Psalm for the Day

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Set Apart

“For this is the will of God, that you should be consecrated (separated and set apart for pure and holy living)..”  I Thess. 4:3  Amp. Bible

God’s desire for His children is that they be wholly set apart for Him.  “Every cooking pot in Jerusalem….will be holy to the Lord.” (Zech. 14:21)

God must not be confined to Sunday mornings, devotional times or ‘spiritual’ conferences.  He is the God of everyday, at home as well as the sanctuary, the golf course as well as the altar.  Similarly, in our life there can be no hidden sins or thoughts to which the Lord has no access.

We must not repeat Saul’s mistake of keeping part of God’s property for our self. (I Sam. 15:9)  The sanctification must be whole, complete, even down to the “pots and pans of the kitchen”.   

We cannot say, “Lord, save my soul, but leave my mind and heart alone.”  We cannot offer Him our spirit but retain the full right to use our body as we wish.

Paul prayed for the Thessalonian believers; “May your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete.” (I Thess. 5:23)    That is for all of us….be complete in Christ!  This requires total surrender of our flesh to Jesus.

God wants a personal relationship with each one of us.   He wants to make every area of our life “awesome”.   He wants to be the Master of our thoughts as well as our emotions, instincts and even our subconscious.

When He becomes our all, our life will become radiant with His abounding peace and joy.

“But even now, says the Lord,
repent sincerely and return to me
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”   Joel  2:12  GNT

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Discernment

“That is what we speak about. We don't use words taught to us by people. We use words taught to us by the Holy Spirit. We use the words of the Spirit to teach the truths of the Spirit.

 Some people don't have the Holy Spirit. They don't accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. Things like that are foolish to them. They can't understand them. In fact, such things can't be understood without the Spirit's help.”                I Cor. 2:13-14  NIRV

The gift of discernment is the ability to recognize what is genuine from what is false.

Discernment is not a function of the mind; it is a function of the Holy Spirit which is in union with your spirit.

When the Holy Spirit sounds a warning, your mind may not be able to perceive what is wrong.   Have the courage to acknowledge that something is wrong when your spirit is troubled.   Do not be afraid to share with another trusted Christian what you’re sensing and ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom.

Christians with the gift of discernment learn how to:

    Have a clear sense of right from wrong, truth from error, and genuine motives    from false motives

    Perceive deception in others

    Recognize inconsistencies between words and actions/deeds

    Sense falseness

    Know whether a word or action is in accordance with God or not.

The gift of discernment can be used in helping settle disputes, counseling and/or spiritual warfare.

Christians with this gift must be careful not to fall into the temptation to always be ‘right’ and not admit when a mistake has been made.   Pride could prevent a humble spirit in the use of this gift.

Spiritual discernment is calling on the Holy Spirit to lead or give direction on a matter.   It is how the Holy Spirit shows the Church what God wants them to do and be.

“But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.”   I John 4:6  NLT

Gift of Discernment

“God's Spirit has shown you everything.  His Spirit finds out everything, even what is deep in the mind of God.  You are the only one who knows what is in your own mind, and God's Spirit is the only one who knows what is in God's mind.   But God has given us his Spirit. That's why we don't think the same way that the people of this world think. That's also why we can recognize the blessings that God has given us.

Every word we speak was taught to us by God's Spirit, not by human wisdom. And this same Spirit helps us teach spiritual things to spiritual people.” I Cor. 2:10-13 CEV



Christians operating with the gift of discernment will know error and evil when confronted with it.   To do something about it takes courage!

You will become a “whistle-blower” against Satan and he’s not going to like that!   He does not like to be exposed when deceiving others with fraud, con artist, charm and counterfeit miracles.

Christians with the spirit of discernment are not very popular with the ones who are in the wrong.   There will be temptations to step back, perhaps lay low and “let sleeping dogs lie”.   The trouble with that is the dog is NOT sleeping, and unless evil is stopped when it starts, it has a way of spreading.

Discernment is a course-changer.   Things may seem to be going well and all seems right and then enters the person with the gift of discernment.    They say, “Something is wrong…  It smells bad…  It doesn’t feel right…  It’s wrong because….”  There is a certain authority that comes with this gift that makes the bearer of the gift better able to stop the ‘wrong’.  Then others can step in and re-evaluate.

Anyone with this gift has to walk a fine line.   They are compelled to expose heresy, false doctrine and counterfeit work of Satan.   This must be done in a spirit of love.

Have you felt a special responsibility to protect the truth of God’s Word by exposing that which is wrong?

Has your sense that a person’s teaching was from God, Satan or man’s flesh been confirmed as correct?

Are you usually aware of people who pretend to be someone they are not?

