“Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?” Acts 9:4
“In all their affliction, He was afflicted.” Isaiah 63:9
In the Bible, when Christians were attacked and wounded for their faith, Jesus was Himself attacked and wounded. (Acts 9:4) When Israel had to be afflicted by God because of their rebellion, Jesus was Himself afflicted. (Isaiah 63:9) As a believer in Jesus Christ, I am told that I am part of Jesus’ body. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13) This is such a profound and comforting truth. Among other things, it means that when I sorrow, whether it is someone else inflicting the sorrow on me, or the sorrow is self-inflicted because of my own sin, Jesus is with me, sorrowing with me, and I can have deep communion with my Lord who is sorrowing with me. How foolish I have been, so many times, when I have isolated myself from the Lord in my sorrow. He was with me the whole time and I did not know it!
Lord, help me to experience the full sense of Your presence in my sorrow. Your word tells Me You are with me, please give me the faith to experience that! Thank you for never leaving me or forsaking Me! Amen
“Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servant to the vine-dressers, that they might receive his fruit.” Matthew 21:34
This verse comes from a parable that Jesus told to the chief priests and elders of the Jewish Temple. In the parable, a landowner planted a vineyard, set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower for it. He then put the vineyard into the care of the vinedressers.
Later, the landowner sent servants to “receive his fruit.” But the vinedressers had taken over the vineyard for their own purposes and pleasures, without regard to what the landowner wanted. So they beat, killed, or stoned the landowners’ servants.
What speaks to me in this parable is the fact that the landowner sent his servants to “receive his fruit.” (v. 34) The Lord wants to receive fruit from me. He will send His servant the Holy Spirit to me to receive it. Even if I have no fruit, He will continue to send the Holy Spirit to receive fruit. This will remind me that part of the reason that He saved me was to bear fruit for Him. I bear fruit when God’s life in me is being reproduced in the lives of others, and/or influencing them in some way. Jesus says in John 15:16 – “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.”
In the parable, the vineyard represents the people of God. Am I just treating the people of God as my own, for my purpose and pleasure and comfort and leisure, without regard to the fruit God wants from my life?
Lord, may it never be so! Please fill me with Your spirit and give me a relentless calling to bear fruit so that when the Holy Spirit comes to receive the fruit, He may return to You with abundance! Amen.
Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matt 22:13-14
I personally love going to weddings. My preparations for attending consist of: wearing a beautiful dress, getting my hair done, getting a pedicure and manicure, putting on my makeup, and not forgetting to wear my heels! I make sure that I look clean, impeccable, acceptable and beautiful. That is my outward appearance.
Jesus’ parable in Matthew 22 has made me think about the inner appearance I should take to weddings. In the parable, a king prepares a wedding feast for his son. Many are invited to the wedding feast who reject the invitation. As a result, the king sends his servants out to invite those who have not yet been invited, whether good or bad. The wedding is eventually crowded with guests. There is one guest that catches the king’s attention because he is not wearing the wedding clothes that had been given to the guests. The king is upset at the guest and commands his servants to take him away (Matt 22:13-14).
This parable is not about the outward appearance of the guest but the inward appearance, the heart condition, of the guest. All are invited to come to know Christ, but not all welcome Him to dwell inside of them and change their minds and hearts. (Revelation 3:20) Such was the case of this guest who had “heard of” and was even “invited to” the son’s wedding, but who wanted to come only with an outward appearance, with no change of inward appearance. This caused him to be cast out into the darkness. (Matthew 22:13)
Lord, I know that it is good to make myself beautiful on the outside for a wedding, but what You really want from me when I go to weddings – or anywhere else -- is a living relationship with Your Son Jesus Christ. This creates an inner beauty in me. This is the beauty that pleases You, Lord, and brings glory to You when men and women see that beauty in me. Please Lord, give me the grace to focus always on my inner beauty! Amen.
“God opposes the proud.” 1 Peter 5:5
As I grow as a Christian, I may realize I have certain giftings that others don't have. Perhaps I may work harder, or I may speak in public better, or I may be more friendly, or get better scores on exams. But I need to remember that others have giftings I don’t have. Also, I see in the Bible that the Lord can remove my giftings in an instant! In 2 Chronicles 26, the Lord instantly removed King Uzziah’s giftings through leprosy. In Daniel 4, He instantly removed Nebuchadnezzar’s giftings through insanity. In Luke 1, He instantly removed Zecharias’ giftings by taking away his ability to speak. In Acts chapter 13, He instantly removed Elymas’ giftings through blindness. He could do this very kind of thing with me — in an instant — if I don’t realize that any gifting I have was not given to me because I deserved it, but only because of His grace and for His glory.
Lord, please show me when I am thinking in a proud way that all I have is from You and that I don’t deserve any of it. O God, I want to glorify You with all my giftings, including with my thought life. Amen.
“But those who wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
There is no reason I should ever burn out. At work, in ministry, as a husband, or a father. I should never burn out. The Lord has promised me that if I wait on Him, Heshallrenew my strength, I shall run and not be weary, and I shallwalk and not faint. Martin Luther understood this principle. He said – “I have so much to do I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
If I am burning out, it’s my fault. The verses from Isaiah chapter 40 promise me that God always renews my strength if I take the time to wait upon Him. If my plate is so full that I can’t take the time necessary to wait on the Lord to renew my strength, that means my plate is too full – something has to go. The Lord never wants my plate so full that I do not have time to wait upon Him to renew my strength.
How do I wait on the Lord? Among other things, I get quiet before Him and give Him the anxieties and stresses of my life and ask Him to give me the mind of Christ towards the people or things that are causing the anxieties and stresses. I talk through these things with the Lord until my strength is renewed.
There are no excuses. I should never burn out. If I set aside the time to wait on the Lord, He will renew my strength. Amen.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1
Romans 12:1 teaches me the same thing. In Romans 12:1, it instructs me to offer my body as a living sacrifice to God. I am told that in the original Greek, this refers to a continuous action, meaning I am to do this every day. I am also told that when the Apostle Paul – who wrote the book of Romans – uses the phrase “living sacrifice”, he is making allusions to the burnt sacrifices offered by the children of Israel in the Old Testament. The burnt sacrifices were offered at the tabernacle every morning and every evening. The burnt sacrifices were the only sacrifices that the whole animal (as opposed to part of the animal) was consumed by fire. So Romans 12:1 is a reminder to me that each day I must offer my whole life – my plans, my dreams, my heartaches, my victories – as a living sacrifice to the Lord. If not, I will forfeit for that day His peace, His love, and His joy.
Lord, I need all of You! Please give me the grace for me to give You all of me! Amen.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5
In my devotional reading today I read this: “He that desires anything above Him, equally with Him, or without Him, shall never obtain Him. God will be won only when you seek Him with all your soul and strength, or He will not be won at all.”
(Samuel Ward). I have found this to be true in my daily walk with God. If at the beginning of the day I don’t seek Him and surrender to Him with all my heart, I find that during the day I don’t have the peace that He has promised me (John 14:27), the love He has promised me (John 15:9), or the joy He has promised me. (John 15:11). If at the beginning of the day I seek and surrender to God with half of me, or some other fraction of me, I will leave my time with Him with nothing. But if I seek and surrender to God with my all of me, I will leave with everything. None of this means that God loves me more or less depending on how earnestly I seek Him. It just means He can’t fill me if I don’t first empty me.
Lord, how I need Your peace and love and joy! Please give me the grace to surrender all of me to You everyday! Amen.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God. . . “ Ephesians 6:12-13
“Praying always. . .for all the saints and for me. . . that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel. . . that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:18-19
I learn here that prayer is a piece of the armor of God that I am supposed to take up against the demonic realm. In these verses Paul requests – twice – prayer that he proclaim the gospel boldly. Paul is telling the church in Ephesus that the demonic realm comes against, not only his proclaiming the gospel, but the boldness in which he proclaims the gospel. In the same way, the demonic realm is all about resisting the gospel coming from mylips, especially coming boldly,from my lips. As I think back, so often when I am sharing the gospel, I feel a great resistance. It is comforting to me to know that Paul himself felt the same resistance. It is even more comforting to know that prayer overcomes that resistance!
O Lord, how I want to be used by You to make known the gospel! But how I feel confounded sometimes, Lord, when I want to share Your Word. O Lord, smite the devil! Give me the faith to declare Your gospel boldly. Then Your name will be glorified through my life! Amen
"You have covered my head in the day of battle." Psalm 140:7
The Bible says that the Lord “trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.” Psalm 144:1. It also says that the Lord will go before me into battle, and He will be my rear guard. Isaiah 52:12. Here, I also learn that He covers my head in the day of battle. I live in a great spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12), but I learn that before, during, and after the battle, I have absolute protection from the Lord. The Lord repeatedly tells me not to fear. Joshua 1:9. I learn from His word that I have every reason to trust Him when He tells me that!
Lord, I fear because of unbelief. Help my unbelief! You have me totally covered in the day of battle! Amen.
“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” Philippians 3:1
“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice!” Philippians 4:4
For years I loved these verses because they triggered such positive thoughts in my mind. What a great idea! Rejoicing in the Lord always! What happy thoughts meditating on those verses brought me! Today I look upon the verses in a much more sobering way. These verses are commands. Joy is not just a happy idea, it is necessary. Without it there is little or no fruitfulness. I have been chosen to be fruitful (John 15:16), but without joy there is no strength (Nehemiah 8:10), without strength there is no fruit. Yes, joy is a happy idea. But more importantly, joy is necessary, it is a must, it is a command.
Lord, please open my eyes and give me a spirit of surrender that I may understand that I have every reason to rejoice! I want to be fruitful, Lord, lead me in the way of joy! Amen.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
How do I get that? The answer is found just a few verses before. “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16. But what does it mean to “walk in the Spirit”? It means to surrender to the Holy Spirit. What does it mean to surrender to the Holy Spirit? It means to, at all times, do whatever He says no matter how much it costs me, how much it hurts me, or how much it does not make sense to me. If I do that, my flesh will die, and I will begin to bear fruit -- love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Lord, with the grace You provide, I will every day, every hour, every minute, surrender myself to the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, ‘”Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.’” Mark 11:13-14
This is a sobering passage. I researched when the season is for the fig harvest, and discovered that it is not unusual for fig trees to bear fruit when they are not in season. Many scholars say these verses have specific application to Israel; it was Jesus’ way of communicating that God’s lampstand to the world was being moved from Israel to the Gentiles. But the verses are a healthy warning to my heart. Jesus clearly says in John 15:16 that He chose me and appointed me to bear fruit, fruit that will “remain.” If I resist that appointment – e.g., “well it’s not my season!” -- He has every right to revoke that appointment permanently. I must see bearing fruit for God as an indescribably wonderful and fearsome privilege, not as a “nice idea.”
O Lord, give me a deep fear and joy over your choice of me to go and bear fruit, fruit that remains! Amen.
“My soul will be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation.” Psalm 35:9
“Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.’” Psalm 35:3
“They rejoice in my hurt.” Psalm 35:26
“They hate me without a cause.” Psalm 35:19
“In my adversity they rejoiced.” Psalm 35:15
I need to stop insisting to God that my life be free of circumstances and people who afflict my soul. I should expect this. They are the very things that must be in my life to keep me humble and usable and fruitful. I read in Psalm 35 about the circumstances and people at one point in David’s life. There were people looking at his adversity and pain and it caused them to rejoice. Wow. How could I possibly bear up under that? They hated him without a cause. What am I supposed to do if things like that were to happen to me? The answer is -- just what the word of God tells me to. I must go to God and cry out like David – “Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation!’” (v. 3)
Although I don’t have the kind of adversity in my life right now that David had in Psalm 35, I shouldn’t assume for one moment that it will not come into my life tomorrow. In fact, I should expect it. These are the kind of adversities that are part of the life of every man and woman of God. The good news is that in the adversity, God can bring me to the place with David -- “My soul will be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation!” (v. 9)
“How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” Psalm 13:2
Who is the enemy who desires to be “exalted” over me? The Bible says it is not “flesh and blood,” but rather principalities. . . powers. . . ruler of the darkness of this age. . . . [and] spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12. Satan strongly desires to “exalt over me.” What is the way for him to do that? Psalm 13, verse 2, tells me -- all He needs to do is get me to take counsel in my own soul. If he is able to do that, he will be exalted over me.
How does my “own soul” counsel me? It tells me how discouraging my circumstances are. It tells me how little hope there is for me. It tells me if I had done this thing, rather than that thing, my life would be so much better. It reminds me of all my shortcomings. That is how my soul counsels me, and when I listen that counsel the enemy of my soul exalts over me.
So what do I do? The Bible says this: “Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” Psalm 119:24. When I chose to stop taking counsel from my own soul, but rather from the word of God, joy and peace (“delight”) comes into my soul, and Satan is defeated.
O Lord, I need Your grace! Please show me really quickly when I am taking counsel in my own soul, and direct me to Your testimonies, Your word, lest my enemy be exalted over me!
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” Romans 8:28
When I was young I played pick-up basketball. There were times I was reluctantly “picked up” by a team because there was no one better to join the team. I loved the fact that the team had picked me and tried my best to change the attitude towards me from “reluctant” to “enthusiastic.” It didn’t work. I just wasn’t good enough!
When I became a Christian I brought this same attitude into my relationship with God and the ministry I did on His behalf. He was reluctantly allowing me to participate! Now, I know that is not true. God is passionately seeking the glory of His Son, who is the “firstborn of many brethren,” and He chose me to be one of those brethren. He didn’t choose me because I was “good enough” to be on the team, but because He wants His Son to be glorified by conforming me – someone who otherwise would be a greatly unqualified to be a member of God’s team -- into the image of His Son. So I can be confident that God wants me on His team, in His family!
Thank You, Lord, for pouring purpose into my life, and giving me the confidence that I am an adopted son who can rest content in my relationship with You!
“. . .I will show you, that there are yet words to speak on God’s behalf.” Job 37:2
“Who is this who darkens My counsel by words without knowledge?” Job 38:2
Job was afflicted greatly, and men who observed the affliction counseled him on why he was being afflicted. They claimed to be speaking on “God’s behalf,” but God interrupted and asked – “who is this who darkens My counsel by words without knowledge?”
This story warns me to be very careful about judging a brother or sister who has fallen on hardship. There may be times where I need to speak truth into their lives, but I must do that after much prayer. I need to listen. I need to love. I need to “uphold the weak,” as God’s word has instructed me to do (1 Thessalonians 5:14), remembering the tender mercies that God has given me in my time of affliction.
"He laughs at the plight of the innocent." Job 9:23
"There is mediator between me and God." Job 9:33
"You smile on the counsel of the wicked." Job 10:3
"Your hands have made me and fashioned me... yet You would destroy me." Job 10:8
"If I sin, then You mark me, and will not acquit me of my iniquity." Job 10:14
All these verses describe things that Job believed about God in the time of his calamity. And this from a man who is described as “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” Job 1:1 If Job is capable of believing lies, surely I am. In my time of distress, I must run to the word of God which is the only trustworthy source of truth about who God is and what His mind is towards me. God is just in all His ways. Deuteronomy 32:4. When I sin, His Son Jesus is always mediating on my behalf. Hebrews 7:25. His eyes are too pure to look upon evil. Habbakuk 1:13. He has set His love upon me. Deuteronomy 7:6-9. If I confess my sin, He will forgive me of my sin. 1 John 1:9.
O Lord, please give me the grace to all day be diligent to destroy lies with Your truth. Amen.
“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” Ephesians 5:1
Here I am told what my motivation should be for living a godly life. My motivation for living a godly life should never be to try to get God to love me more. It should never be to make sure He does not get angry at me. My motivation for living a godly life should never be to prove myself worthy of being in a relationship with Him or to have eternal life. It should not be to get something from God. My motivation for living a godly life should be this one thing – I am His “dear child,” and He is my loving Father. Amen.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God. . . ” Ephesians 6:10-11a
At the end of his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul tells me “to be strong in the Lord and put on the whole armor of God. . .” Why should I do that? He answers that question in verse 12 -- Because I “do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
There are some men and women who are able to “wrestle” with “flesh and blood” and win. Through their natural strength and endurance, their intelligence, their wit, their creativity, they can overcome “flesh and blood.” But no man or woman can “wrestle” with Satan and win, however strong or naturally gifted they may be. Satan is so much stronger and more intelligent than any man or woman (Ezekiel 28:12-15). I have no chance against him, fighting alone. This is a serious thing because the Bible says that because I am a Christian, Satan and his demons come against me. (Ephesians 6:11).
If I do not put on the full armor of God I risk failure and great misery. But if I put on the full armor of God, I am guaranteed victory over Satan and his demonic angels. (Ephesians 6:11; Romans 8:37). The choice seems so clear. Why would I ever choose anything other than putting on the full armor of God!
Father, in Jesus name, help me to put on the full armor of God every day! Amen.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul! . . . May my meditation be sweet to Him.” Psalm 104:1, 34
The Lord has been so gracious to me. How do I bless Him? Psalm 104 provides one way – I bless Him with my thought life, i.e., what I meditate upon. Surely I bless Him with my thought life when things are “going my way”, i.e., in my mind, I praise Him, I thank Him, I surrender to His will. But when things are “not going my way” most of the time I dwell on self-pity, and murmuring and anxious thoughts. No! May my meditation be sweet to Him! The Bible says that God in His goodness “gives and takes away” and that I must bless Him when He gives, and bless Him when He takes away. Job 1:21. When God takes away, it is for my correction, my instruction and my sanctification. I must take my ugly thoughts to Him, and by faith, bless Him with thoughts of thanksgiving and surrender to His good and gracious will!
“After these deeds of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered Judah. . . to make war against Jerusalem.” 2 Chronicles 32:1-2
Chapters 29-31 of 2 Chronicles are all about the wonderful faithfulness of Hezekiah. He inherited the leadership of Israel from his father Ahaz who had literally shut the doors of the Temple and led the nation into terrible idolatry. Hezekiah opened the doors of the Temple, restored worship, called the nation to repentance, destroyed idols and idolatrous worship sites, and reintroduced the feasts of Israel. The result? There was “great joy” in the land. (2 Chronicles 30:26). But then, 2 Chronicles 32:1-2 says that Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, came “to make war against Jerusalem.”
