Thursday, April 17, 2014

April 17: Knowing the Bible, but not God

And the Father who sent me has himself testified about me. You people have never heard his voice nor seen his form at any time, nor do you have his word residing in you, because you do not believe the one whom he sent. You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.  (John 5:37-40  NET)

The Hebrew religious leaders were busy making up their minds about who Jesus was, judging Him according to their own beliefs and prejudices, to what they saw and heard. But they did not realize that God was making up His mind about them by the way they treated Jesus. God had sent His one and only Son into the world to speak His word and do the things He had commanded Him. Jesus was God in a human body, speaking with a human voice—Jesus was God on earth.

Here Jesus reveals God's judgment of the religious rulers in the past, and of religious people today. He says that they had never heard God's voice, had never seen His form, and had never even let His word into their hearts. Though they studied the Scriptures diligently, the Scriptures’ purpose was to prepare people to receive Jesus Christ, and they despised and rejected Him. Their treatment of Him showed them to be corrupt, selfish, and godless.

Still today, God judges men and women by the way they treat the Lord Jesus. Religious rituals and knowledge of the Bible mean nothing when Jesus is not our Lord and Savior. The purpose of the Bible is to reveal how we can have a real, living relationship with God, and so whenever we read the Bible, we must do it with reverence, realizing that God is actually talking to us. The Bible will teach us, correct us, challenge us, guide us, and comfort us. — The Bible points to Him: Jesus Christ the Lord: Savior, Healer, Deliverer, Provider.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 16: Content in any circumstance

I have great joy in the Lord because now at last you have again expressed your concern for me.  (Now I know you were concerned before but had no opportunity to do anything.)  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in any circumstance.  I have experienced times of need and times of abundance.  In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing.  I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.  (Philippians 4:10-13  NET)

Paul wrote this from prison.  He was there for preaching and healing in Jesus’ name, and the Christians in the city of Philippi had sent gifts to Paul, which her was so grateful for. He was even more happy for the faith and love that caused them to share in his sufferings. But he also wanted to assure them that Jesus was taking good care of him in prison! Though at times he had little and at other times a lot, he was content and happy through God's grace. He told them that he had learned the secret of being content in every situation.

This godly contentment has nothing to do with laziness or a lack of ambition. Instead it is a result of a steady trust in God that if circumstances block us from being able to have more, we can have complete peace, knowing that God will provide our needs. That kind of trust in the face of problems diffuses all the attacks of the devil that stir up anxiety and fear in times of need.  Obviously as Paul was in prison, he had no way to work to earn a living and buy his basic necessities.  But he chose to trust that God would provide, and because of that contentment and assurance, God really did come through for him with the generosity of the church.  

As we have read before in many other passages, God expects us to rise up and fight against evil, against destruction and pain in our lives and families.  Being bold and determined in our faith meshes perfectly with this spiritual contentment.  As the miracles and answers we seek are being worked out by God’s power, we are to trust in God, so that even before we see our answer, we are certain that He is doing what we cannot.  And if there is any way that we can be a part of the fulfillment of our prayers, we should be quick to act. If we are sick, we take action to both pray and consult our doctors, and if we are unemployed, we actively search for a job, while simultaneously trusting, being content, and certain that the answers to our prayers are ours.  

Paul had more reason than any of us to be anxious and even to doubt God.  Shipwrecked, beaten, arrested, hated, stoned, imprisoned for his faith – none of us have come close to those kinds of problems. But though he was imprisoned, he was still able to joyfully say, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."  When we learn to live without anxiety and trust that God will come through for us, we take a short-cut to our miracles, and conserve a lot of energy otherwise wasted on panic and fear.  We can’t afford to give away all that energy to the devil any more!  Let’s learn to both fight and simultaneously be contented in His supernatural peace.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15: Adam = death… Christ = life

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to him. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he has brought to an end all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be eliminated is death.  (1 Corinthians 15:20-26  NET)

Jesus’ resurrection is the sign of a coming harvest. He is the firstfruit, meaning that a harvest is on its way, the souls of all who believe in Him and surrender their will to His. Because He has been resurrected from the dead, we who believe, truly believe, are guaranteed a resurrection too—to eternal life after death, but also to a new life here on earth.