Someone who is gifted in discernment can find where evil lurks in good things and where the Holy Spirit is working when things are going wrong.

“Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God.   For there are many false prophets in the world.   This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God.   But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God.  Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.”    I John 4:1-3  NLT

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Spiritual Discernment



“To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.  The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing.  

 He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy.  He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit.  Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.”     I Cor. 12:8-10   NLT

The gift of discernment is the special ability that the Holy Spirit gives which enables a person to quickly perceive with assurance whether such things as people, events or beliefs are from God or Satan.

Christians with the gift of discernment know that Satan and his demons disguise themselves as holy.  (I cor. 11:14-15)   They also know that Satan empowers counterfeit miracles to deceive people and that he empowers false teachers, false prophets, false apostles and false doctrine.   (Ex. 7:11-22, 8:7, Matt. 7:21-23, II Tim. 3:8, II Thess. 2:9, II Peter 2:1, Matt. 7:15, II Cor. 11:13,  I Tim. 1:3, 6:3).

This gift can motivate a believer to seek God’s will and purpose and apply that understanding to individual and congregational situations.   It provides the ability to distinguish between truth and error, to know when a person or act is of God.

Sometimes the gift of discernment is referred to as “discerning of spirits”.   Church members with this gift are responsible for keeping false teachings from influencing and possibly perverting the church.

The power of discerning good from evil is present in mature Christians by virtue of guidance through the Holy Spirit.

All Christians should seek to discern the truth.

Do you have a solid understanding of Scripture and sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit?

Are you keenly aware of moral sin and doctrinal heresy?

Do you have an awareness of demonic presence and how to help people be free of demons?

“I’m speaking the truth in Christ—I’m not lying, as my conscience assures me with the Holy Spirit..”   Romans  9:1  CEB


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Satisfied or Dissatisfied?

“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor;
the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!
Happy are those who mourn;
God will comfort them!
Happy are those who are humble;
they will receive what God has promised!
Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires;
God will satisfy them fully!”         Matt. 5:3-6  GNT

 God operates only in holy, not unholy, dissatisfaction.

This means dissatisfaction in spirit, not in the flesh.  Jesus referred to this as being “poor in the spirit” and the result of this poverty is to receive the “Kingdom of heaven”.  ( Matt. 5:3)

The Bible is full of dissatisfied holy people.   David built his kingdom with men who were tired of Saul’s spiritual arrogance, his collection of men, “in distress…..in debt….discontent…” was the raw material for his empire.  (I Sam. 22:2)

The disciples of John the Baptist were men who were tired of the world’s politics of greed and selfishness; they longed to see God’s Kingdom in operation on this earth.

No matter where I look in church history, I see a trail of dissatisfied men and women who longed for greater and deeper things of God.   They sought and found a spiritual ideal and left a spiritual empire behind.

Holy dissatisfaction always begins with God and ends with God.   I can be easily dissatisfied about politics, money, love or people but that is usually selfish.

Holy dissatisfaction begins within me, within my spirit, it sees the poverty and then it begins the quest for satisfaction that is only found in God.

I will never be much of a disciple unless I have felt this kind of dissatisfaction, the greater the dissatisfaction, the stronger my discipleship.

I must continue to ask myself:  Are you satisfied?     If I answer yes, then I can become my own obstacle to a flourishing discipleship for Christ.

 “Don’t let your heart envy sinners,
but fear the LORD constantly; then you will have a future,
and your hope won’t be cut off.”     Proverbs  23:17-18  CEB

The Pain of Discipleship

“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, the one who called you into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will himself restore, empower, strengthen, and establish you”.    I Peter 5:10   CEB

One of the first lessons I learned about the life of discipleship as that it is a life of pain.

Too often we hear the message preached, “Accept Jesus and live an abundant life in peace and joy”.   Of course peace and joy will eventually come but not without pain and that’s where many “Christians” grow discouraged and weary.

The pain that comes in following Jesus is the pain of change.   It is the change from living naturally to living spiritually.   That means the pain comes from the ungodliness that is still left in us.  The greater the resistance to change, the greater the pain will be.

One of the reasons heaven will have “no…more pain” (Rev. 21:4) is that every ‘will’ has been brought into complete harmony with God’s will.   The tension of “wills”, which is the source of pain, will be gone.

Many Christians make themselves unhappy because they resist the pain that in itself indicates victory.   They live miserably because their natural man loves comfort and selfishness. 

Jesus came to make us victorious not comfortable.   Victory means dying to our flesh and living in the spiritual life.

The difference between a “Christian” living in selfishness and one who is triumphant is pain.

The comforting thing about the pain of discipleship is that it is a healthy pain.   It is the pain of healing and restoration.  

It builds and molds us into the man/woman God planned us to be, it develops strong character and it perfects the image of God in us.

