Psalm for the Day

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Religious zealots………


“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.  They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.  

And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.  But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.

And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.”  John 16:1-4 NKJV

 In John 16:1-4, Jesus discusses the topic of persecution. However, these verses do not refer to worldly people in general, but to hostile religious leaders.  In other words, the biggest enemies of Christians are not atheists, agnostics, humanists, new age or liberals.

Those who are seeking to persecute and kill Christians are religious zealots and leaders.  In John 16:1, Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling.”   “These things” refer to Jesus’ words in John 15:18-27.

Jesus did not want His disciples to stumble in their discipleship after His departure because He knew the events that would soon follow would take them completely by surprise.  Jesus’ point is that, apart from His warning, their faith would be shattered and they would give up in defeat.

 Remember, they were still going to be scattered that very night (Luke 22:31). While they may have stumbled initially, the Book of Acts demonstrates that the disciples did not fall away; instead, they became emboldened to preach Jesus Christ.

Jesus informs His disciples of the consequences of persecution in John 16:2-3: “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.”

Those who will expel Jesus’ disciples from the synagogue are referred to in John 15:21-25.  Being put out of the synagogue means more than merely lacking a place to worship. It means the loss of the entire circle of friends who attend the synagogue.  It is a social persecution. 

These verses were fulfilled in the days of the early church when the Jews believed they were on God’s side, when they put Jesus to death and persecuted His disciples.  However, these verses also seem to have an extended relevance to today.  Throughout the world, Christians are still being persecuted and martyred.

How do we prepare ourselves to stand strong for Christ in the days to come?

We must learn to love the world when we are hated and persecuted.  We must continually avoid the temptation to fight back and be combative, harsh, and vindictive.  When we behave in this manner, we lose our witness.  We must recognize that Jesus’ love is the only proper response to hate and persecution.  Only He can soften hearts and cause our enemies to be receptive to Him.

It is also important to express love for our fellow believers. One of the reasons that Jesus exhorts believers to love one another is because we will need each other’s strength to combat the world system.   

Unbelieving neighbors, coworkers, classmates, family, and friends will turn against us on account of our faith in Christ.  When this happens, we will need the strength and security of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We need to “spur one another on to love and good works” (Heb 10:24). This will enable us to persevere in our Christian fruitfulness.

In Luke 6:22 Jesus says, “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.”  Jesus promises those who suffer for Him both temporal and eternal rewards.

Consequently, it makes sense to pay the price in this life and experience Christ’s pleasure and joy in the life to come.

 How many times have I been ridiculed because of my Christian witness?

What do I need to keep in mind when others despise me?

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

“They have done this……….”


“If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father.   This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’”   John 16:24-25 NLT

 

In John 15:24 Jesus states that the world is guilty because they have rejected His works. Jesus said, “If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.”

Jesus performed all kinds of miracles. He healed the sick, He cast out demons, He fed thousands, He calmed the sea, and He raised the dead.  Yet, the world rejected His works.

In some cases, the world even attributed Jesus’ works to Satan (Matt 12:24).  No matter what Jesus said or did, the world chose to ignore Him and rebel against Him.

Sadly, even the death and resurrection of Jesus have not persuaded most people that Jesus is God. Consequently, the world stands condemned for the rejection of Jesus (John 3:18, 36; Rom 1:18-3:20).

In John 15:25 Jesus argues that the world is guilty because they have rejected the Old Testament.  Jesus says, “But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’”

The ultimate reason for the world’s rejection of Jesus and His revelation of the Father is found in the Old Testament Scriptures.  Jesus quotes from Psalm 69:4 saying: “Those who hate me without a cause
Are more than the hairs of my head;
They are mighty who would destroy me,
Being my enemies wrongfully;
Though I have stolen nothing,
I still must restore it.”

This has resulted in their rejection of God.

Jesus’ words could prove to be overwhelming, so He brings up the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”

 In the midst of the world’s hatred and rejection, the Spirit provides comfort, encouragement, and strength. Jesus teaches the disciples that they still have a responsibility to provide a witness to the love and truth found in Christ alone. Although it is important to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt 5:44), it is also critical to proclaim Jesus as well. Christians need to exhibit both life and action, not just lip service.

