Psalm for the Day

Monday, January 30, 2012

My Yoke is easy……My burden is light…..

“Lord, I know that none of us are in charge of our own destiny;
none of us have control over our own life.”   Jer. 10:23 GNT

Have I ever really felt the “burden of the Lord”?   If I have, there will be times when I will be weary and tired of the Lord’s work.

 Lord, I have felt that way at times.  I have sometimes felt ashamed when preaching, not of how I preached but of what.   The gospel sometimes has embarrassed me, and I longed to be free from having to care for people and from having to announce a message that begins with human sin.

The Lord’s “burden” is heavy, not as heavy as my sin burden, perhaps but heavy just the same. Yet the Lord’s “woe” is even heavier.  “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” said Paul (I Cor. 9:26). 

How could Jesus say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light?”  (Matt. 11:30).   A burden by definition cannot be light (easy).  He was the only Spokesman for God who never complained about the burden.  It does me no good to say, “But He was God!”   He was man, too and in becoming man He set aside all the privileges of Deity.

No, I think the answer is that Jesus’ manhood was whole.  He never knew deviation or exception.   He willed one will with the Father always.  But I am plagued with vacillation-----one day feeling so spiritual I could give my body to be burned and the next day resenting the interruptions.

My message is a burden because it demands consistency and total dedication from me.   It would be intolerable unless He who found His burden so light helped me.   But He assures me that though the rivers swell, they will not drown me; and though the fires rage I will not be consumed.

That is the glory of the disciple of Christ; he is burdened only to fly and he is put to death only to live!

   “When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.”   Isaiah 43:2 NLT

Saturday, January 28, 2012

….your sins are forgiven….

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”   Psalm 139:23-24 NLT

We can never be a true disciple of Jesus until we adequately despise sin.   It is not enough for us to abandon sin; we must loathe it.

God refers to sin in terms of beastliness, the stubborn horse, the wily snake, the mud-loving pig.  That is not accidental!  The beastliness of sin represents sin in its farthest distance from God, not merely that which is different from God, but that which is opposite.

My true feeling about sin is never reflected about sin in general; it is always about sin in me.   God never redeems abstractions or principles; He redeems people.

Until I can loathe the sin that I commit I will never understand God’s attitude toward my sin and His undying determination to redeem me from it.

My true attitude toward a specific sin seldom is formed before I commit it; that occurs afterward.   It is difficult to see sin in its true light when it approaches me to tempt me.  Then sin may often appear as “good” to the taste, “a delight to the eyes,” and “desirable to make one wise” (Gen. 3:6). 

But once it has done its work, I see its viciousness, I feel defiled, I mourn my actions and I turn to God in pitiful humiliation for His cleansing power.

To be a true disciple of Jesus I must see the beastliness of sin before it works its devastation upon me.   I must hate it everlastingly.  I must never lose my focus on the fact that it was my very own sin that drove Jesus to tears, to loud outcries, to moaning and groaning, and to the cross. 

When I feel this way about my sin, I will understand Isaiah’s “Woe is me” (Isa. 6:5) and what it means to be cleansed with a coal from the altar.

“Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”  Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.   He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”   Isa. 6:5-7 NLT

Friday, January 27, 2012

God’s love is behind each miraculous sign……..

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”    Psalm 13:5-6

Have you ever faced a big decision and found yourself praying, “Lord, please give me a sign”?     I certainly have!

In the Gospel of John, the people who come to Jesus offer a similar petition: show us a sign so that we may believe.  They were drawn to Jesus because of the things they had heard about Him, but they were not convinced by the second-hand stories. They wanted proof.

 Repeatedly throughout the Gospel of John their petition was granted.  And, each time that Jesus provided a sign, John made sure to add a note that many saw and believed.  

In the act of seeing Jesus’ miraculous works people’s hearts are changed.  In Him they are able to see God’s love for them made real. Jesus responds to their petitions because He knows that seeing a sign will help them to come to faith in God.

The relationship between faith and miracles in John differs significantly from that which is found in the other Gospels.  In John, seeing the miracle brings faith to those who see them as signs.  Jesus’ actions prompt those who see them to come to faith in God.  

But His actions can only have this effect in those who are open to see that the miracles point beyond themselves to a loving God.  To those who see them as arbitrary miracles, they only serve to harden their hearts further.  By contrast, in Matthew, Mark and Luke, the faith of the people who come to Jesus seeking help results in a miracle.

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?”  (Psalm 13:1).  Even in the midst of his anguish, David says something that is important for us to see.

The point here is that David was questioning God from his heart.  He was truly dismayed at what he saw, and he wanted to know why God was allowing sinful people to succeed against him.

Even in the midst of that questioning, he speaks of trusting God and celebrating what God had done for him.   He believed God to fulfill His Word without requesting a sign to prove Himself faithful to His servant, David.