“Turn to me, God, and have mercy on me
because I’m alone and suffering.
 My heart’s troubles keep getting bigger—
set me free from my distress!”     Psalms 25:16-17  CEB

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Am I Discouraged?

“Give me strength, as you promised, and I shall live;
don't let me be disappointed in my hope!”    Psalms 119:116 GNT

Discouragement is a sin.

Discouragement says, “I refuse to accept God’s plan for my life.”    It always comes when our expectations are confused.

It is a tragedy that we accept Jesus as our “Lord” and then grow discouraged because He frustrates our expectations.

We must consider the causes of discouragement and see them in their proper perspective.

Am I criticized by others?     Let me REJOICE!

I realize that God uses iron to sharpen iron.

I also must remember that it was criticism and jealousy that started Joseph on his way to Pharaoh’s throne and God will allow criticism and jealousy to lead me to the correct path He has for me, IF I let Him.

Ask yourself: “Am I discouraged because the way is hard and painful?”

If yes, we must realize God is preparing plowed ground to yield fruit a hundredfold.  God will never give us more than what we can bear.

I will honor God by walking in faith and I will please Him by believing “all things (do) work together for good”.  (Romans 8:28)

I believe God “will go before (me) and will level the mountains…and ‘give (me) the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places.”   (Isa. 45:2-3 NIV)

“…. in my distress I cried out to the Lord;
yes, I prayed to my God for help.
He heard me from his sanctuary;
my cry to him reached his ears”.    Psalms 18:6  NLT


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Forgiving the Offense

“Hiding hatred makes you a liar;
slandering others makes you a fool”.    Proverbs 10:18  NLT

God forgives us of our sins and He expects us to forgive others.

When we refuse to forgive another person for an offense, we are refusing the forgiveness that God gave us through His Son.

God will hold us accountable for unforgiveness as Jesus illustrated in the parable of the unforgiving servant. (Matthew 18:21-35)

Another fact about unforgiveness is that it is a form of pride. When we have been ‘wronged’ by someone, we have a fleshly desire to see justice done.   When we withhold forgiveness, we are basically passing judgment on that person.  God instructs us to trust Him for justice.

The Bible tells us, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord”.  (Romans 12:19 NKJV)

This can be very hard to do, especially if someone has spitefully mistreated us or it is someone we love.   Forgiving is not condoning what they have done, but rather, it is laying the situation before God’s throne and asking Him to deal with it.

God saw the offense that was done and He knows how deeply you have been hurt.   If you can come to the place where you are willing to forgive the person through Christ’s love then you will be able to move forward and leave the burden in God’s hands.

After forgiving this person(s) we must walk past the offense and resist the temptation to revisit this offense in our minds and conversations.

This will require a choice to forgive and not seek pity or attention from others by repeating the matter constantly and not ‘rehashing’ it over and over with the offender or others.

We will be challenged to shake it off and exercise our authority in Jesus name as we take our thoughts and emotions captive.

As we take our stand to resist this temptation, the Holy Spirit within us will empower us to victory.

 “…. when you stand and pray, forgive anything you may have against anyone, so that your Father in heaven will forgive the wrongs you have done”.   Mark 11:25 GNT

Bondage of Offense

“…. be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you”.   Eph. 4:32   NLT

 Offense resides on the foundation of unforgiveness.

Taking offense allows Satan to build an “Anti-Christ” stronghold around us through unforgiveness.   From that stronghold he can control our emotions that could lead us into more sin and separate us from the body of Christ.

Unforgiveness can really hold us back from escaping the corruption of sin and living for Jesus.

Unforgiveness comes in many forms, such as bitterness, hatred, anger, holding grudges, jealousy and resentment.   It can actually block God’s forgiveness of our sin and provide a foothold for Satan to influence our lives.   (Matt. 6:14-15)

Additionally, unforgiveness can plant a “root of bitterness” in us that leads to various damaging results such as, it ruins the fruit of the Holy Spirit, stymies spiritual growth and contributes to physical illness.   Just as acid can destroy the vessel that holds it, so can unforgiveness destroy us when we harbor it.

The first action for breaking the bondage of offense is to forgive those whom we have allowed to offend us.

How does the temptation to take an offense appeal to pride in my life?

Are there any people whom I have not forgiven for past offenses?

I encourage you to ask God to give you the desire and ability to forgive “from the heart” as Jesus stated in Matthew 18:38. 

‘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.”   Mark 11:25 NLT



(so means: equal to, the same as, to the same degree)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Shake It Off!

“Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes”!       Matthew 18:7  NKJV 

We all have a choice to make when we are faced with an offense.

If we choose to be offended we will eventually turn sour with bitterness, jealousy, hatred and strife.