How have I been persecuted for my faith?

How did I deal with this persecution?

 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Persecutors do not know the one true God…..


Another reason why the world rejects Christians is; we are identified with Christ.

In John 15:20 Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”

Jesus calls His disciples to “remember” that they will follow in His footsteps.  As followers of Jesus, we can’t expect to have an easier time than He did.  When our lives truly reflect His character and calling, we will experience either rejection or acceptance from people around us.

As Paul said, we will smell either as the aroma of death or life:  …….The Good News is like a sweet smell to those who hear it.   We are a sweet smell of Christ that reaches up to God.   It reaches out to those who are being saved from the punishment of sin and to those who are still lost in sin.   It is the smell of death to those who are lost in sin.  It is the smell of life to those who are being saved from the punishment of sin.  Who is able for such a work?”  (2 Cor. 2:14-16 NLV).

For most people, we will be the aroma of death.   The world hates those who point out sin.  

Christians are and must be the essence of Christ to the world.

Nevertheless, there will always be a remnant that loves Jesus and will love us.

I want to make a quick point here that some Christians assume they are being persecuted for Christ, when in reality they are just a “sanctimonious-Christian” who invites persecution by being obnoxious, know-it-all, offensive, selfish and argumentative.  We need to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to be angry (Jas 1:19).

We need to truly learn to listen and not interrupt people. We need to talk less. We must especially avoid becoming belligerent with people.  Many Christians are not sensitive or respectful of others feelings and time.  Therefore, we bring on a lot of our own persecution.

In this passage, Jesus is speaking about disciples who are persecuted for His name not for their ego.

Another reason why the world rejects Christians is they do not know God.  In John 15:21 Jesus said, “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.”

The world will persecute Christians because they do not know God.

There is a huge difference between knowing about God and knowing God.

Our persecutors do not know the one true God. They persecute us on account of their hatred of Christ.  Jesus is saying, “Don’t take it personally—persecution is not your fault!  Persecution is ultimately directed against Me.”

 Instead of becoming angry with unbelievers, we need to pray that we would have compassion for them.  Do you realize that many unbelievers have never read the Bible?  Many unbelievers don’t even own a Bible.

Do you understand that many people only know the name of Jesus Christ as a curse word? 

Do you know that your neighbor, classmate, and coworker may never have heard a clear presentation of the gospel?

Although the world may choose to reject Jesus, we are accountable to share Christ with them.  Sadly, many Christians tend to verbally chastise unbelievers for godless living and then look the other way when believers are guilty of godless living. This is completely backwards.  Unbelievers are not held to the same standard that Christians are.

The world does not want the church to judge them; the world wants the church to judge their own.

Having mentioned the world’s lack of knowledge about God, Jesus spends the next four verses explaining why the world does not know God.

In John 15:22-23 Jesus argues that the world is guilty because they have rejected His words.  Jesus puts it like this: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.  He who hates Me hates My Father also.”

 Jesus is not saying that men and women would have been innocent if He had not come or spoken to them. The world was already sinful and rebellious before He appeared in the manger at Bethlehem.  Christ’s coming highlighted sin in human hearts; He pointed it out so people had less of an argument to claim ignorance.

Therefore, to reject Christ and His words brings greater condemnation.  Ever since the fall of man, the world has been sinning against Light, but never had the world sinned against so much Light!  The world will be robbed of its excuses when it confronts Jesus on Judgment Day.

 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Persecution…………. (Part II)


There are many main reasons why the world hates Christians but we will look at a few of them:

 We are no longer identified with the world.

In John 15:19 Jesus said, The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.

Jesus insists that His disciples are no longer “of the world.”  They may be “in the world,” but they are not “of the world.”  Those who are “of the world” are loved by the world.  But the world’s love is fleeting.  You can be “loved” one moment and rejected the next.

The world’s love is also conditional.