In the midst of your questioning, can you still trust God to be faithful to His Word?   Can you believe God to answer your prayer without asking for a sign?

Only a close walk with God can bring you to that point, and you cannot get that by just living for signs.  You get it by spending time with Him in His Word, worship and prayer.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”   Prov. 3: 5-6 NKJV


Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Sign of Jonah?

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, Teacher, we desire to see a sign or miracle from You [proving that You are what You claim to be].

But He replied to them, “An evil and adulterous generation (a generation morally unfaithful to God) seeks and demands a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

For even as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, Someone more and greater than Jonah is here!

The queen of the South will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the Wisdom of Solomon, and behold, Someone more and greater than Solomon is here.”     Matthew 12: 38-42  AMP

Those who do not believe in Jesus call for a miraculous sign (38). The Pharisees and scribes basically demanded a sign from Jesus.  What were they looking for in a sign, and why would Jesus not give them one?

They were looking for some amazing event or miracle that would convince them that He was the Messiah.  Of course, He had been doing miracles right and left--but they seemed to want some other big thing that would be irrefutable.  But Jesus would not give one to them because they had already rejected Him out of unbelief.

Jesus refuses to give His opponents a sign and instead warns them of judgment to come (39-45). Jesus’ response can be subdivided into several points: a rejection of a sign now but a future sign to give them another opportunity to believe; a verdict on their wickedness and a warning of judgment, and a sentence on them for their unbelief.

Also, in His response Jesus simply identified these people as a wicked and adulterous generation.  No sign would be given to them---not the kind they wanted anyway.

So His point is that a willful and rebellious people do not really believe, but they do demand a spectacular sign. They have made up their minds about Jesus, and it would take something really big to change their minds.  In another place Jesus made it clear that such people who do not believe in God’s revelation would not believe even if one came back from the dead (Luke 16:31).  Their refusal to believe made them an adulterous generation, like their ancestors who killed the prophets.

But a sign would be given to them later-------a confirming sign.  Jesus was telling them that they would have one more opportunity to be convinced----the sign of His resurrection would prove who He is and what His death was all about. They had rejected every other sign that Jesus had given them, so there was one more, but they would have to wait for it.

This was the sign of Jonah.  Just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, so the Messiah would be in the grave three days and three nights before rising from the dead (Jonah was not dead, but was as good as dead if God had not intervened).

This sign--the death and resurrection--would confirm that Jesus indeed is the Messiah, the Son of God.  That is truly a miraculous sign.  However, it would come later for these opponents of Jesus; for they were the ones who were plotting to kill Him. And they would succeed in their opposition to Jesus by seeing Him crucified.  Thus, the “sign” that they wanted would come from their own crime against Him.  They would be guilty of His death.  But it was an opportunity that would come later; that they might then believe.

I offer you my heart, LORD God, and I trust you.

Show me your paths and teach me to follow; guide me by your truth and instruct me.

You keep me safe, and I always trust you.”  Psalms 25: 1,2a,4,5 CEV

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Sign to convince or to confirm……

“One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove your authority.””   Matthew 12:38 NLT

A sign used in the Bible is for some event or activity, supernatural or not, that would authenticate the person and claims of Jesus.  A sign was usually a miracle with a clear meaning; it was a miracle designed to reveal something specific.  However, in the Bible there are two ways that signs are used, to convince and to confirm.

For example, when Moses was sent back to the Israelites to lead them out of bondage, he was given some signs to perform--his staff turning to a snake, his hand turning leprous, and the water turning to blood.  These were done in order to convince the people that they should believe Moses and follow him. But Moses was given another sign--when he and the people returned to Mount Sinai after the exodus they would worship at the mountain. That was a sign that would confirm that God had done it, but it was not a sign to convince them to go to the mountain to worship.  Once they got there they would be assured that God had done just as He had promised.

These Pharisees and Sadducees clearly wanted a sign to convince them to believe. But they were dishonest and Jesus saw right through them. They had just seen a spectacular sign, the casting out of the demon so that the man regained his abilities, and instead of believing they accused Him of doing it by Beelzebub. They were not interested in a sign, only in trying to discredit Jesus.  

If He could not do a sign for them, they could expose Him; if He did one, they could discredit Him. They were an evil lot and they call Him “Teacher”!  They despised Him and were determined not to listen to His teachings.

Moreover, wanting a sign runs contrary to the nature of faith which does not rely on a sign to convince people to believe.  If Jesus did a sign like that, it is unlikely that these people would have believed. They were merely challenging Jesus, and if He did a sign they would likely have rejected it.  After all, they had frequently explained away some of the great miracles He had been performing.

We should digress for a moment because there are places in the Bible where it seems appropriate to seek a sign from God.  We have already seen how God gave Moses signs to do to authenticate His plan.  The people needed to be sure that this man off the desert was truly sent by God. 