Offense is a powerful tool the enemy uses against our emotions to contaminate our heart.

One of the many lessons the Holy Spirit has been teaching me is that we have a choice to confront those who offend us and/or we can learn to forgive and forget.

In the learning process one of the first steps is to learn to talk with the person, if possible, regarding the offense.  Whether or not they ask you to forgive them or turn the situation around to make it your fault you still have to forgive.  In a situation as such you are still presented with the choice to forgive or leave angry.

We have all experienced these types of situations and know all too well how the scenario goes.

Forgiveness is the next step to walk deeper into maturity with Christ.

Can we forgive and forget without confronting the person who caused the offense?

Are we able to recognize the offense and shake it off by turning it over to Jesus without harboring ill feelings?

The Holy Spirit has been teaching me how important this step is in order to help others with inner healing from wounds of the past.   There are a lot of damaged emotions from our past that will probably never be addressed by the offender seeking forgiveness.   We must learn how to forgive without always seeking forgiveness from the offender.

Jesus taught us how He forgave without taking an offense from the Religious leaders of His time.   He was able to stay focused on the Father’s business, shake off the offense and keep walking.

Many times He has reminded me of the scripture that says to “shake the dust off your feet” and keep walking.   (Luke 9:5)

So whenever I encounter an offense I can hear the Holy Spirit say, “Shake it off and keep walking”. 

Recently, I was visiting my niece and her family.   As we were visiting she shared how they were teaching their two year old son to “shake it off” when he would get a little bruise or bump.  Of course, if he was hurt he could cry but not over every little bump a two year old would encounter.

I knew within my spirit this was a confirmation from the Holy Spirit of the phrase He had been teaching me.

During my visit, I was preparing to take my great nephew for a stroller ride.  As we walked out the door in his excitement to go he missed a step and was falling face down the steps.   I was able to grab the back of his shirt to save him from hitting his face but was not able to prevent the two big ‘raspberries’ he got on his legs from the cement steps.   As I picked him up I saw giant tears in his beautiful blue eyes.  In my mind I could hear my niece saying, “Shake it off” but while looking at her baby I just did not think I could say it.   However, I did hear myself nervously tell him  to ‘shake it off’ but quickly retorted with “baby…..you can cry, you deserve to cry, I know it hurt”.    He looked so intently at me and then said, “No, I shake it off”.

I gave him a big hug and placed him in the stroller and went looking for a place to buy him some ice cream.  (That always seems to help).

The Holy Spirit said to me, “See, even if we deserve to cry over an offense we can still shake it off and turn it over to Jesus”.    We have a choice to cry, feel sorry for ourselves, take an offense or shake it off and trust Jesus to handle the situation.

Our choice will determine our maturity level in Christ and how much we really trust Him to handle the situations in our life and how protective we are with our heart.

The alternative is to take an offense and become brittle and bitter.

“…. Jesus concluded,
That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart”.    Matt.18:35  GNT


Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Snare of Offense

“A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense”.   Prov. 19:11   NIV

Taking an offense will cause you to fall into powerlessness, frustration and defeat.  It is possible to be in that trap and not even know it.

Hating people will not only cause your heart to harden but it will destroy you and rob you of everything Jesus died for to give you.

The snare of offense is more deadly than you can possibly imagine.  It is a dangerous trap the enemy uses to separate you from God and steal your happiness.

It has possibly destroyed more Christian lives than sex, drugs, and alcohol combined.   Offense brings its friends along, you know them; bitterness, jealousy, unforgiveness, betrayal, anger and hatred.   They come to test every person.

Offense can rob you of your anointing and intimacy with God.

An offense according to God’s Word is something that trips us up so that we fall into sin or unbelief.   “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.  Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.”  (Romans 14:13 NIV)

We can set ourselves up for offenses when we place expectations upon certain people.  They will fall short of those expectations and disappoint us.  We also can set ourselves and others up for offense when we require certain behavior from those we have a relationship with.

We place undue pressure upon them when we expect them to say, act or dress according to our desires.  This is a trap of Satan that only causes hurts, disappointments and offense. 

Proverbs 18:19 (a) informs us of the consequences of such expectations; “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city….”  

An offense puts you in Satan’s strongholds whereby he becomes your master.  He will control your emotions. 

The world we live in today is all about “me”.  It projects the philosophy of “selfishness”.   It teaches us to place ourselves above others and how to be insensitive to others feelings.

Jesus warned us of these times, He said, “…. many shall be caused to stumble [And then many shall be offended], and [they shall] betray each other, and they shall hate each other”.   Matt. 24:10  WYC

As Christians we are not living according to the world’s standard we are to forgive and forget.  Love is how we manage to walk through offense.

Love is kind and patient,

never jealous, boastful,

proud, or rude.