 If you want to be “loved” by the world, you need to do what the world does. You must compromise to fit in and go along with crowd.  You use manipulation, charm and flattery to be popular and sacrifice others feelings for your own personal gain. 

The world is all about “me”!  “I” come first, my feelings are more important and do not tell me “NO” otherwise you will suffer the consequences of emotional manipulation!  The world is all about control, manipulation, pride and greed.

But the reality is the world wants to watch Christians falter and sin.  When we participate in their behavior, it makes them feel better about their sin. 

Do I love Christ more than the opinions of men?

When was the last time I chose to blend in with the crowd rather than follow Christ?

Jesus insists that He chose us out of the world for the purpose of salvation and service.   It’s better to be loved than liked. 

Sadly, this message not only describes the world but it also describes the hatred within the body of Christ.   So many profess to be “Christians”…… Christ-like and are filled with hatred for others.

They hate out of jealousy, greed, selfishness and the loss of control over “you”.

The world has slipped into the Church and has found a comfortable place to reside. 

I am amazed at the hatred, jealousy, rejection, greed, arrogance and pride that have been allowed to control the churches today.  It seems that these traits have become a standard, a lifestyle of the Church.   

It is one thing to write about the persecution that we all experience from the world but I have found it to a greater degree in the Church.  

Why is that?  

God is love and He is suppose to be the center of the Church, how did hatred, greed, jealousy, lust, control, manipulation and pride get rooted in the church today?

As I wrote this message I began to think about the contrast between the world and the Church.  I heard in my spirit that there really is not a contrast or conflict because the world has invaded the Church.  

We are persecuted among the brethren because the world lives within the Church.  The key to this statement is found in John 19:6 where the Jews, Jesus’ own people, yelled in agreement for His crucifixion.  His own people, “Christians” persecuted Him and crucified Him. 

Why should we be so surprised that it is happening in our churches today?  This attitude has become the norm for most “Christians” today.

We claim to be Christ-like yet we mistreat, reject, ignore and allow sin to remain in the Church.   That is not the true love of Christ nor is it the way He would treat others.

How can I prepare myself to encounter hate and rejection?

 

 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Persecution…………. (Part I)


“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.  The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.

 Do you remember what I told you?  ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’  Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.

They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.   They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin.   Anyone who hates me also hates my Father. 

 If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father.   This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’”   John 15:16-25 NLT

 

Life is filled with choices and every choice has consequences.

In the spiritual realm, if you follow Jesus Christ, you will be hated.

That’s right: HATED!   Whether you like it or not, the Bible is clear that Christians will be hated and rejected by the world.

Do I expect to be hated by the world?    Why or why not?

In John 15 and16: Jesus explains why the world hates Christians.  Of course, I realize that this will not be welcomed as a “feel-good sermon.”  However, it does feel good to know that Jesus warned us in advance.

As you reflect on Jesus’ words, ask yourself: Have I adopted a cultural Christianity or a Cross-centered Christianity?

Today, Jesus would say: It’s better to be loved than liked.  In other words, it’s better to experience Jesus’ unconditional and eternal love than to win a popularity contest and be liked by the world.

In John 15:18 Jesus declares, If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”   The particular form of the word “if” assumes something is true.  There is a certainty in Jesus’ words: “You will be hated! You can count on it!”

Jesus then reminds His disciples that the world hated Him first.  Jesus is commanding His disciples to remember that He was hated from the time of His birth to the time of His death.

Think about this: Jesus’ life began with King Herod attempting to kill Him. Jesus’ life ended in a death of sheer hatred. He was crucified at the wishes of His own people—the Jews.

Thus, we must not be surprised by hatred.  The word “hate” is used seven times in the first eight verses (John15:18-25).  It is the dominant word in this passage.  Jesus’ point is: Friendship with Me comes with a hefty price tag—the world’s hatred.  Jesus wants you to be forewarned that following in His footsteps will be a huge challenge.