This message should fill us with hope and determination. The “incomparable power” of God that raised Jesus from the dead is ours for the taking right now on earth. The last enemy, death, has been eliminated. For us death has no sting, no power, because His death and resurrection mean that we have been forgiven and are heaven-bound. Adam brought death to us all, but Christ brought life and eternity, as well as authority over the prince of this world, Satan.

One day Satan and his demons will be put in their place; Jesus will not rest until all His enemies are under His feet. Right now they are free to work in this world—attacking us and the church of God—but just as Jesus will put them under His feet and once and for all strip them of their power at a determined time in the future, we are also meant to put them under our feet. Jesus once said: “Look, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and on the full force of the enemy, and nothing will hurt you.” (Luke 10:19) This means that Jesus has commanded us to place Satan and demons under our feet right now. We are to tread on them without fear, knowing that they cannot do to us what they can do to other human beings. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our faith and belief, something we trust in every single day of our lives, so nothing the devil tries to do can hurt us.

We need to live in eager anticipation of the coming of Jesus, and of our victory here on earth. Our destiny is not to live 70, 80, or 100 years, but to live forever! Although the Lord Jesus is despised and ridiculed by many, He is the future reigning King of the universe. Are you on Jesus’ side? If so, make sure you are living in such a way that you can welcome Him when He comes.

Monday, April 14, 2014

April 14: Sons of God

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.  (Galatians 3:26-29  NET)

There are a lot of people that claim to be a child of God, but though it sounds nice, few are recognized by God as His children.  No one can be His child without the kind of faith that actively honors Jesus Christ as their Lord, and places their faith in the power of His death and resurrection. One scripture says that we who were no people are now the children of God—a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a chosen people! We become clothed with Christ when we are baptized into Him. 

No single nationality or culture can lay claim to being more honored or special in God’s eyes.  Both men and women of any country are equally God’s children as long as they have died to this world and live for Him.  Faith is tantamount to salvation, and whoever is saved, is a descendant of Abraham—a spiritual Israelite.  That means that every blessing of the chosen people becomes our own.  Every honor is ours as well.  
Realize the greatness of what has taken place in your life if you are a sincere believer in Jesus!

Do you understand what great things God has done for you?  Do you comprehend how unlimited and boundless His love for you really is?  If you are saved, you have crossed over from the kingdom of this world into the Kingdom of God, and you now have rights, authority, and power over all evil.  If you live a limited and bound up life, it’s not because God wants it that way. Christians who are content with mediocrity, are those who have rejected the immense power that is available to all of us.  The price He paid is so high that it is our obligation to honor God by learning how to use that power to it’s fullest. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13: The place called “The Skull”

So when they came to the place that is called “The Skull,” they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. But Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Then they threw dice to divide his clothes. The people also stood there watching, but the rulers ridiculed him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his chosen one.”  (Luke 23:33-35  NET)

The circumstances surrounding Jesus’ death were extreme… being taken to a hill called “The Skull”, dying between two hardened criminals, having strangers gamble for His possessions, and being ridiculed by the people standing by as He suffered on the cross. These and every other painful and humiliating thing He endured, He gladly endured for our sakes, to set us free. The story of the cross can never be a recounting of a historical event, or a simple list of facts, it has to be internalized. He went to “The Skull” so that we would never have to, and if it so happens that we do end up in a similar place, we can be sure of deliverance and victory because of what He did two thousand years ago.

So many Christians know the story about Jesus’ death but do not take advantage of it. Their lives send the message to God, and to others, that He died in vain! Most people would never say that, except they live their lives that way. The Lord Jesus paid the highest price that anyone has ever paid, but if our lives do not reflect that power in a concrete way, if our lives remain the same before and after we learn about what He did, we are acting as if He never went to Calvary.