Love isn't selfish

or quick tempered.

It doesn't keep a record

of wrongs that others do.

Love rejoices in the truth,

but not in evil.
Love is always supportive,

loyal, hopeful,

and trusting”.    I Cor. 13:4-7  CEV


Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Trap of Offense

“Making up with a friend you have offended is harder than breaking through a city wall”.      Prov.18:19  CEV

Jesus warns us in His Word that offenses would come and they would destroy relationships.   Therefore, we must learn to forgive and forget in order to escape the trap of offense.
Satan knows that no one can hurt us worse than a family member, friend or another Christian.  He is always looking for an opportunity to cause an offense to distract or separate us from our walk with Christ.

King David wrote of this pain in Psalm 55: 12-14, “It is not an enemy who taunts me—I could bear that.
It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me—I could have hidden from them.
 Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend.
What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God”.


Offense is defined by Webster as, “a sin or crime, creating resentment, displeasure, a feeling hurt, angry, the act of attacking...”
The Greek translation of “offense” is “enticement to sin”.

So if we are offending someone carelessly and on purpose, we are enticing them to sin.   Or, if we are offended at someone, it can lead to sin.  Anger can lead to hatred, jealousy, bitterness and unforgiveness which entangle us to Satan and gives him control over our emotions.
How many people in the Church sing: “I love you Lord, but I hate…….!”

Some people wake up every morning looking to be offended and they are not disappointed.  They find ways to feel neglected and offended on a regular basis.
One of the greatest indicators of spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, selfishness, jealousies and potentially offensive actions of others.

“Smart people know how to hold their tongue;
their grandeur is to forgive and forget”.     Prov. 19:11  The Message Bible


Friday, June 17, 2011

True Humility



“Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times.    We refuse to wear masks and play games.    We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes.    And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves.

Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God”.      II Cor. 4:1-2   Message Bible

 As a Christian do we have to surrender the right to be successful?

 God’s word to every Believer is, “Should you then seek great things for yourself?  Seek them not…”  (Jer. 45:5 NIV)    If we strive to be great in God’s work, we will never make it.

Greatness is God’s handiwork, not man’s.

The world will come to the Christian if they have something to offer, even as it came to Jesus.  The world is surprisingly sharp when it comes to values; they know whom to seek out in desperate times.

We must not envy the great ‘saints’ or long for a ‘famous’ testimony.   It takes greater courage to endure the daily irritations and drudgery of life where nothing heroic happens.

Seeking recognition and attention is characteristic of the world, not the disciple of Jesus Christ.   Of course, some of God’s servants do receive attention and notoriety but the true servant will ignore such honor and strive for God to get all the glory.

A true servant will treat such attention not as an asset but as a hindrance.   They will see it as temptation to become arrogant, as an opportunity of the enemy to knock on the door of their ego.

To serve God unnoticed takes true humility and steadfast dedication.   God is not looking for great men and women, but for someone who will allow Him to manifest Himself greatly through them.

Our ultimate goal is to glorify God, not self.

"Don't let the wise brag of their wisdom.
Don't let heroes brag of their exploits.
Don't let the rich brag of their riches.
If you brag, brag of this and this only:
That you understand and know me……..”      Jeremiah 9:23-24 (a)   Message Bible

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Victory

“For he will conceal me there when troubles come;
he will hide me in his sanctuary.
He will place me out of reach on a high rock”.       Psalm 27:5  NLT

We should realize and act upon the principle that every victory must lead to taking and holding possession of.

Merely to conquer a bad habit or to drive doubt out of our heart is not in itself sufficient.  We must follow up our victories with being more than a conqueror,” that is, seizing the territory so the enemy cannot recapture it.

When the Israelites conquered the Amorites, they followed up their victory by occupying their land. (Num. 21:21-32)    This made any counterattack by the enemy impossible.

We must secure our victories in such a way that counterattack is impossible.   Otherwise, as Jesus reminds us in His parable, the end may be worse than the beginning.  (Matt. 12:43)   The only way to crucify our fleshly desires is to drive them from our mind, then allow the Holy Spirit to create new, fresh desires in us.

The only way we can conquer hate is to replace it with love. We cannot conquer bitterness by confessing it; we must replace it with praise and thankfulness.

In other words, there must be no vacancy after victory!

As Apostle Paul wrote, we must withstand, fight and overcome the enemy, after which we must stand.  (Eph. 6:13)

Too often we have won the victory only to fail to stand steadfast afterwards.   It does not take the enemy long to recognize an unguarded gate and seize it.

Leban gave his sister Rebekah great advice as she was leaving to go marry Isaac; “May your descendants possess the gate of those who hate them”.  (Gen. 24:60) 

The city gate was the city’s most crucial defense, once lost, the whole city was lost.

