Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 30: God vs. money

Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.  (1 Timothy 6:17-19 — New Living Translation)

Here we see the Holy Spirit telling pastors to tell their financially rich members not to be proud and not to put their trust in the money they have. Riches can be easily lost, and are unable to make people secure or happy or to give them eternal life. Only God is worthy of a person's total trust; only God can provide for us now and throughout eternity.

Those who have wealth are also commanded to do good with their money, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share their wealth with those who are in need. We are only caretakers of the good things that God gives us, and are expected to be careful in the way we use them. What I have, I need to use for the glory of God and to help others. Money, health, abilities, time, strength, knowledge — we need to use all these things in a carefully, prayerful, humble way.

When we do what is right, when we obey God… we are preparing ourselves for heaven. Using money to help others, especially when it has a chance to bring them to Jesus, is an investment in heaven, in something permanent, unlike any other investment! The various types of sacrifices we make for Jesus have the ability to rescue the lost, and will make a huge difference in this world. We should be “storing up treasure in the future", not on earth. Just as Jesus sacrificed Himself to save us, we can sacrifice ourselves to save and help others. What a privilege!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 29: More blessed than His mother

As He was saying these things, a woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “The womb that bore You and the one who nursed You are blessed!” He said, “Even more, those who hear the word of God and keep it are blessed."  (Luke 11:27,28 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

A woman is so filled with gratitude for Jesus and His ministry that she shouts out a blessing on His mother. But Jesus immediately corrects her and pronounces a blessing instead on all who hear and keep the word of God. Jesus constantly emphasizes this in His teaching. Both Old and New Testament agree that the real test of a person is whether or not he or she obeys God. Race, nationality, ancestry, or the people you know is not what makes the difference — but rather our faith and obedience. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Jesus also said that if we love Him we will obey His word.

Don't allow feelings or wonderful experiences in church to trick you into a false sense of security. No one is perfect, no one hears God’s voice and keeps the Word of God all the time and in every way, but we have to make a real effort at hearing and obeying in a perfect way. No one can be blessed by God when he is lazy about obedience. But if we live by faith and trying our very best to do God’s will, we are as close and as beloved to Jesus as His own mother!

What if you decided to make a test for one week. This is what you could do: decide to hear God every single time He speaks to you, and keep His Word every time you are faced with a choice. If you decide to do this, watch out, it’s harder than you might think, but so rewarding.

Monday, October 28, 2013

October 28: Satan’s diguise

For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no great thing if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their destiny will be according to their works.  (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Camouflage and disguise are tools that armies and governments use to hide from the enemy, or infiltrate their borders. Stealth technology has been one of the most popular types of technology in recent years, and every 10 or 20 years the government spends millions of dollars on research to design a new and better camouflage for its military. The element of surprise that camouflage and disguise provide are powerful weapons that no government, army, or spy network can afford to ignore.

If we do not understand that the devil and demons use the same tactics we will suffer terrible defeats, and maybe even our salvation. The devil and demons disguise themselves as angels of light, as the Holy Spirit, as the presence of God, as God’s voice… and various other things. This is why we cannot be naïve and accept or believe in something just because it has a look of being from God. We need to test the spirit behind people’s words and life to make sure they are who they say they are.

You know a tree by its fruit, Jesus said. This goes for people, organizations, and our own lives. Our appearance can be great, but what counts is the fruit of our lives. — Don’t be deceived.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 27: What do you want?

That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!” Solomon replied, “You showed faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued your faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne. Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?” The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies — I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! And I will also give you what you did not ask for — riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life.”  (1 Kings 3:5-13 — New Living Translation)

Solomon was at a critical phase in his life. King David, considered Israel’s greatest king, had just died and he was expected to fill his father’s shoes and take over as king. His sense of inadequacy made him do a very wise thing that we, many times, fail to do: he turned to God for help. Instead of firing his father’s advisers and hiring his own, organizing an impressive inauguration ceremony, and insisting that everyone listen to him or suffer the consequences… he appealed to God.

Amazingly God appeared to him and offered to give him whatever he asked for, and when his request please God, He decided to give him even what he did not ask for. I’m sure some of you may be thinking, “I wish God would do that to me. Why doesn’t God offer to give me whatever I want?” It’s important to remember that God is the same, He doesn’t change, and what He did with Solomon He is ready to do today with us. But a secret to Solomon’s request was that he asked for wisdom — not for himself — but to be a good leader for God’s people. Many times that’s where we fall short. We are selfish in our requests, and forget about using what God gives us to help others.

Another secret to Solomon’s request is what he did right beforehand God spoke to him — he gave God an offering of 1000 bulls. Sure, he was rich, a prince, who had lived in a palace his entire life, but the number of bulls or the amount of money they represented is not the point. The point is that right after he made this offering, God appeared to him and asked him that question. Clearly God had been impressed — Solomon’s actions had caused God to reaction. Are 1000 bulls impressive to God? Not really. He owns all the bulls in the world. What was it that grabbed God’s attention then? It was the message that Solomon sent by doing that — he must have made God feel special, to feel needed, to feel that he treasured Him much more than all those animals.

Whenever we give God something precious, whether it is possessions, time, money, or effort, He will respond. What Solomon did was not about money or possessions, or buying God’s favor — he was simply communicating to God that he needed His help, that he felt like “a little child who doesn’t know his way around” and needed someone greater to help him. We normally only exert effort, or spend time or money on the things we value or consider important, and Solomon’s gift clearly communicated that to God, and brought the desired result.

Think about this. What could you do to make God feel important and valuable? Solomon did not just make a prayer for God’s help, he acted, he did something that cost him much more than words, and this is what God is waiting for us to do.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

October 26: Don’t throw it away

So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised.  (Hebrews 10:35,36 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

This passage was written to people who were in danger of turning away from the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit spoke to them through the author of Hebrews and basically said, "Don’t tum back —refuse to give up. You have a rich reward waiting for you but you can’t let Satan deceive you, or evil men seduce you." Strength of character is a quality that enables us to stand our ground in the hardest of times, but it only comes by way of endurance. 