If I am walking obediently with the Lord, and I am hit with a serious trial, sometimes I believe that God must somehow be against what I am doing. I must remember these verses in 2 Chronicles. Satan attacks God’s people when there has been spiritual faithfulness and victory in their lives. Why should that be surprising? If my faithfulness is causing Satan’s kingdom to falter, of course he is going to attack! Yet, I am often fooled by his attacks. The Apostle Paul says I must not be taken unaware by Satan’s devices. 2 Corinthians 2:11. Surely, one of his devices is to discourage me after a spiritual victory. Hezekiah in faith responded to Sennacherib’s attack, and the Lord delivered him. I must respond the same way.
Lord, help me not to be fooled by the attacks of Satan. I do not want to be turned back from my faithfulness to You during a season of faithfulness and victory. Amen.
“God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that he might know all that was in his heart.” 2 Chronicles 32:24
Hezekiah was truly a man of God. The Bible says of him, “in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did with all his heart. So, he prospered.” 2 Chronicles 31:21. Yet at the height of his prosperity, the Bible says, “God withdrew from him, in order to test him.” The Lord sent Babylonian emissaries to visit him, and 2 Kings 20:13 says Hezekiah – “showed them all the house of his treasuries – the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory – all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.”
Hezekiah failed God’s test.
This story serves as a grave warning to my heart. So strong is man’s lust for the admiration and jealousy of others, even a great man of God like Hezekiah succumbs to the lust. I am amazed at how ready I am to boast of accomplishments as if they were mine, and not the Lord’s. How can I possibly have victory in this area if even Hezekiah failed? Jesus gives the answer in Luke 21:36 – “watch therefore, and pray always.” Sometimes what may seem harmless to the casual observer – e.g., sharing about an accomplishment – may in fact be my disguised attempt to attract honor to me rather than God. But if I “watch and pray,” the Lord will reveal to me in when I am sharing something whether I am honoring or serving the Lord, or just gratifying my flesh.
Lord, show me what it means to watch! And please give me a constant spirit of prayer! I want to pass the test of keeping something to myself when to do otherwise would be satisfying my lust for the admiration of others. Amen.
“Well done, good and faithful servant . . . Enter into the joy of your lord.” Matthew 25:21
Sometimes I wonder whether it is possible for me to hear these words when I pass from death to life and meet the Lord. The Bible makes it abundantly clear. Yes. Not only is it possible, in fact I know I will hear these words.
The Lord calls King David a good and faithful servant by saying he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left (2 Chronicles 34:2), even though he committed adultery and killed the husband of the woman he committed adultery with. Job is called a good and faithful servant by being given as an example of patience to Christians (James 5:11), even though he made many bitter complaints to the Lord. Lot is called a good and faithful servant by calling him “righteous” (2 Peter 2:7), even though he was seduced by Sodom. Abraham is called a good and faithful servant for not wavering at the promise of God (Romans 4:20), even though he twice gave his wife Sarai to pagan kings out of fear for his life. King Asa was called a good and faithful servant, by saying he did what was right in the sight of the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:32), even though at the end of his life he became enraged at God’s prophet and threw him into prison. Eleven of the apostles are called good and faithful servants by Jesus, saying they kept the word of God (John 17:6), even though there were many times they did not.
The Bible teaches clearly that so precious, so powerful, so efficacious is the blood of Jesus towards me, that when I pass from death to life, God will see me – as He did David, Job, Lot, Abraham, Asa and the disciples – good and faithful, stripped of all my past disobedience. How can I not fully surrender to His love every minute of every day knowing how much grace He has poured into my life!
“Rehoboam did evil because he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 12:14
“Nevertheless, good things are found in you (Josiah). . . because you have prepared your heart to seek God.” 2 Chronicles 19:3
The Bible says I should “prepare my heart” before I “seek the Lord.” I find that prayer for myself and others is much more fruitful if I first “prepare my heart.” How do I do that? By remembering the good things the Lord has brought into my life this past week, or in the past twenty-four hours. By remembering that God is El Shaddai – almighty God (Genesis 17:1), and He is bigger than all my problems and trials. By remembering that God is good, and that He will certainly work all things together for good” to me. (Romans 8:28). By remembering to be thankful for any “infirmities or reproaches or needs or persecutions or distresses in my life. . .” because in them I will see His power at work, and in them, though I am weak, I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10).
After I remember these things, I find my heart is prepared, and I am ready to pray for myself and others. Lord, help me to prepare my heart before You! Amen.
“Azmaveth the son of Adiel was over the king’s treasuries, Jehonathan the son of Uzziah was over the storehouses. . . Jehonathan, David’s uncle. . .was a scribe. . . Ahithophel was the king’s counselor . . . Hushai the Archite was the king’s companion. . . and the general of the king’s army was Joab.” 1 Chronicles 27:25, 32-34
David was a profoundly godly man, a spiritual man. He was described by God to be a man “after His own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:4) His life was used by God as the standard for all the kings who lived after him. For that reason, I want to learn everything I can from him. In the book of 1 Chronicles there is a list of men who were in David’s cabinet, men who are in charge of David’s treasuries, storehouses and army. There is a secretary and a counselor. But I am struck by the fact that also listed was David’s “companion,” Hushai.
Proverbs 16:24 says: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” How does a friend stick to me “closer than a brother”? By loving me in spite of my flaws. By correcting me when I am wrong. By challenging me with the word of God. By not abandoning me, even though staying with me may come at a high cost, i.e., when David’s son Absalom rebelled, “all Israel” joined him (2 Samuel 15:13 NLV), but Hushai stuck with David.
There is part of me that is afraid of a companion like that. What if someday the person rejects me or betrays me? I’d rather be safe and alone. No! David kept a companion in his life because he knew God uses companions like that to stay close to the Lord. I must pray and seek out this kind of companionship!
Thank you, Lord, for the Hushais that You have brought into my life up until this point. Speak to me about another Hushai that You want to be a part of my life, and give me the courage to pursue them. Amen.
“But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” Mark 4:20
Sometimes I read this parable and I am frustrated. I know I am supposed to be a more fruitful Christian, one who Jesus speaks of in Mark chapter 4 who has a heart that is “good ground,” a heart where planted seed springs up thirty, sixty or hundredfold! What might be my problem? My problem may be with the word “accept.” Mark 1:20 says “those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit.” Sometimes instead of simply accepting the word and doing it, I wonder whether the word really says what it says, even though it clearly says what it says! Sometimes I wait, even though the Bible does not give me that option. Sometimes I pretend the word isn’t even there, even though I know that it is.
Oh God help me! I want to live a fruitful life! Help me to see the foolishness of not simply accepting Your word and doing it! Open My eyes so that I can see all You have done for me, so that I will love You more and simply accept and do Your word! Amen.
“. . . the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.” Mark 1:12
Right after Jesus was baptized, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. It was there that He was tempted by Satan for 40 days. I learn two things from this. First, although the Bible teaches that I should not go out and look to be tempted by Satan, the Bible does say that the Lord will bring me to places where I will be tempted. There have been times in my life where the Lord has done this, and while the temptation was not a pleasant thing, I have come out a stronger person having learned to overcome temptation. The second thing I learn is that the Holy Spirit is with me in the temptation. He is the One who brought me to the place of temptation, of course He is going to remain there with me to strengthen me and give me wisdom!
So what is the Lord speaking of when He teaches the disciples to pray -- “lead me not into temptation, and deliver us from the evil one”? Matthew 5:13. It means God will never lead me to a place of temptation beyond what I can bear! It means He will lead me to a place where, by faith, I can pursue the way of escape provided by Him. 1 Corinthians 10:13
Help me, Lord, to remember that this place where I am is a place You have brought me to. If it is not, please tell me Lord! But if it is, help me to remember that You would never bring me to a place that is too difficult to bear. Also help me to remember that You are here with me to bring me through these temptations victoriously and provide a way of escape. Thank you so much Lord for Your faithfulness, for leading me to places where I grow stronger and more usable for You! Amen.
“Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first and bring it to me; and afterwards make some for yourself and your son.” 1 Kings 17:13
During the time of King Ahab, God sent a famine to Israel because of its idolatry during the reign of King Ahab. During the famine, Elijah encountered a widow who had run out of food. All she had was a handful of flour and a little oil. Elijah asked the widow to give him some bread. She responded by telling Elijah that the flour was all she had left, and she was using it to bake some bread for herself and her son for a last meal before they died. Elijah told her – “make me a small cake from it first. . .” and promised her that God would continuously fill her bin with flour, and her jar with oil, until He removed the famine from Israel. The woman made Elijah the cake and sure enough, the Lord filled the widow’s bin with flour and the jar with oil until the famine was removed from the land.
The truth I learn from the story of Elijah and the widow is the same truth Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:33 – “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” I must not respond in fear to the circumstances I face in this life. I must give God the first of my affections, my time, my money, my belongings, my everything. When the disciples gave into fear, Jesus asked them – “having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?” Mark 8:15. I have seen Jesus’ faithfulness with my eyes. I have heard His faithfulness with my ears. I remember His faithfulness with my mind. He has always been faithful! I have no excuse but to always give Him the first of everything that I have.
“[King Josiah] read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord. The king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments. . . he removed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained. . the altars that were on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz, he broke down and pulverized. . . he defiled the high places . . . which Solomon had built. . . . now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might. . .” 2 Kings 23:3, 5, 12-13, 25
I resolve this New Year to stop basing the standard for my life on how other Christians follow the word of God, rather, I will base the standard for my life directly on the word of God. That is what Josiah did. It must have taken great courage to publicly reject the religious practices of his forefathers, including those of King Solomon, and to tear down and defile the religious altars of the religious leaders of day. But Josiah understood the principle Jesus taught in Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” In this New Year, if I notice that the standard for life of my mother or my father or my husband or my wife or my children or my Christian friends or my pastor or a Christian leader is not the standard written in the word of God, I must reject that standard and align my life with the standard in the word of God. Of course, I must love all “fervently” along the way (1 Peter 4:8), but in this New Year I cannot allow someone else’s standard for life to replace the word of God as my standard for life.
“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.” 1 Peter 2:9
There is a lot of talk today about the importance of “self-esteem.” The Bible says I get my “self-esteem” from one source and one source alone – from how God values me. Not from how others (including myself) value me, but from how God values me.
This verse shows me how God values me. It says that He sees me as part of a chosen generation, as a royal priesthood, a holy nation and His own special people. My value in other’s eyes (including my own) may be bad or good, but in God’s eyes my value is priceless. I thank Jesus for that. The blood that was poured out at the cross has cleansed me from all my sin. His blood is what made me priceless in God’s eyes. God, through the death of His Son, has made me “priceless” in His eyes, however I must understand that He has made me priceless for a purpose. This verse says He did that -- “so that I may proclaim the praises of Him who called me out of darkness into His marvelous light.” I have been made priceless for a purpose! To proclaim His praises with my lips and my mouth! That is the “self-esteem” that comes from God.
O Lord, I pray for the grace to understand who I am in Christ, and the grace to live my life to its fullest for the purpose for which you have made it – to proclaim Your praises! Amen.
“And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel had retreated. He arose and attacked the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand stuck to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to plunder.” 2 Samuel 23:9-10
In 1 Samuel 23, there is a description of David’s “mighty men”, the men used by God to establish the kingdom of David. In these two verses about David’s mighty man Eleazar, there is a lot to learn on how Christians can become “mighty men” and “mighty women” of Jesus Christ, the Son of David.
Eleazar’s fellow Israelites abandoned him in the battle. Even so, Eleazar remained and fought the battle himself. And then what happened? It says the Israelites returned, but “only to plunder.” Meaning, the Israelites returned, not to help Eleazar, but to get all the enemy’s valuables that were left over from the battle, valuables that they did not fight for, valuables that Eleazar on his own won for them.
Jesus did the same thing for me with His life and death and resurrection, and as a servant of Jesus, I am called to do the same thing. In whatever ministry I am in, I must continue to persevere, even if everyone around me retreats. What should my attitude be towards those who retreat? I must love them and give any bitterness towards them over to the Lord. I must have the same attitude towards them that Jesus has towards me —“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” That is the kind of leader God has called me to be, the kind of leader God uses to establish and expand His kingdom. Praise the Lord!
Dear God, please give me the grace to persevere alone in ministry when others fall away. Of course, I am never alone. You are always with me! You promised that You will never leave me or forsake me! (Hebrews 13:5) Amen.
“Pursue . . . holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 2:14
I want to be holy because I want to see the Lord. I want to experience the Lord. I want to know Him, and understand Him and bless Him. But I am told I must pursue holiness for that to happen. But what is holiness?
For most of my Christian life, I have thought that holiness meant the absence of something. The absence of sexual immorality. The absence of foul language. The absence of drunkenness/drugs. The absence of cheating/stealing. But what if I rid myself of those things and am holding onto unforgiveness. Would I be holy? No. What if when I give or lend money, I do so reluctantly and sparingly, would I be holy? No. Would I be holy if I did not pray often, but there was no sexual immorality, foul language, drunkenness or stealing in my life? No, not according to the Bible.
So what is holiness? Holiness means “separate.” Separate from what? Separate from the world, meaning, something that looks, feels, and sounds completely different than the world does. There is only one who lived a perfectly “separate” life – Jesus. Jesus never held unto unforgiveness. Luke 23:34. Jesus always gave unsparingly and with great joy. Hebrews 12:2. And He prayed continuously. Luke 5:16.
If I am going to “see” (experience) the Lord, Hebrews 2:14 says I must pursue “holiness.” That means I need to ask for the Holy Spirit’s help to rid my life of sin as Jesus’ life was rid of sin, but also for help to forgive, and give, and pray, like Jesus, who is the only holy – “separate” -- one.
Dear Lord, I want to “see” You. Please fill me with the Holy Spirit so that I can be holy -- “separate” -- like Jesus. Amen.
"Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold." Proverbs 3:13-14
The world offers me a knowledge which is said to be the key to life, and that those who have it are and will be the ones who prosper and gain the world – money, power and respect. It is correct that knowledge is the key to life, but it is not a knowledge that comes from the world. It is a knowledge that comes from God, our heavenly Father who dwells in heaven. This knowledge begins and ends with the Word of God. God’s commands, His precepts, His promises, His instructions, are the key to life and are worth more than the world and all its riches. The word says -- ". . . what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18). Also -- "do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth... but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven... for where your treasure is there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21). Yet again -- "heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." (Matthew 24:35). In other words, the knowledge of the world and the things I can gain from it are temporary, but the knowledge and wisdom that comes from God ensures my eternity with Him in heaven, and blesses me abundantly in this life.
Thank you, Lord, for Your wisdom and knowledge that You give so freely to anyone who asks. Your word says that fear of You is the beginning of knowledge. Help me, Lord, to maintain and persevere in the healthy fear of You and the commands of Your word. Thank You for the assurances of eternal life and the blessings that are in store for me when I seek and chase after Your heavenly wisdom. Amen.
“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14
According to Google, a lighthouse is a tower or other structure containing a beacon of light to warn or guide ships at sea. Merriam-Webster defines it as a structure (like a tower) with a powerful light that gives a continuous or intermittent signal to navigators. The lighthouse is a powerful metaphor of the kingdom of God. God is the shore, the safe place to be. The lighthouse is me (and other Christians). The light is Christ. Why me as the lighthouse? In John 8:12, Jesus said “I am the light of the world: he that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” After I accepted Christ, “[I] have been crucified with [Him]; it is no longer [I] who live, but Christ lives in [me]” (Gal. 2:20). “[I am] God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9). I became the tower in which His light resides. He is the light shining in me to show the world the way to God (the shore). Jesus says in Matthew 5:14 and 16: “You are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Anyone can be a tower, but what makes a tower a lighthouse is the beacon of light inside, Christ. A lighthouse without the light is useless; its purpose is meaningless and not being fulfilled. It is the same for me as a Christian. Am I letting my light shine in my family, in my workplace, at the train/bus station, in my surroundings? Can others look to me and see the bright and holy presence of Christ? Do I reflect the light of life, the light of Christ? There are so many ships that are being lost, sinking at sea. Am I being a lighthouse to those who are perishing and don’t know the way to safety and security?
Dear Father, I believe that You have called me out of the darkness into Your marvelous light and that You have made Your home in me. Lord, help me to always let Your glory, holiness, goodness, mercy, grace and love shine within me and around me so that those who are perishing find their way home to You. In Jesus’s name, I pray. Amen
"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them, we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.” Ephesians 2:1-4.
As I meditate on these verses, I am struck by how helpless I was in my former way of life, and how loving and merciful God is. Paul describes my former way of life in alarming detail: spiritually dead, seeing and living only for this world, advancing Satan’s plans, influenced by Satan’s evil spirits, surrounded by friends who love sin, living only to satisfy my desires, having a corrupt earthly nature, and storing up God’s wrath by my behavior. I am amazed that all this did not stop God from loving me and saving me. Moved by “His great love” for me, He drew me away from my idolatry of me, and into a relationship Him. I am comforted that if He did it with me, He can do it again with my colleagues, supervisors, neighbors, friends, and family members.
What can foil God's gracious plan? Who can stay His loving hand?
Can cravings of idol'trous man, winged ghouls in the accuser's band?
Man's nature's so corruptible: can he be saved? Impossible!
But God is not like us mankind; He’s rich in mercy, love divine.
God stole away our wrath stored up; and drank His Son that pois’nous cup.
He died to save our deadened hearts, and resurrected life He imparts.
Thank You, Lord, for Your great love and rich mercy which You had towards me. Amen.
“Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.” Mark 11:2-3
“ And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
When Jesus was coming into Jerusalem in Mark chapter 11, He came in “lowly, riding on a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9. Beforehand, He sent two of His disciples to find the donkey. Knowing they would be questioned by the donkey’s owner, Jesus told them how to respond – “The Lord has need of it.” This account is mentioned in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. What could the Holy Spirit be telling me by mentioning this story?
Every day the Lord sends me out on His business that almost always involves people -- at work, on the street, with co-workers, family, friends, and strangers. It’s all His business for me, with different people He puts in my life. This story in Mark 11 gives me a godly confidence. Sometimes I am fearful of someone I need to work with, or interact with, or talk to. This story is a reminder that as long as I am living a life that is surrendered to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I know the Lord is going to – in advance! – prepare the hearts of those I am going to meet with, even those I may be fearful of. The Lord goes before me! I need not fear. Deuteronomy 31:8.
Thank You, Lord, that because of Your promises I can enter each day with a godly confidence! Amen.
“Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not as much as eat bread. But when His own people (i.e., His family) heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.’ And then the scribes came down from Jerusalem and said, ‘He has Beelzebub,’ and by the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.’” Mark 3:20-22
These verses give me so much hope and encouragement. Here Jesus is under the kind of pressure that would make any other human-being crumble. First, Jesus is in so much demand by very needy people that He is being crushed by a multitude, preventing Him from taking a break to eat. Second, Jesus’s biological family is publicly slandering him, declaring that He is insane, and trying to stop His ministry. Third, highly respected religious leaders are publicly accusing Him of being used by Satan. Even with all of these things happening at once, Jesus is able to calmly and coolly minister and bless those around Him.
About 750 years prior to Jesus’s birth, God gave this promise to the people of God through the prophet Isaiah – “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3. In Mark 3:20-22, we see the promise proved to be true in the life of Jesus. This encourages me as I am told that having accepting Jesus as Lord into my life, I now have the Spirit of Christ, and therefore need not crumble under extremely difficult life circumstances.
Lord, I thank You that every one of Your promises is “yes and amen” in Christ! 2 Corinthians 1:20
“And Jesus entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.” Mark 3:1-2
My heart breaks for this man. Bible commentators believe he was taken by religious leaders to the synagogue not because they cared or had any interest in him as a human being, but to use the object of his greatest suffering – his withered hand – as a tool to trap Jesus. The cruelty and blindness of the religious leaders is breathtaking. They had been charged by God to love and care for this man, but instead were using his greatest source of humiliation and pain to further their own wickedness.
As I read this story, I am struck by this -- truly the capacity of man for evil is horrific. Yet the Lord has made me so mindful that I have the very same capacity to become blind through disobedience and become just as cruel towards others. (Jeremiah 17:9) Rather than judging these men for behaving like they did, I must cry out to God – “Hide me Lord in the cleft of the rock!” (Exodus 33:22) “And give me the grace to live in the glory of my salvation!” (Psalm 62:7).
"In all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."
2 Corinthians 6:4-10
Here in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he gives a description of what a minister is like who genuinely desires to serve the Lord. Paul says that a man or woman who genuinely desires to serve the Lord must “commend” himself or herself, meaning prove or establish himself or herself, as a minister in certain ways, 37 ways to be exact! I am struck by the very first way that is listed, i.e., a man or woman must commend himself or herself as a minister of God “in much patience.” This reminds me of a similar verse in 1 Thessalonians. There, Paul says, “we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, and be patient with all.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14. In yet another verse, this one in 2 Timothy, Paul says – “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2. The theme is that patience appears to be foundational. Meaning, I can have all kinds of other gifts and talents – teaching, prophecy, words of knowledge, wisdom, encouragement, perseverance, purity, lifestyle righteousness, mercy – but they will amount to little or nothing if they are not accompanied by patience. That’s a problem for me, because I am not a naturally patient person! I praise God because the Bible says I can cry out to the Lord for Him to change me in this area!
God, help! I am not a patient person! But Your word tells me that patience is a gift of the Holy Spirit, (Galatians 5:22), and that I can ask You to fill Me with the Holy Spirit. (Luke 11:13) Fill me with the Holy Spirit Father! Grow me and test me in the area of patience, so that I may live a fruitful life for You! Amen.
“We are fellow workers for your joy. . .” 2 Corinthians 1:24
The Apostle Paul served the Corinthians with this in mind -- that as a result of his service, they would experience joy. What a great barometer for me in my service to brothers and sisters in Christ and others! Sometimes I serve people for selfish reasons, for something I want from them. But here I see a test to determine if I am serving with the right motive, and if my love is real, i.e., do I really want joy for the man or woman or child I am serving? When I serve them, do I have their joy in mind?
There is a kind of joy in a Christian which brings God much glory. (1 Peter 1:8). Today I am going to pray for God’s grace that by my serving them, my brothers and sisters in Christ will experience that kind of joy. Amen.
“And the thing pleased Haman; so he had the gallows made.” Esther 5:14
In the book of Esther, Haman, an adviser to the King, wanted to kill Esther’s uncle, Mordecai the Jew. Haman built a “gallows” for the purpose of hanging Mordecai. Bible commentators say that Haman is a “type” of Satan. Haman tried to eradicate God’s people, the Jews. In the end, because of the humility and steadfast faith of Mordecai and Esther, God saved Mordecai, and Haman was hung on the same gallows that he (Haman) had built for Mordecai.
The Bible tells me to “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:9. The devil wants to devour me. I believe he has made a gallows for me, a gallows that waits for me to destroy me. This is a sobering and healthy warning for me. I am reminded of Mordecai and Esther. Only humility and faithfulness can save me from the gallows that Satan has prepared for me. But through humility and steadfast faith, I can see the destruction of Satan’s work against me. (Matthew 16:18).
Lord, please give me the grace to choose humility and steadfast faith instead of the way of pride. Fill me with Your Spirit and guide me onwards so that I and others laboring with me would prevail against the gates of Hell which hold so many in our community captive to the schemes of the devil. Amen
“Your . . . salvation . . . is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffered. . . you also helping together in prayer for us.” 2 Corinthians 1:6, 11
The Bible says that the sufferings of Paul were so overwhelming that he “despaired of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8), meaning he lost the desire to live, and longed for death. What terrible sufferings Paul must have endured! Yet, in 2 Corinthians 1:6, I am told that I can successfully endure the same sufferings. Why? The passage gives two reasons. First, my salvation. The passage says my salvation is “effective” for enduring the “same sufferings.” Second, the prayers of brothers and sisters in Christ.
When God saves me, He gives me the Holy Spirit who gives me power for endurance in any suffering (2 Peter 1:3). However, 2 Corinthians 1:11 tells me that in order for my endurance in sufferings to be complete, I must have the prayers of others. Many times I resist bringing a friend into my suffering because of pride or self-pity or fear. However, the Bible is clear that God wants me to bring the church into my sufferings. Why? Because the church is quite literally “the body of Christ” and God wants to bring Jesus Christ into my suffering. That way, God’s son Jesus Christ is glorified when I am brought out of the suffering!
O God, thank You for the power of the Holy Spirit to endure sufferings. In my sufferings, please help me to resist pride and self-pity and bring my brothers and sisters in Christ into the suffering. Be glorified in my life! Amen.
“Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” Matthew 9:22
What does unstoppable faith look like? Perhaps I see it in Matthew 9:20-22. There, a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years made her way through the crowd to touch Jesus’s garment. As she approached Jesus, she said to herself -- “If only I touch His garment, I shall be made well.” (Matthew 9:21). I wonder what others were thinking as she forced her way through the crowd?
To me, this looks like unstoppable faith. When Jesus identified the woman, He said to her, “Be of good cheer daughter, your faith has made you well.” If it weren’t for her faith, this woman would not have been healed. Her unstoppable faith touched God’s heart and pleased Him and she obtained grace, favor.Hebrew 11:6 tells me-- “without faith it is impossible to please Him [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Just like that woman, though others may judge me, scoff at me, laugh at me, and call me a fool, I will come to Jesus boldly with an unstoppable faith,believing that He is good and that He is pleased and will reward myfaith in Him.
Dear Father,Iwant to please You. I believe that You are myGod, myFather and that You are a rewarder of those who diligently seek You. As You are the rock that my faith is anchored in, please provide me all grace I need to grow in You. In Jesus’ name, amen!
“When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son: ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand; and the Lord showed signs and wonders before our eyes, great and severe, against Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his household. Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.’” Deuteronomy 6:20-25
I was reflecting in Deuteronomy, and how relevant these words are for today. In particular, I think of the stark difference today between what the Word of God teaches on the beauty of God’s design for marriage and sexual relations between a husband and wife, and what the world teaches regarding those things. Perhaps if the verses were written today, they would read something like this:
“And when your son asks you in the coming days, saying, ‘Why do we follow these outdated rules from the Lord? Why do you insist that marriage between a man and a woman, that gender is fixed and can’t change, and that I’m not free to do sexually whatever I want?’ Then you shall say to your son, ‘We were once slaves to sin, dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1), having walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries (1 Peter 4:3). And the Lord brought us out of death and made us slaves to righteousness, and He disarmed the rules and principalities, making a public spectacle of them, having triumphed over then through the cross (Colossians 2:15). Then He made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7). This is why we obey the Lord God and do not follow what the world teaches on marriage and sex. We would never want to give disobedience to the Lord, in return for all the wonderful grace and beauty He has poured into our lives.’ ”
Thank You, Lord, for saving me from so much that would have otherwise destroyed me. Please help me not to be deceived by the spirit of this age, and to boldly instruct in the Word of God my children and others which You have entrusted to my care. Amen.
“Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job 2:10
The Bible says of Job that he was “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” Even so, God permitted a great trial of evil to fall upon Job’s family, the death of his sons and daughters. After this, Job’s wife came to him and said -- “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job’s response to her was – “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” And then it says – “in all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Job 2:10
Recently, a calamity of evil came into my family. After serving the Lord for many years, I was tempted with bitterness. “Is this the reward for my service?!” These words of Job have become very comforting and instructive to me. Am I like’s Job’s wife, so foolish and selfish that I think because of my obedience to Christ I should be spared from the same adversities that the world has gone through? And why should I be spared from the same trials and afflictions of evil that Jesus Himself went through on my behalf? The Bible says that He was “in all points tempted [by afflictions] as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15. I have been called to share in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10) and take up my cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23), even as He lives inside of me (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Lord, thank You for the privilege of following You. Thank You Lord for the abundant life that You have given me. Please give me the grace to receive the evil along with the good in my life. I trust You Lord, and I love You Lord. Amen.
“God delivered us . . . and does deliver us. . . and will still deliver us.” 2 Corinthians 1:10
To some, these words may seem like overkill. Why not just say -- “God always delivers us”? Why specify the past (“delivered us”) and the present (“delivers us”) and the future (“will deliver us”)?
Well, they are not overkill words for me. They are comforting words. Like the psalmist, I am spiritually “poor and needy” (Psalm 40:17). A poor and needy person needs to be specifically reminded that God has delivered them in the past. And that God is delivering them now. And that God will deliver them in the future. These are comforting words. These are the words of my Comforter reminding me of the character of Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
“But when the Comforter is come. . . even the Spirit of truth . . . He shall testify of Me.” John 15:26
“You ought rather to forgive and comfort. . . [and] whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. . . lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” 2 Corinthians 2:7-11
This scripture is frequently cited to exhort followers of Jesus to be aware of the types of schemes that Satan uses to attack them. What is not so frequently cited is the context of this particular verse (v. 11), unforgiveness. The Apostle Paul was reminding the Corinthian church about a device powerfully used by Satan within the body of Christ -- the stubborn refusal of one Christian to forgive another. Unforgiveness brings division in the body of Christ, and Satan knows that God’s promise of God’s blessing is for a church or Christian family or Christian relationship where there is forgiveness and unity. Psalm 133 says it clearly – “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. . . for there the Lord commanded His blessing.” Psalm 133:1, 3.
Lord, I want Your full blessing on my church, my family, and all my relationships. So now I open my heart wide before You. Please expose any area of unforgiveness and give me the grace to release all of it to You. Lord, this will only happen by a powerful move of the Holy Spirit. Fill me with Your Spirit Lord, wash me, and cleanse me from all unforgiveness. Amen.
“For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” 2 Corinthians 1:8
The book of Acts records the many grievous trials that the Apostle Paul endured on his missionary journeys. In Iconium, he was “abused and stoned.” Acts 14:5. In Lystra, he was stoned and “dragged out of the city.” Acts 14:19. In Ephesus, the Jews spoke “evil” of him to the multitude, and after a riot, Paul was forced to leave the city. Acts 19:9; 20:1.
What was Paul’s emotional and mental state during these terrible trials? When Bible teachers teach these passages there is a tendency to portray Paul as being unfazed by these trials because he was such a man of faith. Yes, he was a man of faith, but he was not “unfazed.” When writing to the church in Corinth, he describes his emotional and mental state: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” 2 Corinthians 1:8.
The devil wants to convince me that the emotional and mental pain and confusion I experience during trials is because I am a bad Christian. No, the Apostle Paul experienced the same thing. However, it is important that I respond to my situation just as the Apostle Paul did. The Apostle Paul said the Lord brought him to such a difficult emotional and mental place – “to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:9. The Apostle Paul then speaks of the Lord’s deliverance (2 Corinthians 1:10).
I thank You Lord that the same Holy Spirit that was in the Apostle Paul, is also in me! When I am brought to a low emotional and mental place, draw me into a deep reliance on You, and into a remembrance that You will never leave me or forsake me! Amen.
"I give your priesthood to you as a gift for service.” Numbers 18:7
In the book of Numbers, the Lord tells Aaron – “I give your priesthood to you as a gift of service.” As a servant of God, I must never forget this. Serving the Lord is a gift from Him to me. It is a blessing from Him to me. It is a privilege given from Him to me. I must always see it that way. Ministry is not a burden. It is not a chore. It is not a religious obligation. It is not something for me get through and finish so I can move on to a more comfortable life. It is my life, the life that God has given me as a special gift to treasure, to be thankful for, to persevere in, to enjoy, to cherish, to pray about, to seek the Lord about, and to be faithful with.
Lord, You have given me this ministry I have as a gift of service. Thank You Lord! Amen.
“We went through all that great and terrible wilderness. . .where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carried his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.” Deuteronomy 1:19, 30
When I think about the faithfulness of the Lord in my life, I am ashamed of my fear and discouragement. How can I question whether the Lord will provide and deliver me when He has provided and delivered me so many times? Lord, please quiet my soul! In my shame and fear and discouragement, help me remember as I write out and record each time in my life when You made Your presence so real to me, when You led me through a “terrible wilderness” and carried me as a man carries his son.
Lord, You are worthy to be followed with complete courage, not with fear and discouragement. Even as Moses gave this charge (Deuteronomy 1:19, 3) to the children of Israel before they entered into the next season of their lives, speak this same charge into my heart, so that I will move forward with faith and confidence into the place of life You have called me into. Amen.
"He restores my soul. . .” Psalm 23:3
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Psalm 23:6
Recently, there was an incident that occurred in my life that left me sorely discouraged. I prayed to the Lord for hours, asking that He would give me His mind on the matter, and begging Him to replace my discouragement with joy.
On the morning after this incident, my devotional reading began with this: “The love of Christ daily loads us with benefits. He gives us nothing but what is good.” Psalm 68:19. Not only was I no longer discouraged with the incident, I was genuinely thankful that it happened. I was startled at how quickly the Lord had drastically changed my heart. But then I remembered two promises that He has given to me as a child of God. The first is -- “He restores my soul.” The second is -- “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” He fulfilled both of these promises in me! I was able to worship Him, knowing by my experience that He is absolutely faithful to His promises!
I praise You Lord for daily loading me with Your benefits! Amen
“Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you [Moses] rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah.” Numbers 20:24
At the beginning of chapter 20 in the book of Numbers the children of Israel complained to Moses that they had no water. The Lord told Moses to take his rod and speak to the rock and it would bring forth water. However, because Moses was angry with the children of Israel, rather than speaking to the rock, he struck it with his rod. God was not happy with what Moses did. He said to Moses – “because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, you shall not bring this [people] into the land which I have given them.” This story about Moses is well-known. Not so well-known is what happens later in Numbers chapter 20. The Lord said to Moses in verse 24: “Aaron . . . shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel because you [Moses] rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah.”
Aaron doesn’t seem to have any part in Moses’ sin, but the Lord prevents him from going into the Promised land because of it. The Lord doesn’t give a reason. He doesn’t have to. He is God, and He is just and good, and for reasons we may not fully understand, it was a just and good thing for Him to prevent Aaron from going in because of Moses’ sin. Moses later witnessed Aaron’s death. How devastating it must have been for Moses to witness this, knowing his [Moses’] sin had prevented Aaron from going into the land.
I praise God for this story because it gives me a greater fear of the consequences of my own sin. I simply cannot justify any sin on the grounds it will not affect other people because they have no part in it. On the contrary, someone I deeply love and cherish may suffer terrible consequences for a sin I commit that they have nothing to do with.
The importance of me walking in holiness is far greater than I can ever understand. Lord, help me see Your glory, and the beauty of Your holiness, and help me walk in that holiness. Amen.
"Therefore BE merciful, just as your Father also is merciful." Luke 6:36
A resolution is defined as a “firm decision to do or not to do something.” For 2016, my resolution was to get a more intimate and stronger relationship with God through prayer, the Word and fellowship. But I must ask myself – “Should I make resolutions?” The person God desired me to be last year (generous, holy, kind, good, compassionate, merciful, humble, wise, responsible, respectful, disciplined, true) is the same person He desires me to be this year. What God called me to do last year (love, serve, share, forgive, pray, read the Word, meditate) is the same this year. The fact Jesus died and resurrected to set me free from sin and condemnation was true last year, and this year, and forever. God doesn't change nor does His Word.
God calls me to DO, to BE, not to resolute. Rather than resolute to be kind, I should BE kind; rather than resolute to love more, I should love; rather than resolute to be patient, I should be patient; rather than resolute to be merciful, I should be merciful just like God calls me to do in Luke 6:36.
Dear Father, I pray that my life and actions may be a reflection of Your Son Jesus. Help me so I can act upon Your Word to be what You called me to be and to do what You called me to do. Jesus, may the way I live bring You glory until the day of Your return! Amen.
“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
Through whom might revival come in this New Year? The Bible says if it comes, it will be one of five ways, through: i) foolish things, ii) weak things, iii) base things, iv) despised things, or v) things which are “not.” God is that serious about not sharing His glory with another. He says the reason that revival will come through these things is so “that no flesh should glory in His presence?” 1 Corinthians 1:29. For years I have merely been giving these verses “lip service.” I’ve been trying in vain to help God through being “wise,” being “mighty,” and being “noble.” But God doesn’t need my help, and He has made it clear He will not move in the power of the Holy Spirit when I am “helping” Him in that way. God has declared, “I am the Lord, that is My name, and My glory I will not give to another.” Isaiah 42:8
O God, bring me low by the Holy Spirit in this New Year, that no glory would be on me, but all on You Lord! O Lord, make us safe to bless with revival in this New Year! Amen.
“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9
I hear often “Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ.” But where does it say such a thing in the Bible? In this verse! I am told that God has called me “into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ.” The word “fellowship” is the Greek word “koinonia.” The most literal translation here of the word “koinonia” is “mutual sharing of everything” meaning, two lives in which everything is shared. Now that is a relationship! Jesus shares everything He is with me! I am called to share everything I am with Him! What an amazing and exciting gift I have been given by God! What joy and peace and rest and security this gives me!
Thank you God! Truly it is so! I have been called into a relationship, not a religion! Amen!