That is where victory will lead us…….to make inoperative those things that would keep us from enjoying what Jesus bought for us…..salvation.

“The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said.   And the LORD will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land.  The LORD will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you.    Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”      Deut. 31:3-6  TNIV

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Competition

“So keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners. Then you won't get discouraged and give up”.        Heb. 12:3  CEB



We must beware of one of Satan’s subtlest traps---competing with others.

Jesus knew nothing of competition; He only knew service.   Too often we can become like the disciples, striving with who should be the greatest (Lk 22:24) and forgetting that the greatest of all is he who washes the feet of others.

Competition is really warfare and the only competitor we should have is our self.   Competition is a Pandora’s Box that releases negative feelings towards others.

We must avoid comparison because God has a plan for each one of us that is individual and distinctive as the formation of a snowflake.  A true Christian compares ‘himself’ with himself and is able to say, “The Lord has enabled me to grow in His plan.

Competition is one of Satan’s flaws.   The moment God said to him, “Have you considered My servant Job?  For there is no one like him.”  (Job 1:8)    Satan was on a mission to bring him down.   Satan could not stand God’s praise of Job; he wanted it for himself.

Whenever we are tempted to pattern our life or behavior after another, we will hear Jesus say, “What is that to you?   You follow Me”.  (John 21:22)

Competition ceases the moment we follow Paul’s advice: “Give preference to one another in honor”.  (Rom. 12:10)    We should strive for the lowest---most humble place not the highest.    Wasn’t this the path chosen by Jesus, who “humbled Himself…even to the death of the cross”.    Phil. 2: 5-8

Our Cross

“For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live”.     Romans 8:13 GNT



One of the purposes of the cross is to release me from myself in order to be useful to the world.

If I am constantly occupied with my cross, I am of no use to myself or anyone else.

Jesus instructs each one of us to leave all that would compete with Him and follow Him.

We cannot manufacture a “cross”, for that would be the worst type of hypocrisy.   It is either there or not.   Simply denying our self a tiny pleasure, then being proud of it is certainly not the cross Jesus was talking about.

The “cross” is a continual death to self.  We must “die daily” as Paul did. (I Cor. 15:31)   Today the point of crucifixion may be one thing, tomorrow something else.

As long as we are alive and as long as we desire to be first, we will be confronted with choices:  my will or Jesus?     We will never be free here on earth from the pain of being scarred by our cross.

The pain of our cross is Jesus’ pain that He endured for others; only as I suffer the pain of dying to self can I live, as Jesus did, for others.

That is the “glory” life Paul proclaimed: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”     Gal. 6:14  NIV

Monday, June 13, 2011

When God is Silent

“For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will take you back”.     Isa. 54:7  NLT

We should accept the fact that there will be times when Jesus will be silent with us.

When the Syrophoenician woman came asking Jesus to heal her daughter, Jesus surprised everyone with His response.

He did three things:  He refused to help her, He said He came to help others and He said that the children’s food should not be given to the dogs.  (Matt. 15:21-28)

After those strange responses, I would think the lady would have left angry.  But she did not and Jesus knew she would not, since He was only testing her faith.  Once that faith had been tested, it was given full permission.

“You have great faith!  Your request has been granted.”  (Vs 28)

When Jesus is silent at times with us or ask a strange request, it is for our growth.   He wants our faith to be purified by obstacles until it reaches the point where we can ask for the impossible.

There have been times when we have all experienced a time of prayer and things got worse instead of better.   This is a time where Jesus is testing us in order to strain selfishness out of our prayers.

He wants our faith to be battle ready and the only way to accomplish that is to put Himself where He seems to be out of reach or silent, momentarily.

The combination of obstacles and a ‘silent’ God often times tend to discourage us, but it is exactly there that we must be persistent, like the Syrophoenician woman, until Jesus finally turns and says, “Your faith is great!”

The brief moment of His forsaking will pass and with great mercies He will return and gather us and vindicate us.  (Isa. 54:7,17)

“To God, my defender, I say,
Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go on suffering
from the cruelty of my enemies?”   Psalm 42:9  GNT


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Faith For The Impossible

“They were completely amazed and said, "Everything he does is good! He even heals people who cannot hear or talk."     Mark 7:37  CEV
 

Discipleship for Jesus is not only doing what we can, but what cannot.

When Jesus said to the paralyzed man at Bethesda, “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk,” (John 5:8), He was asking the impossible humanly speaking.

If our Christian life is to be measured by what we can do, we are left with a purely human religion.  If on the other hand, Jesus is who He says He is, than He will often command us to do the impossible for His sake as well as others.

It is amazing how we believe so strongly in a super natural God, and yet, just as strongly try to live a natural life.