Jesus’ death and resurrection are the two most important events that have ever happened, and each one of us must choose whether or not to grab a hold of that victory and make it ours. When He was raised and the stone was rolled away there was an earthquake, and whenever we believe in these events and apply them by faith, it’s as if there is an earthquake in our lives. Things are shaken up and can never be the same again.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

April 12: God springs into action

God springs into action! His enemies scatter; his adversaries run from him. As smoke is driven away by the wind, so you drive them away. As wax melts before fire, so the wicked are destroyed before God. But the godly are happy; they rejoice before God and are overcome with joy. Sing to God! Sing praises to his name! Exalt the one who rides on the clouds! For the Lord is his name! Rejoice before him! He is a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows. God rules from his holy palace. God settles those who have been deserted in their own homes; he frees prisoners and grants them prosperity. But sinful rebels live in the desert. (Psalm 68:1-6  NET)

In the Psalms we often find prayers asking for the destruction of God’s enemies. This is certainly a Christian sentiment—to ask for the defeat of our enemies. Even though we are told to pray for them and are forbidden from taking vengeance ourselves, at the same time we eagerly desire to see Satan, and those who serve him, defeated. We want God's people to be blessed, to be free and happy, and to be a testimony to their Father's power and goodness.

God is pictured here as a friend and helper of those who have no one else. He will be a Father to the fatherless; He will champion the cause of the widow; He will release prisoners, and will provide houses for the deserted. If you find yourself in one of these situations, use this passage to claim your rights before God. Tell Him that you are counting on His help, that you want what He has promised and will accept nothing less. Tell Him that you want your life to bring glory to His name. Speaking to Him this way is not rude or proud, it is simply taking God’s word at face value and having faith that it will come true for you. This type of attitude pleases God more than any of us can imagine.

Don't look at the situation around you; believe in a miracle-working God. Lift up your head and decide that everything is going to work out. This is what faith is all about.

Friday, April 11, 2014

April 11: Healing those oppressed by the devil

Then Peter started speaking: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)—you know what happened throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John announced: with respect to Jesus from Nazareth, that God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him.  (Acts 10:34-38  NET)

Acts chapter 10 marks a great turning point in the Gospel. Before this, the early church, Jesus, and everyone before them had preached to the Jews, and considered them to be the one nation of the world that were the chosen people of God. But in this chapter God sent Peter to a non-Jew, Cornelius. When he met Cornelius and his house full of people, Peter realized that God does not discriminate or show favoritism; whenever people fear Him and do what is right, there is salvation. Skin color, nationality, education, finances, the past, and ancestry were not the determining factors for acceptance by God, but rather faith. In fact, throughout history God had always chosen people based on their faith and fear of Him—Abraham, Rahab, Naaman, Elijah, Ruth, David, Daniel, Hanah—but from this time on the Gospel was no longer the exclusive property of the Jews and Israel, but was now preached to all nations and all people. From this time on, anyone who feared God and did what was right could be considered spiritual Israelites.

Peter sums up the work of Jesus in a simple, powerful way in this passage. He says Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit and power to do good and to heal all who were oppressed by the devil. All oppression, misery, and sickness in this world comes from one source—the devil and his demons. Jesus fought the devil and cast out demons while He was on earth, trained His disciples to do the same, and commanded those who would come after Him to follow suit.

What this means is that the Holy Spirit, power, doing good, and casting out of demons should be noticeable aspects of our experience with God. Though Bible study and praise and worship are healthy and necessary, they are not among the four main elements that typified the work of Jesus of Nazareth on earth. If we know God, shouldn’t we be familiar with these four things? Shouldn’t they be valuable and common in our lives? You would assume so. But the sad fact is that most Christians today are not familiar with the Holy Spirit, the power of God, doing good, or driving out demons.

If this applies to you, make a change today just like Peter did. He changed his entire mindset and focus, and you can too. Don’t invent your own version of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ—excluding what you don’t like and including what you do—rather, follow in His footsteps, do what He did, forget your ideas and adopt His. Change is an important concept that all true believers in God have to accept. When God asks us to change, we have to trust that He knows what He’s talking about, that the change He brings is for our own good, and that our old ideas have to be sacrificed.