When they saw the signs, that was enough--they accepted him as their leader.  It was not a question of coming to faith in God, but rather of testing the authenticity of a man who wanted to lead them out of bondage.

Another good example; God through Isaiah told the king to ask a sign from the Lord, anything whatsoever (Isa. 7). The king refused, being a wicked unbeliever. So God gave a sign anyway: a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son known as Immanuel. The supernatural birth of Jesus would be a sign that the Davidic Covenant would still be fulfilled.  The point in Isaiah 7:9 is that if Ahaz had believed, he would have been confirmed.  So asking a sign in faith is different than challenging God to convince us to believe.

Or, Gideon put out the fleece for a sign that God would go with him to battle.  The text never condemns Gideon for this, because he was a devout believer, but more importantly, he had already decided to go, and what he wanted was a sign that God would be with him.  So again faith was already operative.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dare to believe in the power of God’s Word……

“On the Judgment Day the people of Nineveh will stand up and accuse you, because they turned from their sins when they heard Jonah preach; and I tell you that there is something here greater than Jonah!  On the Judgment Day the Queen of Sheba will stand up and accuse you, because she traveled all the way from her country to listen to King Solomon's wise teaching; and I assure you that there is something here greater than Solomon!”  Matthew 12:41-42  GNT

The mention of Jonah brings the story of Jonah to mind, and so Jesus makes a point of the heart of that account.  The people of Israel were both affluent and indifferent to the call of God on their lives to be a light to the nation.  So God called the reluctant prophet to go and preach to the hated enemies of Israel, the Assyrians who lived in Nineveh (modern Iraq).  But the point of the story is that those people repented at the preaching of Jonah, and God spared that generation the judgment.

Jesus says that those people of Nineveh will “stand up” at the judgment and “condemn” these unbelievers.   Well, it will be God who judges unbelieving sinners — so what does this line mean?   I think the point that Jesus was making was that here were people from other nations who had far less revelation than Jesus’ opponents, but they believed the word of the Lord.

The fact that they will “rise up” (meaning stand, i.e., not fall, not be condemned) in the judgment will be evidence that people of Jesus’ day could have believed without all this convincing.  In other words, their conversion will be a condemnation for unbelieving Israel.  If they could believe, why could not the Jews?

The second story is the visit of the Queen of Sheba who came to challenge Solomon’s wisdom. Of course, he made a believer out of her by answering all her questions.  Here was a queen from another land, not an Israelite, who had very little information other than that the wisdom of God was in this king, and she came, she heard, and she was convinced.  Her presence in the kingdom will also condemn Israel, for if she could believe what she heard about God’s wisdom in Solomon after a brief visit, if she could believe with what she had, they should have believed with all that they had.  For Jesus is far greater than Solomon.

So Jesus made this striking point that the stakes are now much higher.  Pagans believed in the Lord at the preaching of Jonah--but Jesus is much greater than Jonah.  He preached far more profound things, and did amazing miracles to authenticate His words.  They should have believed.   A pagan queen believed because she heard wise sayings from the king of Israel--but Jesus is far greater than Solomon.  His wisdom and His knowledge surpasses them all. They should have believed.

So in the judgment they will be condemned for their unbelief very convincingly because people like this with little or no information believed, whereas they with the presence of the Lord in their very midst refused to believe.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Faith without signs……

“Then some teachers of the Law and some Pharisees spoke up.
Teacher, they said, we want to see you perform a miracle.

How evil and godless are the people of this day!  Jesus exclaimed.
You ask me for a miracle?  No! The only miracle you will be given is the miracle of the prophet Jonah.  In the same way that Jonah spent three days and nights in the big fish, so will the Son of Man spend three days and nights in the depths of the earth. 

On the Judgment Day the people of Nineveh will stand up and accuse you, because they turned from their sins when they heard Jonah preach; and I tell you that there is something here greater than Jonah!  On the Judgment Day the Queen of Sheba will stand up and accuse you, because she traveled all the way from her country to listen to King Solomon's wise teaching; and I assure you that there is something here greater than Solomon!”   Matthew 12: 38-42 GNT

The teaching of Jesus in this passage begins with an incident; here a demand is made from the Pharisees and teachers of the Law for a miraculous sign (v. 38).

The immediate answer of Jesus was that there would be no sign as they wished, because the request came from unbelieving hearts (v. 39). There would be a sign, though, the sign of Jonah, which would confirm that Jesus was who He said He was.  But that sign would only be recognized after they crucified Him.  Nevertheless, it would give them one last opportunity to believe.

Then Jesus provides two warnings of unbelief based on history: the belief of the people of Nineveh and the belief of the Queen of Sheba.  Here were Gentiles, not Jews, who believed the revelation from God, and therefore who would condemn these unbelievers.  This means that their believing would show that unbelieving Israel should have believed, and could have believed, and so have no excuse.  They had believed the word of Jonah, and the Wisdom of Solomon; but now the Messiah was present and they should have believed.