It can’t be merely prayed for, nor can it be bought. A person only develops strength of character when they go through the deserts of life. What we believe or do on a particular day or week is not what counts with God, but rather what we do and believe for the rest of our lives, no matter the circumstances. It’s the transformed people we become that counts more than anything else with Him.

What kind of person do you choose to be? A marathon runner that refuses to give up, and insists on finishing the race, or a runner that drops out at the first sign of trouble? God is searching for people that He can reward greatly, but He will only consider people of people of confidence and endurance. If those two words do not describe you right now, don’t be discouraged… this passage was still written for you. God doesn’t expect you to be problem free or perfect, but He does want you to trust Him and refuse to give up. — Decide that you will, from this day on, be a person of confidence and endurance for God.

Friday, October 25, 2013

October 25: Good things to those who ask

Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him. (Matthew 7:7-11 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

These encouraging and inspiring words were spoken by Jesus Christ the Son of God. The One who came from the Father, who knows the Father in heaven perfectly, and who can speak only the truth — He is the One who is teaching us these things and promising these blessings! There can be no question about the truth of these words. Furthermore, there are thousands upon thousands of people who can testify to the fact that they have found by actual experience these promises to be true. People in all kinds of situations have found that God answers prayer. That is the main truth that Jesus is proclaiming here: "Your Father in heaven gives good things to those who ask Him!"

But you have to ask! How few people really pray! They think they can manage on their own, or they don't really believe prayer does anything, or they "don't want to bother God" with their problems. Some people will "make a stab" at praying for a couple days, but soon give up. Praying properly and effectively takes faith, trust, and determination. Jesus states that God is a better Father and a more generous Father than any earthly father. If you believe that with all your heart, then there is no limit to what you can receive or what you can accomplish through prayer!

Decide right now that you are going to quit doubting and really trust God! Start doing what He says in these verses. Ask God for what you need, and what you want to see in other people's lives. Seek for what you need from God and ways that you can help Him answer your prayers. Knock and keep on knocking until God opens the door!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

October 24: Bragging in the Lord

God's Message: "Don't let the wise brag of their wisdom. Don't let heroes brag of their exploits. Don't let the rich brag of their riches. If you brag, brag of this and this only: That you understand and know me. I'm God, and I act in loyal love. I do what's right and set things right and fair, and delight in those who do the same things. These are my trademarks." God's Decree.  (Jeremiah 9:23,24 — The Message)

Our lives on earth can revolve around many different things — money, family, health, wisdom, success,  accomplishments, possessions, pleasure — but only one thing is truly important, that we know God. Nothing else matters.

This passage is a warning against pride. We all have this problem, especially those of us with an extra dose of intelligence, accomplishments, riches, or good looks. But we should all remember that any good thing that we have is a gift from God, and our response should be gratefulness and a desire to use what we have to help and encourage others to know God. Today’s passage warns anyone with wisdom, exploits, and riches against boasting and pride. 

After some time all those earthy things will be burned up and the only thing left will be the spiritual accomplishments we have achieved. However, the man or woman who knows God and trusts in Him will live forever — they are laying up treasures for themselves in heaven. They live under God's constant care and protection now, and have eternity to look forward to. So avoid at any cost the terrible mistake of boasting about yourself and trusting in things that are unable to guarantee your future. And don’t let pride and boasting have any place in your lives. God resists and humbles the proud. “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October 23: Build your life on this

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it… The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world… The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:1-5,9,14 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

An important title of the Lord Jesus Christ is "The Word". In the original Greek of the New Testament, it is "logos". This is not the ordinary term for "word", but a special term used by the Greeks and Jews of that time to refer to the source of all order and power in the universe. Guided by the Holy Spirit, John refers to Jesus as the "Logos". He is the Source of all things, the Creator of the universe, the Giver of life and light, and the Savior of the world.

The "Logos" was with God the Father from the very beginning — just as God the Father is eternal, has no beginning and no end, so is Jesus. He is God the Son. "Son of God" is one more title of Jesus, but should not be understood to imply that He is a created being. "Son" refers to His close relationship with the Father, just as "Firstborn” communicates His exalted position of authority. By the way, King David, Israel, and present day believers are also referred to as the firstborn of God… as people with exalted positions.

The gospel of John was the last gospel to be written, and unlike the other three, is not so much a retelling of Jesus’ life as it is a powerful statement of His godliness. Every chapter presents evidence — actions or words — of His divine nature and authority. Like we see in the first chapter (today’s passage) John’s message is that Jesus is God, nothing was created apart from Him, He brings life and light, His light cannot be overcome by the darkness of Satan, demons, or the problems of life, and that eternal salvation comes through Him. 

What could be more important? These concepts need to form the base of our lives and faith. Think about them, reread this passage, spend time meditating on it, and let it strengthen the inner core of your life.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 22: Metamorphosis

Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1,2 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

True worship is not confined to singing and prayer in church on Sunday morning, or to listening to music on your favorite Christian radio station, instead it is the way we live our lives. Anyone can sing and clap their hands in church, or repeat “hallelujahs” — its relatively easy to do that. But what really proves our love and devotion to God is living the way He wants us to live. Like the passage above says, that requires sacrifice — giving to the point of pain and discomfort. 

Many Christians use church as a way to soothe their consciences. They attend on Sundays, sing, listen to the message, and participate in prayers, and say hi to their “brothers” and “sisters”, but when they leave they continue to live their lives in the exact same way. They do not apply the message they heard. They have a compartmentalized view of their lives — during church meetings they act one way, and when they are at home or work they revert to the way they really are. They make sacrifices, but never for God, only for themselves. But because they appear in church every week they deceive themselves into thinking that God is please with them and that they are saved. They assume, “I’m a faithful church member, and a good person, how could I not go to heaven when I die?” But true faith in God has to be consistent, it has to be a way of life. We can’t put on and take off our faith and Christianity like a jacket, it has to be as permanent as our own skin.