So how can we handle the hatred and persecution of this world today?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

“Beauty for ashes………”


Fear not, for you shall not be ashamed; neither be confounded and depressed, for you shall not be put to shame.  For you shall forget the shame of your youth, and you shall not [seriously] remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.”  Isaiah 54:4 AMP

I must realize that God’s ways are not my ways, and that is especially true in dealing with ruined things.

My first inclination, when confronted with ruin, is to say, “It’s finished, it’s done, that’s all there is to it.”  But God never gives up on a ruin; in fact, He begins with ruins and works on them until He transforms them into things of beauty, “beauty for ashes.”  (Isa. 61:3)

Ruined things are my defeat, but to God they are opportunity.

When the earth was “without form, and void” God sent His Spirit and His light to bring order out of chaos and beauty out of blackness.  (Gen. 1:2)

What He did physically for the original earth He does spiritually for people.  

It is a truth---there are not ruined people in God’s category, only opportunities for God to display His creative power. 

There are no hopeless aspects of my personality, only aspects that are waiting to be touched by the power-driven fingers of God.

The greatest ruin of all was Calvary and look how God turned that horrible nightmare into the cradle of salvation for all men.  Is my portion worse than Calvary?

Is any problem more bleak, more foreboding than that? 

The disciples considered Calvary a hopeless smashing of all their plans and dreams.

They forsook Jesus, fled for their lives and considered all their work wasted.  Yet, by the third day their evening turned to morning and a complete restoration of their ruin took place.  

What a God!!!!!

That is how He treats ruins, whether His Son’s or mine!  If I let Him, He will take the shattered portions of my life and build them into a breathtaking ornament of beauty.

Such a God is He!

He has sent me
to provide for all those who grieve in Zion,
to give them crowns instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of tears of grief,
and clothes of praise instead of a spirit of weakness.

They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
the Plantings of the Lord,
so that he might display his glory.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins.
They will restore the places destroyed long ago.
They will renew the ruined cities, the places destroyed generations ago.”   Isaiah 61:3-4 GW

 

Friday, November 23, 2012

God is love…………..


Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”

 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.  John 6:67-68 NLT

It is a heartwarming truth that “the Lord is my portion” but it is equally true that “the Lord’s portion is His people.”  (Lam. 3:24, Deut. 32:9)

I have often gloried in the fact that God is my joy, my inheritance, and my future. But I have often forgotten that I am His joy, His inheritance, and His future. 

 He told Moses and the Israelites to build Him a home in the desert of Sinai “that I may dwell among them.”  (Ex. 25:8)   God loves to be in the midst of His people, sharing their joys and sorrows and receiving their love and praise.

When Jesus sat with His disciples the night before His crucifixion, He asked them to remember Him. (Luke 22:19)    The wistfulness of a deeply loving heart is evident in that request.  

Love cannot stand alienation or neglect.

Jesus did not rebuke Mary for pouring expensive perfume over His feet.  It was the largess of love, the gratuity of love.

When we pour out such an expression to Him, He rejoices with great gladness of heart.

Jesus asked Simon Peter a pertinent question, “….do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15)  

Love cannot stand a rival.  

Jesus calls me to love without limit, hesitation, or condition.  That is the way He is: “God so loved the world….” (John 3:16)       I must so love Him!

He measures my love by His own not in amount but in quality.   He cannot stand divided, spoiled, or lukewarm love.

He is pleased only by His kind of love reflected in me.   Let me not hesitate to hold back by so high a standard of love, for “the Lord [will] direct [our] hearts into the love of God.”   (II Thess. 3:5)

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.   But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.   This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

 …..friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.   No one has ever seen God.  But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.  Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

 All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.   We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.

 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.  So we will not be afraid on the Day of Judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.  If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.  

 We love each other because he loved us first.

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see?   And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters. I John 4:7-21 NLT

 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

God loves you…………….


Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’”   Matt. 22:37 NLT

I have been taught from my youth that God is the self-existing and self-sufficient One.   He is, indeed!   Yet the Bible tells me “God is love and at once I am confronted with a profundity.  (I John 4:16)

If God is love then God has a need, for love must always have an object.   That need is certainly fulfilled in God Himself, for God is a trinity and each person of the Trinity is loved by the others.