Then Jesus adds a prophetic teaching about the future hardening in unbelief of this wicked generation.  To realize the power of Jesus to cleanse the heart but still refuse to receive Him will lead to a much worse condition.

There are two historical stories that have to be re-thought: Jonah and Sheba.  People are familiar with those stories, but here we have to see exactly how Jesus was using them to make His point.

The point of the passage focuses on unbelief and belief, unbelief by the Jews, and belief by the Gentiles.   Jesus’ teaching then first declares that they are wicked, and then announces condemnation in the judgment in contrast to those who believe, and finally announces that they will be hardened in unbelief if they do not receive Him.

One clear statement made in this passage is on judgment to those who do not believe the word of the Lord and receive Jesus as their King.  Those who do not believe will have no excuse, for people with far less information than they believed--and now a greater than Israel’s prophets and kings was present.  The idea is not that one needs a lot of information or signs in order to believe; rather, the response of faith to the amount of revelation given will determine acceptance with God. Without faith it is impossible to please God; and so when He sends His word, He expects people to trust Him.

Jesus is also saying that if He defeats Satan and they do not accept Him, then Satan’s power will have a greater hold on them in the future.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The greatest sign……..Jesus!

“One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’  You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times!  Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. ” Then Jesus left them and went away.”   Matthew 16:1-4 NLT

The point that Jesus was making was that the Kingdom of Heaven had come and that they were going to be excluded if they persisted in their rejection of Him. This warning troubled them, but they were still not convinced that He was the Messiah--far from it. So they demanded a sign from Him.  Jesus rebukes them for asking for a sign instead of believing, He assesses their spiritual condition and pronounces sentence on them.

When the hard-hearted Sadducees and Pharisees insisted on seeing a sign from Jesus, it aptly recalls the prophesy of Simeon at the temple when he told Mary, the mother of Jesus, “This child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed(Luke 2:34-35)

Jesus was the greatest sign that the Jews had ever seen since the time of King Solomon and the prophet Jonah.  But the thoughts of the Pharisees and Sadducees revealed their evil nature when they plotted to kill Jesus, whom they regarded as merely a man opposed to their established Judaic traditions and burdensome rituals.

Jesus identified Himself with the prophet Jonah, because both of them were ‘entombed’ for three days, and then rose again to bring conversion to non-Jews.  But while the Gentiles of Nineveh were converted and repented even without witnessing any miracles by Jonah, the Jewish leaders continued to ask Jesus for proof even though they had seen the miracles He had performed.

 Jesus also identified Himself with King Solomon, because the latter was the son and successor of King David, and Jesus was likewise addressed as the ‘Son of David’ (Mt.9:27,12:23).  Both of them displayed extraordinary wisdom, but while Solomon’s human wisdom won over the Queen of Sheba, Jesus’ divine wisdom was rejected by the leaders of God’s chosen People.  

The wisdom and power of Jesus to convert sinners and unbelievers is greater than the greatest prophets and kings of the Old Testament, and even encompass all the ages of mankind’s history, as evidenced by the continuing power of His Word, the Holy Bible.

His Word should be enough for us to live by faith.  Our conversion should stand alone as a testimony, not merely a sign of Jesus’ power in our life.

If people have a hard time believing and serving Jesus wholeheartedly without a sign, then something is wrong in their spiritual growth.  God may do miraculous signs, and when He does it should fill us with praise and thanksgiving.  But our faith should be based in the Word of God--that is what the apostles say redeems us.

That Word reveals to us the person and work of Jesus the Messiah.  People who have come to faith in God through the Scriptures should set about to grow spiritually and to serve faithfully.  The miraculous “signs” they should see would be answers to prayer and people growing in faith or lives being changed through their witness.  These will be confirming signs but not signs to compel them to believe in God.  It is a fine distinction but God expects us to walk by faith whether the signs are present or not.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.”   II Cor. 5:7 NKJV

Saturday, January 21, 2012

“…..give me a sign…”

“Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”

 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!  But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.  The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.  The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.”    Matthew 12:38-42 NIV

In the Scripture above, Jesus contrasted two types of lives - one that merely observes a sign and one that participates in a miracle.  

Let’s read again what He said about asking for a sign, “A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign.  But I tell you, no sign will be given it, except the Sign of Jonah.”

A sign is merely a substitute for something that points you back to the original.  But, there is another related word - “vicarious” meaning you live your life through substitutes.  The difference between a “Sign” and the “Sign of Jonah” boils down to one thing: whether you want to live vicariously through something that just points to something else or participate in the thing itself.

For years, communion was literally something you just watched.  I do not think that was what Jesus had intended when He said “I eagerly desire to take this meal with you,” or “This do in remembrance of me.”  

