Sunday, June 30, 2013

June 30: We are works in progress

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.   (Philippians l:3-6 — New King James Version)

In these four verses Paul uses words like “thank”, “joy”, “fellowship”, “confident”, “good work”, and “complete”. These are not the words of a depressed, negative, pessimistic man. The Philippian church was not perfect, no group of people ever is, but he speaks about them in a positive, confident way because he is filled with the Holy Spirit and lives by faith. Whenever we don’t have those two things, it’s virtually impossible to look at the world in a positive way.

Paul wrote these confident words from prison, and when we look at all four chapters of the book of Philippians we will find “joy” mentioned five times, and “rejoice” mentioned nine. These are themes of Paul’s writings, and show how a true Christian doesn’t have to be in a good place in order to be happy and joyful. Our joy doesn’t come from our surroundings or possessions, or from people’s opinion of us. Our joy comes from the fact that we belong to God and He is our partner in life — fellowship, in the passage above, could equally be translated partnership. Those who believe are in a partnership with each other, and with God, so how could we ever fail?

Paul is also confident. He could easily give in to doubt and fear, and to the many thoughts — that the devil must have been sending his way — of why things would not work out for him and the church. And yet he decided to be confident! He was confident that God would complete the work that He had begun in them. He saw life as a race, or as a construction project. He knew people had not yet arrived at perfection, but he was sure that God’s work in them would one day be complete.

Do you have the same spirit as Paul? I doubt that your situation is worse than his, and yet maybe he had more confidence and joy than you do. If this is the case… if you lack joy and confidence… if you are unsure of whether God will complete His work in you… you need to change right away. Choose to trust in Him. Believe in what He’s promised hook, line, and sinker. No sitting on the fence. Go all the way with God.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

June 29: Work for food that lasts

And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent”.   (John 6:25-29 — New King James Version)

On the previous day, Jesus had miraculously multiplied a few loaves and fish and fed a multitude of people. Before this they had listened to His teaching and seen Him heal the sick all day long. During the night Jesus and His disciples crossed over the Lake of Galilee and now they were in Capernaum. But the people followed Him, and now He accuses them of only following Him because of the food He had given them. They were not seeking a closer relationship with Him, the power of God, or knowledge of how to please God. He warns them that their focus is only on this life. They need God; they need eternal life; they need to believe in Jesus, God's Son.

Thousands of years later people are still the same. They treasure food, clothes, money, pleasure, friends, the world, their own way of doing things, etc. Eternal life, obeying God, following Jesus never seem to enter their minds. The Bible uses strong language for these people — calling them fools —because every man and woman will ultimately be judged for the way they’ve chosen to live their lives. Even people that regularly attend church often concentrate on getting “blessed”. When they get healed, get a job, or their problems die down, many leave and are never seen again. 

Be sure to do what Jesus says at the end of this passage: labor for the food that endures for eternal life. Create and keep up your own relationship with the Lord Jesus, and stay away from anything in this world that might distract you from this crucial labor. Refuse to be deceived!

Friday, June 28, 2013

June 28: Do not grieve as the rest

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.   (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 — New American Standard Bible)

When a true Christian dies or “falls asleep” (in the words of this passage) the body is separated from the spirit and soul. Our soul goes to be with the Lord Jesus, and our body is placed in the ground. Every Christian that has passed away is now in paradise, in the presence of Jesus. When Jesus comes again He will appear with them and their bodies will be resurrected and become glorious immortal bodies. At the same time, those who are alive when He comes will be instantly changed and all of Jesus’ people will go to be with Him forever. This is why Christians do not fear death — they have overcome it! We do not grieve like the rest who have no hope.

When you surrender you life completely to the Lord Jesus Christ, physical death is not what it is to the rest of the world. Most people dread death, and do all they can to avoid it. A funeral is a sad experience for them, the end of their life. But for us, death is not death at all. The only death that a Christian experiences is baptism in water, the death of the flesh. Physical death is simply the end of life on earth, and the beginning of life in paradise, and later heaven. In fact, when we are truly spiritual, like the apostle Paul, we don’t know whether to choose to stay on earth and do more for God, or die physically and go to be with Him.