Yet, the Bible says God loves the world.  He loves not only Himself; He also loves the human race and He loves you!   (John 3:16) 

If God loves you and me, then He needs us.  For the object of one’s love is necessary to the happiness and welfare of the lover.  The Lover of the souls of men needs lovers; the worshipped One needs worshippers.

When Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, “Give Me a drink,” He was expressing not merely a physical need but an emotional one, as the sequence of the story reveals. (John 4:7)

Love was in need of love; the water of life was in need of satisfaction.   How else can I explain the convulsive weeping of Jesus as He overlooked the city of Jerusalem from one of its hills and realized that they had rejected Him?

It was love frustrated and tormented, love denied its rightful objects.

How often I have treated my quiet time as “Give me” time, when I am concerned with my emptiness, my weakness, my weariness, and my sinfulness.  I fail to see that Jesus also has a need.   He needs my love, worship, obedience and above all, my company.   I need to sit by His side as a dear friend, sharing His heart secrets as He shares mine, and rejoicing in the mutual balance of our love.

Lord, let me not deny You that small cup of water, and that simple invitation, “Give me a drink!”

You will look for Me and find Me, when you look for Me with all your heart.   I will be found by you,’ says the Lord….”   Jer. 29:13-14a NLV

Monday, November 19, 2012

A challenge to pray……..


But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.   For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord…”   James 1:6-7 NKJV

Even in the bleakest and most discouraging circumstances, I must not give up easily on prayer.  I must look upon prayer as a challenge, a sort of spiritual dare that the Lord throws my way. 

Look at Ishmael, Abraham’s son through Hagar.   God said to him, “He shall be as a wild ass among men; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.”  (Gen. 16:12) 

What a despairing future!  What a challenge to prayer!

Did Abraham sit down, wring his hands, and accept an impossible situation?  No!  

For thirteen long years he prayed.  He prayed that what God foretold as Ishmael’s natural future would not come to pass, but that instead God would turn the natural course of events in his life and bring about one of those sweet miracles of God, a transformed Ishmael.

God answered his heartfelt prayer for his firstborn son.  “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly.”  (Gen. 17:20a) 

No longer a wild ass of a man; Ishmael was to be “blessed.”   No longer a thorn in everyone’s side, he was to be “the father of twelve princes” and the father of a “great nation” (vs. 20b)

I confess, Lord, my sin of hasty impatience and easy discouragement in prayer.

How often I have given up on someone by saying, “He’s too tough a care; he’s beyond help.”   Or I have given up because results were not immediate.  Forgive me, Lord, for the sin of letting natural results happen instead of changing the natural into the spiritual, changing the wild asses into princes.  I look at the father heart of Abraham and say, “Lord, give me a heart like that; let my Ishmael become a prince!”

For with God nothing will be impossible.”  Luke 1:37 NKJV

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Prophet-ship…………


But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…..”   I Peter 2:9 NKJV

A soldier trains for battle, a doctor trains for healing, but what does a disciple train for?

He trains for many things but they all focus around two main expressions: he bears the image of God and he speaks the message of God.

In order to speak the message of God the disciple must become a prophet.  A prophet is not a foreteller primarily, but a “forth teller,” one who hears God speak and delivers the message to God’s people.

Moses is an example.  The Israelites said to him, “Go near and ….tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you.”  (Deut. 5:27)   Moses was intimate with God and out of that intimacy he learned God’s will for the nation; his prophet ship was simply telling his people what God wanted them to do and to hear.

Jesus was the perfect Prophet. “This is My beloved Son [that is the intimacy]: hear him [that is the prophet ship].”  (Luke 9:35 KJV)

I cannot expect to speak for God unless I know Him in an intimate way.  I cannot speak for God merely by being a theologian; I must speak for God by being His “friend” who speaks to Him “face to face.”  (Deut 34:10)    

A person can be a Sunday school teacher, a salesman, and housewife and speak for God more authoritatively than a theologian, a pastor, or a missionary.

