The more we get to know God, the more reasons we have to thank Him.

Let’s face it gratitude is not be our first response when our circumstances are challenging or disappointing. But when we focus on who God is rather than on what He is doing, we discover that we can give thanks even from the middle of our mess.

If you remember the words of James 3:17 9(NIV) where we read that: “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”  In our difficult times, the wisdom that God sends helps us to know that even in the middles of our mess we understand that God’s motives toward us are to prosper us and give us a hope and a future.  When we have an attitude of gratitude, we can thank Him for His wisdom even when we don’t see the reason for His ways.  We can thank Him for His faithfulness even when our faith is faltering. We can thank Him for His peace even when our doubts are raging.

As we become familiar with keeping our hearts bent toward God's heart, we learn to trust the work of His hands, even before His work is finished.  What is your attitude? Is it one of gratitude? We are told when we stop to count our blessings they seem to rapidly increase. The flip side of this is that if we look at all the things we don’t have, it will appear that we never have enough.

Think of it: Always giving thanks for everything—no matter the circumstances! Thanksgiving for the Apostle Paul was not a once-a-year celebration, but a daily reality that changed his life and made him a joyful person in every situation.

Thanksgiving, the giving of thanks to God for all His blessings should be one of the most distinguishing marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. We must not allow a spirit of ingratitude to harden our heart and detract from the intimate relationship we need to have with God and with others in His service.

Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people quicker than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore our contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.

I am  learning that not all days will be filled with good things, but as I keep an attitude of gratitude, praise, and worship, I can change my mindset from focusing on me and whatever is bothering me to focusing on the One, True God who has promised to provide for ALL my needs according to His riches in Glory. So fix your gaze on God’s faithfulness, and continue to seek His heart.  I’m certain of this: God is with you. And He is for you. And He’s doing more than your eyes can see.

 


October 2020


Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV) – The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”


So far this month we have looked at a few of God promises to hear and answer our prayers.  We also saw the blessings that God promised to us in Jeremiah where we read that God rejoices in doing good for those who live for Him.(Jeremiah 34:4-41)   Then we had the promise from Jesus in the Beatitudes that promised us that know that we are spiritually bankrupt, that God has reserved a place for us in His kingdom. (Matthew 5:3)


Today we find our promised blessing from God in the Old Testament Book of Numbers (6:24-26) where God tells Moses: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”   


Here we find that the people of Israel had been camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai for almost a year since their ‘Exodus” from Egypt. Moses has received and presented God’s 10 commandments and God’s law. The Ark of the Covenant has been built according to God’s precise instructions.  Now, as the people of God prepare to move forward to take possession of the Promised Land with God as their guide, their protector and their provider, God commanded the high priest Aaron to pronounce this blessing over His people.  These verses show us the desire of God’s heart for His people. What more do we need?   If the God of the universe, the Creator of all things is favorable toward us then we need nothing more. God only wants the best for His children. His desire is to bless us in spite of us.  Because we hear these words recited so often in our Benediction, we can lose the awe that God promised to bless His people and us so  extravagantly. 


Let’s take this opportunity today to look at the ways that God promises to bless us so richly.  Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV) is a spoken blessing demonstrating God’s will for our lives.  First God says that He is the source of every blessing. He did not say some but all blessings.  He will give us favor which includes increased prosperity and protection from harm.  God has promised to take everything that we encounter (the good, the bad and the ugly) and turn it in our favor.  God has been blessing us since He created mankind (Genesis 1:28.  The first thing that God did for Adam and Eve was to bless them.   God has proclaimed and commanded this blessing for us.


Then we know that God says that He will make His face to shine on us.  The word you here is use six times in these three verses and is used in its singular form.  God blesses us personally. In all the millions of believers in the world, God has chosen to bless us individually.  God sees us in the sea of all believers everywhere.  These words from this song by the Miami Mass choir sum it up:  “What God has for me it is for me.”  Nobody and nothing can stop what God has for you!


God is gracious to us. Because God is gracious to us, we have received His pardon.  He blesses us by releasing us from the punishment that we should receive and instead in all of His graciousness has provided for us a substitute, His unblemished Son, who took our suffering unto Himself and freed us to live fully in Him. 


God blesses as a father would bless to his child.  He lifts His countenance up to us.  These words paint a picture first of a father lifting his child in his arms: then of a father lifting up his child above him to beam into their face.  Just as that father lifts up his beaming face to that child, God shines His full pleasure, His full goodwill, and His full joy over us as His child.  God takes great pleasure in His children. 


As a final part of this promise of blessing, God promises us peace.  All of us want peace in our mind.  God’s peace is so much more than the absence of strife. The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, stems from the word which means restoration back to the original state. God’s peace means not just harmony, but completeness and wholeness, rest and welfare, soundness and safety.  This is the blessing that God sends to bless us. God’s blessing on us is that his face will be turned in our direction so that we will know peace with him.


We must remember that these are not wishes but blessings. In other words, they are true for us because of Christ. In Jesus Christ, we are kept, forgiven, and restored to peace with God.

Receive and believe God for His blessings today!


-Rev. Rita Bowman

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