“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” Deuteronomy 8:3
The word of God tells me that God will intentionally bring hunger (and other trials) for the specific purpose of driving me to trust in His Word. It is sad, but true. When God brings physical or emotional scarcity into my life, I run to the Word for life. His record of faithfulness has been 100%! Every time in my scarcity, He gives to me out of His “fullness.” “Out of His fullness, I have received grace upon grace.” John 1:16. And so I truly learn that I “do not live on bread alone. . . but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”
Thank You Lord for all the times You have brought physical and emotional trials into my life that have caused me to hunger for You! Thank You for Your 100% record of faithfulness in my life! Amen.
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. . . Repent. . . or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand.” Revelation 2:2-5
I have read these verses so many times, but reading it this time, I am frightened. How easy it is to deceive myself into thinking I am living a fruitful life, and “on track” with God. The church in Ephesus had so much in front of them to believe they were bearing fruit for God. They are actually commended by Jesus – “I know your works, that . . . you have labored for My name’s sake and have not grown weary.” Twice, I read, they are commended by Jesus for bearing the fruit (patience) of the Holy Spirit! Jesus also commends them for keeping their doctrine pure, and for being good shepherds of the sheep, by not allowing false teachers in. In spite of all that, Jesus was on the verge of removing from them the privilege of being an instrument in His hands. Why? Because they had lost their “first love,” meaning, they were not bringing Jesus into their life and ministry. There was little prayer. Little time in the Word. Little real worship. Jesus didn’t bring the church of Ephesus into His ministry, only to be left out of the ministry by ignoring Him in the area of prayer, time in the Word, and worship. It is no different with me.
Though I am frightened by these verses, I am also comforted. It is a simple thing to return to my first love. I simply need to confess and open my heart back up to Him. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 Let [me] therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that [I] may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15
Father, if I am in any way deceiving myself into wrongly believing I am being fruitful for You, please stop me Lord, and lead me by Your grace back to Your throne. Amen.
“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Matthew 24:12
Today, it seems everywhere I look and everywhere I go lawlessness abounds. The Bible states that the natural response to that is for my love for God and others to grow cold. This is a frightening and troubling thought for me. However, I take heart in God’s Word. Romans 7:15 says -- “I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.” Thankfully, I have been given victory over my sinful nature. Romans 7:24 continues -- “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” With lawlessness abounding everywhere, it is critical that I never take my eyes off of Jesus, otherwise my love for God and others will grow cold.
Jesus, You say in Your Word -- “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38 Please fill me with the Holy Spirit Lord! If the living waters are not flowing forth from within me, I will not be able to keep my eyes on You. If I do not keep my eyes on You, my love for You and others will grow cold. If my love for You and others grows cold, my witness for You will grow dim. Forbid that should ever happen Lord! Forbid it I pray! Amen.
“This is the law of the leper for the day of his cleansing. . . [the priest] shall take for [the leper] two living and clean birds. . . if the leprosy is healed in the leper, then the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed. . . . as for the living bird [the priest] shall dip [it] in the blood of the bird that was killed. . . and shall pronounce the [leper] clean, and [the priest] shall let the living bird loose in the open field.” Leviticus 1:2-7
In the Bible, leprosy represents sin. Apart from Christ, every man and woman is a leper who must be cleansed from their sin or they will remain cut off from the presence of God. Just as the blood of a killed bird was necessary to restore the leper into the presence of God and His people, there must be blood from a killed Messiah for me. Just as the living bird was set free represented the leper’s freedom from the scourge of leprosy, I have been set free by my High Priest, Jesus Christ, to fly without the scourge of my sin, my guilt, and my shame. All of this speaks of the glory of the freedom I have been given in Christ, and the uplifting, soaring, and empowering life that I now have in the Spirit. “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:36
Lord, thank You so much that I can soar above my record of sin, above my guilt, above my shame, and above the darkness of this world, because of the wonderful life of the Spirit within me. Amen
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon Me (Jesus) . . . to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1, 3
If the world sees nothing attractive in my life during this trial, then there is something broken in my relationship with Jesus. Jesus has told me quite clearly, the comfort and power and joy of the Holy Spirit is mine if I ask with a surrendered heart. (Luke 11:13) Why is it that the children of God are called “trees of righteousness” and “the planting of the Lord”? Because though the severity of their trial had reduced them to ashes, the Holy Spirit formed a mysterious and wonderful beauty out of their lives. Because the Holy Spirit gave them a supernatural, sustained joy, when by all accounts they should have stayed in mourning. Because the Holy Spirit placed a song in their heart of praise, when anyone else would have remained downtrodden by a spirit of heaviness. All these are mine through the promise of the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24:39)
Lord, I want the world to see something profoundly attractive in my life in this trial. I want to be called “a tree of righteousness,” a “planting of the Lord.” I surrender my life to You in this trial, fill me with the Holy Spirit and be glorified in my life! Amen.
“May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God. . . ” 2 Thessalonians 3:5
Because of my insecurity, I find the direction of my heart leads me to do and say things to try to garner the admiration and attention of others. Yet admiration and attention from men only feeds the flesh, and the flesh never gives peace or rest. But God does. Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica -- “May the Lord direct your hearts into love of God. . .” God loves me. He loves me regardless of what is in my past. He also loves when the direction of my heart leads me to do and say things out of love and obedience to Him. I don’t need an audience of tens, hundreds or thousands, all I need is an audience of One, God. He loves me, loves my obedience, and loves to give me peace and rest.
Lord, direct my heart into the love of God. Amen.
“Is your eye evil because I am good?” Matthew 20:16
These are the words of a vineyard owner to certain laborers who were complaining because they worked all day and received the same wages as those who only worked the very last hour of the day.
In this parable, I am comforted by discovering the riches of God’s grace. In particular, the parable teaches that God gives all of Himself to everyone who comes to Him, whether they are the first or the last, or have the best track record or the worst. He gives all His joy, all His peace, all His love, all His power, now, to everyone. In Luke 14 when the father (God) threw a feast for the prodigal son (me), He was giving all of Himself to His younger son. When the older son (also me) complained, the father said to him “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.”
In addition to comforting me, this parable warns me. “Is your eye evil because I am good?” I must be wary of always insisting that others treat me fairly, because that has not been the rule of God’s treatment of me. Rather, the rule of His treatment of me has been His goodness (grace).
Lord, thank You for the comfort of knowing how gracious You have been towards me. With others, lead me in the way of grace as well. Amen.
”Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
What does Jesus mean when He says -- “My yoke is easy and My burden is light”? After all, I have found in many ways my life has become harder as a Christian! Even Jesus said – “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life.” And what about Paul’s in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 – “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken struck down, but not destroyed”!
When Jesus says “My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” He is speaking about my relationship with Him. In every relationship, there is a yoke that I must wear if I am going to remain in the relationship. But the yoke is made up of expectations, I will never fully be able to meet, demands that I will never fully be able to satisfy and burdens, I will never fully be able to carry. Not so with Jesus’ yoke. He has never once put an expectation or demand on me, that I was unable to meet, or a burden, that I was not able to carry. He knows precisely how much I can carry, and will never put on me one milligram more than that. His yoke is easy, His burden is light. He will never try to selfishly use me. He will never try to take from me something that I need for the abundant life He has chosen for me. He will never put condemnation or shame on me. He will never put undue pressure on me. He will always listen, unless I need to be spoken to. He will always speak to me, unless I need silence. Jesus will only, always, love me.
And that makes His yoke easy, and His burden light.
“Then God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.” Genesis 35:1
At this time Jacob is filled with fear that he and his family will be killed because of the grievous evil that his sons had committed against the city of Shechem. They had killed all the men of the city. God was faithful to appear to Jacob during this great trial of fear. He told Jacob to go to Bethel, the place where He had appeared to Jacob the first time. When God had appeared to Jacob at Bethel, he had just deceived his older brother Esau and stolen Esau’s blessing. He was fleeing from Esau with great fear for his life. Yet, God appeared to him at Bethel and promised to be with him and protect him. Jacob had done nothing to deserve God’s protection; he had done everything to deserve God’s punishment. Why was God promising to be with him and protect him? It was God’s grace. In Genesis chapter 35 Jacob is again in a place of great fear, and God is sending him back to Bethel as a reminder that He is a God of grace, and that Jacob’s failures, as well as the failures of those around him, do not ultimately govern Jacob’s future. God’s grace does.
O Lord, in the day of my fear guide me back to my Bethel. The place I first experienced and understood that Your love for me is not based on my record of failure, past, present and future. Thank you for my Bethel Lord! Amen.
Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land. . . they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I.” Genesis 34:30
In Genesis 34, Jacob and his family lived outside the city of Shechem. The prince of Shechem violated Dinah, Jacob’s daughter. Two of Jacob’s sons – Simeon and Levi – rather than obey one of the most basic rules of life for the believer – “Vengeance is the Lord’s” (Deuteronomy 32:35), they took vengeance into their own hands. They viciously retaliated and killed all the men of the city, a punishment far greater than the crime.
Jacob’s family was relatively small (around seventy persons) compared with the great nations that surrounded Shechem. He was certain that when this crime was found out, he and his family would be killed. But Jacob’s fear was misplaced. Many years earlier, God had promised Jacob -- “I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.” (Genesis 28:15) God was faithful to that promise and protected him from this calamity.
I learned something unique through this story. There may be times when someone closely associated to me commits a huge blunder, or a serious sin – a friend, a family member, or a co-worker – and it may appear that their actions may cause my life to be derailed from what I thought God wanted me to do. But other people’s disobedience or mistakes are not a hindrance to what God wants to do in my life. I must keep my eyes off others, and on the Lord. Jacob’s fear was real and legitimate. Without the protection of God, he and his family would almost certainly have been killed by the surrounding nations for this great evil. But the behavior of Levi and Simeon – even though they were his “flesh and bones”, intimately associated with who he was – was never going to derail God’s calling on Jacob’s life. Not only was Jacob and his family not killed, they went on to accomplish the very thing that the Lord had promised to do.
Lord, help me to remember when fears come upon me, that Your promises are as fixed as the stars in the sky, even more so! You will never leave me or forsake me. Thank You Lord! Amen.
“Then Jacob was left alone, and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. . . and He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks.’ But Jacob said ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’ So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob.’ And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel.’” Genesis 32:24, 26-28
Here, Jacob wrestles with God. One question raised by this passage is – “what was the blessing that God gave Jacob?” I believe the answer is this – he received a new name, “Israel.” Israel means “governed by God.” What a blessing God gave to Jacob when He gave him the grace to be governed by God, rather than governed by Jacob. What freedom! What contentment! What peace! To truly let go of worrying that Jacob is responsible for governing Jacob! This is the true blessing that God gave to me from the time I “declared with my mouth that Jesus is Lord!” Roman 10:9. The Holy Spirit came into my life and gave me the grace to “let go” and “let God” be my governor.
Lord, thank You for doing this in my life! What freedom! What contentment! What peace! Amen.
“You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Matthew 5:12
If I fear man, and never speak to him about hell, and never speak about judgment, and never speak about sin; then I become like a self-fulfilled prophet, i.e., the man that I fear will indeed become fearsome to me. He will throw me out of his way for being irrelevant, tasteless salt. He will trample me underfoot. He will dismiss me as a coward. How much better to be the salt of the earth, filled with the flavor of the Gospel in all its fullness. Then the man I fear has to reckon – not with me – but with the Lord, who stands behind every word of His Gospel.
Lord, I pray, give me the grace today to proclaim all the fullness of Your Gospel! Amen
"He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed." Luke 5:16
Lord, I am often told to strive to be more Christ-like. Usually, what I think people mean by that is that I need to be more loving, more humble, more virtuous. But Lord, even if I became all those things, how much would I really be like You if I didn’t also pray like You? You “often” withdrew into the wilderness and prayed. That is what I want for me Lord! You said – “I do nothing of Myself,” John 8:28. Is there any more likeness to You that is more important than me continually receiving from the Father so that nothing I do is of myself?
Please Lord, please, work that Christ-likeness in me! Amen.
"...A woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly oil. And she poured it on His head. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste?’” Matthew 26:7-8
Lord, it was You who gave this woman an alabaster flask filled with costly oil so that she could give You an offering that You were so blessed with, You actually said-- “wherever the good news is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (v.13) What have You given me Lord, that I can give back to You that would be as valuable as this alabaster flask of oil? Only my life Lord, that is all I have. So I will make it an offering that is pleasing to You. Others may see my offering and despise it as unglamorous – my life as a parent, my life as a financial provider, my life in ministry – but it is the offering which You gave me Lord so I can give it back to You. Like the woman with the alabaster flask, You gave me this offering because it gives You joy to receive it back from me. You gave me this offering because You are glorified when I give it to You. You gave it to me out of Your abounding goodness, which means You knew it would work towards my highest good and my highest joy.
Thank You Lord for taking so much joy in receiving something from me, even something that others may despise. Amen
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” Matthew 26:41
“Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” Matthew 26:56
This happened in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the night of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Jesus instructed his disciples to “watch and pray,” lest they fall into temptation. Soon after, they forsook Jesus and fled.
Satan is a wily enemy, much smarter than me. One of his craftiest lies is that my prayer regarding temptation should be focused on the temptation of sexual immorality, or some other kind of addictive behavior such as drinking or taking drugs. Should I be praying for strength against those things? Yes. But if that is the focus of my prayer, it is likely I will be easy prey to a much more dangerous temptation of Satan – like forsaking Jesus.
Instead of obeying Jesus’ admonition to “watch and pray,” the disciples fell asleep. They became easy prey when the temptation came upon them to forsake Jesus. My prayers should be focused on my relationship with Jesus, that I would be able to detect any temptation that would draw me away from Him, and that God would give me the grace to say “no!” and if necessary, to flee! I don’t want to forsake Jesus at the very time I should be the closest to Him.
Lord, I thank You that it is Your desire for me to watch and pray lest I fall into temptation. Help me to watch and pray Lord! Amen.
Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” And [Jacob] said, “Because the Lord your God brought it to me.” Genesis 27:20
Jacob was in the midst of deceiving his father, pretending to be Isaac’s older son Esau, so that he (Jacob) could receive the blessing that Isaac had intended to give Esau. Notice, Jacob brings the name of God into His deceit.
How often I bring the name of God into plans that are not His plans, but my plans. My heart becomes intent on doing a certain thing, and I convince myself and others that I am following God, but actually, God has no participation at all in what I am doing. I am no different than Jacob. As Esau said when he discovered Jacob’s plot – “Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has deceived me. . .” Genesis 27:36 (i.e., Jacob’s name in Hebrew meant “supplanter” or “deceiver”).
Forgive me Lord for all the times that I have used You like Jacob did! I am comforted by reading that You did not abandon Jacob in his low spiritual place. You chastened him and built him up, and changed His name from Jacob to Israel! (Which means “governed by God.”) Genesis 32:28. Lord I need Your grace! It takes more than that is in me to admit that many times my plans are not Your plans! Fill me with the Spirit, and show me as You did with Jacob the beauty of being governed by You, rather than me governing myself. Show me the vision of the man You want me to be, and give me the grace to boldly walk in obedience to that vision! In Jesus name, Amen.
“And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: ‘Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are – northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.’” Genesis 13:14-15
“All things are yours.” 1 Corinthians 3:21
Prior to these verses in Genesis 13, strife had arisen between the herdsmen of Abraham’s cattle, and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle. Their livestock had been grazing on the same land but had multiplied so exceedingly, that there was not room enough in the land for both. In order to settle the dispute, Abraham – a more righteous man than Lot – went to Lot and told him to choose whatever land he wanted, and Abraham would depart to a different land. Lot chose for himself the best land, the land of Jordan which the Bible describes as “was well-watered everywhere. . . like the garden of the Lord.” So Lot departed to that land and settled there, and Abraham went to a different, less attractive land.
But then the Lord took Abraham to a place, apparently a high mountain, and He told him to look everywhere – northward, southward, eastward and westward – which included the land that Lot had just possessed – and told Abraham that one day it would all be his.
There have been times in my life when someone was given something – a promotion, recognition, financial gain, a relationship, or some other blessing – that I felt should be mine. I was left confused and discouraged. Have I been serving the Lord in vain? Then I went to the Word of God which reminded me – “all things are yours.” 1 Corinthians 3:21. All things are mine. When I come into possession of them is God’s business, not mine. But just as Abraham’s descendants eventually possessed the land, so I will take possession of all the wonderful things that God has for me. Until then, like Abraham, I will worship Him and follow Him and serve Him with all my heart, believing the promise that “all things are mine.” 1 Corinthians 3:21
“I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem, they shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” Isaiah 62:6-7
Here I am told three times to not stop praying. I must “not hold my peace.” I must “not keep silent.” I must “give God no rest.” There are many evils around me, sometimes it seems to me certain that evil will prevail over me and God’s people. The enemy of my soul lies to me –“there is no help for you in God.” (Psalm 3:2) I thank God that with the strength provided by the Holy Spirit I can set aside those lies, and remember the faithfulness of God. By the Holy Spirit, I can never hold my peace, giving God no rest, praying always, with the assurance that He will establish His kingdom, will show His glory, and make His people a praise to Him!
“In all their affliction, He was afflicted.” Isaiah 63:9a
This is a reference to the season when the Israelites were wandering for forty days in the wilderness. During that season, the Israelites suffered many afflictions, most of which were brought on by the Lord because of the rebellion and sin of the Israelites. Nevertheless, it says, in “all their afflictions,” God Himself was afflicted.
When I am afflicted, whether it is because of my own sin, someone else’s sin, or simply because of my living in a fallen world, God is afflicted. He suffers. He weeps. He is troubled and distressed. Knowing that comforts me. It speaks of His love for me. It reminds me He is my Father, and I am His child (in Isaiah 63:8, the Lord calls the Israelites “My children”). It also gives me the freedom to talk to the Lord freely of my affliction, without Him condemning me.
Right after it says “In all their affliction, He was afflicted”, it says “the Angel of His Presence saved them, in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; He bore them and carried them all the days of old.” Isaiah 63:9b. Just as I am assured that the Lord is afflicted when I am afflicted, I am assured that He will save me and carry me through every trial, as He is molding me and making me into the likeness of His Son.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your love and faithfulness to me! Amen.
“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man.” Matthew 15:19-20
Here Jesus describes what defiles me. I am surprised to see “evil thoughts” listed first, and grouped together with “murders, adulteries. . .” and even “blasphemies.” So often I have deceived myself into thinking that I am not seriously spiritually endangered by what goes on in my head. As a result, I have entertained unclean sexual thoughts, thoughts of unforgiveness and retribution, thoughts of selfish ambition, thoughts of being admired and applauded my men. Jesus says all these thoughts defile me. They defile my intimacy with God. They defile the intimacy with my family. They defile the fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. They
defile the effectiveness of my ministry, and empty it of its power.