No one can presume to be a prophet; he must be called to it by God Himself. 

Yet, I can “desire” the gift of prophecy and prepare myself as fully as possible for the function by an avid pursuit of God. (I Cor. 14:1)

A God hungry person soon becomes a God-filled person, and then he becomes a God-explaining person.

What a job to be a God-explaining person, one who invitingly says: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”   Psalm 34:8

Friday, November 16, 2012

Faith or Obedience?..............


Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important.  Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.    For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.  Phil. 2:12-13 NLV

As a genuine disciple of Jesus we must use the building block of growth in their proper order. 

The first and most important, building block of all is obedience.

We must discard the notion that faith exist by itself.  “Faith, if it has no works, is dead.”  (James 2:17)  

Obedience is faith acting, the tangible evidence that genuine faith exists on the inside of me.  While it is difficult to say which comes first, faith or obedience, without obedience my faith will never grow.

Obedience is also essential to knowledge.  My cry for understanding and enlightenment will rise no higher than my head until I put into practice what God has already taught me.   It is in the usage of my supplies that God multiplies my supplies.

If I do not obey God in the basics, He will never lead me on.  God never intended for truth to be deposited in the storehouse of my mind, but to be utilized in my life as a power.

Obedience is the necessary stepping-stone to fruitfulness and power. 

We often complain about our lack of power and beg God to hear us and send a blessing.  He will send no blessing until we obey the commands He has already given us!

God’s abundant power immediately accompanies the one who obeys Him.  I must bring myself back to the basics of discipleship and see that the first building block is in place.

Once I begin to obey, God will begin to bless, and He will lead me on until His “grand design” is finished in me.

“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.   Joshua 1:8 NLT

Thursday, November 15, 2012

“The Cure…….”


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

If I am particularly stubborn about a weakness or sin of mine, God may force me to take “the cure.”   The cure is described in Jeremiah 27:17; “Serve the king of Babylon, and live!”  

Strange message indeed from a true servant of God, as Jeremiah was. We would expect to hear, “Serve the Lord and live!”  But no, the right thing was wrong; the wrong thing was right.

There are times when God allows and even commands, me to do what He has expressly forbidden.  “He that is filthy, let him be filthy still.” (Rev. 22:11)

“Come to Bethel [the house of God], and transgress.”  (Amos 4:4)

I am shocked!  Is that because God is unholy?  Not in the least.

He urges that direction because He is holy; He simply wants me to get my fill of sin so completely that the very thought of it nauseates me.  None of the prophets was able to convince Israel to leave their sins; yet seventy years in Babylon did what no prophet could do. 

He sent them captive into the very fountainhead of idolatry, and they came out a cleansed and purified nation after seven decades.

Must God go to such extreme with me?  Must I be submerged in sin in order to see its odiousness?

Lord, my prayer is, make me so sensitive to sin that its slightest presence will send me to Calvary’s blood for protection!

The distinguishing feature of any true disciple of Jesus is a paper-thin sensitivity to sin. 

Being sensitive to sin means zero to NO tolerance of sin.  No excuses, no justification, no looking the other way.   It means we do not want sin in us, around us or continually in our presence.  We live in a fallen world but the world cannot live in us.

When we become comfortable with sin around us, it will soon permeate into our lives and we will find ourselves justifying, accepting and enabling it to remain in our presence.

There is a price to pay for sin; the loss of God’s presence.  He cannot be found in the atmosphere of sin.   He turned His back on sin when His Son took our sins upon the cross, why would He be any different with my sin or the acceptance of sin around me?

I notice that in reading the biographies of the saints----the slightest sin made them mourn, weep, and agonize. 

Lord, make me averse to sin like that, for when I am averse to sin it means the Holy Spirit is deliberately refining me in the divine image; the new heart and the right spirit are displacing the old and the wrong.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.”   Psalm 51:10 NLT

 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

“Handy tool…….”