These truths should comfort us, and at the same time motivate us to help others to know the Lord Jesus like we do. How freeing it is to have no fear of death.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 27: God cares

Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors, even empty vessels; do not get a few. And you shall go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour out into all these vessels, and you shall set aside what is full.” So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons; they were bringing the vessels to her and she poured. 6 When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not one vessel more.” And the oil stopped. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”   (2 Kings 4:1-7 — New American Standard Version)

Here is an amazing account of God helping a widow, who was in serious trouble and had nowhere to turn, to pay off her debts. In those days people were sold into slavery because of debt, and so she was even in danger of losing her children. But God's heart was touched by her need. All through Scripture God promises to help the helpless, rescue those in trouble, and come to the aid of widows and orphans.

It’s important to notice that God used something the widow already had to create her miracle — olive oil — which is exactly what God does today. Many times we may be tempted to think we have no talent, or nothing of value — just as she had first said she had nothing — when in fact the key to our success is right under our noses. 

Another interesting note is that the size of her miracle was determined by the widow herself. She decided how many jars to collect, and as soon as the last one was filled, the oil dried up. If she had had double or triple the jars, she would have been able to fill them up. And today, you cannot blame God for what you have or do not have because they are a direct result of what you have the vision and faith to believe in. — Let’s have faith for big things.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 26: Spiritual rebirth

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”   (John 3:3-6 — New King James Version)

Nicodemus was a respected religious leader, but Jesus looked into his heart and saw that he needed to start over from the very beginning. God’s kingdom cannot be seen or fully experienced unless a person goes through a spiritual rebirth. Those who have only experienced a physically birth cannot understand or perceive the things of God. The life that our mothers gave us is one of limitations and failure, whereas the birth that comes from God removes all limitations and empowers us to overcome all obstacles and sins, because it produces God’s nature in us.

Water is frequently a symbol of the Word of God in the Bible, and when this verse says that we must be born of the water and the Spirit, the first half of that phrase refers to the purifying effects of God’s Word in our lives. If we want more of Him, we have to choose to follow His Word, apply it to our lives, clean up what’s wrong, and start doing what we have neglected to do up to that point.

When we do, the Holy Spirit will cause the new birth to occur in our lives. God’s nature will start to take over, and we will have the mind, feelings and understanding of God. At this point our lives begin to be transformed in a radical way, and yet it all begins when we choose to follow what God tells us to do in His Word.

Don’t expect your life to be transformed overnight. Big changes never happen in an instant. All change comes as the result of a process that begins days, weeks, months or even years beforehand. A person doesn’t fall away from God because of one big, overwhelming temptation — he was already getting weak for a period of time before that last straw caused everything to fall apart. On the other hand, good changes are also the result of a lot of small, incremental steps in the right direction. Don’t worry about doing something huge, just remember to constantly, daily, even hourly be making good choices that honor God in big and small ways, and that point you in the right direction. After a period of time, you will see the amazing changes that the passage above is referring to: the new birth. — Start making these small, incremental steps right away, and be determined to keep it up.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 25: Beyond all we ask or think

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.   (Ephesians 3:14-21 — New American Standard Version)

There is no excuse for followers of the Lord Jesus to be weak. Here Paul prays for them to be empowered by the Holy Spirit in the core of their being, which is the whole point of God’s Spirit. When we don’t have the Holy Spirit, we lack power, our spiritual core is weak, and our experience of Jesus is limited.

God never intended for human beings to live without His Spirit. When we do, a spiritual vacuum is created that sucks other things into our lives to fill the void: shopping, friends, addictions, work, pride, anger, fear, the past, religion… As long as that hole is not filled by the Spirit, whatever we use as a substitute ends up being nothing more than a band-aid — and the emptiness keeps growing. 

But when we are filled with God’s Spirit some amazing things happen. We start to understand the breadth, length, height, and depth of God’s love for us — a love beyond any human explanation or understanding. This is not a wimpy, emotional love. It’s a love that pushes us to obey, to surrender our lives, and to love the lost.

This passage ends with a phrase that is simply mind-boggling! If you asked God for the biggest thing you could think or imagine, most Christians would accuse you of being greedy and arrogant, and would probably tell you to just be thankful for whatever God decides to give you. But if this thought is compared to the last sentence of the passage above, you would see that this “Christian” advice comes straight from the mouth of the devil himself. God wants to do more than all we can think or imagine, and I can imagine some pretty big things. Yet God wants to do even more. — If you have a pulse this should make your blood boil. This verse should make you totally dissatisfied with your present life, and eager to see more than you can imagine in the near future.