Jesus is gracious to remind me through these verses that I must have the same vigilance against evil thoughts as I do against murder or adultery or blasphemies. I must “cast down every imagination that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bring it to obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) I must cry out humbly to the Lord – “Lord, you see this thought, take it and replace it with something that is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy!” (Philippians 4:8)
Father, I know You want to see Your glory in me, not only in my actions, but also in my mind. Be glorified in me Lord! Be glorified in me! Amen.
“. . . each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. James 1:14-15
Temptation is one thing that every Christian must face. Temptation is the enticement to do anything that is against God’s Word. Temptation is all around us -- at our job, at the train station, in our family, in friendships and in church.
Temptation in itself is not the sin, but my response to it may lead to sin. James 1:14-15. So how do I respond to temptation? I learn that response from Jesus. Jesus was tempted by Satan after praying and fasting for forty days and nights (Matthew 4:1-11). As the devil often does with us, he tempted Jesus when he was the most fragile and weak. Jesus used the Word of God to rebuke Satan. What was the result? Matthew 4 verse 11 says: “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”
When I am tempted, I must remember:
“[I] do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with [my] weakness, but One who has been tempted in all things as [I am], yet without sin. Therefore let [me] draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that [I] may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
“God is faithful, who will not allow [me] be tempted beyond what [I] am able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that [I] may be able to bear it. ” 1 Corinthians 10:13
“To use the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God as my weapon to fight against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:17
“To submit to God, and resist the devil.” James 4:7
“To watch and pray.” Matthew 26:41
That “. . . blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12.
Good Father, thank You for Your Son Jesus, our Savior, who has taken my sins away and has given me victory over temptation. Help me to stay hidden in Your Word, to watch and pray, so I don’t fall for the schemes of the devil. As Your Word says, You will not allow me to be tempted beyond what I am able, and You will always make a way for me to find safety in You. Help me to hold on firmly to that promise and that truth of Your presence with me. Amen.
"You are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." Ephesians 3:22
Imagine a master builder owning a building project and not being invited into the project every step of the way. Imagine not consulting him. Imagine not depending on him. Now imagine that there is overwhelming opposition to the building project, and ONLY the mater builder has the authority to stop the opposition, but even then he is rarely brought into the project. Imagine that!
Lord you own the building project, and I am a part of Your project! Please Lord! I want You to be at the center of every part of the building project! What Lord? How Lord? When Lord? Where Lord? Why Lord? Come in Lord and help me in this building project, Your project! Amen.
“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I will trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.” Psalm 52:8
David calls himself a green olive tree. At the time he wrote this psalm he is being pursued by Saul, one of the longest most severe trials of his life.
In order for olives to be gathered, the olive tree must be beaten and shaken. If a rake is available, the branches can be raked, the olives and some leaves stripped off, and branches left behind. The olives then need to be separated from any leaves and twigs that were gathered with them. Once the olives have been gathered and separated, they are pressed, and pressed again. Through this pressing, oil comes forth. This oil is used in lamps to give light to both Jews and Gentiles. It is also used to anoint those in authority.
Am I like a green olive tree? If so, I must be rooted and grounded in the Lord and in His Word. I must know that bearing fruit that blesses or ministers to others is a process. Am I willing to be beaten and shaken so that my fruit can be gathered? When I am wronged, when I am in physical pain, when I bear the burden of a brother or sister, when I am persecuted for my faith, when I am rebuked by the Lord, when I am attacked by Satan and his demons, when I say no to my flesh, when I experience loss…does fruit come forth? When that fruit is pressed and pressed again, is what is squeezed out of it old and rotten, or is it good for use? Like the olive oil that was used in lamps, does my fruit shed the light of Christ into others’ lives? Like the olive oil that was used to anoint kings and rulers, does my fruit anoint and refresh the brethren?
Lord, by the power of Your name, make me like a green olive tree Lord. I want to be used by You to bring the light of Christ to others. And I want to be used by You to bless, encourage, refresh, and empower my brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen
“Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.” Genesis 30:43
This verse is about Jacob. At this time, there were many trials in his life. There was great infighting in his home as his wives Leah and Rachel bickered with one another and vied for Jacob’s attention(e.g, Genesis 30:15). Jacob’s boss Laban took advantage of Jacob and habitually deceived him(Genesis 31:41). Jacob was surrounded by men who wrongly judged him(Genesis 31:1).Jacob seemed to be overflowing with frustration(e.g., Genesis 30:2, Genesis 31:38). Yet, in the midst of all this, it says of Jacob – “. . . the man became exceedingly prosperous.” He seems to have allowed the trials of life to overshadow the Lord’s exceedingly great blessings in his life. Not until a later time in a severe crisis did his attitude seem to change(Genesis 32:9-11).
As I reflect on my life, I realize that the Lord has made me “exceedingly prosperous.” My life is filled with the blessings of family, of friends, of ministry, of church, of growth in the Lord, of wonderful life experiences, even material blessings. Yet I allow the trials of life to overshadow the Lord’s blessing in my life. As a result, my joy is affected, as well as my witness for Christ.
Lord, I don’t want a severe crisis in my life to be what it takes for me to be fully grateful for You making my life “exceedingly prosperous.” In fact, I realize that my trials are nothing compared to your blessings, more than that, my trials are blessings from You to keep me humble and growing in my relationship with You! Thank you for your abundant faithfulness to me! Please give me grace to daily, hourly, live in the recognition that You have made me “exceedingly prosperous!” Amen.
“. . . because of the tender mercy of our God. . . the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Return of the King,” the hobbits Sam and Frodo are nearing the end of their journey to destroy the ring which is the source of the power of evil. They are in the land of Mordor, which is a representation of hell-like conditions on earth. The land is so terrifying and dangerous that their journey – as it nears its conclusion -- seems guaranteed of failure. The sky is an overwhelming dark shadow above, and they must travel through a wideopen plain with the eye of the Evil Lord watching out. Sam’s spirit is low as any hope seems out of reach. At this moment he has an encounter with light: “There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the shadow was only a small and passing thing; there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”
This story seems to be an allegory of the coming of Christ, described so well by Zecharias in Luke chapter 1: “. . . because of the tender mercy of our God. . . the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” There is One who is Light and Beautiful forever, and beyond the reach of the shadow! Praise God! When I feel like I have descended into hell itself and hope seems out of reach, I can turn to the word of God and remember that there is a Light which has vanquished the Shadow. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:4-5. Sin is defeated, victory has come, I need only look to the Light and believe! “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Thank you Lord that You have defeated darkness, and in You I can rest in the Light! Amen.
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
The Holy Spirit lives in me, the Rock lives in me. By cultivating my relationship with Him, He rises in me like yeast, conferring His attributes to me. His strength is in me, His stability is in me, His peace is in me. The more He grows in me, the more He shows, like children outgrowing their clothes. In this way, I can be a rock to my family, someone they can consistently see in prayer and in the Word, someone who is SOLID in the Lord. In my family's time of trouble, they will know that the Rock who is in me won’t budge in a storm, He is a stable refuge. (Psalm 31: 2-3)
Lord, as Your Rock starts showing as I outgrow my flesh, I pray that my family sees Your stable refuge and faithfulness. Especially for my children, I pray that I can be their rock as a marker to the path leading them to Your stronghold. In Jesus’ name, Amen!
“. . . speak evil of no one. . . for we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared. . . He saved us.” Titus 3:3-5
I find that when I am grievously wronged by someone, my initial response is to share the grievance with friends rather than with God. Why do I do that? Because friends quickly condemn the wrongdoer, and I take comfort in that. If I go to God, I know what I will hear from Him: “. . . speak evil of no one. . . for you were once foolish, disobedient, deceived. . . living in malice and envy. . . but My Son loved you and died for you anyway.” I prefer the immediate comfort of my flesh, then the more lasting, healing comfort of the Holy Spirit.
O Lord, please change me! Forgive me for all my evil speaking. Give me the grace to go to You first when I am wronged. My flesh hates to do that, but when I come to You, You are always faithful to bring me back to a place of forgiveness and trust. Lord thank You for saving me!
“Pursue love. . .” 1 Corinthians 14:1
“Pursue. . . love. . .” 1 Timothy 6:11
“Pursue. . . love. . .” 2 Timothy 2:22
“Without love I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2
Three times in the New Testament the Holy Spirit tells me I need to “pursue” love. Each time the context appears to be pursuing love with other Christians. The underlying Greek word for “pursue” is “dioko” which means to “run hard after” or “press on.” Twenty-eight times in the New Testament this same word “dioko” is translated “persecute,” with the idea of persecutors “tearing into” or “pressing into” Christians. This is an astonishing truth! I am told to pursue love with Christians with the same intensity that persecutors persecute Christians! And then I am told that “without love I am nothing”!
Surely, the Lord knew that I would find myself in situations with other Christians in which I would resist loving with all my heart (flesh). Situations in which it would be indescribably difficult to love. Even so, I must pursue love with them with unyielding intensity! My love for them must rise above things like “right and wrong.” My love for them must look like Jesus on the cross.
O Lord! Give me the grace and power to pursue love with other Christians! Amen.
"If the world hates you, know that it hated Me first." John 15:18
Why does the world get so angry when they hear the name of Jesus? Why do they get so agitated? How can they hate Jesus when they don't know Him? Sometimes they hate me because of Jesus. I am comforted by Jesus words -- "If the world hates you, know that it hated Me first."
They must hate Jesus because there is real power in His name. Real, living, active power. Otherwise, why would His name draw so much attention?
What did Jesus do to cause you to hate Him? He took your punishment of death. "..for the wages of sin is death..." Romans 6:23. He was beaten, tortured, ridiculed on your behalf. "Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face." Mark 14:65. He was nailed to the cross and died there for your sins. "But God shows His love for us in that while we still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8. Please. Stop cursing at my God who GIVES you life.
Oh Lord, I was once in that place. Blaming you for everything. Not knowing if You even existed. I was lost and and You came and found me. Lord, seek out and draw near these people in my life who oppose You. Have mercy and grace on them as You did for me. Reveal Yourself to them and show them how unconditional Your love is for them. Show them that even in their hate and anger, You still love them and forgive them. In Jesus name, Amen.
January 11th 2016
"For I have come to turn a man against his father. . . a man’s enemies will be those of his own household." Matthew 10:35-36
One of the saddest truths ever told. But I am so glad Jesus told me this. He knew that my placing faith in Him and proclaiming His truth would bring division in my home. Division with my family and those I dearly love because of their opposition to God. This hurts. But through it all there is a peace and love that the Lord has given me. A peace I can truly embrace because Jesus warned me in advance this would happen.
Help me Lord to love those who persecute me for the sake of my faith. Help me to love my own blood relatives even when they want nothing to do with me! Amen.
January 4th 2016
"You will be hated by all because of me. . ." Matthew 10:22
The world may disown me, call me names, quarrel with me and mistreat me. Family members, best friends, even my spouse may do this, because of my faith in Jesus. These are shortcomings in their love towards me. But I am comforted that God loves me with true, unconditional, agape love and nothing can take that away. Whether I am made to feel like it or not, the Lord is always for me and not against me. Nothing can separate [me] from the love of God. Romans 8:37-39.
Lord, Your word says by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, I should present all my anxieties and fears to you, and the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guide my mind and heart in Christ Jesus. I thank you for that Lord. In Jesus name. Amen.
“Then the Lord appeared to Isaac and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. . . And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you.” Genesis 26:2-3, 24
In these verses God appears to Isaac and reassures him of His presence and blessing. There was a famine in the land of Canaan and Isaac may have been tempted to go to Egypt as his father Abraham did when he faced a famine. Abraham gave into the temptation and fled to Egypt. However, Isaac obeyed the Lord and remained in the land.
This promise – “Do not fear, I am with you” – appears in several places in Scripture when God is pleading with His servants to obey Him in the face of fearful circumstances. For example, God spoke the words to Joshua when he was taking over leadership of the nation of Israel from Moses. (Joshua 1:9). Moses reminded the entire congregation of Israel of these words when he was commanding them to go into the land of Canaan and take possession of it. (Deut 31:6).
The words – “Do not fear, I am with you” -- are so simple. Yet, if I fully believe them a lot of mental stress, fear and anxiety would be stilled, and my life will bless the Lord. Failure to believe in these words is a pathway to discouragement. Thank you Lord for Your promise that You are always with me! Please help me in the coming year to believe more and more that I do not need to be afraid of people or circumstances, because You are with me! Amen.
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
The Bible says -- “For there was born to ME a savior.” What an amazing verse! How personal to me! Jesus is not only the savior for the world, He is a savior for ME!
O Jesus! What a personal savior You have been! Without You, I was lost in a world in which I was hounded by fear. Haunted by my insecurities. Deceived by lies. Hiding behind a mask of pride.
You have replaced my fear with faith. My insecurities with a confidence in God’s love for me. Lies with truth. My pride with an understanding that I would be nothing without You, but with You I am more than a conqueror.
On that first Christmas day, there was born to ME a savior, who is Christ the Lord! Thank you Jesus, for being my personal Savior! Amen.
“Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.” Matthew 25:24-24
Jesus, in the parable of the talents, tells of a master who called three servants to himself. He gave one servant five talents, another servant two talents, and still another one talent. The first servant used his five talents to earn five additional talents. The second servant used his two talents to earn two more. The third servant hid his talent and earned nothing with it.
When the master returned for his talents, the first two servants were commended by their master – “enter into the joy of your lord!” But when the third servant presented himself to his master, he said -- “Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.” The master instructed that the third servant be “cast into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The third servant did not know Jesus. How do I know that? Because he called Jesus – represented in the parable as the master -- a “hard man.” That is not true of Jesus. The servant also said of his master that he “reaped where he had not sown, and gathered where he did not scatter seed.” That also is not true of Jesus.
There are times when I sound like the third servant. When things don’t go the way I like, I accuse the Lord of being “hard.” I also insist that He expects too much from me. But then the Holy Spirit brings me back to the reality of God’s word. Jesus says in Matthew 11:29 that He is “gentle and lowly of heart.” He says of Himself in Matthew 11:30: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” In other words. . . Jesus is not “hard.” Exodus 34:7 says of the Lord that He is – “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.” In 1 Corinthians 10:13 it says that Jesus will not allow me to be tried beyond what I can bear. In other words. . . Jesus will not ask me to reap where no seed has been sown, or gather where no seed has been scattered.
“As for God, His way is perfect, the word of the Lord is tried, He is a buckler to all those who trust in Him.” Psalm 18:30. O Lord, you have always been gentle and gracious with me. But I am weak and easily given to accusing You of doing things You have never done, and being someone You have never been. Keep me Lord by the Holy Spirit in Your truth! In Jesus name, Amen.
“Rise and stand on your feet. . . I now send you. . .” Acts 26:15,17
I had a lot of baggage from my past when the Lord saved me and brought me into the body of Christ. But not more than Paul. When the Lord saved Paul he had been killing Christians. Even so, the Lord told him – “Rise, stand on your feet. . . I now send you.” I cannot use all the baggage from my past as an excuse not to diligently serve Him. That is a lie from the devil. The Lord is telling me, just as He told Paul, “rise, stand on your feet, and go!” It is not for me to question God whether I deserve this privilege. I simply need to obey, to rise, stand on my feet, and go. And I must worship the Lord, and be forever grateful, for the indescribable price that Jesus paid so that I can walk in this privileged position.
O Lord! Help me not to question this privileged position that You have me in! Please enable me to rise, stand on my feet, and go! In Jesus name, amen.
"If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." - John 8:36
When I read this verse I can't help but think about God's abundant grace and love for me. He loves me so much that He wants me to be completely free from bondage, from burdens, from my sin, from death. This freedom is a gift from God. In this freedom I am able to walk in righteousness and walk away from the things of the flesh.
So I ask myself – “what am I doing to protect this freedom?” According to Galatians 5:1 I must stand firm and choose not to be a slave to my flesh - "It is for freedom that Christ has set me free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Am I making right choices? Am I choosing to stand firm in the Spirit or give into my flesh? The Lord knows I will constantly be in battle with my flesh. "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit . . . . they are in conflict with each other. . ." Galatians 5:17 For this reason I must surrender to the Spirit and walk in Him, otherwise this battle will burden me to slavery. Easier said than done, but the Lord provides the grace for me to protect the freedom that God has given me in Christ.
I can “let go and let God” because I have been set free!
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of freedom you have given me in Christ. Thank you that I am no longer under the law or condemnation. Thank you for your Holy Spirit in me who lives to bring righteousness in me. Help me to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. In Jesus name. Amen
“And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him, but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word." I Kings 18:21
The people that stood before Elijah answered him not a word. They knew in their hearts that they were divided. They thought it was okay to practice a little bit of God and a little bit of Baal. They hesitated or ‘limp[ed] on the two divided opinions,’ as my Bible footnote indicates. But a house divided cannot stand. They needed to make a decision in their heart is as to whether the LORD was God or Baal. But both the LORD and Baal could not and cannot both be God.
I too am called to follow the Lord or Baal, to make a decision of who I will follow. The word follow means ‘go or come after (a person or thing proceeding ahead); move or travel behind.’ I can’t move or travel behind two opinions and get anywhere very quickly; if I do, I may actually end up limping. I actually divided in my thoughts and actions. I am neither hot nor cold; I am actually lukewarm. I get frustrated.
Jesus says in Revelation 3:15-16 -- ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.’ There are days when I am not fiery hot on fire for Jesus, sometimes I feel cold. In those times, it is wise for me to examine the intents of my heart, my inward person, and ask – “on what my soul is resting and trusting. Do I know the truth? Do I believe that God is who He says He is?” The Holy Spirit will reveal these truths to my heart. Then I must confess, and make a decision, to trust God, and to follow Him, with an undivided heart.
Jesus, You say, that I will know the truth and the truth will set me free. If I am ‘limping’ between two opinions of who is God over my life, please reveal it to me that I may confess my sin and commit my heart to You fully and follow You only. Dear Lord, capture my heart. Thank you for being patient with me and loving me. Amen.