You know it’s really easy to be distracted by the sign.  It can be glitzy and fun.  But Jesus is making a point here about what His death means.  It means that Jesus can literally live inside of us and turns us towards repentance.  If we are focused on what the sign of communion means, it will transform us.

But here’s the problem with signs - ultimately you build a resistance to them.  You grow dead to them.  

If you just want some type of sign, you cheapen a thing.  You devalue it.  When you are content to just watch and not participate, you become dead to a thing.

Jesus was aware of the seductive danger of living only through observation.

When we come to God with our demands for a sign out of an insincere heart, it is not good – it’s sinful.

God does not bow to the demands of anyone.

There are people who want God to prove Himself to them, but on their terms.

God does not work that way.  We come to Him on His terms.

Here’s a question I have for those who think God needs to prove Himself:
Does God owe you anything?

He gave you the very breath you breathe, and you’re making demands of Him?

I have found that even if God would do something for them, people like this still would not be satisfied.

“Our life is lived by faith.  We do not live by what we see in front of us.”                   II Cor. 5:7 NLV

Jesus did not tantalize……

“It's obvious, of course, that He didn't go to all this trouble for angels.  It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That's why He had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people's sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.”  Hebrews 2:16-18 Message Bible

As we read our Bibles we see the mighty works of Jesus when He was on the earth.  We read about His teachings, preaching, healings, temptations and the way He lived, sinless. 

There are times in our Christian walk that we feel we cannot achieve the same success as Jesus did even though His Words says we can.   Many times we hear others try to justify their laziness, disobedience or sins by saying, “Jesus does not expect us to walk the same because He is the Son of God.  He was born supernaturally and we are humans born in sin and we cannot live as Jesus lived, holy.”

It is true Jesus is the Son of God.  But if we put too much distance between Himself and us because of His unique Son ship, we have missed the message of the NT.   Jesus lived His earthly life in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:16, Jn 3:34).    He triumphed over the sins, illness, and woes of man by dependence upon the Holy Spirit, not by reverting to His deity.   

He stripped from Himself every other dependency except faith.   He did this to live as we have to live, that He might demonstrate that victory is possible in the very center of our human conditions.

Jesus is not a tantalizer; He is a Savior.  He did not say we could live as He lived and then leave us helpless.  He gave us the same power He had, all we have to do is take it and believe.  The works He did, He said, we can do (Jn 14:12).

 The peace He enjoyed, we may enjoy (Jn 14:27).   The joy that characterized Him and made Him radiant can make us radiant also (Jn 15:11).  He is the “Author” of our faith.  His life demonstrated to us what victory is.   He is also the “Finisher/Perfecter” of our faith.    As such, He shows us how to attain that victory.  

What Jesus was, He is able to re-create in you and me; what Jesus did, He is able to re-demonstrate that in you and me.

Let me never again deny who Jesus is!   However, I will deny it if I keep insisting He is a heavenly person instead of a person from heaven who invaded humanity by talking flesh upon Him.  Once Jesus became flesh, He forever eliminated my excuse for failure and disobedience.   

I must now accept Him for what He truly is----a Savior who begins at my level! 

“We thank God for the power Christ has given us. He leads us and makes us win in everything.  He speaks through us wherever we go. The Good News is like a sweet smell to those who hear it.”    II Cor. 2:14 NLV

Friday, January 20, 2012

Conditional Faith

We must be aware of having a faith that is conditional.

When Jacob fled from his father’s house because of his brother Esau’s threats, God met him at Bethel and promised him and his descendants the land of Canaan, just as He had promised it to Abraham, Jacob’s grandfather (Gen. 28:10-17).

The next day, Jacob made a conditional promise to God (vv 20-22):

IF God will: be with me

                  keep me in the way

                  give me bread to eat

                  give me clothes to wear      

                  bring me back to my father’s house in peace   

Then:   the Lord shall be my God

           this stone shall become God’s house

           I will tithe all my income.

The weakness of Jacob’s faith is all the more glaring in the light of God’s unconditional promise to him the previous day.  

Conditional faith is cautious and timid faith.   It asks for evidence before it will commit itself.   Paul says, “The Jews demand miraculous signs [before they will believe]” (I Cor 1:22 NIV).  

Am I any better if I say that God must show Himself trustworthy before I will believe Him?

One of the saddest statements in the NT must be that of the father of the demon-possessed boy; “IF You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”   To which Jesus replied, “’If You Can!’  All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:2-23 NIV).  

Jesus puts the condition of faith squarely where it belongs---not on Him, but on us.  I cannot blame God for the miracles He did not do; I can only blame myself for tying His hands.

    Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”               I Cor. 16:13 NLV

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What does God expect of me?

If my expectation of God is His changeless nature and reliable Word, what is His expectation of me?

Jesus said He chose us to “bear fruit” (John 15:16 NIV).   That is always God’s expectation of His people. 