Monday, June 24, 2013

June 24: God rescues us

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.   (2 Peter 2:4-9 — New King James Version)

Peter gives three examples as a means of proving a great truth about God: He knows how to rescue the godly, and to judge and punish the wicked. First we are told how God punished the angels in heaven who mounted a rebellion against Him. Next we are reminded of how a world of ungodly people were destroyed in the flood, while Noah and his family were singled out to be saved. Another impressive example of God's judgment were the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and yet a handful of righteous people who lived there were saved.

Does it matter how many evil people are around you today? Does it matter that you are outnumbered, or that only a fraction of people seem to honor and obey God these days? No it doesn’t. God's judgment is coming, and any delay only reflects God’s desire to give people time to repent. No evil person will slip through His hands — everyone will receive what they deserve.

At the same time, God knows who belongs to Him. He personally knows about you and your faithfulness, and will keep you safe from the effects of modern society and from the temptation of the devil. God will never leave or forsake you. Just as He was able to reach into the terrible cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and rescue a small group of people that belonged to Him, He will rescue and save you also.

Peter says that God knows how to rescue the godly from temptation — the keyword here is “godly”. God does not rescue everyone from temptation, as is clearly evident by the world around us. Most people cave in to it as soon as it comes, without any hint at resistance. But the godly are different. They have God’s nature, and refuse to live like everyone else. They crave God’s goodness, and a life of purity. When they remember their old life and behavior they feel embarrassed. And so God helps them with temptation because they’re making an effort to please him.

If temptation is irresistible, that’s a sign that you’ve drifted away from God, or were never close in the first place. Start your change by making steps in His direction, and fighting the temptation, and soon you’ll feel God’s help kick in.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 23: Hear Him!

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”   (Matthew 17:1-5 — New King James Version)

This event happened not long after Peter had spoken the great truth that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Now it seems that God is pleased to show the disciples the truth of what Peter confessed. In prayer on the mountain, Jesus is clothed with heavenly glory — His face and clothes become bright and shining. Also the great lawgiver, Moses, and the great prophet, Elijah, appear and talk with Jesus about His coming sacrifice. Peter is overcome by all that he is seeing and offers to build shelters, or temples for all of them.

But when a bright cloud envelopes them and the voice of God booms from heaven, the disciples get the message that Jesus is greater than Moses and Elijah. They were men who served God faithfully in their time, but Jesus is God’s beloved Son. By his offer to build three shelters, Peter seemed to put Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in the same class. But God makes it very clear that Jesus is in a class by Himself! Jesus is the One we are to listen to!

God has always provided His people with teachers, prophets, pastors, and evangelists. But Satan also has his own multitude of counterfeit teachers and prophets. This is one reason it is so important for us to remember that the Lord Jesus is our real Teacher, Pastor, and Prophet. We will be judged by our loyalty to Him — not to any man! So keep your eyes on Jesus, and keep your ears and heart open to Him.

Jesus had twelve disciples but only chose three to accompany Him on this special climb up Mount Hermon, and this was not the only time He singled out Peter, James, and John. They were trustworthy men of faith. But if Jesus was careful with the friends He chose, imagine you and me. There’s a saying that goes: A man is known by the company he keeps. This is so true. If your closest friend is not interested in God, and is continually making negative comments, how do you think that will affect you, and why have you chosen him as your friend? The same goes for the one you marry, only on a much greater scale. — Be picky with your friends.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 22: The message rang out

For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, in the Holy Spirit, and with much assurance. You know what kind of men we were among you for your benefit, and you became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit. As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the Lord’s message rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place that your faith in God has gone out. Therefore, we don’t need to say anything, for they themselves report what kind of reception we had from you: how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.   (1 Thessalonians 1:4-10 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Paul’s work in Thessalonica (a city that still exists in Greece) was not one of words only, but of power, the Holy Spirit, and assurance. We can’t be content to be church-goers, to simply be members of a church, to enjoy the good music, the pastor’s jokes, and the coffee and donuts.  Our relationship with God is about His power at work inside of us, being filled with the same Spirit that lived inside of Jesus, and having an overwhelming assurance of salvation and God’s presence. Most “Christians” do not even come close to experiencing any of these things, and think that their life is just fine. But we cannot accept this. We need to insist on experiencing all that God has to offer.

It’s interesting to note that the severe persecution that this church was going through seemed to make them even more determined to believe in and obey the Lord Jesus Christ. They turned away from their old religions and idols, and began joyfully serving the living God. They were happy to finally find the truth and be set free from the oppression of Satan and false religions, and became a model for all other believers. And, best of all, the message about God rang out from them in every direction. Their example caused many lost people to find God!