In his days Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho; he laid its foundations with the loss of Abiram his first-born, and set up its gates with the loss of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which He spoke by Joshua the son of Nun. I Kings 16:34
Almost 600 years before this man – Hiel – began to rebuild Jericho, Joshua conquered and burned the city to the ground (Joshua 6). Because of the city’s wickedness, Joshua -- by the Spirit of God -- proclaimed a curse over the city -- “Cursed before the LORD is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho; with the loss of his first-born he shall lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son he shall set up its gates.” The fulfillment of this curse in Hiel’s life convicts me of how lightly I regard the Word of God. Whether good (blessings) or bad (curses), too often I regard God’s spoken and written Word to me as though God was just another person, telling me something that is a “good idea.” How can I regard God so lightly?! His word so generally?!
God created Adam unique from other living beings in that Adam was given a choice to freely love God – “and the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.’” (Genesis 2:16-17) Adam and Eve chose to equate God’s Word as a “good idea” -- on the level of their own ideas -- and followed their own understanding. And so here I am, all these many years later, doing the same thing, questioning the word of God and taking it lightly as though God won’t do what He says He will do. I live my life and make my decisions on my own terms, asking and praying to God, but only half-heartedly believing He can do or will do what His word says. I only believe God as far as I can ‘see’ Him act on my behalf or others, not fully believing He is all that His word says He is, God Almighty.
How shortsighted and foolish I am!
God, please help me to believe Your word, wholeheartedly, fully, with no doubt (James 1:6). Help me not be double-minded, but to live by faith. I ask for faith; Holy Spirit give me faith to believe You are who You say You are, that You will do what You say You will do, and that You love me and desire to use me as You say You can/will. Give me faith to not follow my own understanding, but to acknowledge You in all my ways, so that You may direct my path (Proverbs 3:5-6). Amen.
“When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good and perfect gift is from above.” James 1:15-17
Why did Eve eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? The Bible list several reasons, including that she saw that the “tree was good for food.” Why do I choose sin? Because there is something about it that seems good to me. But when I think that way, I am deceived. There is nothing good apart from God and what He gives us. “Do not be deceived. . . .every good and perfect gift is from above.” I don’t need sin. Sin never helps me in anyway. It only brings hurt, always. What is good for me, only and ever comes from God.
Lord, renew my mind. Bring me to the place where I understand that the every good thing comes from you, and that there is no source of good other than you. Please give me the resolve to always set aside the bad thing and the patience to wait for the good thing. Amen.
“For concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.” Acts 28:22
When Paul arrived in Rome to appeal to Caesar about his imprisonment, he was told by the Jews in Rome – “concerning this sect (Christianity), we know that it is spoken against everywhere.” It is the same today, and I don’t like that. So sometimes I try to behave “wisely” in my interactions and conversations with the world, and I try to make Christianity look more palatable and less offensive. But am I more wise than Jesus? He spoke the truth, that is why He is became known as the “rock of offense.” (Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:8) Am I wiser than Stephen? He spoke the truth which caused people to “stop up their ears,” cast him out of Jerusalem, and stone him. (Acts 7:57) Am I wiser than Paul? He spoke the truth, and the people cried – “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” Acts 22:22.
Lord, I know I should not go out of my way to offend people. But neither should I remain silent or soften the truth to avoid offending them. Forgive me for being ashamed of the truth Lord. Help me to be bold. Help me not to add to your truth, or subtract from it. I want the truth from my mouth to cut people to the heart (Acts 2:37) and save them. Lord, I believe you are going to complete the work in me that you started by making me unashamed and bold. Amen
August 24th 2015
"They returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the disciples." Acts 14:22
"Now Judas and Silas. . . exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words." Acts 15:32
"And Paul went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches." Acts 15:41
"And as they went through the cities. . . the churches were strengthened in the faith." Acts 16:5
Within a little more than one chapter in the midst of the book of Acts, I am told four times that when the ministers of the gospel came into contact with other believers in Christ, they “strengthened” them. Am I doing that? When I get with other believers, am I “strengthening” them? Do I listen to them? Do I listen to their praises and joys? Do I listen to the trials and vexations of their life? After taking the time to listen to them, do I speak truth and encouragement into their life, strengthening them? Do I affirm them, in their walk with Jesus? When I get together with other believers, do I draw attention to me? Am I preoccupied on getting the focus on me?
Lord Jesus, I know there are times when I need to receive strength from my brothers and sisters in Christ. But lead me to the place in my walk where more often then not, it is the other way around. Where I am giving strength, rather than taking it, as the Spirit ministers through me. Where I am giving strength to others, even as I am taking strength from you Jesus. Amen.
August 17th 2015
"Come to me. . . and I will give you rest. . . Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me. . . and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
Does anyone care about the unrest of my soul? Yes. Jesus does. So much so, that He doesn’t even wait for me ask, He says – “come to me . . . and I will give you rest.” I notice in these verses that there are two conditions to getting this rest. The first condition is that I must take His yoke (His life) upon me. Meaning, I must fully invite Him in. Jesus is the perfect gentleman. He won’t come in if even part of me is reluctant, but He will always come in when I ask Him without reservation. The second condition for receiving rest is that I must learn from Him. So often there is a reason for my unrest. But I don’t want to hear the reason, because I don’t want to change. I must let go of all of that and let Jesus teach me the reason for my unrest, and I must embrace His teaching. The beauty of all of this is that Jesus cares. He cares about my unrest. He wants to give me rest. He loves me and wants to take away the unrest in my soul which gets in the way of His relationship with me. Jesus calls me to rest. Praise the Lord!
August 10th 2015
“They laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night the angel of the Lord . . . said ‘Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.’” Acts 5:18-20
“They called for the apostles and beat them and commanded that they should not speak in the name of the Jesus. . . so they departed from the presence of the council . . .and daily in the temple and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching in the name of Jesus.” Acts 5:40-42
“As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Therefore, those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” Acts 8:3-4
The more afflictions, the more I must share God’s word. The more Satan comes against me, the more I must respond by preaching the gospel. The more painful life gets, the more I must tell others about Jesus and His word. This is not a law, this is a privilege, and it is what I am told to do by God’s word -- the worse things got for God’s people, the more they went everywhere teaching the Word.
Lord, don’t let me get away with using the difficulties and opposition of life as an excuse not to share the gospel. When I do that Jesus, Satan wins, and I know that You came in order to destroy the works of Satan. 1 John 3:8. Thanks for the privilege of being a witness for you wherever I go.
August 3rd 2015
“You prepare a table for me, in the presence of my enemies.”
Oh Lord how I want to take this table of blessing you have given me to a place far away from the presence of my enemies, a place that there are fewer trials, fewer afflictions, and less opposition. But I know it cannot be so in this life. You have “trained my hands for war, and fingers for battle.” Psalm 144:1. In your Word it says that in this war, in this battle, in the presence of my enemies, I must remain, fighting against “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 Lord if I flee from this battle, if I escape from the presence of my enemies, you would have no choice but to remove this table of blessing. Thank you for revealing this to me, and keeping me in this place of abundance.
Lord, help me to surrender to your Spirit, who will keep me in your will however fierce the battle the battle may be, until I pass from this life to the next, safely in the glory of Your presence!
July 27th 2015
"Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” Moreover David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied."
1 Samuel 17:32, 37, 45
How was David able to make these bold statements? A closer look into David’s life reveals this to us. As a young lad, David was responsible for tending his father’s sheep and spent a good portion of the day away from home and in the fields alone. It was during these times that David had extended quiet time with the Lord, enjoying sweet fellowship and intimacy with Him, and “wrestling” with God. During those times he grew in the fear of the Lord and learned to walk humbly before Him. Also, the Lord was training and growing him in his faith.
So in time, in full view of the armies of Israel and the Philistines, David stood before Goliath, and in the name of the Lord, struck down the giant with one stone and killed him. David was not an expert in war like his older brothers but he relied on the strength of the Lord for his victory. His confidence in the Lord’s victory was because on his alone times with the Lord, and He had seen the deliverance of the Lord from lions and bears while he was at work in the fields. This Philistine was no different from them. He was not victorious because he was smart and canny, but because He relied on God’s strength and the power of His name.
David honored God that day and all of Israel saw the power of God. David was no match physically before Goliath, but Goliath was no match spiritually before David. God trained David secretly, but was glorified through his life openly.
Just like David, the Lord wants to secretly teach and train me to walk with Him. I do not become a spiritual giant by being casual with my walk with Him. Through vigorous quiet time with the Lord I grow more in my understanding of Him, I learn to depend on Him, and I receive the training I need for God-given trials in my life. As God trains me secretly, He will be glorified through my life openly.
Dear Lord, I thank you that you are a personal God and that you call me into fellowship so that I may be refreshed from the well of life. Like David, I pray that my soul will thirst for you and that my flesh will long for you like in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Teach me to keep my eyes on you at all times and be disciplined in my walk with you that I may be trained up in righteousness. I surrender the time you’ve given me here on earth that it may be used for your honor and glory. May my life reflect you and bring you glory always. In Jesus name. Amen.
July 20th 2015
“But I am like an olive tree, flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love, forever and ever.”
(See also Doeg, 1 Sam. 21-22)
“The Lord is the stronghold of my life - Of whom shall I be afraid?”
David wrote these words while being pursued by a vicious killer by the name of Doeg. But still, David confidently says that he's like an olive tree, safe, flourishing in the house of God. Why? Because the Lord is the stronghold of his life. Because he is being watered, pruned and loved by the Son. He trusts in the Lord's protection, provision, and love which is unfailing and everlasting. Because he knows God is good and He will deliver!
Doeg wanted to prove himself loyal to a king, but it was the wrong king. Doeg had sided with the King Saul, and therefore against the Lord. The Lord will judge those who have made something other than Him their stronghold, but He will be the stronghold of those who trust in Him. Stronghold: a safe and protected place where a specific group of people can stay and defend themselves against attacks. Those who make their stronghold in the Lord will not only be safe and protected, but they will be like well-watered, olive trees, and able to defend themselves, alongside other children of God, who have decided to trust Him.
In the Lord's stronghold I can wait without fear, I can rest in His peace, I can dwell in His presence.
Lord, guide me to Your stronghold. Close the gates of the other strongholds in my life where I sometimes put my trust in. I want to be in Your Holy Presence and in the presence of my family in Christ so we can help each other in our spiritual battles. I need your protection but most of all salvation!
March 2nd 2015
"Peter (...) got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up." Acts 9:40
In the second chapter of Acts, 3,000 people gave their hearts to Jesus after a sermon given by the Apostle Peter. In the fourth chapter of Acts, it says that an additional 2,000 gave their hearts to Jesus after another sermon by Peter. I am struck that even after all his “success” in ministry, Peter still got down on his knees to pray to God. It tells me he understood that no amount of success in ministry changed the fact that he was still utterly powerless before God, and that all “success” in ministry depended on him absolutely surrendering himself to God in prayer.
O Lord, let my heart be like Peter’s heart! Please Lord, don’t let any success in any part of my life blind me to the fact that I am powerless without your grace and power. Help me Lord Jesus always, every minute, every hour, every day, to be fully aware that apart from you I can do nothing! (John 15:5) Keep my heart absolutely surrendered to you O God! Amen.
February 23rd 2015
“And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.”
Paul and Silas had been flogged and thrown into prison for casting out an evil spirit from a certain slave girl. She was possessed with a spirit of divination and brought her masters a lot of profit from her fortune-telling. When her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and took them before the magistrates on account of teaching customs not lawful for the Romans.
A strong earthquake took place while Paul and Silas were in prison singing. The earthquake was so great that the foundations of the prison were shaken and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. God however, used this situation to display His power in these men’s lives during a period of hardship.
Even though Paul and Silas had been flogged with many stripes, were possibly bleeding, and were faced with the greatest uncertainty of what would become of their imprisonment, they did not lack the strength to pray and sing hymns to God.
They would have had the perfect opportunity to escape prison after the earthquake and be reunited with the brethren, but instead they chose to stay put. It was such a shocking sight to the jailer of the prison to awake and find them all still there, that he simply asked -- “Sirs, what must I do to be saved”? So they preached the word of God to him and his household and they were all baptized. Through this incident, the Lord used the jailer to treat Paul and Silas’ from their wounds and also receive a meal.
In the midst of this trial, God understood their pain and like He always does, took care of their needs. But at the same time, He used them to be a witness to the jailer and his household that they may be saved.
Dear Lord, teach me to be prayerful and sing to you when I go through trials. Use my trials to bless others and enable me to be useful for the Master’s work so I may be a witness for you.
February 16th, 2015
I came to Troas to preach the gospel . . . . but I had no rest in my spirit, because I did not find Titus my brother; so taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia. But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. . . the aroma of life, leading to life.
2 Cor. 2:12-14, 16
Paul went to the city of Troas to preach the gospel, but after only a brief time had to leave in order to catch up with Titus. But he still recognized that his visit to that city was successful. He had been an aroma of life, leading to life, a fragrance of Christ, a sweet example of a life immersed in Jesus. As Paul did, I can trust that even my brief interactions with my brothers and sisters in Christ are a sweet aroma of Christ. I pray that His aroma in me will linger in their mind and will cause them to seek Jesus more and more on their own. I may not be able to have an abundance of time with everyone I am in contact with, but I can still be an aroma of inspiration and joy.
I praise you Lord for using me in both long and brief encounters with my brothers and sisters! Please continue to use me in this way Lord! Amen
February 3rd, 2015
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart. Acts 2:46
The word “simplicity” in the greek is a peculiar word. It literally means “without a stone.” Without envy. Without unforgiveness. Without anger. Without bitterness. Without judging. Without anger. Without pride. Without self-pity. There is nothing sweeter than being with brothers and sisters in Christ, in “one accord,” breaking bread with gladness. What “stones” do I have in my heart which hinder that “one accordness”? The Lord will show them to me! He, even more than me, wants them out! It says in His word that it is He who digs up the soil of my heart, and removes the stones. (Isaiah 5:2) But. That requires that I allow Him to remove them.
O Lord, stir up a hatred within me of the stones that cause me to be a hindrance to “one accordness” with the body of Christ. Then, O Lord, I will gladly allow you to remove these stones, so that I can be a great source of blessing to my brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen
January 20th, 2015
"How can I put you among the children, and give you a pleasant land, and a beautiful heritage among the host of nations? . . . Return, you backsliding children!" Jeremiah 3:19, 22
Lord you are calling me, pleading with me, drawing me, but I am stubborn. You want to place me among Your blessed ones, "the children." You want to bless me with a "pleasant land, a beautiful heritage." You want to build me up and prosper me in every area of my life. Thank you for giving me this picture of reality. If I make a mess of my life, if I feel alone and isolated, if I am not in a "pleasant land", and enjoying the "beautiful heritage" of your children, it is not because you don't want all those things for me. It is because of my own stubbornness. It is because of my own disobedience. It is because of my own backsliding. It is because I insist on being in control, and calling the shots in my life, rather than surrender to You.
Lord, I thank you for your exceeding, abundant grace. You are calling me to return, and telling me You will remember my sin, no more, my disobedience, no more. So I surrender Lord. I return. I am willing to obey. Take me, lead me, guide me, save me, fill me, change me. I pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.
January 13th, 2015
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ . . . and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
Oh what a secure place I am now that I am in Christ! The Bible says I have the Holy Spirit, and that “the Spirit yearns jealously within me.” James 4:5. The Spirit guards me. Psalm 97:10. He jealously loves me, warns me, and guides me away from sin. Matthew 6:13a. If I ignore His warnings and choose to enter into the way of sin, He jealously follows me there and brings me back to Himself. He jealously delivers me from the “evil one.” Matthew 6:13b. He jealously leads me on the paths of righteousness. Psalm 23:3 The Holy Spirit jealously rejoices over me with gladness. Zephaniah 3:17
Oh God thank you for the indescribable gift of the Holy Spirit! Amen
January 5th, 2015
“Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him. . .”
Oh Lord in this New Year, I beg of you, let me know You more!
It says of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, that “their eyes were restrained so that they did not know [Jesus].” The reason their eyes were restrained may have been because their eyes were not fixed on God. Their eyes were fixed on certain things which had occurred in their lives which they did not understand. It was only after Jesus drew near to them and spoke to them and gave them understanding and sat with them and ate with them, that “their eyes were opened and they knew Him.”
O Lord forgive me for taking my eyes off of you this past year and fixing them on things which I do not fully understand! This year, Lord, draw near to me and speak to me and give me understanding and sit with me and eat with me, so that “my eyes will be opened” and that I would “know You!”
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
December 29, 2014
"Lord, shall we strike with the sword?" And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.
So often this is what my "obedience" looks like. I make up my mind what I want to do, just like the disciples did when they made up their mind to "strike with the sword" when Jesus' enemies showed up to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then, like the disciples, I pretend to myself that I am asking the Lord for His permission -- "Lord, shall I strike with the sword?" -- when really I have no intention of getting His permission. Then, before waiting for His permission, I go out and do what I want to do. The result? Damage to myself and the people around me, i.e., someone in my life gets their ear cut off! Then, after I realize my foolish behavior, I cry out the Lord for mercy -- "O Lord, please fix the mess I've gotten myself in!" The Lord is often gracious to fix my mess, as He was with His disciples. Luke 22:51.
The Bible says "Add to your knowledge, self-control." 2 Peter 1:6 God has given me the grace to exercise self-control. 2 Peter 1:3. Now I must choose to exercise it by first praying, then waiting for the Lord's permission before I do something in my life. God loves me. He always has His good in mind for me. Jeremiah 29:10-11. If I wait on Him and His perfect will for my life, I "will be neither barren nor unfruitful" in my walk with my Lord (2 Peter 1:8), and avoid making big messes in my life!
Lord, please speak to me loud and clear when I am trying to do something without Your permission! Thanks for the grace you have given me to be able to choose self-control rather than rushing forward to do things in my own timing. I praise you Lord! Amen.
December 24, 2014
"Now when the shepherds had seen Jesus, they made it widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child."
By Jesus' time, the Jews in Israel had become so sophisticated and prosperous that shepherds were despised. Shepherds were country people. Shepherds were poor. Shepherds could not be a witness in court. Shepherds were unclean and could not go to the Temple. Yet they were given the privilege of a visitation from an angelic host which directed them to Bethlehem where the Son of God was. Why did God choose them? Because their lack of sophistication and material prosperity had kept them humble and eager to do God's will. God's will was for the news of the birth of His Son to be spread far and wide. A more sophisticated and prosperous man or woman may have reflected on the "despised scene" (baby Jesus lying in a public in a donkey's feeding trough) and kept the news to themselves. Or they may have feared being mocked for widely reporting such a story. Not these shepherds, they were filled with the awe of having been chosen to be a witness for God.