God asked Abraham to offer Isaac, a thing he could not do because it violated His promise to him. (Gen 22)  Yet, Abraham believed that what could not be done also could be done, even if it took a miracle to do it.

Abraham’s expectancy was in a miracle-working God.  This is where so many of us often fail, we believe in a miracle working God, but for “me”?   We believe that God works miracles in a foreign land, but find it hard to believe He works miracles for “me”.

Discipleship, if it means anything, means something just beyond our reach.  If it is simply my idea, my talent, or my energy then I can quietly dismiss Jesus and carry on without Him.

God forces us to do the impossible, for in no other way is He going to express Jesus in us.

Soon we may hear Him say, “Get up, take your bed and walk!” Or, “Get to Moriah and offer your Isaac.”

When we hear those words we will know a miracle is in the making, for we could not obey them apart from Him who is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all I could ask or think.”   Eph. 3:20


Your Talent or God's?

"We do not live or die for ourselves. If we live, we are living for the Lord, and if we die, we are dying for the Lord. So living or dying, we belong to the Lord”. Romans 14:7-8 NCV


We should always remember our talent is our liability.

When we invest money in a savings account at the bank, that money is not the bank’s asset but their liability----it is owed me.

So it is with any talent God gives us; it does not belong to us but to the people for whom God intended it.

Most secular people and some Christians tend to be deceived about that. If God blesses their business, they take the credit. If God gives them good health, they attribute it to taking care of themselves. Their “goodness” is corrupted by self deceit.

Paul has a word here: “Who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive from God?” (I Cor. 4:7 NIV) These are valuable questions that we are obligated to answer.

If God has bestowed anything special upon us, we must first acknowledge that it came from Him and then use it as it was intended----to bless and encourage others.

The only “asset” we have is the obligation of God and His promise to save us for His eternal glory. Any natural gifts or talents we may have are our obligation, under God, to others.

Paul says, “I am debtor,” (Rom. 1:14 KJV) which puts it concisely. All Paul was he “owed” to others and he did not take his talent and bury it in the ground.

The only way our gifts and talents can live, thrive and prosper is by using them for others. Kept for ourselves---our talents and self will die. The deadness that we find so amazing is not the deadness of inactivity but the deadness of accumulations; “I must look out for number one.”

On the contrary, Jesus says, “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38 NIV

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Know When to be Silent

“….. Jesus was silent and made no reply….”  Mark 14:61   NLT



We must not practice the art of self defense.   We should take Jesus as our example in this.

When He was reviled, He did not revile in return, but rather committed Himself to His Father.  (I Peter 2:23)   We must not answer all of our critics.

For one thing, there are too many of them and to satisfy them it would take all of our time and energy.   For another thing, our critics may unwittingly be our friends.  Like a mirror, they show us our faults and short comings that our blinded eyes could not see otherwise.

We can respond to critics with either thankfulness or silence.  Thankfulness when they point out areas that may need improvement and silence when the criticism is malicious and spoken out of jealousy.

Criticism should move us to prayer and to the place of surrendering the critic into God’s hands.   Pray that if the criticism is fair, we will accept it and if not, that God will defend us.

We must be careful not to line up supporters when under attack. It is tempting and easy to take sides, to gather friends and to make the criticism develop into an issue where battle lines are drawn.   To do that means we refuse to admit we need correction or to refuse the benefit of criticism. 

It also, creates an endless cycle of bickering and back-stabbing that only caters to pride and egos.   When this happens a quarrel develops which means someone has forgotten to say, “Forgive me!”

Jesus is our perfect example on how to handle criticism because He went to the cross with a pure conscience.  We are instructed to “keep a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”.  I Peter 3:16 NIV

“Selfish people cause trouble,

but you will live a full life

if you trust the LORD”.    Prov. 28:25  CEV

Friday, June 10, 2011

To Justify or To Judge


“If we carefully judge ourselves, we won't be punished.  But when the Lord judges and punishes us, he does it to keep us from being condemned with the rest of the world”.    I Cor. 11:31-32   CEV
One of the abilities God is trying to help us develop is the ability to humble ourselves.  God told King Josiah, “Because….you humbled yourself before the Lord…I have heard you.”  (II kings 22:19-20)    As a result, he would not witness God’s judgment on his people.   The key word there is “yourself”.
When we become a Christian, God placed in our hands the right to judge ourselves.  If we fail to exercise that right, He will do it for us.   Judging ourselves is reviewing our relationship to God.   Most of the time that review will reveal something lacking or wanting.   It is at that point we must humble ourselves by admitting we are lacking and then asking God’s forgiveness.
If I judge myself, I am forgiven but not chastened. (I Cor. 11:31-32)    But if I neglect to judge myself then the Lord must step in to do it for me.   It means that He must add His “chastening” which suggest feeling His rod of correction.
The world knows nothing about judging itself, only justifying itself.   That is a key difference between a true Christian and the show Christian as well as the secular.
We can always gauge our spiritual life by asking a simple question; ‘Am I justifying myself or judging myself?’   The justifier reveals that something has gone wrong within and the carnal nature is again in control.
But the one who judges reveals that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in their heart.   They are constantly seeking a pure heart.   It is at this point that “the Lord of peace himself (will) give you peace at all times and in every way….”  II Thess. 3:16 NIV
“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death”.   II Cor. 7:10  NLT