Can you be like this? Can God’s Spirit make you strong like the Thessalonians? Could the message of God ring out from you in all directions, so that people talk about the amazing changes that have happened in your life? Absolutely! The God that they had is the God you have, and what He did back then, He wants to do now. — All God needs is for us to believe in and want this type of change.

Friday, June 21, 2013

June 21 : He made a whip out of cords

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!”   (John 2:13-16 — New King James Version)

Most people don't understand this passage of the Bible. They always think of Jesus as gentle and kind, but never as one who exercised authority as the Son of God. These businessmen in God’s temple were polluting that place and taking advantage of sincere people who had come to worship God. They were using religion to enrich themselves and oppress the people, and this made Jesus furious. He drove these dishonest, hypocritical men out of the temple with a whip made of rope.

We never read about the Lord Jesus treating prostitutes, tax collectors, adulterers, or lepers harshly, driving them away, or whipping them. Other people despised them, but Jesus saw through their sin and concentrated on what they could become. But here Jesus is rough with people who were using the temple and God for their own purposes. The one group of people that made Jesus angry was hypocrites — people who had a veneer of holiness but were full of themselves and avoided any type of sacrifice for God. Do you feel ashamed of things you’ve done in the past, have you made a lot of mistakes, and wasted opportunities? As long as you’re sincere today and making an effort to change, God accepts and forgives you. What He cannot bear is people who are insincere.

But today, you are God’s temple. The temple is not a building anymore. It’s your heart, your body. When you allow things into your life like grudges, addictions, lies, sexual immorality, and greed, you are polluting what is supposed to be His temple. — Be sincere about your weaknesses and failings and allow God to be a part of cleaning you up. When you do you are preparing yourself to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 20: The power of humble obedience

Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master….. a mighty man of valor, but a leper. And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman's wife. Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.”….. So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing….. Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha's house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.”….. So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean?’” So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.   (2 Kings 5:1-14 — New King James Version)

Here is the story of a powerful army commander who was forced to humble himself before God and His servant. He had everything — fame, power, influence, wealth — but did not have health or faith in the true God. Since leprosy had no cure, his power and influence were totally useless. But when his wife's servant girl told him about a prophet of God who could heal the sick, Naaman thought he could buy his healing with silver, gold, and expensive clothing, and discovered that what was really demanded of him was humility and obedience to a command that seemed ridiculous. His first reaction was to walk away in pride and once more, he needed a servant to point out the right thing to do. He received his healing only when he chose to humbly obey.

You cannot expect to receive anything from God when you are operating in pride and a know-it-all attitude. God hates these things while the devil thrives on them. Demons are constantly whispering in our ears, encouraging pride and stubbornness. There are times that asking “why” and “how’s that going to work” will get us nowhere, and radical, humble obedience is the only currency that God will honor. The powerful and the weak, the rich and the poor, the famous and the unknown all have to humble themselves and acknowledge their need of God if they want to see His miracles. — We are all Naamans at some point in our lives. Make sure you don’t walk away from God in pride.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 19: Lord of compassion

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust.   (Psalm 103:13,14 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

We all know that a good father is compassionate and kind to his children. Even if we did not have a good father, or had one that mistreated us, we know that a father cares for his children. A child counts on his father to protect him, provide for him, and love him. He is not quick to condemn or overly harsh in his words or actions. When his children do wrong, make mistakes, or fail, a good father is ready to help, encourage, and forgive. He would gladly die for his son or daughter if necessary. He wants the very best for his children and is happy when he can give them what they need or want.

These verses compare God to a compassionate father. Of course, He is much better than any earthly father — He has far more love, wisdom, and power. Though the Old Testament only referred to God as “Father” 15 times in total, when Jesus came into the world He began referring to Him almost exclusively as “Father”, and throughout the New Testament He is referred to as “Father” 245 times — a huge difference between Old and New Testaments. Clearly this was one of the great revelations that the Lord Jesus came to give, and one that the devil spends immense effort to block us from understanding. We must ensure that we get this revelation.

“The Lord has compassion on those who fear Him”. God loves all people, everywhere — but He has a special compassion for those who fear Him. When we honor Him as God, and love and obey His Son, God is drawn to us. When we are in trouble, He will deliver us. When we are sick, He will heal us. When we are discouraged or weak, He will lift us up. God will never leave or forsake those who are His.