God chose Israel to be a fruitful vine (Isa. 5:1-2), and His purpose for His Church is that it be “neither…barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of….Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:8 KJV).

When God wanted to reassert Aaron’s priesthood, he instructed Moses to deposit twelve rods, or sticks, in the tabernacle, one for each tribe.   On the next day, Aaron’s rod was the only one that “sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds” (Num. 17:8).   The production of fruit was the sign that Aaron was still the chosen priest, still the intercessor of God.

God accepts our service, but not because we are educated, special, ordained, or have a fancy title.  He accepts us because we bear fruit.

The office means nothing to God apart from that which He considers to be the first condition of service---fruitfulness.  

I am to avoid anything that substitutes for that fruit, and not pretend to be a genuine Christian unless the fruit itself vindicates me.

Aaron’s rod was a dead stick, nothing more, until activated by the Spirit of God.   Then it became alive, and from that life it produced the bud, blossom, and fruit. 

So the source of my fruit is not me, but God.  Apart from the life that He breathes into me, I will never be able to bear fruit for Him.

The fruitful man is an alive man who offers God His own fruit strained through a human personality, which becomes an offering of endless pleasure to Him.

“Work hard, and you will have a lot of food; waste time, and you will have a lot of trouble.”  Prov. 28:19 CEV

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What do I expect from God?

It is only fair that I ask myself, “What is my expectation from God?” 

The only satisfying answer is: That He be true to His Word.  For if God has magnified “above all things [His] name and [His] word” (Ps 138:2 NIV), then I have a right to depend upon that Word, and to expect He will do as He said.

The Bible is clear in reminding me that no one word that the Lord utters will fail to come to pass (Joshua 23:14 NIV).  Where God has clearly spoken, the answer will be clearly given.

But what about the times when God does not speak clearly?   There is a difference between going according to principle and going according to an explicit word from the Holy Spirit.   So many times in our lives there is no clear word from God.

What then?   I find great help from the three Hebrew children who faced the fiery furnace for refusing to bow to King Nebuchadnezzar’s image.   Their answer to the king was, “God….is able to save us from the fire” (Dan. 3:17 Berk.).  

That was their expectation, but they went beyond that to the personal equation---- God Himself.   They said, “But, if no…...we will [still] not serve [your] gods, nor worship the golden image” (v.18).   Lacking an explicit word from God, the Hebrews could not only appeal to the nature or character of God, and expect that He could never be other than what He was----holy, just, loving and merciful.

They agreed with the psalmist, “My soul, look in stillness to God, for my expectation is from Him” (Ps 62:5 Berk.).

God does not always give me a particular message for every circumstance of my life, but He has given me Himself.   That is the bottom line, the very ROCK of my relationship to Him.  The man who works his way down to that solid foundation cannot be shattered by the storms of life.

“For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the expectation and hope of the meek and the poor shall not perish forever.”   Psalms 9:18 AMP

Monday, January 16, 2012

Grieving the heart of God……

For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded and stricken within me.”  Psalms 109:22 AMP

I will never know God well until I learn His “grief”.   

I read, “It pleased the Lord to bruise him (Jesus); he hath put him to grief” (Isa. 53:10 KJV).   But the grief that Jesus suffered was my grief, a grief that came His way because of MY sin.  

Grief always touches me at the point of sin, either mine or someone else’s.  That is why Paul could suffer grief over the lost members of his own Jewish race (Rom. 9:1-3 KJV).

This past week in my quiet time with the Holy Spirit, He asked me if I have ever really pondered the grieving heart of God?  Do I truly grasp the grief He bears over our sin?   Do I truly understand the cost that was paid for our sins?

The Holy Spirit answered before I could respond, by saying, “IF we truly understood the grief our sin brought God’s heart we would walk with a pure heart, we would not even consider sin or the temptation and desire to give it a second thought.  If we truly grasped the grief and payment of our sin we would believe that we could walk with a pure heart as Jesus walked because we would allow Him to empower us and we would become so determined that we would resist the temptation to harbor hatred, murder with our words or physically, we would forgive, resist offense, love unconditionally, jealousy would not have a chance, control and manipulation would not exist, selfishness, laziness, bitterness, addictions, unforgiveness, pride, egos, haughtiness, drunkenness, sexual sins, lust of the world, sexual desires would no longer control our flesh or thoughts and idols would not be a part of our lives.”

The Holy Spirit went on to say, “If we could believe that our Heavenly Father is grieved when we choose sin over righteousness just as our earthly parents, friends, employer or spouse is when we disobey or do something they disapprove of.”

“If we could see in the spirit His eyes as we do others it would grieve us to the very core of our being and we would live determined not to submit to sinful desires.”

I believe if we would stop and think about the price Jesus paid for our sins and truly believed the Word’s description of the horrible pain, agony and humility He suffered for us, it would make us stop before engaging in sin.