Have I become so sophisticated or prosperous that I am ashamed of doing God's will? God, forbid that it ever be so! Let me glory in doing Your will as the lowly shepherds did on the night Your Son Jesus was born! Amen.
December 1, 2014
"Increase our faith!"
The disciples cried out to Jesus, “increase our faith.” Jesus replied, “if you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” In other words, “you’ve been given the faith, now exercise it!”
So often I blame God for my lack of obedience. I complain about my lack of growth. I ask Him to remove a sinful desire from me. I ask Him to increase my capacity to follow Him. I ask God to increase my faith. I don’t like His response to these things – “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree. . .” That is the same message as 2 Peter 1:3 which says I have been given “all things I need for life and godliness.” I must stop blaming God, and choose simple obedience. I must stop complaining about my lack of growth, and start praising Him for giving me everything I need to grow. I must “with all diligence” add to my faith, moral goodness and self-control, and perseverance, and godliness, and brotherly kindness and love. (2 Peter 1:5-7) As these things increase in my life, I am promised the incredible blessing of Jesus manifesting Himself more and more to me! (John 14:21)
Thank You Lord for giving me everything I need for life and godliness! Amen.
November 24, 2014
“Why this waste?”
“Why am I wasting my life on this job?” “Why am I wasting my life on this ministry?” “Why am I wasting my life on this Jesus?” “There are so many bigger and better things I could be doing with my life!” Those are the kind of words that Mary heard when she poured out costly oil on Jesus’ head and feet (Matthew 26:6-11; John 12:1-8). Those are the same voices I hear in my head as I follow God’s will. I am so encouraged to read how Jesus responded to those voices—“Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me . . . Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
The world may despise what I am doing with my life. Even as the disciples looked down at what Mary was doing, many in the church may do the same with me. Nevertheless, I know that as I am faithful to do what God has called me to do, that it is a “good work” for Jesus. The kind of good work Jesus wants to accompany the gospel wherever it is preached. Praise God!
Lord, help me to be motivated for life by You and You alone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
November 17, 2014
"And He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.”
The master of the house was called on by the King Himself. I can imagine that this rich man was woken up by this calling on an otherwise ordinary day. Wow! He was told he was supposed to prepare a place for the Lord. He had to take at last three steps.
First, he had to believe it. He had to believe that God had actually spoken to him and that he was actually discerning correctly what that word was. For some time he must have really struggled with what he had heard, maybe thinking he was going crazy.
Second, he had to act. He set aside a large room in his house - one that could have easily been used by his own family for the Passover dinner. He dressed it up for a dream that he hoped would happen—that the Lord might come. His wife and family may have been complaining that he was wasting so much: the servants' time, the large empty room, the food set out on the table.
Third, he had to wait. And this is often the hardest and most agonizing part. Because who knows how long this wait would have to be and what would happen when the word came to pass. But what would've happened if this man had not believed the word he had received from the King, and he wasn't ready?
I believe that the Bible teaches that God puts dreams in all His children, including me, and has given them the faith to wait and walk in preparation for the outcome. But when He comes in His time, He expects the table to be set. Will I be ready?
Lord, thank You that You use a lowly servant like me. I don't ever want not to be prepared for You. I ask for more faith in Your promises. Please forgive me for my unbelief in the past and help me with it in the future. Amen.
November 10, 2014
Jesus said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
This response by Jesus in the book of Luke was in response to a rich, young man who came to Him asking Him what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus told him he needed to follow the Law—“Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal . . .” The young man responded he had done that. So Jesus’ final response to him was, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Looking at Jesus’ final response, I ask myself, “What is the one thing that the rich, young man lacked? Was it selling all his possessions? Was it giving to the poor? Was it the act of physically following Jesus? Or was it Jesus Himself?” The answer to that question is found earlier in the book of Luke—in chapter 12. Mary was at the foot of Jesus listening to Him teach while Martha was busy serving people. Martha asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her (Martha). Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Mary had the one thing that could not be taken away: Jesus Himself. The rich young ruler lacked the one thing that could not be taken away: Jesus Himself. Jesus was essentially telling the rich, young man, “One thing you lack—Me.”
This is a wonderful reminder to me that my relationship with Jesus will never be taken away. How amazing! The one thing—the only thing—I really need, will never be taken away!
Lord Jesus, thank You for giving me the one thing that will never be taken away. Amen.
November 3, 2014
“That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him.”
2 Thessalonians 1:12
Okay. I understand the first part of the verse—that the name of Jesus can be glorified in me. I can be used by Him, empowered by Him, and point people to Him. But what about the second part of the verse? I need to be glorified in Him. In the gospel of John I read similar verses: “On that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:20). “Abide in Me, and I in you.” (John 15:4). “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us.” (John 17:21).
All these verses speak to the same thing—Jesus wants oneness with me. I can't have more of Him without giving Him more of me. That is what a love relationship looks like. I think of marriage. A good marriage is one in which both husband and wife are constantly giving themselves to each other. Opening up and sharing their innermost thoughts, feelings, dreams, fears, etc. A good friendship is one in which both friends have open hearts toward each other (2 Corinthians 6:11-13). They know each other's strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, etc. And they give, share, and help one another.
Jesus wants oneness with me. According to His Word, I can have it by faith.
Father, thank You that You desire oneness with me. Please help me to abide in You, that I may be glorified in You. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
October 27, 2014
“No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” Isaiah 43:13
A year ago during a great trial, the Lord spoke to me from this same verse—“No one can deliver out of My hand; when I act, who can reverse it?” Reading it now reminds me of how He brought me through the trial with faithfulness and great love. Oh what an inexpressible joy this brings to me now, looking back on how good God has been to me. “No one can deliver out of My hand; when I act, who can reverse it!” The more I read it, the more I read it over and over again. Knowing that someone—God!—is crazy about me and will deliver me from even nations if they come against me! Now that is love! He really is jealous for me! He is in control! I am a witness! He is God!
Lord, You say in Your Word, "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19). Thank You for showing me that is true.
September 22, 2014
“Go forth from your country, And from the your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3 [emphasis added]
As many times as I have read and continue to read this one little passage, I am struck by God’s strong statement that He – not Abram -- will do what He says He will do. God’s only request of Abram was to ‘Go’…. To leave all that he knew, was familiar to him, and trust God to show him where to go. Essentially, he was commanded to trust that God would lead him into a place he did not know. That was it. Abram didn’t have to DO anything else to make his own name great, he was simply to listen and obey. God would show him where to go, God would make him into someone, God would bless him, and God would even curse those who would curse Abram. What a clear directive, clear mission, and clear vision for Abram!
At this point in his life, his name hadn’t been changed to Abraham, he was childless, and 75 years of age. He didn’t actually have a lot of good things happening for him. And the interesting thing is, God didn’t stop there with the promise, God reminded Abram at least 5 more times of the very same promise [Genesis 13: 14-17; Genesis 15; Genesis 17: 1-8, 15-21; Genesis 22: 16-18] that God would do all of the work.
And God did! In Genesis 24:1 it says ‘Now Abraham was old, advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in every way.’ Beautiful. God had fulfilled all those promises; he blessed Abraham in every way. What a life of obedience! What a life of significance! What a testimony of trust! I love that all this happened, even though Abraham did not live a perfect life. I love that scripture records his failings and his sidetracks, his misplaced trust in himself and his own leadings. But most importantly, I love how scripture demonstrates God’s faithfulness, God’s surety, God’s presence, God’s forgiveness and God’s promise. God is faithful. God is long suffering. God is patient and kind, and desiring to glorify Himself through me; through my shortcomings, through my detours, through my disappointments and failures. “Yes Lord, glorify yourself through me for your greater glory!”
Dear Lord, may I listen to Your calling to ‘Go’ and trust that You will do all that You say that You will do, not for myself, but for Your glory, Your plans, and Your purposes. Thank You Lord for Your word. For ‘The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple, the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes…Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalm 19:7-8, 11).
September 1, 2014
“Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they beheld God, and they ate and drank.”
About forty days after this amazing experience in which Aaron actually "beheld God" together in unity with others, he made the people of Israel a new god, a golden calf to bow down and worship. I often imagine that if I truly ‘beheld God’, I’d be all set. My spiritual and practical walk with Jesus would be unwavering, resolute, and steadfast. But I’m guilty of sometimes beholding God’s goodness, His grace, His beauty, even fellowshipping with others in a Christian community, in apparent unity and oneness, and then forgetting the whole experience, the whole ‘beholding God’ moment and His radiance and goodness, just like the Israelites. I have in a similar way ‘beheld God’ and then completely forgot Who and what I beheld and focused my attention on something ‘shiny’ and ‘new’, the feeling I felt at that particular moment, in that particular event or circumstance just left me and gave way to something I actually could see; something that I could actually ‘worship’.
This is so humbling and telling of my spiritual walk and my true heart. If I am not careful to remain in God’s presence and focus on being a doer of the word and not merely a hearer (James 1:22), I become like Aaron, who "beheld God" but soon after makes a new god for his life. I become like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of a person he was’ (James 1:23-24).
Lord, I want to behold Your glory and Your beauty, yes, but I do not want to walk away and forget all of who You are or forget any experiences of being in Your presence because I don’t ‘feel’ You near me or things aren’t going the way I expect to see them go. Please forgive me for forgetting who You are sometimes, and taking for granted the access You give me through Jesus to boldly approach Your throne of grace with confidence. God please keep me close to You and please continue to open my eyes to Your beauty and majesty, and please show me how to fellowship in Your presence, practice Your presence, not to be hyperspiritual but live beholding You in a real and practical way so that I do not forget You and run after or desire ‘golden calves’. In Jesus' name, Amen.
July 21, 2014
‘And He said, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there.”
Here God tells Jacob not to fear. What?! Fear?! Why?! How is this possible?! Jacob had just learned that Joseph – his beloved son who Jacob thought was long dead -- was alive and doing very well serving as Pharoah’s right hand man in Egypt. In the midst of a terrible famine, Pharaoh had sent Jacob provisions of food and donkeys to make a trip down to Egypt to escape from famine and reunite with his beloved son. But still, Jacob carried inside of him the fear of leaving what he knew for what he did not know. In Genesis chapter 46, he worshipped and took his fear to the Lord. God told him -- ". . . do not be afraid."
I too carry fears, even in seasons of abundance. Unless I truly engage my Lord, sit before Him, talk to Him, and release my fears to Him, unless I choose to listen to the Lord and embrace Him and the way He is leading, I will not fully know Him as my God and I will carry fear. I must be honest with God in all seasons about the fears that are bound up inside of me. I must lay them on His altar of love, believing and trusting that He is the One leading me through the season, and He will carry me to the destination where there will be no more sorrows and no more pain.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your Word and unveiling the fears I carry especially when I enter seasons of abundance. I pray that You will continue to remind me of Your promises and lead me in Your paths, fearless. ‘Because perfect love casts out all fear’, and Your love is truly perfect. In Jesus' name, Amen.
July 14, 2014
“Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak… Then he [the angel] said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” But he [Jacob] said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Genesis 32: 24, 26
Jacob was returning to his birthplace, his homeland, because the Lord told him to return to his homeland with the promise that He (the Lord) would go before him, would bless him and make him a great nation. Even though angels met Jacob along the way (Genesis 32:1) Jacob feared (Genesis 32:11). He cried out to the Lord that he was "unworthy of all of the lovingkindness and all of the faithfulness that You showed him" (Genesis 32:10). Jacob held on to the promise of the Lord. He reminded the Lord of His promise. He asked the Lord for deliverance (Genesis 32:11-12). Then he wrestled with the angel of the Lord and wouldn’t let go until he received a blessing from the Lord (Genesis 32:26). The angel said to Jacob -- “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).
Lord, I often feel like I am wrestling with You. I have so many fears within and fightings without. Sometimes I feel like my world is caving in on me or stifling me, stopping me from breathing, taking the life out of me. You say You bless those that follow after You. You say those that delight in You shall receive the desires of their heart. But I feel like I am still waiting, still wrestling, still wanting deliverance from where I am and what I am going through.
Lord, please hear my prayer, please hear my heart. Work out Your perfect will in me. Change my heart, change my desires to Your desires, fill me with Your Spirit. I don’t know for sure if my spirit is willing, but I do know that my flesh is weak. Strengthen these feeble hands and feeble legs. Fill me with joy, as Your word says You are ‘the God of hope.’ Fill me with all joy and peace in believing, that I may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). Lord, You know the plans you have for me (Jeremiah 29:11). Be glorified through my hurts, my heartaches, my struggles, and my waits. Please give me strength to continue to wrestle and prevail. Please Lord, bless me! In Jesus' name, Amen.
July 8, 2014
“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. And the LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian.”
Joseph’s reality. He was betrayed by his brothers, stripped of his clothes, thrown into a well, then sold into the slave trade to complete strangers who took him far away from home to Egypt. His freedom, his family, his friends, life as he knew it, were taken from him. But not his faith.
Joseph’s faith could not be taken away. It was a faith in the one true God who had revealed Himself to Jacob, Joseph’s father, and who caused Jacob to prosper. It was a faith in God who revealed Himself to Isaac, Joseph’s grandfather, and who caused Isaac to prosper. It was a faith in God who revealed Himself to Abraham, Joseph’s great-grandfather, and caused Abraham to prosper. Despite the terrible reality that was confronting Joseph, despite his loneliness and helplessness, he chose to rest on his faith and believe that God was with him as He had been with His forefathers. What was the result? Genesis 39:2 says “the LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man.”
Lord, please help me. I have so much more than Joseph had at that point in his life, and yet, I feel helpless, lonely, and sometimes desperate inside trying to figure out next steps. Why Lord? I need that deep-seeded faith in You and all of who You are. Lord, I walk too much by sight and not enough by faith. Joseph made a choice to rest all of his hopes, his dreams, and his life into Your hands, to really commit his way to you, and you Lord, brought it all to pass. You glorified Yourself through Joseph, and caused him to become a successful man. Please do that same work in me Lord!
Dear Lord, may I commit my way, my heart, and my mind to You with the same unwavering faith as Joseph. May You, Holy Spirit, give me eyes to see and ears to hear what You have stored-up for me. May You, Lord, give me strength and the will to walk by faith and not by sight. May You glorify Yourself through my life as You did in Joseph’s not for my glory but for Yours. Do Your perfect work Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.
June 23, 2014
"You have loved them as You have loved Me."
God loves me just as much as He loves Jesus Christ. Oh how different my life would be if I really believed that. When everything seems to get going my way, He loves me as much as He loved Jesus when huge crowds followed Him. When nothing seems to be going my way, He loves me as much as He loved Jesus when everyone deserted Him. God loves me as much as He loves Jesus Christ. Oh how my insecurities would roll off of me if I believed that. How my longing for the admiration and acceptance of man would vanish. Anxiety, unbelief and fear would be subdued. To know God loves me as much as He loves Jesus Christ. To know because of that love He has me in exactly the place where He wants me. To know that, to believe that, to walk in that, surrendered, content in Him, full of Him, ready to do His will. That is the cry of my heart!
June 16, 2014
". . . by lovingkindness the king upholds his throne."
As my lovingkindness goes, so my relationships go. Whether I'm a king, a manager, a spouse, a parent, a ministry worker, a neighbor, a co-worker, or a friend, my relationships persevere and grow only if I am exercising lovingkindness. Not infrequently, people in my life make choices or are contemplating a direction in their life that I don't like. My first response is to try to control -- with my own strength, reasoning, and wisdom -- the outcome. That is when my relationships start to break down. I must uphold all my relationships with lovingkindness, the lovingkindness of the Lord.
Lord, fill me with the Holy Spirit, so that I can love like You do. Amen.
May 26, 2014
"And David said in his heart, 'Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines."
1 Samuel 27:1
"You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the depths Your wrath lies heavy upon me, And You have afflicted me with all Your waves."
Psalm 88 and 1 Samuel 27 are alike in that both writers are completely overwhelmed and at their breaking points in their present circumstances. But in Psalm 88, Heman takes his grief, anger, and pain directly to God, while in 1 Samuel 27, David disconnects himself from the Lord and makes his decisions based on the counsel of his own heart.
A year or two ago I would have read Psalm 88 and thought to myself that all of the anger and accusations the writer presents to the Lord might be offensive to God, and even sinful. Now I realize that the anger and accusations would have been present in the writer's heart whether or not He actually said them to God, and that the Lord prefers for His children to engage with Him about what is really going on inside.
I don't know the outcome of Heman's circumstances in Psalm 88, but I know what happened after David's choice to stop engaging and following the Lord in the midst of his difficult and painful circumstances. It led him into greater and greater sin, and eventually may have cost him the opportunity to do a great work for the Lord -- to build the Lord's temple. I can't help but conclude that in the midst of my grief and pain, God wants me to continue to engage with Him into my deepest, darkest feelings, laying them bare before Him in full honesty. It is in that place that I can see my own need for His grace and mercy, and I can invite Him in to do a transformative work in my heart that only He can do. It is either that or block Him out and be led into greater and greater sin.
Lord, You know the depths of my heart, and You know even better than I do all that is hidden inside it. Please fill me with the strength and courage to bare my ugly heart before You and work through the hard things with You, not on my own. Thank You that Your grace and mercy are big enough to cover anything I may find hidden in there, and I ask that Your Spirit would transform my grief into praise. In Jesus' name.
May 19, 2014
“Behold, I make all things new.”
I was at the beach looking for shells and one of my children ran over to my bucket and said -- "Here’s a good one!" It was broken shell. I didn’t want it in my bucket, but into the bucket it went. Then another one of my children came with another broken shell. I started to tell them to look for shells that were not broken but they said -- "Mommy, the broken ones are still beautiful." My child showed me a broken shell and pointed out the array of colors. I couldn’t deny that he was right. It was beautiful, but I wanted to see its beauty whole and unbroken.
As I continued my search, all I saw was broken shells, broken pieces. Pieces that had been battered by the waves; pieces that had been stepped on and crushed; pieces that had been shattered and ripped open by seagulls. I began to think of how much of a waste all these shells were. I wanted a pretty, unbroken shell! But I wasn’t going to find that shell. So I decided to make a mosaic piece from the broken shells. As I was picking up the broken pieces, the Lord whispered to my heart saying, "Behold, I make all things new." Tears began to fall because I knew He was speaking about me. Just as I was picking up broken pieces to create a masterpiece mosaic, He picks up my broken pieces and makes His masterpiece out of me. He picks up the pieces of my life that have been battered, stepped on, crushed, shattered and ripped open and turns it all into something new and beautiful. Just because I’m not a pretty, unbroken shell doesn’t mean I’m worthless. It means I am a new creation, with my broken pieces hand-picked by my God who is creating a beautiful new masterpiece! "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17
Thank You Lord for encouraging me that even though some might not see value in broken pieces, You do. Thank You that the broken pieces can still be beautiful and transformed into a new creation!