For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”  John 6:38  NKJV

I do not want to serve God as a handy tool, but as a willing servant.

God has used many people in His service, some of them because they were “handy tools” and others because they were servants in heart.

God called Nebuchadnezzar “My servant” but that was only because he was a “rod of anger” whom God used to punish His idolatry-filled nation. (Jer. 25:9)  Nebuchadnezzar’s servant-ship to God was a dubious distinction; he was simply a handy tool whom God needed, not a dedicated servant eager to serve God.

The “handy tool” concept of service is the lowest on the scale.   God takes no pride in the man who is merely available, who is simply there.  He uses him for a special purpose in spite of the callousness of his heart or the wickedness of his life.

“How can God use such a man?” we ask in perplexity.  Well, He does, but He does so without respect for the man; He does so because He is sovereign and has the right to use any instrument He chooses.

Simply to be used by God means nothing unless my service is the kind of which God can be proud.  Noah was used by God because he had “grace,” that is, God found spiritual qualities in him that pleased Him.  Jesus was such a delightful Servant that God introduced Him to the whole world as “My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”   (Matt. 3:17)

I must never hold up what God has done through me as a sign of my devotion to Him.  God has used some very despicable people indeed!  But I must pursue after Him until He uses me, not as a handy tool, but for the sake of His own Son whose image He finds exposed in me.

My desire is that God will make me “worthy of his calling” and “fulfill every good purpose” in me to the glory of Jesus Christ.  (II Thess. 1:11-12 NIV)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Alternatives………..


Praise our God, all peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard;
 he has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.”    Psalm 6:8-9 NIV

I heard a Christian once say, “The Christian life is the simplest in the world---only one Person to please and only one thing to do.”  

Moses, the servant of God said so it explicitly, “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.”  (Deut. 30:15 NKJV)    The alternatives are surprisingly clear cut; yet the results are far reaching. 

If I choose to obey God, the result will be “blessing”; but if I disobey God, the result will be a “curse.”  (Deut. 30:19)

Often I have heard people say, “The Christian life is too hard!”   On occasion I have felt that way myself.  Yet Moses said, “The word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.”  (Deut. 30:14)

Too often I have been overwhelmed by the goals of the Christian life instead of being concerned about the conditions.  If I will simply meet the conditions, the goals will take care of themselves.

The Bible says nothing about instant success.  How long did it take God to deliver the Israelites from Egypt?   To construct and execute the plan of salvation?

There are times when blessings seem to be immediate, when miracles seem to happen on the spot, but the conditions that brought those things about were in operation long before the finished product.

I must concern myself with the elementary:  Am I willing to do God’s will immediately and thoroughly, without regard for the consequences?   If so, God’s blessing will assuredly be mine; if not, I will be cursed with the fruits of negligence.

Nothing pleases the heart of God more than my willingness to follow Him: “The Lord your God is with you; his power gives you victory.  The Lord will take delight in you, and in his love he will give you new life.
He will sing and be joyful over you……”  Zeph. 3:17  GNT

Monday, November 12, 2012

His Salvation……


“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.


 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.

 With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”  Psalm 91: 14-18 NKJV

I must be careful, Lord, not to simplify Your salvation.

Too often I have dismissed salvation as merely the forgiveness of my sins, whereas it is far more extensive than that.  “With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.” (Ps. 91:16)

Lord, my salvation is an intensely personal thing and Your purpose for me is to show me how Your salvation has worked in my life.

My life is not only afflicted with sin, but with sin’s results.  Those results have permeated every corner of my personality, infecting my feelings, attitudes and instincts.   To be forgiven the penalty of my sins is primary and basic, but to be delivered from all the damage sin has done is God’s purpose for me until He can bring me to the place where He can show me His salvation. 

The joy of God’s salvation is that He sent His Son not only to save sinners but to “save His people from their sins.”  (Matt. 1:21)

The biblical concept of salvation is basically deliverance.  The gospel that Jesus came to proclaim includes the “opening of the prison to those who are bound.”  (Isa. 61:1) 

He not only breaks the chains that bind me, but also leads me out of the prison into sunlight and liberty.   He delivers me from the twists and turns of my own deviousness, from surliness and selfishness, from prejudice and hate, from dismal doubt and unbelief, from oppression of Satan and my own ego, and from my inner lustings and cravings.