Jesus was beaten causing His body to be ripped open, then forced to carry His cross in the hot sun up a hill knowing His arrival would bring more pain.  He knew when He arrived with the cross He would be nailed to it, and then raised up naked for all to curse and spit upon.  NEVER did He stop and say, “I quit, it’s not worth it, these people will continue to do the things I am dying to set them free from.  Why am I doing this?”   No, He never complained or argued with His Father, He simply said, “Thy will be done”.

How hard it is for us to say such a statement and live by it without grumbling and complaining or threatening to give up.

God had to watch His only Son die for our sins, not His, but our sins.  He loved us so much that He gave His only Son to die to set us free.

When we choose to sin by our words or actions; hatred, lust, alcohol, drugs, jealousy, control, manipulation, charm, selfishness, pride….etc… we are telling Jesus that He died in vain because “I” choose not to be free.   I choose to serve myself; I surrender to the master of selfishness and not You.

God’s heart is grieved because He gave His most prized possession to set us free from the power of sin and yet we choose to follow the father of sin; Satan.

We can sit in church and pretend to worship and say we love God but our actions reveal the degree of our love and respect for Him.

I wonder if I would be more determined NOT to sin if that was my child or yours nailed to the cross for the sins of the world.  The next time I am tempted to sin, I think I will stop and consider the pain of my child….my flesh and blood crucified in vain. 

 If I truly grasped the depth of this sacrifice would I live differently?

If I really, really accepted and believed the fact that someone’s son took my place and died for me, would I continue to habitually sin?

When I am convicted of sin, I feel the grief of it, which is really the grief of God over sin.   The heaviness in my heart is simply the overflow of the sorrow of God concerning my sin.  The moment I confess that sin, God is no longer sorrowful and therefore I am no longer in grief. 

Jesus is constantly probing us to find a nerve in us that is sensitive to sin.   He is no disciple who has not felt the probing finger of Jesus on his heart.   That is the “godly grief” that Paul mentions as being good for us (II Cor. 7:7).  

The life of discipleship itself is a life of grief.   How can God deal with me without correcting me and how can He correct me without hurt?  No discipline is pleasant; it is “grievous……but it yields to the joy of mature, dependable discipleship” (Heb. 12:11 KJV).

My grief is therefore my joy and I should shout “Hallelujah” because God is producing a better me.

At all cost I must avoid the grief of the world, a bitter sorrow with no promise of a brighter tomorrow.  How sweet is the Lord’s grief when accepted and how eternal the consequences!  My hope is in Him, “who wounds, but He binds up, He smites but His hands bring healing” (Job 5:18 Berkeley).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sensitivity to God……

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you. 

Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,
Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
Otherwise they will not come near to you.”    Psalms 32:8-9 NASB

Much of my Christian life will make no sense unless I realize that God is trying to develop my sensitivity to Him. 

It is true that He wants me to be a more faithful witness, a user of my gifts, and a sharper image of His Son; but before He can develop those things, He must develop my threshold of sensitivity to His delicate guidance.

He wants to guide me, not by “bit guidance” but by “eye guidance”.   “Bit guidance” means He needs to get rough with me as we do with stubborn or unbroken horses; but “eye guidance” means that we respond to the merest flick of God’s eye.

God can guide me with His eye only when I have a trained eye fixed on Him at all times in order to catch His sudden and slightest indications.

I must also develop a sensitive ear.  “Morning by morning, He awakens My ear” (Isa. 50:4 KJV).   That beautifully expresses the function of the “opened” and “cleansed” ear, to keep turned in to God’s voice.   

While the bride of Solomon slept, her “heart was awake” (Song of Solomon 5:2 NIV), a characteristic that should be true of all lovers of God.   God speaks to us continually in the Spirit’s voice, and if my heart is fixed on Him I will hear.

My tongue must also develop a keen sensitivity for God.  “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned” (Isa. 50:4 KJV).   The spiritually sensitive tongue is conditioned to speak only God’s thoughts and ideas; it is “at home” talking about God and is uncomfortable talking about self and sin.

God wants me as sensitive to Him as a violin to the musician, an instrument for His glory.

Then I will sing to Him a new song and praise Him with loud shouts (Ps. 33:2-3 NIV).

The mouth of the [uncompromisingly] righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks with justice.

The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.”  Ps 37:30-31 AMP

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Spiritual life…….or….fruitless life?

“The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness”.   John 10:10 GNT

The one thing that God wants to see above all else in me, and that He prizes above all else, is spiritual life.

So highly does He prize this in me that He makes it a condition of service.  Aaron was chosen as high priest for Israel because his rod “budded” (Num. 17:8 KJV); it sprouted with blossom and fruit because God had miraculously given it life.  The lesson is obvious: unless I possess spiritual life, I will be fruitless.

