Saturday, March 8, 2014
Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. A good man produces good things from his storeroom of good, and an evil man produces evil things from his storeroom of evil. I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:33-37 — HCSB)
Jesus had just been accused of casting out demons by the power of Satan because the religious leaders of His time were jealous of the crowds that followed Him wherever He went. Imagine that… the audacity to accuse the Lord Jesus of being a servant of Satan. Whether they understood the full extent of what they were saying or not, they were very careless with their words, and were responsible for turning people away from Jesus. Even though they were leaders of the Jewish religion, their evil words revealed the state of their hearts… in this case “heart” does not mean emotions, but their true inner selves.
If we are Christians, we must be very careful with our words… about the accusations we make, the advice we give, the people we criticize… We could be the “religious leaders” in this passage at this very moment if we are in the habit of planting seeds of doubt because of our own selfish and jealous feelings. With a good heart and good words, we save people, encourage them, tell them the Good News of Jesus, build them up, and heal them. But if we have bad hearts and bad words we will do the opposite, causing people to be spiritually lost.
Good words however, do not come from newspapers, books, the internet, and movies produced by people who do not know God. Rather they come from God, the Holy Spirit, and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Word of God, the teaching of Jesus, the Holy Scriptures will clean your heart, fill your mind with good things, and enable your mouth to be "a fountain of life."
Every one of us needs to work on this.
Friday, March 7, 2014
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you. My Father is honored by this, that you bear much fruit and show that you are my disciples. (John 15:7,8 NET)
Most people do not see this verse come true in their lives because they forget the first part of this passage. Jesus said “if you remain in Me and my words remain in you,” then, and only then, “ask whatever you want, and it will be done for you.” To remain in Jesus, to love Him as our Lord and Savior, to put Him first above everyone else, to follow Him each day, to make an effort to honor Him by our words and by our life—this is what God expects of us. He also expects us to make the words of the Lord Jesus the fire within our hearts, the food of our souls, the light to guide our way, the spiritual sword in our hands, and the rock on which our lives are built. When we truly remain in Jesus, and His words remain in us, we will experience power in prayer like never before. Answers to our prayers and requests will be as easy and natural as a father answering the cries of his children.
It’s not easy to live in this world and at the same time keep our thoughts on the words of the Lord Jesus; it’s a real battle. We have to examine every thought and feeling, every word we hear and every situation we find ourselves in. Every minute of the day, if not every second, we are bombarded by messages that are the opposite of what God tells us, and unless we are actively involved in fighting back these thoughts, they will overrun us. The only way to win is to concentrate on Jesus’ words, and step out in faith believing that they will come true for us.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
As the night was ending, Jesus came to them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the water they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” and cried out with fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them: “Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” Peter said to him, “Lord, if it is you, order me to come to you on the water.” So he said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind he became afraid. And starting to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt.” (Matthew 14:25-31 NET)
An interesting side note to this passage is the fact that Jesus and His disciples had been busy the day before—healing, teaching, and feeding a multitude—and then were up all night traveling to the other side of the lake. In other versions of the Bible it says that this scene happened during the fourth watch, which would have been between 3 and 6 in the morning. This goes to show how driven and willing to sacrifice Jesus and His disciples were; Jesus wanted to save souls and knew that time was of the essence, and so He pushed Himself late into the night.
Many people pulled all-nighters of drinking and dancing in the past when they did not know God, but now that they’ve found Him, the idea of spending the whole night in a prayer vigil (an all night service) seeking the Holy Spirit and God’s blessing sounds utterly ridiculous. If this is the case with you, how is that fair? How can we be content to give the devil more than we give to God. How can we be courageous for the devil but not for God. We should be ready to give God much more than we ever gave to the devil.
The incident of Jesus walking on the water and inviting Peter to do the same is an analogy for life. Isn’t this what we should be doing on a daily basis? God calls us to believe that He will enable us to do what could never normally be done. When we focus on Him, and trust in His Word, we will be able to walk on the water, but when we take our eyes off of Him, look at the winds and the waves, at how impossible it is to do what we are doing, we will sink. No matter how strong you are, you cannot overcome when you focus on the negative, on your problems. This destroys the strongest among us. Yes, the winds and the waves are there, but if we want to overcome, we have to focus on Jesus and His promises. This is not foolishness, it is faith.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You. Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people. When He avenges blood, He remembers them; He does not forget the cry of the humble. (Psalm 9:9-12 NET)
King David was a warrior who spent much of his time outdoors planning and fighting battles, and throughout his writings he uses images from nature to describe God’s care and protection. In this passage he speaks about God being a refuge: an inaccessibly high and secure place. David had experienced this for himself many, many times. He had fought impossible odds, and found himself in situations that most people would not have be able to escape from. From experience he knew that he needed much more than a mountain fortress or cave to keep him safe, he needed God Himself. But as he states here, this is a characteristic of God Himself; He knew that just like God took care of him when he was oppressed, God would take care of us too.