Today’s passage speaks about not being conformed to this age, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds. The word “renewing” comes from the Greek word for metamorphosis. Like a caterpillar goes through a metamorphosis and becomes a butterfly, we need to allow God to transform our nature on a permanent basis. But this change, at least the part we have to do, is brought about through the mind. Our hearts cannot make this change; only reason, based on the Word of God, can do that. — This is the secret to a truly happy, strong life.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21: Lost sheep

All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to Him. And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” So He told them this parable: “What man among you, who has 100 sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’ I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous people who don’t need repentance."  (Luke 15:1-7 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

This parable and two others right after it are directed at the Pharisees and scribes, the religious hypocrites of the day that were constantly criticizing Jesus. Throughout the gospels this group of people is mentioned again and again; they were a permanent thorn in Jesus’ side. — The fact that the gospels mention this group of people so frequently is a sign that they will always be with us. Just as Jesus was attacked by religious hypocrites, true believers today can expect the same treatment. This should not cause us to feel afraid or sad… it is a sign of genuine faith in God.

When a person accepted an invitation to eat at another person’s house in ancient times, it was a sign that he accepted that person, and for this reason the Pharisees complained that Jesus ate with sinners. They were implying that Jesus accepted the sin of those sinners, when in fact His purpose was to reach out to sinners and save them. He hated sin but loved the sinner, a concept the Pharisees could not understand because their faith in God was only a shell.

The parable in this passage is a tender description of how eager God is to set aside everything in order to save a lost person. If we do not have the same attitude, if helping a lost person to find the Lord Jesus does not excite us, we have to question the validity of our relationship with Him. This is our mission in life. If we accomplish anything, it should be to secure our own salvation, our family’s, and that of people around us.

I challenge you to do something to save lost people this week. Reach out to friends, neighbors, strangers, co-workers, family members… anyone. But be sure to do what Jesus did: welcome sinners and eat with them. By this I mean do something to win over their confidence, to speak on their level, to touch a nerve. Sometimes Christians speak to others and drive them further away from God; don’t do this. Speak their language, show acceptance but not approval of their sin, and show them how knowing God will bring them true life and happiness.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20: Live as temporary residents

Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you. Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.  (1 Peter 2:11,12 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

I love the way Peter refers to our life on earth: strangers and temporary residents. It is such a powerful concept for me. This earth is not our home; we are strangers here, traveling to our eternal home, heaven. Because of this we can’t live like everyone else, we have to abstain from much of what people around us are doing. We live in the world but cannot allow ourselves to be contaminated by it, or to make it our primary goal. Heaven, God, and faith are our treasures, not this world.

The problem is that many of us do not understand that we are at war with the devil, demons, fleshly desires, and our emotions. If we don’t consciously rise up and do battle against this world, it will defeat us. It’s so clear that the devil and his demons are working every single day. We’re constantly attacked with old and new temptations. The devil doesn’t rest, and doesn’t give up, and so we have to be even more determined and persistent in our faith. The more we can remind ourselves that we are in a war, the safer we will be.

It’s a war that has already been won; our job is to make Jesus’ victory our own.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October 19: God is near

The Lord is righteous in all His ways and gracious in all His acts. The Lord is near all who call out to Him, all who call out to Him with integrity. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry for help and saves them. The Lord guards all those who love Him, but He destroys all the wicked. (Psalm 145:17-20 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

The pairing of righteous and gracious in the beginning of this passage reveals two extremes of God’s character. He is righteous and holy, hates sin and the devil, and yet is gracious in all His actions. He hates the sin of the sinner with every fiber of His being but is ready to forgive that very same sinner and welcome him into His family. This is not a contradiction, it is merely a sign of how impressive God is. No one word can describe the entire spectrum of a person’s character, neither can one word ever completely describe God. When people view Him only as a judge that demands perfection and who will at some point in the future condemn people to hell, they do Him a great disservice because He is also a friend that is ready to forgive any sin, and who believes in us far, far more than we believe in ourselves.

When people complain that God doesn’t answer prayer, the true problem does not lie with God but with them. Like this short passage plainly states three different times, God hears peoples’ prayers and saves them, but asks us to approach Him in a specific way. When we make an effort to be people of integrity — honest and good — God straight up says that He will run to our side and answer our prayers. He doesn’t promise to answer every cry immediately, or after only one prayer, at times He wants us to persist in what we want before he will answer us, but all through the Bible this message is repeated over and over again, God answers people when they cry out to Him. He rescues those who are making an attempt at pleasing Him. 

Let this passage be a source of strength and encouragement to you today. God is both righteous and gracious. He is not our enemy. His arms are constantly open to us. He is never too busy to hear and respond to our cry. He is more eager for our prayers to be answered than we are, but we have to do it in the proper way. God does not demand perfection, but He does insist on honesty and a genuine effort to do what is right. — So let’s get busy and get some answered prayers.

Friday, October 18, 2013

October 18: Even greater works

I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.  (John 14:12-14 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Jesus' life and work were miraculous from beginning to end. Healing the sick, driving out demons, calming the storm, giving sight to the blind, raising the dead, walking on the water — these were the everyday experiences of the Lord the Jesus. And yet, whatever He did, He taught His disciples to do also. He gave them the power and authority to do exactly what He did. There were several times that they didn’t rise to the challenge — they baulked at feeding the 5000, the nine could not cast out the demon of epilepsy from a boy, Peter was walking on the water until he sank — but each and every time it was their own lack of faith, not God unwillingness to use them.

After Jesus left this world the disciples rose to the challenge in an amazing way and virtually turned the world upside down with their message and miracles. They raised the dead, healed the sick, cast out demons, had prison doors open for them, and preached a message that saved souls and changed lives. Being baptized in the Holy Spirit changed them from confused, sometimes fearful men, into bold and determined world-changers.