When we call out to God for help, we should not be afraid of being rejected because of our imperfection and sin. He remembers what we are made of; He remembers that we are dust. We are weak and imperfect, but our fear and respect of Him cause Him to overlook those things, come to our rescue, and lift us up.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

June 18: We are witnesses

We ourselves are witnesses of everything He did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem, yet they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree. God raised up this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen, not by all the people, but by us, witnesses appointed beforehand by God, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to solemnly testify that He is the One appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.   (Acts 10:39-43 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Here, in a few words, the basic truths of the gospel are presented. First of all, Peter says that he and the other apostles are witnesses of everything Jesus did, and of everything that happened to Him. They saw Jesus crucified and they saw Him after He was raised from the dead. They even ate and drank with Him after His resurrection. Many other people saw Him too, and Jesus commanded them all to spread the news that He is Judge of all men, and that forgiveness of sins is available to all who believe in Him.

These truths have the power to save you, and the world. No matter what the world thinks, whether it believes or not — these are still the facts. Jesus came into the world to save the lost — and we are all lost without Him. If a person rejects Him now, that person will one day stand before the same Jesus that he rejected, and be judged for his sins.

On that day, if people claim to be “good” or “righteous” their defense will be thrown out of court because only those who have faith in Jesus are acceptable to God, and enter heaven.

When you hear about Peter’s claim to be an eye-witness of all that Jesus said and did you may be tempted to be envious — wishing that you could have lived in those times. But the truth is, we are all called to be witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ today in the 21st century. We should not expect to see a vision of Him, and obviously He will not appear as a man on earth again, and yet we have been chosen to see His power and fruit in our lives, and to be eye-witnesses to the world of how He is true to His word and still does miracles and transforms lives today. And though we did not see Him on the cross or eat with the resurrected Jesus, we have an equally strong conviction of those events as Peter did. — Decide that you will no longer talk about Jesus, but rather be a witness of Him.

Monday, June 17, 2013

June 17: A brilliant plan

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.   (Philippians 2:5-11 — New Living Translation)

Jesus Christ is our great example of humility and servant-hood. Though He was equal with God the Father, He did not feel the need to hold on to His divine privileges — instead He made Himself nothing and became a man in order to help us. He went from Lord to slave. God became a man to save mankind. Not only did He become a man, He agreed to die a criminal’s death on a cross for us so that we would be free of sin, disease, and curses. 

The world would like us to think that this extreme humility and sacrifice was foolish, but nothing could be farther than the truth. It was a brilliant plan. God always responds to humility by raising us up, and to sacrifice by giving us the desires of our hearts. And this is what happened to Jesus, He was given the place of highest honor and the name above all other names.

“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and every tongue confess” is a powerful weapon for those who believe today. When we use His name with authority, Satan, demons and problems have to bow down before us, and confess their defeat. No matter how strong the problem or demon, this passages clearly states that “every” knee will bow. — Your job right now is to decide to copy Jesus’ example, and to use His name with authority and power.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

June 16: The generosity of the poor

Now, friends, I want to report on the surprising and generous ways in which God is working in the churches in Macedonia province. Fierce troubles came down on the people of those churches, pushing them to the very limit. The trial exposed their true colors: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could — far more than they could afford! — pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians. This was totally spontaneous, entirely their own idea, and caught us completely off guard. What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us. The other giving simply flowed out of the purposes of God working in their lives.   (2 Corinthians 8:1-5 — The Message)

Here is a wonderful example of giving. At this time money was being collected from the churches to help members of the church who lived in Judea who were suffering from a famine. The churches in Macedonia pleaded with Paul the apostle for the privilege of helping their suffering brothers and sisters. But the Macedonians were poor themselves, and were suffering severe trials. And yet, in spite of their own troubles they joyfully gave to help others. And the gift they gave was not what Paul expected, but much more. They gave an impossible offering with great joy. No one persuaded them or put pressure on them to give; they did it because they loved Jesus and their fellow-Christians.

What an example for us! So many of the examples of generous giving in the Bible were poor people. This should encourage us to give generously to the Lord. We can't wait until we have a lot to give; we must give now... and give what would be considered a lot in proportion to what we have. Do you think God allowed the Macedonians to remain poor after they had given so generously? No! Impossible! He must have blessed them abundantly. Just a few verses after these, God says, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.”  These people had certainly sown generously, so we know they received a generous harvest from God. When you give like they did, you will also receive great blessings from God. Show Him your faith and your love through your giving.