By the time God is finished with me at the end of my life, I will recognize that He has done an amazing work in me; I will “see” His salvation.  That in itself will cause me to praise His name everlastingly and give me the joy of His salvation. 

Lord, in that day, “my tongue shall declare Thy righteousness and Thy praise all day long.”  (Ps. 35:28)

Some of you were like that. But now your sins are washed away. You were set apart for God-like living to do His work. You were made right with God through our Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of our God.    I Cor. 6:11 NLV

 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

God hears you……………


So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart,
And guided them with his skillful hands.”   Psalm 78:72 NASB

There are times in my Christian walk when God will be silent, but He will never be inactive.  I must be careful to differentiate between the two.   The psalmist said, “God is…..a very present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1)

 That means regardless of whether God is saying anything to me at a given moment, He is certainly doing a lot.

Daniel helps me to see that truth.  He had prayed for his people’s return from captivity, but not a word came from God in reply to that prayer.   Finally, after twenty-one days of waiting, the answer came.

God had begun to answer Daniel’s prayer the moment he began to pray, but the reply was hindered by the “prince of the kingdom of Persia” and not until twenty-one days later were the hindrance removed and the answer delivered.  (Dan. 10:13)

The important thing is: God was working while Daniel was waiting.

Now I began to see what another prophet, Ezekiel, saw when God showed him the vision of wheels within wheels. (Ezek. 1)  The wheels of Israel had ground to a halt because of idolatry; but the wheels of God were working night and day for God’s people, the faithful remnant, who was interceding for their beloved land.

That speaks very forcibly to me!  I cannot look at the broken wheels of my life and say, “God has forgotten; God does not care!”  I can only look on the inside and see God busily at work on my behalf.

If only I can believe that now, in the midst of my doubt and confusion, God has already planned and is now executing my rescue then I can say, “He is my very present help in trouble.”   As with every deliverance it is never too late in the light of His eternal plan.

The permanence of God’s delivering ministry is assured by Paul: He “delivered us….[He] will deliver us……He will yet deliver us.”  II Cor. 1:10

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
 Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.”  Psalm 27:13-14 NASB

 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jesus….interceding for us……….


But Christ has a more perfect work. He is the One Who goes between God and man in this new and better way. The New Way of Worship promises better things.”  Heb. 8:6 NLV

“Like priest, like people” is not only an aphorism, but a solid statement of biblical truth.  Aaron wore the names of the tribes of Israel on his shoulders and on his breast. (Ex. 28:9-30)

The symbolism is beautiful and meaningful.  Israel was effectively represented before God on the strength and love of the high priest.

Strength and love are the twin pillars of the present intercessory ministry of Jesus for me.   Just as Aaron stood for Israel in the presence of God, so Jesus stands for me.

All the blessings that God has poured, and is pouring, upon His Son are meant for me also.   He has “blessed [me] with every spiritual blessing,” not because I am I, but because I am in Christ and Christ is in me. (Eph. 1:3)

It is through Christ that I am entitled to receive from the Father all I need for a victorious journey.  In that sense He is my strength, my ticket to acceptance, my right to be favored by the Most High God.

Not only am I upheld by His strength, but also by His love.  

How long would I tolerate a resentful High Priest, doing His duty heartlessly and without compassion?

Aaron carried the names of the tribes on his breastplate as a sign that his intercession was never to be without feeling, or else it would be dead intercession.

Jesus intercedes for us because He loves us; and He intercedes successfully for us because He died for us.  Our welfare before God’s throne is pursued with the intensity of a mother for her child, of a king for his son.

When strength and love are coupled in the person of Jesus, I am perfectly represented and perfectly spoken for.  No one could plead my case any better than the One who died to give me birth.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.   Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.   For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.   Col. 3:1-3 NLT