Today’s passage says that we can do the same works that Jesus did, and even greater works, if we believe in Him. What does that mean? How could we do greater things than Jesus? We are not greater than God. 

We can understand this is several ways. There are more of us today; there could potentially be thousands of people filled with the same Spirit as Jesus performing His works, not only in Israel, but around the world. Today we have radio, TV, the internet, air travel, printed Bibles, and literature that are able to reach the masses in a way that Jesus never could, and so in these ways we can do more than he did — but we have to remember that it is His power at work in us, so it is really Jesus doing it.

But we can and should take this passage literally, in the sense that Jesus wants us to do the same miracles, and even greater ones by allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us. We never heard of Jesus’ shadow healing the sick as he walked by, and yet in the book of Acts it says that Peter’s shadow did. Jesus never preached to Caesar, and yet Paul did. In the same way, we need to have the audacity and boldness to see incredibly great things through our faith, all in the name of saving souls and bringing glory to the Father.

If we are truly humble, we will accept Jesus’ words, say “Yes Sir!”, and decide to do even greater things than our Lord Jesus did.

October 17: Fortunetelling + séances

When you enter the land that God, your God, is giving you, don't take on the abominable ways of life of the nations there. Don't you dare sacrifice your son or daughter in the fire. Don't practice divination, sorcery, fortunetelling, witchery, casting spells, holding séances, or channeling with the dead. People who do these things are an abomination to God. It's because of just such abominable practices that God, your God, is driving these nations out before you. (Deuteronomy 18:9-13 — The Message)

Ancient pagan customs around the time that these words were written actually demanded that a son or daughter be burned to death as a sacrifice so that his/her parents could have their future revealed to them, or to receive the help of some spirit or god. Still today fortunetelling, psychics, séances, Ouija boards, communicating with people “on the other side” and other forms of witchcraft and the occult have a healthy following. In fact, this section in bookstores is commonly larger than the Christian section. In the Old Testament, King Saul asked for the help of a medium after he had turned away from God and insisted on doing things his own way. The next day he and his sons died in battle (1 Samuel 28). 

Why does God hate these practices? Because they’re all based on an attempt to sidestep God’s revelation and will for our lives. God has never been, and will never be content to be one god among many; He is the only God and insist that we recognize Him as such. Any dabbling in witchcraft and the occult communicates that we feel He is not enough, that we don’t trust Him, that someone or something can give us more that He can. If God has not communicated to us what our future holds, then that information must not be necessary at this time, and we should put our total trust in Him knowing that He will tell us what we need to know.

The majority of people in the US do not come into contact with mediums and witches on a regular basis. But almost everyone celebrates Halloween and views it as a lot of harmless fun. Who doesn’t like getting dressed up in a costume and wearing a mask? Except what this holiday glorifies are demons, zombies, ghosts, vampires, witches, cemeteries, hangings, etc. Children dress up as the devil or as witches, and are rewarded with candy for doing so. The pumpkins on our front door steps are an old tradition from the British Isles when pumpkins were carved with scary faces and candles placed inside in the belief that they would ward off spirits of the dead that had slipped into this world for a short time. This holiday is a clever, undercover way for the devil to infiltrate our lives and have us treat a very serious, dangerous subject as harmless. For some Christians demons are a fairytale, but the real truth is that demons are a very real, constant threat in this world, not something to laugh at or play around with.

Your kids may complain if you decide not to participate in Halloween, but God calls us to be different, to follow Him and value the things He values. (We will ask the kids in our Kids Zone to wear a costume the Sunday before Halloween… something from nature or a character from the Bible.)

God communicates with each one of us every single day, various times a day. The Holy Spirit is beside you right now, or inside of you, and He is there to guide and direct you. Why would any of us need the stars when we can speak to the One who made them? Concentrate on hearing God’s voice. Learn what it sounds like. Tune into His voice and tune out the voices of the world.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October 16: "No" to slavery

Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery. Take note! I, Paul, tell you that if you get yourselves circumcised, Christ will not benefit you at all….. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through love.  (Galatians 5:1-6 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

These verses contrast the freedom and salvation of the Lord Jesus with the bondage and lostness of religion and human effort. The people that Paul is writing to had formerly tried to save themselves by keeping the commandments and traditions of the Jewish Law — circumcision, avoiding certain foods, not touching certain things, etc. The Law had been given by God to lead the Jewish people to Jesus and real salvation. After Jesus had come to earth there was no more need for the Law. Salvation was now in Jesus, not in the Law of Moses.

And yet, many were tied to traditions and laws, and were convinced that they could save themselves by following the Law. They didn’t believe that Jesus alone was the way of salvation. In their opinion it was: Jesus + the Law + Tradition = Salvation. But Paul the apostle insisted that the truth is: Jesus + 0 = Salvation. Anything other than Jesus leads to bondage and a loss of the freedom we have in Him. What God wants is genuine faith in Jesus that manifests itself in obedience and following Him.

These people were in danger of deserting Jesus and going back to their old ways. Paul said plainly that if they start trusting in obedience to the Law for salvation, they would be separated from the Lord Jesus and would end up lost. Jesus is the One and Only Savior. Obedient faith in Him is what saves. We cannot save ourselves by obedience to the Law or by good works. No religion can save you — only the Lord Jesus can.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 15: Trust = health + strength

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths. Don’t consider yourself to be wise; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. This will be healing for your body and strengthening for your bones.  (Proverbs 3:5-8 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Trust is not a feeling, it’s a conscious decision to depend on God — a decision of our minds. Trust involves intelligent faith, a faith that reasons, thinks things through, and decides that God is worthy of trust based on His promises, what He’s done in other people’s lives, and what He’s done in our lives. This passage tells us not to rely on our own understanding. Like a person would lean on a tree, or a child rely on his parents, we are to consciously depend on God instead of our own understanding. This always involves being tough with our emotions. And though this passage tells us to trust in God “with all your heart”, in this context “heart” would mean the core of our being instead of the center of our emotions. Emotions do not give rise to trust. 