An interesting note on this passage is Paul’s description of why these people were so generous: “What explains it was that they had first given themselves unreservedly to God and to us…”  When you give yourself completely to God and refuse to hold back, you will, as a natural by-product, feel a desire to give financially for the work of God. We all spend money on things that are important to us, the things we love. And so, because a child of God values God more than anything else he will naturally give to Him, and do it joyfully.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 15: We can't stop speaking about what we've seen

“What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.  But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.”  And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”   (Acts 4:16-20 — New American Standard Bible)

This took place in the early days just after the church began. Peter and John had healed a crippled man who had never walked, and had let it be known that Jesus had healed the man, and that they were only His representatives. Peter and John had also told people about the death and resurrection of Jesus and how He was Savior and Lord. Now the rulers of Israel call them in and command them stop speaking about Jesus. To the rulers’ surprise, these two simple men refuse and say they have to continue to speak about, and heal in the name of Jesus because that is what God has commanded them to do.

There are many lessons in this passage, one being that Christians should obey the law and respect their earthly leaders except when they try and force them to deny God and His Word. But the most important insight of this passage, in my opinion, is the total transformation of Peter. This is the same man that denied Jesus three times after the rooster crowed, and here we see him before the same group of judges that sentenced Jesus to death (the Sanhedrin), except now he stands up to them and is even ready to die for his faith. 

What changed in those three to six months? Why is Peter no longer controlled by fear? Where did this new-found boldness come from? He had been baptized in the Holy Spirit some weeks after Jesus was taken up into the clouds, and from that moment on he became a stronger, bolder, wiser man. When God’s Spirit comes to live in us, we are transformed. It is impossible for us to stay the same.

This total transformation is available to you right now. Unless you are filled with God’s Spirit you will continue to make the same, old mistakes of the past. The same fears that have always blocked you with continue to hold you back from the life of power that God has planned for you. — Don’t forget about the Holy Spirit. Make an effort to be filled with Him, and if you already are, seek to be filled with more of His presence.

Friday, June 14, 2013

June 14: Honor from God

I do not receive honor from men.  But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.  I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.  How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?   (John 5:41-44 — New King James Version)

Jesus’ most powerful and persistent enemies were the Pharisees and Sadducees, the two main religious groups among the Jews.  There were a few good men among them, but practically all of them were men like Jesus describes here.  They did not have the love of God in them; they were not motivated by that at all.  They did not sincerely seek the will of God.  When Jesus came speaking and doing the word and works of God, they were angry and jealous.  They were so far from God that they did not recognize the Son of God when He came.  Their main motivation was self-promotion and receiving the honor and praise of men.  They made no effort to seek God's honor or to please Him.

It’s amazing how much religion, and how much Christianity, is based on the desire for men's praise.  It is frightening to see what so-called Christians accept when it appeals to their pride or exalts them or another human being. 

We have to be different!  We have to seek the honor that comes from God alone.  If God is pleased, then what men think should make no difference to us.  And if we really serve Jesus with all our hearts, and seek only His honor, most people will not be pleased with us.  But what difference does that make?  Jesus said, “I do not receive honor from men!”

Now take a good, hard look at your life.  Are you making every effort you can to receive the honor that comes from God?  Is your goal in life to please the Lord Jesus Christ?  Remember that He once said, “What is highly admired by people is revolting in God's sight,” (HCSB).  In almost every way, the world and its system are opposed to God.  But we are citizens of another Kingdom — of the eternal Kingdom of God.

“How can you believe…?”  The last sentence of this passage suggests that a person’s belief in God is called into question whenever he favors the world’s honor above God’s.  We can say that we are Christians and attend church and even be good people, but if we do not have a drive to seek God’s honor above everything else, we put our eternal salvation at risk.  I know it’s hard.  Ever since we were toddlers we’ve been struggling for recognition and acceptance by the world around us, but God challenges us to go further and seek what will truly transform our lives: the honor of God. — There’s no time like the present to start.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 13: Free from fear

Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.   (Hebrews 2:l4,l5 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

These two verses reveal some amazing truths about Jesus, and the freedom that comes through Him. Since we were flesh and blood, He became flesh and blood like us, and came into this world 2000 years ago to die in our place. That death was the full payment of our sins — all of them — and His resurrection was proof that God had accepted His sacrifice, and that the devil had no power over Him. Amazing, isn’t it?

When you disobey God and do what is wrong you give the devil power over you, and chose the path of death, the end result of sin. But since a pure and innocent God has already paid the price for sin, when you believe in Him and His sacrifice, and start to obey Him, you are forgiven of your sin and escape the devil’s slavery. 

Have you been held in slavery all your life by the fear of death? 