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Offense: Give or Take

“But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you'll soon wish you hadn't.  You'd be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck.  Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don't have to make it worse—and it's doomsday to you if you do.

"If your hand or your foot gets in the way of God, chop it off and throw it away. You're better off maimed or lame and alive than the proud owners of two hands and two feet, godless in a furnace of eternal fire.  And if your eye distracts you from God, pull it out and throw it away. You're better off one-eyed and alive than exercising your twenty-twenty vision from inside the fire of hell”.  Matt 18:7-9 MSG



As a Christian we must learn never to give or take an offense.   Jesus said that the world constantly offends us, but we as His followers must never offend. 

He was so serious about this that He said an eye, a foot, or a hand must be cut off rather than offend someone else.   He meant this: get rid of anything that causes offense to someone else, no matter how painful to you.

As a discerning Christian, I must expect offenses to come my way.  I must be wise as a serpent, in expecting offenses, yet harmless as a dove in giving them. (Matt.10:16)    It is only natural that somewhere along the way I will offend others.   The gospel itself is offensive to many and if I preach it truthfully and faithfully I will most certainly offend some people.

But this is not the offensiveness Jesus is talking about.  He is speaking about the offense that comes from an evil mind.  He is talking about the offense that comes from an evil intention; hidden motives.   We cannot make everybody love us; but we can, like Daniel, force them who dislike us to say, “It is because of his God”. (Daniel 6:23)

Taking an offense is a different matter.  By God’s grace we must never take an offense.  Regardless of how evil the intention, how vile the source of the offense, we must never attribute to a person’s action a malicious cause, but rather turn my case over to God and say, “Lord, You judge in the matter”.   Then, vengeance is safely given to Him.

The offense less life is a challenged discipline for a follower of God.  The same Jesus who exemplified it perfectly on earth will not fail to empower us to do the same.   The One who said I am to be as harmless as a dove will not ask me to do the impossible; He will energize me for it.

 “When he was insulted, he did not reply with insults.  When he suffered, he did not threaten revenge.  Instead, he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly”.         I Peter 2:23    CEB


Monday, June 6, 2011

Intervention

“The king caved in and ordered Daniel brought and thrown into the lions' den. But he said to Daniel, "Your God, to whom you are so loyal, is going to get you out of this."

 A stone slab was placed over the opening of the den.  The king sealed the cover with his signet ring and the signet rings of all his nobles, fixing Daniel's fate.

 The king then went back to his palace. He refused supper.  He couldn't sleep. He spent the night fasting.

 At daybreak the king got up and hurried to the lions' den.  As he approached the den, he called out anxiously, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve so loyally, saved you from the lions?"

 "O king, live forever!" said Daniel.  "My God sent his angel, who closed the mouths of the lions so that they would not hurt me….”   Daniel 6:16-22  Message Bible



How often we are reminded of that awesome thing God did for His people when the Egyptians pursued them.   He placed His defending angel between the pursuer and the pursued.  (Ex. 14:19-20)

“Thank you, Jesus, for the many, many times Your angel has stood between me and a grievous heart, a painful wound and an otherwise crushing blow.

God will not give us more than we can handle.  He trusts our spiritual strength to deal with the pain up to a certain point.

But when He sees that the load is greater than our ability to endure, He personally intervenes and takes the pain upon Himself.

God is the great absorber of our excess suffering; that is why we are “able to bear it”.    We can better understand what Isaiah meant when he said, “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them.”  (Isa. 63:9)

How often we rejoice that God saves us from our sins!  But it is just as true that He saves us from our suffering by placing Himself between us and our pain.

We worship a scarred God.   But may we never forget that the scars were inflicted because He loves us enough to step in between, to become our “buffer”; and to take upon Himself that which was rightly ours.

“Lord, Your love overwhelms me!  No wonder Paul said it “surpasses knowledge”.  (Eph. 3:19)



“Be confident, my heart,
because the Lord has been good to me.

 The Lord saved me from death;
he stopped my tears
and kept me from defeat.
 And so I walk in the presence of the Lord
in the world of the living”.      Psalm 116:7-9  GNT