It’s so easy to consider ourselves wise, and to rely on our own understanding. Because we’ve lived through certain situations it’s easy to think that we are experts on how things work, and can even dismiss the promises of God in favor of our experiences. If some people could put their experiences on one side of a scale and God’s Word on the other, the side of their experiences would weigh more. But we need to remember that God and His Word are always right, unlike our experiences. If anything is faulty, it would have to be our experience and memory rather than the Word of God.

Trust in God = healing to our bodies + strength to our bones. I wonder how many people are in bad health as a direct result of their lack of trust in God. Heart problems, ulcers, strokes, high blood pressure, insomnia… it’s fairly easy to link these and other health problems to a person’s lack of trust in God. But just like Jesus came healing the sick and setting people free, God’s will is for us not even to get to the point of being sick. Trust in God is crucial not only for salvation, but for a quality life on earth.

Monday, October 14, 2013

October 14: Don’t take the credit

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 — English Standard Version)

The dictionary defines “grace” this way: the free and unmerited favor of God. Before any of us turned to God or had done anything good, He saw potential in us, was determined to save us, and had a deep desire to make our lives into something great. In the third chapter of the Bible — at the very beginning of things — God spoke to the serpent and said, “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel”, in a sign that even then God had known that Jesus would go to the cross to save mankind. Before we had been born, or done any good or bad, He had already decided to pay the highest price to win us back.

We cannot save ourselves. We could never do enough good to make up for our sins and rebellion, and since we can never reach a state of perfection, salvation based on our own behavior would be impossible. But even if we were perfect, good works do not save anyone. We are saved by faith, and yet even faith is a gift from God. So whichever way you cut it, there is no room for any of us to boast. We are saved through God’s inexhaustible mercy and compassion.

This does not mean that we can sit around and do nothing, waiting for God to do everything. We have to choose to use the faith that He placed in us, and to humble ourselves before Him. We have to daily choose to obey God and take up our cross and follow Him. There are many things that God will not do for us, that He is expecting us to do — but in relation to what God has done, our part is so small.

Rolls-Royce is a brand of car famous for it’s high quality workmanship, and in the same way, children of God should be known for their quality of life. We are His workmanship, His masterpieces, His works of art, the Rolls-Royces of humanity. No matter how bad our lives were before we found Him, we should be examples in this world of what God can do, that he is a God that does the impossible.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October 13: Talk about them

Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

The first two sentences of this passage are what Jews call the “Shema” — the basic confession of faith in Judaism — and you might remember that Jesus quoted these verses in three of the Gospels. This advice is just as pertinent today as it was back in the time of Moses. The Lord is One… there is only one God. This may seem insensitive and proud to some, but how can we say that there are many gods and that all religions  are good? The Bible clearly states that there is one Creator and one Savior, and without Him a person cannot be saved. Because of this, we cannot be afraid to stick to our guns about the truth, but at the same time have love and compassion for those who have not yet accepted the truth for themselves.

There is only one correct response to God: total devotion. When this passage says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength,” I don’t think the word “love” refers to emotion and professions of love, but rather to making the choice to be completely devoted to Him, to put Him first… heart, soul, and strength. True love involves feelings and passion but is far more than that, it is selfless, caring, faithful, and obedient. True love for God communicates that He is our treasure by the way we live our lives.

We naturally speak about things that interest us — flowerbeds, football, cars, children, marriage, friendships — and if God is number one in our lives we should naturally spend time talking about Him to our children, spouses, and friends. If you’ve “fallen in love” with someone and are thinking about marriage, but he/she never talks about you to any of his/her friends or family, you would immediately take several steps back and reevaluate the entire relationship. If we truly love God He will constantly be on our minds, and we will love talking about Him.

Years after these verses were written the Jews began to take them literally; men began to wear phylacteries (boxes containing passages of Scripture) whenever they prayed. They would tie these boxes on their foreheads and arms, and still do so today. They also attached “mezuzahs” (boxes containing passages of Scripture) to the doorposts of their houses, and still do today. But God did not necessarily mean this when He spoke these words. He wants His Word to be foremost in our thoughts, and to be a apart of everything that we are and do. He knows that Satan and his demons are at war with us and that they also use words: lies, doubt, and words of confusion. The words we fill our minds and hearts with are the deciding factor in whether we win or lose the war for our souls. Our children are a particular target of the devil and his demons. If we value God’s Word we will have the tools to fight and win, but if we don’t, the devil’s words will prevail. — Let’s be bold and diligent in filling our lives with His words.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

October 12: A lifetime of favor

I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me. You refused to let my enemies triumph over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health. You brought me up from the grave, O Lord. You kept me from falling into the pit of death. Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.  (Psalm 30:1-5 — New Living Translation)

We live in a world that is under a curse, that is in rebellion against God. Jesus even called Satan the prince of this world. So it’s no wonder that trouble is everywhere, that disease and sickness attack us, that weeping and pain are everywhere. But this passage of scripture is a cry of triumph. David exclaims, “I will exalt you, Lord”, because He had healed him from what seems to have been a deadly disease. The weeping of a night had been transformed into rejoicing in the morning.

This victorious experience of David is no isolated example. Millions of God's people who lived in the past, and others who are alive today, could say the same thing. These words may even sound like they were written for you — about your own experience with God. Throughout the Bible we read about people who were lifted out of pits, and who were delivered from their enemies. This happens not just once in a Christian's life, but as many times as we find ourselves in deep trouble or threatened with death.

Don't give up hope, and don't let your faith weaken! No matter what is happening to you now, faith in the Lord Jesus will enable you to triumph. The dark cloud is going to lift — the night of weeping will pass — you will see the salvation of the Lord. Your enemies — seen or unseen — will be defeated. God will not let them gloat over you. If you belong to Jesus, you are God's child!