Many people have heard about God, have attended church now and again, and have prayed when they were in trouble, but this does not mean that they “know” God’s name. When a person “knows” God’s name, he is convinced about His faithfulness and proves that his trust is in Him by his actions and the choices he makes. When we “know” God we have a deep conviction about how he has never, and will never forsake those who seek Him.
If you have been tempted to doubt God, or to blame Him for the troubles in your life… stop the despair, hopelessness, and fear right away! Don’t surrender to the demonic thoughts swirling around in your head—don’t give in to the devil. Today’s passage, and other similar passages, should be what you choose to fill your mind with, because only thoughts like this will fill us with hope and courage. Millions of people could have written today’s passage as a testimony to what happened in their lives, and what God has done for others, He wants to do for you.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage—I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33 NET)
To understand the full meaning of what Jesus is saying here you will have to read chapters 13 to 16. But the main points He made in the previous chapters concerned His resurrection from the dead and triumph over evil, His sending of the Holy Spirit as a Comforter and Helper, and how they were to use the name of Jesus when they prayed. Because of all this, today’s passage tells the disciples that they should be at peace. Though trouble and suffering were all around, they were to sense the peace of Jesus Christ within. Courage should be their response, no matter their feelings or the situation, because Jesus had already conquered the world. He had faced and experienced the worst that the world and the devil could offer, and had still overcome.
The peace that really counts is the peace that exists between us and God. When we have a clear conscience, when we are clearly heading in God’s direction regardless of the mistakes we make along the way, we have the peace and confidence to cry out to God for justice and help. Whenever that peace is damaged by sin and disobedience, whenever we are not heading in God’s direction, but living for ourselves or for the world, there is no peace between us and God. Our prayers are weak; we have no certainty of God’s answers; we experience trouble and suffering on the inside.
Remember that the flipside of peace is war, just like the flipside of love is hate. Peace can only exist when we are ready to go to war to defend it at any moment, and love can only exist when we hate whatever tries to interfere with that love. If we try to be peacemakers all the time, even with the devil and sin, whatever peace we achieve will be ungodly and weak. That is not true peace at all.
Do you have the wonderful peace that the Lord Jesus speaks about in this passage? His peace will make you strong and empower you to conquer all enemies and situations.
Monday, March 3, 2014
Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!” Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” Thomas replied to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29 NET)
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was too much for Thomas to believe, he needed to actually see Jesus for himself. Mercifully, Jesus appeared to all the apostles one week after His resurrection and first appearance. He knew what Thomas had said and invited him to do exactly what he had said he would need to do. No doubt Thomas fell on his face before Jesus to acknowledge Him as his Lord and God; what had seemed impossible to him was now a reality that he could not doubt. At that point, all eleven of the apostles were actual physical witnesses of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Our faith in Jesus has a solid foundation. The apostles, and many others, saw Jesus after His resurrection. They announced the resurrection and endured intense persecution for the rest of their lives because of it; their willingness to be martyred for their faith speaks volumes about the truthfulness of their testimony. But in today’s passage a special blessing is pronounced upon those who have not seen and yet believe. That blessing is for you, for us; though we have never physically seen Jesus, we believe. Yes, our faith rests on the solid foundation of the historical witness and evidence of the apostles, and the early Church, and on Old Testament prophecies about the resurrection of Jesus, but most of all it rests upon our own experience of the living Jesus in our lives.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
He will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness. There will be affliction and distress on everyone who does evil, on the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, for the Jew first and also the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:6-11 NET)
Though eternal life and salvation are gifts of God and can never truly be earned or deserved, following God does not come without effort. Following God demands perseverance, and seeking the good things in life above everything else. Though we can never merit salvation, and can only receive it by faith in Jesus’ work on the cross, true faith and belief go far beyond empty declarations and church attendance; true belief in God triggers a radical change in our lives that places Him at the center.
The big difference between people is what they seek. When we seek our own will, do as we please, try to satisfy all our own desires, and make ourselves the center of everything—we bring the wrath of God down on our heads, and walk down a path that leads to every kind of evil, and to destruction. But when we seek God and His will, try to follow Him by means of His Son Jesus, endeavor to forget about ourselves and help others—this is good and leads to immortality and glory.
Life and death are standing in front of us; every person chooses his or her destiny. God wants all of us to be saved and to have eternal life, but He will not force us to accept and follow Him. You must make that choice for yourself not just once, but every day of your life. If you choose to do evil, are self-seeking, and rebellious toward the truth, you will experience the wrath of God. But if you trust Jesus as your Savior, and devote your life to doing good, there will be glory, honor, and immortality for you.