God’s people have institutionalized spiritual service.   We call a man to be a pastor, and because he is officially a pastor, we expect him to be a mouthpiece for God.   The title is not the life and the office is not the fruit.  God does not bless an office or a title; He blesses a person and He blesses him/her because they evidence the flow of spiritual life in their life.

Jesus was a Priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:6).  Why?   Because Melchizedek was a priest in function, not in office.   He had no temple, no sanctuary, no ritual; but his life was a continuous outpouring of the life of God in his heart, which blessed others, including Abraham.

Spiritual life is what God requires and what the world craves.  Nobody, not even the outspoken agnostic, will refuse the life and fruit that God gives through His Church; but everyone will bitterly denounce the phony aspect of Christianity, form without life.

If I am to minister to the world I must have life, the “more abundant” life that Jesus came to offer.   Men have no use for “rods” or “sticks” that are beautiful in appearance but helpless to make things new.   God is the Reviver of dry bones and the Restorer of parched deserts; He is the Giver of His Spirit, by whom I become gloriously, over flowingly alive (Ez. 37:14).


“But ‘IF’ we [really] are living and walking in the Light, ‘AS’ He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations].”  I John 1:7  Amp

The word ‘as’ is a commonly used word and we use it so often that we can forget what it really means.   Webster defines ‘as’:  “equally to, in the same manner, to the same amount or degree.”

Which means we CAN walk in the Light AS Jesus walked, we can live on earth as it is in heaven because the Holy Spirit lives in us and empowers us as He did Jesus.

A few nights ago while at a meeting this verse (above) was given to me to speak on that had the beginning foundation set out of I Cor. 15:33-34.   I was unable to share this part of the word from the Holy Spirit and it has been burning in my spirit so I will share it today.

We must not let our view of heaven and hell become blurred by believing that they are only future.  I have always been taught that heaven and hell are locations, which is true, but not altogether true.  

They are also relationships and that is where the qualities of both existences can be experienced now.

Paul says, “The widow who lives for pleasure [self-indulgence] IS dead even while she lives” (I Tim. 5:6 NIV).  That means if my will is out of harmony with God, a miniature hell is set up in my heart. 

Horace Fenton, former director of the Latin American Mission says, “Hell is God giving to men what they have wanted all their lives----freedom from Him.”

If so, then to the extent any person----even a Christian----pulls away from God to his/her own way, to that extent he/she sips the misery of the one who will be forever and completely independent of God.

But heaven also can be mine now, at least partially and in foretaste.   To say, “Lord, They will be done” is to transplant heaven to earth, from a location to an experience.  It is to make what is normal in heaven normal for me on earth, thus producing a taste of its joys before time. 

The Christian who longs for heaven, who cannot wait for it, is missing a valuable opportunity to enjoy it now.   I can walk with heaven’s attraction (Jesus), think heaven’s thoughts, do heaven’s bidding, and sing heaven’s praises now.

The materials that produce a heaven atmosphere are already at my disposal; I need not wait till I get there to use them.

Lord, teach me how to walk the “enveloped” life, enveloped by the perfume of heaven in the midst of this contaminated world.  For that is what God has promised me: a taste “of the world to come” (Heb. 6:5 KJV).

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Totally Surrendered to Jesus……….. Part II

“…..One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”   Mark 10:21 NIV

Jesus knew that only the single-hearted are free from all the things that tempt and torment the half-hearted.

“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”  Jesus knew that only such a radical decision would free the man from his divided heart.

So many of us have put our security and based our foundation upon our bank accounts, spouses, jobs, homes …etc, which can cause us to have idols that produce a divided heart.

We trust in the things we own, see and possess rather than faith in Jesus Christ.   Many people who have been hurt, abandoned, poor, and homeless or rejected have a difficult time trusting totally in Jesus. They claim they do but their actions do not line up with their words.  They cannot see or touch Jesus in the natural and that makes it even more difficult to trust in His Word.  

Therefore, they are apt to trust in bank accounts, spouses and jobs.  Their security becomes more important than obedience to God.   It is sad but their past controls their future.  Their past builds their security foundation even if it is built in bad, abusive relationships and unhealthy environments because they only trust what they see.   They are afraid to risk stepping out in faith because their past controls their heart.

This does not mean they love God any less.   Their heart is divided by worldly security, fear, emotions, deception and a lack of faith. 

 I desire to surrender and have an undivided heart but I cannot because………………(you answer it?)

Proverbs 4:23 says:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

How would you live differently, if you believed your heart was the treasure of the Kingdom of God?

Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within him.”

You see, your heart is the place where the abundant life Jesus promised flows into you.

You can’t ignore your heart and expect to hear from God.

Take some time to ask the Lord to search your heart, and then ask for the courage to give over to Him whatever it is that’s giving you a divided heart.  

When you exchange it for the peace and joy that comes to those with a single-hearted focus, you won’t have any regrets.