Don’t believe the lie that God’s anger lasts forever. David states a truth that many of us would do well to take to heart. He says that His anger lasts a moment… Not days, months, or years, but a moment. His favor lasts a lifetime and His anger a moment. Unfortunately many people turn this verse around and live their lives thinking that God is constantly angry at them. I have seen men and women in their 60s and 70s who have thought that God was angry with them their entire lives! What a waste. So much unnecessary guilt. — Take God’s word for it. When you make a mistake. Repent, ask for forgiveness, change… and then decide He is no longer angry at you and that His favor has now kicked in.

Friday, October 11, 2013

October 11: We used to be nobodies

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9,10 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

What you think of yourself has a great influence on what you can do, and what God can do with you. A well known example of this is what happened when the people of Israel sent spies into the land of Canaan. They had been promised the land of Canaan by God, and been told that He would give them victory over all their enemies. But when the spies came back, most of them were afraid and said, “To ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and we must have seemed the same to them.” God was ready to give them total victory over their enemies, but they had no faith and thought of themselves as nothing. As a result they failed.

Today’s passage reveals what and who we are in God’s eyes. Forget about what you think you are… and listen to God. If you genuinely believe in the Lord Jesus you are part of the chosen people of God. That means God has chosen you — you are special to Him. When we talk about choice fruit or meat, or a choice piece of property, we’re referring to something very different from the ordinary — and you are very different from ordinary people because you are chosen. We are a royal priesthood — royal because we are sons and daughters of the King — and priests because we have access to the very presence of God. We are a holy nation — God's nation. Our nationality may be this or that, but what is really important is our citizenship in God's Kingdom.

Our purpose in the world is to show the glory of God — to let His light shine. We have a relationship with Jesus, the King of kings, that no one else has. Our prayers are listened to and are answered. God's Holy Spirit lives in some of us, and others are working at reaching that point. We are the people of God Almighty — chosen, holy, and destined to reign with Jesus. In the past we were nobodies, but now, through Him, we are recipients of all the wonderful blessings of the Lord Jesus.

So stop wasting time and start viewing yourself the way God does… and make a difference in this world.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

October 10: On wings like eagles

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.  (Isaiah 40:28-31 — New Living Translation)

All around us in this world we see change; nothing remains the same. Great political and social changes have come in our life times. The things we thought were more or less permanent have disintegrated before our very eyes. Some things perhaps have gotten better, but most things are worse. The person who has money now, may not have it next year. The man who seems to be in good health today, might well be in the grave in a few months. Nations, economies, financial empires, employment, friendships, etc., etc. are not things we can depend on.

There is no security for us in this world unless we trust in the everlasting God. He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He does not grow old, nor is He ever tired and weary. All the wisdom of the universe is at His disposal. And this great and infinite God is willing to be our Father and our Hope and Security. He gives strength to those who are weary and have reached the end of their human strength. If we trust Him we will always have what we need. Around us wise and strong people will weaken and fail, but we will not fail because our trust is in Almighty God.

This passage promises that we will soar high on wings like eagles and run and not grow weary. When you see a true Christian, you will see a man or woman who has resources of strength, wisdom, and power that other people do not have. You will see a person who is secure and immovable in a changing and chaotic world. Are you this kind of person? Is your trust and security in the Living God?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October 9: Conquering evil

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.  (Romans 12:17-21 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

The advice in these passages is so opposite to the way we normally think and act, only God would ask us to react this way. This type of behavior does not show weakness, it’s not a surrender to evil and bad people, instead these reactions show a refusal to give in to evil or to copy its reactions. To do what this passage tells us to do, we would have to rise above the evil behavior of people around us, and choose to do what pleases God — knowing that He would deal with their behavior.

The most powerful statement in this passage is: “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” We fight with different weapons. We use truth, faith, hope, the word of God, and the name of Jesus to conquer the powers of darkness. Think about what your enemy needs, and then give it to him. Do it with prayer and a genuine desire to see him change for the better, but act toward him as a person that is compelled by the love of God. Let light conquer darkness through you.

We would never do this because we’re afraid of our enemies or because we’re weak, or because we our beliefs and convictions cave in to pressure. No, we do this because we’re convinced that God is much stronger than the devil, that truth is more powerful than lies, and that goodness will eventually triumph over evil. Above all, love is the most powerful attitude in the world. God proved His love through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and that love enables people to draw close to Him. We can also draw others to God by loving the person and hating the demons working through them.

When we obey God and allow Him to deal with evil, wicked people — instead of getting back at them ourselves — this passage says that we heap fiery coals on their heads. The idea behind this is that whenever people refuse to respond to our forgiving and patient behavior, they will suffer guilt, embarrassment, shame, the criticism of others, sleepless nights, and so forth as a way of getting them to the point of surrendering to God. He wants us to fight evil spirits and to hate the devil, but when it comes to human beings God wants us to remember where we came from, and to pray for them to be saved. — You have a lot of work to do, so get busy working on your enemies!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October 8: Streams of living water

On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been received because Jesus had not yet been glorified.  (John 7:37-39 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Jesus spoke these words on the last day of a 7-day festival called the Feast of Tabernacles — one of the three most important Jewish religious festivals of each year. People would live in makeshift shelters for those seven days to remind them of how God took care of their ancestors as they travelled in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. On that last day, the people would march around the temple altar seven times in memory of the victory at Jericho, as the priest would pour water that had been taken from the Pool of Siloam from a golden pitcher onto the altar, in memory of when water flowed out of the rock in the wilderness. 