May 12, 2014
"Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between two burdens; he saw that rest was good, and that the land was pleasant; he bowed his shoulder to bear a burden, and became a band of slaves."
How often do I do this? God calls me to lie down, rest, and be satisfied even in the midst of burdens. Some times I do it and see that it is good. But other times I pick up a burden and become a slave to it. I realize that by doing this, my prayer to God has become this: "Lord, I know that You tell me to cast my burdens upon You and that You will sustain me -- Psalm 55:22 -- but just in case You don't follow through with that promise, I am going to help You out by bearing this burden." I become a slave to the burden, and lose the satisfaction of resting in the Lord. But when I refuse to pick up the burden, I am blessed with worship: "Oh Lord, how good and faithful and trustworthy You are! You really do know best, and You really do know how to best care for me. When You tell me to lie down and rest, that really is what is best for me. Even in the midst of burdens, You open my eyes to the blessings that surround me and help me to see my life in a different light!"
Father, help me to trust You by casting my burdens upon You and knowing that You will sustain me. Even if I find myself in a field of burdens, remind me and teach me to lie down and rest, to see that rest is good, and to find my surroundings to be pleasant. Thank You for taking my burdens upon Your shoulder and for caring for me. In Jesus' name, amen.
April 29, 2014
"Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us . . . to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life."
Luke 1:68-69, 74-75
Zachariah, John the Baptist’s father, spoke these words after he was filled with the Holy Spirit after the birth of his son. These words are a confirmation to me that it is God’s will for me that I serve Him without fear and in holiness and righteousness all the days of my life. There have been times in my walk with Jesus that I have been bombarded with difficult life circumstances. Darkness has crept into my thoughts leading me to think that it is impossible to walk in obedience before the Lord all the days of my life. I have even thought that it might be God’s will for me to occasionally backslide and be unfruitful in my walk. The Spirit-filled words of Zachariah however make it very clear that God’s will for me is to walk before Him every single day of my life, in holiness and righteousness. I believe that with the help of the Holy Spirit I will be able to live in this way.
Dear Lord, I ask You to please fill me with Your Holy Spirit and enable me to serve You without fear and to walk before You in holiness and righteousness all the days of my life. Amen.
April 22, 2014
"Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
Gideon had been doing his work, trying to get done what he needed to get done, saving his livelihood because the enemy was trying to steal it. Then an angel of the LORD came and sat under a tree near Gideon, watched Gideon, and then spoke to him saying – ‘The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.” Then Gideon responded hopelessly – “. . . the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
There are two beautiful truths here: first, as Psalm 34:7 says, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them”, and second, God sees greater purpose, meaning and power in me than I see in myself. Even though Gideon didn’t “feel” God’s presence, God was watching, God was seeing, God was hearing. Sometimes, like Gideon, I am more focused on where God is or isn’t than on my own spiritual condition, or the spiritual condition of God’s people. One reason God didn’t appear to be involved with the nation of Israel was because they were not obeying or listening to God (Judges 6: 1-10). I must be honest and transparent with God and seek to know if there is anything in my life that hinders my ability to hear and see God move on my behalf, and confess it (I John 1:9).
Next, I must realize that the Lord sees me not as I see myself – weak, defenseless, and without purpose – but as His own, clothed in Jesus’ righteousness. He has counted me worthy by dying for my sins, and He calls me His own. I am a child of God (Galatians 4:7) who (like Gideon) He wants to fill with hope, power, and strength through the power of His Holy Spirit. The LORD calls me (like Gideon) to pick up and put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). He will do miracles again in my life (as with Gideon’s)!
Dear Lord, thank You for being with me. Thank You for seeing me very different than I see myself. Thank You for Your divine power that has granted to me everything pertaining to life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called me by His own glory and excellence. Help me Lord to stand and walk in these truths. In Jesus' name, Amen.
April 8, 2014
“Only keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.”
Joseph was falsely imprisoned, framed and lied about, and he had no visible human advocate. So when an opportunity for freedom arose with the cupbearer, he jumped at it, stating his case and his innocence. Then he waited. And waited. And waited. The chief cupbearer forgot about him (Genesis 40:23). Forgotten ... that was how Joseph felt; he found out that reliance on human help produced nothing.
But God hadn’t forgotten Joseph. God knew He needed to get more bad stuff out of Joseph’s heart. God knew Joseph needed to learn to rest entirely and wholly upon Him and no person, no circumstance, no situation, no earthly human being, could help him. So it was another two years in the dungeon before God’s perfect plan and purpose began to work its way out into Joseph’s life (Genesis 41:1). When it did, it was glorious, and it was rapid--He made Joseph the second most powerful ruler in Egypt! As God’s word says of His purpose, “I, the Lord, will hasten it in its time” (Isaiah 60:22).
Dear Lord, You are working out Your perfect plan, in Your perfect time, for Your perfect purpose. Lord, have Your will and continue to strip away the layers of sin, disbelief, and the lies that You don’t love me, to in fact, draw me closer to You. Teach me not to rely on human help. Teach me to only rely on Your help! In Jesus' name, Amen.
March 31, 2014
“For you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
So often when I think about the word "jealous" I think of it as something bad. In fact, it is generally true that when a person is "jealous," that is not a good thing. But Scripture says several times that God is a jealous God, that His name is -- "Jealous"! What does that mean? I looked up the definition of jealous and discovered that in some contexts jealousy is a good thing. For example, one definition of jealous is: "vigilance in maintaining or guarding something."
Psalm 121:3-5 gives an example of the good kind of jealousy that God has towards me. It says: "He will not let [my] foot be moved; He who keeps [me] will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is [my] keeper; the Lord is [my] shade at [my] right hand."
This is awesome! God is vigilant in maintaining and guarding me! He IS jealous for me! I love it!
Dear Lord, be ever more jealous for me and my heart and my life. Lord, may I be jealous for You in return, to honor You, serve You, and delight myself in You. Thank You for being jealous for me and teaching me about Your heart's desire for me. I love You! In Jesus' name. Amen.
March 24, 2014
“He came seeking fruit..."
Jesus tells a parable in Luke which teaches that God comes to me seeking fruit from my life. What a strange and wonderful truth that is! That God would come to me, seeking fruit from me!
The parable also teaches that Jesus Himself intercedes on my behalf to the Father, and helps me to bear fruit. Just as strange and wonderful is Jesus’ statement in John chapter 15 – “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” (John 15:16)
So what do I make of all of this? For one, I do not have to be fearful of this responsibility of bearing fruit. Jesus is interceding for me! Also, I will glory in this privilege. I will praise God for it. I have been given the strange and wonderful honor of bearing fruit for my Lord! “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.” (John 15:8)
Lord, I thank you for the privilege and honor of bearing fruit for You! I thank you that you give me the grace to be a fruit-bearer, and that I need not be fearful of failure, because Jesus intercedes for me! Thank you Lord for this strange and wonderful gift! Thank you for filling my life with purpose by choosing me to bear fruit for you, fruit that remains! Amen.
March 17, 2014
"And the Lord was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for [him].”
Aaron committed a terrible sin for making a golden calf for God’s children to worship. Instead of taking responsibility for his sin, Aaron tried to pass the blame onto others. (“I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out!”). Still, Moses prayed for him.
I am brought to tears when I think of the men and women who have prayed for me during times of testing. When I have fallen short, been spiritually distracted, careless, prideful, unfocused, controlling, distant, the Lord has answered prayers made on behalf of me even though – like Aaron – I was the last to deserve to be prayed for. I am grateful for the fear, love and obedience my brothers and sisters have toward the Lord, and how the Lord really does answer prayer! To know that as a follower in Christ, my weaknesses can become strengths through the intercession of brothers and sisters! To know that intercessors are able to bring me back into the presence of the Lord! To know that I can do this very same thing for others!
Bless the Lord who is full of compassion and mercy! Blessed be His name! Thank You Lord for Your prayer warriors! Bless them and keep them praying always!
March 9, 2014
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous; But the LORD delivers him out of them all."
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” However, God’s Word does not end there! The LORD delivers him out of them all! God is my refuge, my strength, my strong tower, and my hiding place. He is the One that I can call out to and He will deliver me, rescue me, save me. Psalm 34:17-18 says, “The righteous cry and the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” My life is meant to be a living testimony of His power, His strength, and His love towards me which He demonstrates by delivering me from all of my afflictions.
So in the face of afflictions, I must not grow weary in doing good. I must let my afflictions drive me to worship, and cause me to cling to Him and call out to Him for the deliverance He has promised. As He delivers me from my afflictions, He will draw those around me to Himself as others see the power and love that He has demonstrated in my life.
Dear Lord, glorify Yourself through my afflictions. Cause me to hope in You, continually trust in You, and believe You for deliverance in Your way and in Your time. In Jesus' name, Amen.
March 3, 2014
“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!”
1 Corinthians 4:10
Ministry means others growing at my expense. I will be hurt by the people I minister to. I will be let down. I will ignored. Sometimes I will be betrayed. But such are the "sufferings of Christ" which will bring me close to Jesus. Above all things, I want to know Jesus, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, so that I may be conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10). How can I truly know Jesus if I run away from the people who hurt me, who let me down, who ignore me, who betray me? I can't. Thankfully, the more I draw close to Jesus in life and ministry, the more He gives me His exceedingly, abundant grace to love others, even as I am loving Him.
Thank You Lord! You are so faithful! You have given me everything I need to live and minister with You as I journey towards my everlasting home in heaven with You!!!
February 16, 2014
"In hope against hope he believed..."
Romans 4:18a (NASB)
Abraham had no reason to hope other than God said to him several times, "I will bless you…I will make your name great…you will become a father of many nations." His reality was very different. Romans 4:19 says - “. . . [Abraham] contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about one hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” Yet “in hope against hope he believed. . .” What a testimony! What a resolute heart and mind. Abraham CHOSE to believe God. Abraham CHOSE to respect the promise of God, meaning he did not think God was a liar. Abraham CHOSE not to focus on his reality, which the Bible says he “contemplated” (to consider seriously, with intent). Abraham did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God (Romans 4:20).
There is a direct cause and effect here. My actions are a response to what I believe and who I believe in. If I am trusting in myself, I will not make it beyond where I can go in my own strength. But if I am fully trusting and placing my full assurance in God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I can ask or think, I can go, be, do, whatever is placed before me. It may be hard! My reality is what my reality is! But I have a choice, and I want to choose to hope against hope, believe, not waver, grow strong in faith, and give glory to God by placing my full trust in Him.
Dear Lord, I believe; please help my unbelief. I love You. Glorify Your name through the testimony You are working out through my realities. In Jesus' name, Amen.
February 9, 2014
“God said further to Abraham, ‘Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations…And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.”’
Genesis 17: 9, 11
“Now as for you. . .” This is where Abraham’s responsibility comes in. In the preceding chapters God had laid out His “I wills. . ..” God will make him a father of many nations (Genesis 17:4). God will make him exceedingly fruitful (Genesis 17:6). God will establish him (Genesis 17:7). After God declares many of the things He will do, God then says to Abraham, ‘Now as for you…’ Here is where Abraham literally is asked to put ‘skin in the game’, to be a full fledge participant in God’s plan, to be committed not only spiritually and mentally, but committed to obedience.
God has given me many “I wills.” I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you (John 14:8). I will never leave you, nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). I will give you a crown of life (Revelation 2:10). If I want to know and experience all of God’s goodness and grace and His fruitfulness, I need to obey the “now as for you’s” that God has given me. I need to pick up my cross daily to follow Jesus. I need to live my life for Christ and not myself. I need to glorify God in my body. He will do marvelous things through my life but I must realize and accept my responsibility to obey the “now as for you’s.”
Dear Lord, You are Lord, You are I AM, El Shaddai, God Almighty. Glorify Yourself through my life and please keep me remembering that my commitment to You is not in vain but is how Your glory can be revealed to others. Help me hear You, obey You, and trust You. In Jesus' name, Amen.
February 2, 2014
"Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; 'I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.'"
This verse in Isaiah teaches me at least five things. First, God is my Redeemer. He is the one who has redeemed my life and saved me from the very pit of hell, the very end of destruction, out of death, into His marvelous light. Second, He is the Holy One. Not me! I cannot compare, much less stand in the presence of the holiness of God. Third, He is my God. Wow! God is my God. He, the Redeemer of the world, the Holy One of Israel, is personally interested and invested in me. Fourth, God teaches me to profit. He is the One who will show me how to prosper and be fruitful. And fifth, God is the One who leads me in the way I should go. All I have to do is listen and obey.
Here, in this one verse, God is reminding me of His incredible love, His immeasurable care, and His indescribable grace. He is my Redeemer, my Lord, my God. He teaches me. He causes me to learn, to live, and to grow. He will lead me in the way I should go!
Lord, truly Your knowledge is too deep for me to know. Cause me to know You more, to be filled by You, to understand, love, listen and obey You. Teach me to profit from all of this life’s lessons and lead me in the way I should go always. In Jesus' name, Amen.
January 26, 2014
"And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that is was well watered everywhere- this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah- like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar… Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord."
Genesis 13:10, 12-13
I wonder if Lot thought that he could be a good influence in Sodom. I wonder if he realized that his decision to follow the sight of the riches and the fatness of the valley would take him out of the true blessings of God and right into wickedness and evil.
When I am honest with myself and reflect on my life, I realize that there have been times that – like Lot -- I have allowed my eyes to dictate the direction I should go. I thought I should go either because God never said ‘No’ or He remained silent. I thought that surely the things I was seeing were blessings and it was “obvious” I should journey in that direction, not paying attention to and sometimes actually ignoring the evil that would be around me. Like Lot, I moved my “tents as far as Sodom.” It was not until I felt isolated from God and evil began pounding on my door that I realized that I was the one who moved my tent out of His presence and made choices based on sight rather than faith. I am so thankful that God was there to hear my cry, reach down, and deliver me from the very places that I had moved myself to and bring me out into His fields of grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your word, and thank You for Lot’s life and example. I pray that You -- by Your Holy Spirit -- will help me to walk by faith and not by sight. Please help me fix my eyes on You Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith, so that I may run this race with endurance and receive an imperishable crown. Amen.
January 19, 2014
“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your very great reward.’”
God is a shield to you. These words came to Abram immediately after a war in which Abram rescued an entire town as well as his nephew Lot. The Lord said to Abram – “Do not fear” – because He, the Lord, the God of Heaven, the Creator of the Universe, is a shield to him.
A shield is a covering, a protection, a barrier to the onslaught of the world around. Each day when I wake, I do not know what the day will hold, but I do know that I need God to be a shield to me. He covers me, He protects me, He is a barrier from the onslaught of the world. He is my shield, which I especially need when the unpredictable events of life arise. He knows them and sees them and is a shield to me, my very great reward.
Dear Lord, please allow me to feel Your covering, Your protection, that You are my barrier when my world changes at the drop of a hat. Please allow me to remember that You are my shield and that You love me and are my very great reward. In Jesus' name, Amen.
January 12, 2014
"So Sarai said to Abram, 'Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children through her.' And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai."
Friends and family often have a solution for the hard situations that arise in my life. Sometimes their suggestions have a negative impact upon my spiritual walk and even my dependance upon God.
In chapter 15, God reaffirmed His promise to Abram that He would make his descendants into a great nation. Abram responded by sharing his disbelief -- “Oh Lord God, what wilt Thou give me since I am childless…?” The Lord took Abram outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them. . . so shall your descendants be.”
Then in chapter 16, Sarai, Abraham’s wife, offered her solution. She told Abraham to take Hagar, her maid, to bear children for her to raise as her own. Abram listened to his wife, and history was forever impacted as eventually two warring nations arose from Abram’s sons, Ishmael and Isaac.
If I am not careful and continually running to Jesus seeking His face, I will be led astray by often good meaning, well-intentioned family and friends. Only God sees the beginning and end of my life. The Word tells me that all of my days are written in His book. There are some situations in my life which I simply don’t have a solution for, and I must not lean on my own understanding, or the solution of a loved one, to resolve the situation. I am to rely fully and completely upon Him, even when the situation seems impossible, like Abraham being married to a woman who is 90 years old, after having been promised by God that he would have children. God knows how He will be glorified in the situations in my life that seem impossible, dead and immovable.
Dear Lord, please keep calling me back to You to hear You and to listen to You. Help me to run everything past You as my friend, and the lover and caregiver of my very soul. Give me the strength to be graceful to well-intentioned advisors, and discernment to know Your still small voice above all the other voices. You desire me to glorify You and not myself through my own efforts. Help me to be still and know You. In Jesus' name, Amen.
January 5, 2014
"Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God."
2 Corinthians 3:5
"My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9
Hidden within my heart is an attitude of self sufficiency rooted in pride. Putting aside this self sufficiency is not easy because I so desperately want to remain in control of my life by trusting in my gifts, my talents and my natural abilities. When I remain in control my identity becomes rooted in my own ability rather than the atoning work of Christ. Paul understood this when he wrote -- "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3)
What is the source of my sufficiency? Is my identity rooted in my own gifts, talents and abilities? Or do I count these things as loss for Christ? (Philippians 3:7) Christ's strength is seen in my life when I put aside myself, and allow Him to take control.
God, thank You for showing Your perfect strength through my overwhelming weakness. Please mold my heart to allow You to be my sufficiency. Thank You for Your all sufficient grace. Amen.
December 29, 2013
“Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”
1 Corinthians 4:5
As I read this, I am convicted of the fact that I pass judgment all to often on my brothers and sisters around me, and not always on myself. And what a waste of time passing judgment on the family God brings into my life! It only gives birth to division internally and eventually externally if left unchecked. My judgmental and critical spirit waters the garden of unlove and pride and gives glory to myself and certainly not to God. It is God, not me, who will bring to light the ‘hidden things in the darkness.' It is God, not me, who will ‘disclose the motives of men’s hearts.’ It is God, not me, who will rightly judge my own heart and determine whether any praise will come to me from His loving lips.
Dear Lord, shine your light of mercy, love and forgiveness into my heart. Help me to see my own faults and my own shortcomings. Help me to not seek the praise of men and to not tear down my brothers and sisters within my own heart to justify myself. Remove my judgmental spirit and give me your eyes to love my brothers and sisters from a clean heart, a pure place, a non-judgmental or critical place, by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus name, Amen.
December 22, 2013
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”