Some people are afraid God will never forgive them… or that they’ll never break the negative cycle they’re in… or that their dreams will never come true… that they aren’t worthy of God, of a good spouse, of happiness… or that they don’t have the faith to overcome sin, bad habits, addiction… or of getting their hopes up only to be disappointed one more time… etc. This passage is not speaking only about physical death, but any kind of death. 

The devil’s greatest weapon is fear, and whenever you give in to it, you’re surrendering to him and allowing his darkness to enter your innermost parts. Fear cannot exist in the presence of faith. True faith is doggedly determined that God is with you and that He will save you from whatever situation you’re in. Faith rejects fear outright. Don’t give in to fear. God has given us too much. — If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  (Romans 8:31-33 — NASB)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

June 12: I cling to You

When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. But those who seek my life to destroy it, will go into the depths of the earth.   (Psalm 63:6-9 — New American Standard)

Most people think they’re doing well if they go to a church once in a while. If they say a prayer once a day, they’re considered spiritual. But this is so far from what God wants. These verses describe what He wants, and the life of a person with the Holy Spirit. God is constantly on this person’s mind. He thinks about God when he goes to bed, and throughout the night he thinks of Him. He sings for joy when he remembers God's protection. He pushes himself to stay close to the Lord Jesus everyday, and because of this closeness, he is safe. His enemies become God's enemies, and are destroyed.

This is the abundant life that Jesus came to give you. When you live in His presence, are filled with a sense of joy because of His love and care, and meditate on His nature and promises — then no real harm can come to you. When you walk with God as a constant companion and friend, when you discuss your life with Him, and tell Him your needs, hopes, and fears — He will reveal Himself to you in amazing ways. You will sense the shadow of His wings and will have the boldness to confront any fear. So don't be satisfied with a dry, ritualistic relationship with God — there is no power in that. Develop a hunger and thirst for Him, change what He asks you to change, and His Spirit will give you His divine nature and power.

This is the kind of life that will affect the people around you. If this is your life, your children and spouse will want what you have. Your friends will be attracted to God through you, or in turn they will totally reject you. But one thing is for sure, once you experience this life you’ll never want to turn back.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 11: Every spiritual blessing in heaven

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved. We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.   (Ephesians 1:3-8 — Holman Christian Standard)

This passage reads like a song of thanksgiving for all that God has done for us. In Jesus Christ we have every spiritual blessing in the heavens — of all the spiritual blessings that exist, we do not lack one. We are holy and blameless in God’s eyes, and have been adopted into His family — God's plan all along. He has not reluctantly adopted us out of pity — He has joyfully and eagerly adopted us out of love, and because He sees potential in us. We have been rescued from the power of darkness, forgiven of all our sins, and lavished with His favor and kindness.

You may be thinking, “My experience of God hasn’t been that rich and rewarding.” But please understand, what God wants for you is rich and incredible — and is available for virtually anyone who makes the effort. But God requires that we act on our faith and grab a hold of what He’s set aside for us. When we put Him first, before everything and everyone else, and place our very best on His altar, God’s power and blessings will be ours. 

If your experience of God has not been that great, ask yourself how much you’ve placed on the altar (life, offerings, tithes, habits, character, past, family, trust, etc.). Sadly, most Christians live far beneath their rights and privileges, only because they give Him so little.

Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10: Are you nothing?

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.   (1 Corinthians 13:1-7 — New American Standard)

Speaking in tongues, prophecy, knowledge, faith to move mountains, giving to the poor, and even martyrdom mean nothing unless we also have love. No matter how talented we are or what gifts God gives to us, loving God and others proves that we really do know Him. Just like God is love, we must also be love.

An interesting test you could make is to substitute your name for the word "love" (or "it") in the last part of this passage. For example: Joe is patient, Joe is kind and is not jealous. Joe does not brag… etc. Think about your life and how you measure up, and ask God to empower you to be all the things that this passage mentions. Unless we are prepared to live out the Word of God, it does us no good to read it. 

Religious busy-work is not love. Simple church-attendance, listening to praise and worship music, wearing Jesus t-shirts, giving offerings — these things are not enough. Real love for God involves obeying Him in the toughest of times when our flesh doesn’t want to; it involves hating the devil and demons and resisting them with every ounce of faith that we have, because no one can love God and not hate the devil; it involves sacrifice, Jesus’ ultimate proof of love; it involves overlooking the faults of others, and at other times rebuking them for their own good. Love is not some gushy, sentimental feeling that comes and goes. Having love means being tough. Real love is living every one of the fifteen things listed in the passage above. — This is the path to a fulfilling and blessed life.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

June 9: Don't worry!

Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.   (Matthew 6:31-33 — New King James Version)

Speaking to His followers, the Lord Jesus tells them not to worry about having enough food, drink, or clothing. Gentiles (unbelievers) spend their time worrying about those things, but God’s people should not because God already knows what we need. No good parent would want his/her children to be worried about what they were going to eat, or where they were going to sleep. We provide for them and make it clear that whenever they need something they can come to us and ask. In the same way — only on a bigger scale — God, as a Father, will provide for His children.

This is an important scripture. It teaches that people of faith should have what they need in life. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are promised food, clothing, a place to live, a job, and whatever else you need. God takes care of His children. When they are poor and unemployed, He is not honored. Poverty is a curse; it is not spiritual. Except when it is a part of being persecuted for our faith in Jesus, it is not God's will for His people. Poverty, like disease and other evils, is something we need to fight against and overcome.

The main point of this passage is priorities. What’s most important? Jesus is teaching His disciples that faith in God, doing His will, and taking hold of our salvation is much more important than the other things of life. If we have God, we will have everything else we need. If we don’t have God, even what we have can be taken away from us at any moment. Many people are physically rich but spiritually poor, and don’t even realize what deep trouble they are in. — Make sure His kingdom and righteousness come first.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

June 8: Our arrest warrant was cancelled

When you were stuck in your old sin–dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive — right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ's Cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.   (Colossians 2:13-15 — The Message)

Before a person finds the Lord Jesus they are dead in their sin. Their disobedience separates them from God, and they are spiritually dead. But through Jesus, God brings a person back to life. He forgives all their sins and nails their “arrest warrant” to the cross. 

Two important things are mentioned in this passage. One is the custom of nailing a list of a crucified person’s crimes over his head. But Jesus was crucified for us, and so it was our crimes and sins that were nailed to His cross. The other thing on Paul the apostle’s mind was the removal of the Law. When Jesus died and rose again, a new covenant began and the old covenant was removed. We are not under the Law of Moses today — a list of dos and don’ts that required continual animal sacrifices — but under the Law of the Spirit. The Law brought condemnation, but Jesus brings life and freedom. Now, through the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us, teaching us how to live, and giving us God’s nature.

The last sentence of this passage refers to what the Lord Jesus did to the negative spiritual forces of this world. Another version of the Bible says it this way:  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him. To “triumph over” means to defeat, beat, conquer, overpower, or to bring someone to their knees — and this is exactly what Jesus did. 

He also disarmed the devil and his demons, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is free from their attacks. A quick look at the world around  you will confirm that that is not the case. Negative spiritual forces are disarmed only for those who have an active faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Sure we go through problems just like anyone else, the only difference is that we are guaranteed of victory as long as we hold tight to our faith and walk in it. — Walk in this triumph.

Friday, June 7, 2013

June 7: Do you have anything against anyone?

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.   (Mark 11:25 — New King James Version)

Prayer is not a Lotto ticket where the lucky one-in-a-million gets the prize — God wants to answer your prayers even more than you want Him to. He has great plans for your life. If you take a close look at the promises of God in the Bible you will be amazed at their scope and power. There is no area of your life that is not covered by God’s promised answers to prayer. He is interested in every area of your life. It’s hard to comprehend why, but that’s God for you.

The Word of God encourages, even demands, that we believe in the miraculous. Moving mountains, controlling rainfall, healing the sick, freeing people from years of oppression, and influencing governments and world events are just a few of the many recorded ways that prayer changed things in the Bible. There is no limit to what can be accomplished by prayer.

And yet, there is something that will cause our prayers to have no effect — unforgiveness. In fact, this may block more prayers than anything else. No matter what people have done to you, how unjust their treatment, how much they hurt you, you cannot hold bitterness in your heart. Why not? Won’t I be allowing that person to get away scot-free? God knows how destructive unforgiveness is, not to the other person, but to you. If someone needs to be punished, let God take care of it. (Of course, when it comes to legal matters a person may have to pay for their crimes.) 

The important thing is that you stay free from the oppressive, enslaving influence of unforgiveness — it makes us obsess about the past, it makes us bitter and negative, it clouds our judgment and blocks us from seeing the good in other people, and unforgiveness causes us to lug around unnecessary baggage for years of our lives. — It’s your decision. If you want your prayers to be answered, you know what you have to do. And another thing, don’t wait to feel like forgiving, otherwise you’ll never get around to it.