Jesus might have cried out at the very moment that the priest was pouring the water on the altar, and if so, it must have been a very dramatic moment. But even if it wasn’t at that exact instant, what Jesus declared could not be misinterpreted. He made it clear that He was the answer to people’s needs, and that the Holy Spirit would not only quench people’s thirst, but would become a stream of living water flowing from within them. The Jews had already been planning to kill Jesus in the days leading up to this festival, and these words must have made them even more furious. But for those who had open hearts, those words must have been like a bolt of lightning; those words must have given them the hope that God cared and had huge blessings reserved for them. They did not need to look to the past to see the greatness of God’s power, He was ready to work in their day.

What Jesus implies in this passage is that anyone without the baptism in the Holy Spirit is thirsty, whether they realize it or not. Nutritionists say that we need to drink at least 8 cups of water a day, and that most people will unknowingly turn to food when their body is really crying out for water. In exactly the same way, people try to satisfy their spiritual thirst with all sorts of things from this world — alcohol, drugs, sex, video games, family, marriage after marriage, money, possessions, etc. — when the only thing that will truly quench our thirst is the Holy Spirit. But even that is not enough for God, He wants to create a stream of living water inside of us so that we will never be thirsty ever again. What an amazing reality that is! If we’re not pushing everything to the side and concentrating all our efforts on getting His Spirit, we don’t really know what a good thing is.

Monday, October 7, 2013

October 7: Our purpose in life

The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.  (1 John 3:8 — New American Standard Bible)

In a nut shell, this was the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ when He came to earth. He came to pay the price for our sins so we could be forgiven, and to be an example of how to live for God, but for any of that to be done the work of the devil had to be destroyed… one version of the Bible translates is as “undo the work of the devil”. What Adam lost in the Garden — purity, obedience to God, friendship with Him — Jesus, the second Adam, restored to mankind.

The way the large majority of Christians live today you would think Jesus’ primary mission on earth was praise and worship, or being doctrinally correct, or fighting for civil rights, or to write super-popular but watered down books. So few Christians feel driven to confront the devil or to undo his work — neither in their lives nor in the many people around them. Many even blame their suffering and disappointments on God, as if there were no devil.

If this is why Jesus appeared, it should also be our mission in life. We should identify how the devil and his demons have been targeting us and our family and then set about undoing that work as quickly as we can. When you look at your purpose in life this way it becomes so simple. What has the devil been determined to do to me over the last 5 or 10 years? The opposite of that is God’s mission for me on earth. That is one of the truly great things we can do with our lives.

Jesus really did destroy the devil's work — but only for those who believe in and follow Him. The only power Satan has is the power we give him. He has no real legal authority or power — only what he can deceive people into giving him.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

October 6: Do not forget me!

Deeply hurt, Hannah prayed to the Lord and wept with many tears. Making a vow, she pleaded, “Lord of Hosts, if You will take notice of Your servant’s affliction, remember and not forget me, and give Your servant a son, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life……… After some time, Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, because she said, “I requested him from the Lord”……… When she had weaned him, she took him with her to Shiloh, as well as a three-year-old bull, half a bushel of flour, and a jar of wine. Though the boy was still young, she took him to the Lord’s house at Shiloh. Then they slaughtered the bull and brought the boy to Eli. “Please, my lord,” she said, “as sure as you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this boy, and since the Lord gave me what I asked Him for, I now give the boy to the Lord. For as long as he lives, he is given to the Lord”……… The Lord paid attention to Hannah’s need, and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.  (1 Samuel 1:10,11,20-28; 2:21 — Holman Christian Standard Bible) 

This is a beautiful story of a woman's faith — her great need and how God answered that need — and then of her sacrifice to God and how God blessed her even more. Hannah was childless in a society where that was considered a terrible curse. But in faith and desperation she cried out to God, asked for a son and promised to give that same son back to God for the rest of his life. God gave her a son, Samuel, who became a great prophet, a priest of God, and the leader of Israel. But when she gave this son — her treasure — to God, He rewarded her. She was given five more children in place of the child she gave to God.

If you ask: “Why don’t I receive more from God?" — this passage is my answer. Hannah’s story is the answer. God’s ready to do more, to help you, to open doors for you, and to use you… but are you ready to give Him your best? If He gives to you to the same degree that you give to Him, will you be happy? Will you be satisfied? Don’t expect to receive big things from God when you read His word only a little, pray sometimes, come to church when you feel like it, and obey Him some of the time. Hannah gave her best to God and she received God's best in return. You can never become poor by giving to God!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

October 5: What can man do to me?

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?... Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; this I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?  (Psalm 56:3,4,9-11 — New American Standard Bible)

David would become the greatest and most successful king of Israel, but at the time he wrote this Psalm, king Saul — who God had rejected — was in the middle of a jealous rage and was trying to kill him. David had run to a city outside of Israel, had been captured by the Philistines, the main enemies of Israel, and survived by pretending to be insane. He was in a very dangerous situation. He was in the hands of his enemies and could easily have been killed. And so today’s passage reveals David’s thoughts at a time of danger and crisis. 

Almost 400 times the Bible says, “Do not be afraid!" Though to some this may sound like an impossible task, God would never tell us to do something we could not do. There can be no faith when fear is present — or at least, when we do feel fear we have to immediately put our trust in God and drive it out. Fear communicates distrust in God and in His willingness to answer our prayers. Fear is our enemy.

What can man do to us? 

Friday, October 4, 2013

October 4: The roaring lion

Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little. The dominion belongs to Him forever. Amen.  (1 Peter 5:8-11 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

God is calling us to take control, and stay in control, of our thoughts and behavior. The devil is compared to a roaring lion, prowling around, looking for someone to devour. When a lion prowls he doesn't do it openly; He carefully creeps through tall grass and bushes, staying hidden, until he is close to his prey, and then he pounces. Peter used this analogy because the devil does exactly the same thing; before we know it he is right by our side giving us deadly thoughts of doubt and fear. To resist him, we have to be alert, self-controlled, and spiritually strong.

We should all be aware of Satan’s favorite ways of attacking and tempting us. We all have areas of weakness and vulnerability, and it’s crucial that be aware of how and where the devil is going to try to destroy us. It may be a sin or weakness from our old lives before we knew God, or a person that the devil uses; it may be friends or habits, or may be linked to experiences of the past. If you know the weak areas of your life, come up with a way to build yourself up; turn the weak aspects of your life and character into strengths.

It’s a pain to live in this world and to be continually attacked by the devil and his demons — temptations, urges, fears, depression, sadness, anger, pride, greed, sexual immorality, addictions, worry, laziness, materialism… and so forth. Life on earth involves suffering. It involves living in a world that is dark and evil, and fighting to stay clean and unpolluted. The roars of the devil are meant to send shivers of fear to the very core of our beings, but that’s when faith has to switch on and remind us that the devil is a defeated being and our Lord is a victorious King. All dominion belongs to God no matter what things may look like at this very moment. If we continue to stand firm in our faith and vision for the future, we will overcome.

The devil is similar to a lion in his love of the dark. A lion is a good hunter in daylight, but no animal can match him in the dark. His night vision is eight times better than that of a human’s, and much better than most other animals. In the same way, Satan works in the dark — whether day or night. If we are to overcome him and destroy his work, we have to live in the light: faith, trust, obedience, God’s Word. When we are in the light, he will have trouble even approaching us.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

October 3: Forgetful hearer vs. effectual doer

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is 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 person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.  (James 1:22-25 — New American Standard Bible)

This passage warns about self-deception. James (who most people think was the brother of Jesus and a leader of the Jerusalem church) explains that being a hearer only, and not a doer of the Word of God means that we are deceiving ourselves — and many people fit into this category these days… many. They may go to church often, be put in charge of an outreach or group in the church, give tithes and offerings, have knowledge of the Bible, collect books and tapes for various pastors, but still be deceived. They may have an appearance of spirituality and devotion, and still be far away from God.

Obedience to God, to Jesus, and to the Word of God is basic. If we are disobedient His word says we do not really believe, and we do not really love God or Jesus. Most people's “faith” doesn’t affect their lives very much at all. Liars, cheats, adulterers, murderers, thieves, drunks, gossips, and addicts all have their churches or beliefs, but unless we seek and obey the truth, our church attendance and beliefs are worthless. Jesus only saves those who choose to obey Him. He said, “Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

The Bible promises all sorts of blessings for those who hear and obey. We may obey God in many ways, but the important thing is to obey Him whenever we are tempted to disobey. When God reveals any type of disobedience in our lives, freedom and blessings will come when we repent and obey God’s voice. Don't let Satan deceive you or rob the blessings and freedom of obedience to God.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

October 2: Flee from idolatry

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I am speaking as to wise people. Judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we give thanks for, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for all of us share that one bread. Look at the people of Israel. Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in what is offered on the altar? What am I saying then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I do say that what they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to participate with demons! You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot share in the Lord’s table and the table of demons. (1 Corinthians 10:14-21 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

“Flee from idolatry” is solid advice from the Holy Spirit. Though we don’t like the idea of running away from anything, fleeing from idolatry and sin is advice that God gives a number of times in His word. Flee in this context is not a sign of fear, but rather a sign that we’re determined to remove ourselves from any person or situation that is evil and filthy, and stay close to what is good and godly.

The city of Corinth at the time this passage was written was wealthy and prosperous and had a thriving culture of idol worship, in particular the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, fertility, and sexual love — along with its many temple prostitutes. Because of this, most of the food in the marketplace had been offered to idols, and therefore Paul felt compelled to explain to Christians that they should not eat and drink the Lord’s Supper and at the same time eat meat that has been offered to demons — the real object behind idol worship. Idols and food offered to them are in themselves no threat to us or to God — they have no real power — the true danger is the objects of idol worship: demons. In no uncertain terms Paul reminds us that there are two choices in life: God and the devil, the Lord’s table and the table of demons. If we fail to take this advice seriously — and treat demons as a real, modern-day reality — we will find ourselves fighting a losing battle with invisible forces that are much stronger and more experienced than we are.

Isn’t it interesting how Paul uses the Lord’s Supper as an example in this passage? He contrasts the Supper and sacrifices made to idols. The sacrifices made to idols — though false — were seen by those people to be the highest form of worship to their gods, and Paul is teaching the same thing about the Lord’s Supper. It is a high form of worship to God. It celebrates the greatest, most complete, most powerful sacrifice of all time — it honors the Lord Jesus Christ — it encourages self-examination — it invites the Lord Jesus into our lives, and it commemorates the defeat of Satan and his demons.

Whenever the church is having the Lord’s Supper, do all you can to be there. It will please God, it will bring health to your soul, and it will enrage the devil.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October 1: Look at what I’m doing

So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord, asking, “Are You the One who is to come, or should we look for someone else?” At that time Jesus healed many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and He granted sight to many blind people. He replied to them, “Go and report to John the things you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.”  (Luke 7:18-22 — Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Jesus didn't try to convince John the Baptist that He was the Messiah with words. He demonstrated who He was by performing great acts of healing. His answer to John was simple — look at what I am doing if you have a question about me. Jesus was not just a great teacher; He was also a great miracle-worker. If you will look closely at the New Testament, you will see that He expected His disciples to do the same kinds of things. Christianity is fundamentally miraculous. When we try to have non-miraculous Christianity, it is weak and defenseless and ridiculous.

The church of today must demonstrate this same power. Jesus said that those who believed in Him would do the same works that He did. And there is only one commission that Jesus gave to us — preach the good news, heal the sick, and drive out demons. The problems that people have today are the same as when Jesus walked on earth — and the solution to those problems has to be the same also. The church of Jesus Christ began with great miracles — the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost; and it grew with a great out pouring of miracles. Our mission today is to help people who are beyond any human help. And that requires the power of the Living Jesus.

God does not do miracles in an environment of unbelief and skepticism. Nourish your faith, believe in a great God, read about miracles, think about miracles, and pray for miracles — they are the proof that Jesus is alive today!