Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April 30: No more distress!

This now completes one year of the favorite 365 passages of my father, Forrest Presnell Higginbotham. He is 84 years old, walks two miles a day, has pretty much as much hair on his head as I do, and has an undiminished, fiery faith in and love for God. He still has a desire to save souls, and visits men in prison as much as he can in an attempt to lead them to Jesus. This year of going through Dad's book, leaving some devotionals as they were, and changing others, has taught me a great deal and has strengthened my faith, and hopefully yours too.

Beginning tomorrow, I will begin one more year of daily devotionals, but will concentrate on the Promises of the Bible. Dad will still be a part of this because as far back as I can remember, he always taught us about them. In fact, I will ask him to include 100 of his favorite promises, and will identify them as his. I look forward to one more year with all of you!

Thanks Dad, for the amazing faith that you passed down to me. It's the best inheritance anyone could have.

“Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going away to make ready a place for you. And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too.  (John 14:1-3  NET)

The future of all true followers of the Lord Jesus is to be with Him forever in His Father's house. At that time, when He comes back to the earth for His people, God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, there will be no more death, no more sorrow, no crying, and no more pain. We will live with Him, will be His people, and He will be our God. The Bible states this plainly in Revelation 21:3,4. In today’s passage, Jesus encourages His disciples, because in a short time they would see Him nailed to a cross. He told them to believe in God and to believe in Him, and told them not to allow their hearts to be distressed. They would need to use their faith to overcome fear, when they saw Jesus, and all He did and stood for, apparently defeated.

Even though the disciples were going to see Jesus again after His resurrection, over the next forty days He was not going to be with them 24/7 as He had been before. At the end of those forty days of appearances and teaching, He would ascend back into heaven and sit on the right hand of the Father. One reason He gives for going away is that He will prepare a place for the disciples, and of course, all His people. 

It is impossible for our minds to conceive of the wonders and glory of that place, where we will live in the actual presence of Jesus our Savior and God our Father. That is our confidence and firm hope—eternal life with God! Hold on firmly to this hope, mind and heart. Whatever temptation the world throws at you, whatever trouble you face, this hope will spur you on to faithfulness and victory. Nothing that the world has is of any value when compared to eternal life in heaven.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

April 29: Hosanna! Blessed be the King!

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him. They began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Do not be afraid, people of Zion; look, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt!” (His disciples did not understand these things when they first happened, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about him and that these things had happened to him.) So the crowd who had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead were continuing to testify about it. Because they had heard that Jesus had performed this miraculous sign, the crowd went out to meet him.  (John 12:12-18  NET)

Jesus was given the reception He deserved as He went into Jerusalem on what is usually called “Palm Sunday.” There was great excitement as He entered the city; the people were praising Him as the Messiah or Christ—God's anointed king. Many of the people were there because they had heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

Less than five days later the crowds who had been shouting “hosanna to the King,” were now shouting, “Crucify Him!” He had been arrested at night, tried in secret, and put on the cross about 9 o'clock in the morning. Most people in Jerusalem were totally unaware of what was going on until it was too late. But Jesus arose from the dead, victorious, and glorious. His resurrection proved that He was truly the King of Israel and the King of the universe.

We can’t be impressed with mere words, even the emotional words of others who swear their loyalty to God.  A moving testimony or proclamation of great faith doesn’t necessarily mean that they truly love and serve God.  Loyalties based on emotion are easily swayed and can crumble away to nothing, just like those who shouted their hosannas to Jesus.  Even the disciples faltered and fled when He was crucified, and the significance of His entry into Jerusalem was lost on their fleshly minds. True faithfulness is found when there is a life of continued sacrifice.  When we sacrifice our pride, our selfishness, our possessions and surrender the control of our lives to God, we become empowered with His Spirit—an experience the disciples had weeks later that continues to change the world until today.  

April 28: We rejoice in suffering

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory. Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  (Romans 5:1-5  NET)

The peace that this passage mentions is not a feeling, but the state of being at peace with God, instead of rebellion. The hostility between God and ourselves has come to an end, and now we are at war with Satan, his demons, and this world. Because of what Jesus did on Calvary, we are innocent in His eyes.  Our sins have been paid for, and we can now have access to His grace.

But what often confuses many Christians in this passage is the command to rejoice in suffering.  The old question of “Why is God doing this to me? I thought He loved me!” is a trap the devil uses to destroy our faith in the One who has all the power we need to overcome.  Whoever falls for that sort of self-pity is immediately reverting to a state of hostility and rebellion against God, and that peace is gone. God doesn’t love suffering, but knows that even attacks of the devil can be flipped around to benefit us and disgrace the devil—if we know how to respond.

Beyond the trials and sufferings we can be absolutely certain of victory on the other side, if we truly hold on to what we believe.  We believe that God has given us authority over all evil.  We believe that He is pleased every time we choose to act our faith.  We believe that even trials turn out for our good because He disciplines those He loves.  We believe that through using the muscles of faith and endurance, our character is purified and we become more like Him!  

But the final blessing comes when our purified character produces a spiritual hope.  Not that common hope that we throw around in conversations, like, “I sure hope I feel better in the morning”—but that Hope that is more solid, more stable than faith.  It’s the unshakeable assurance in the core of our being that we are victorious, we are strong, and we are children of the King and will soon be with Him in all His glory.  We are of another world, and no weakness can limit us here on this earth.
If you don’t have that unshakable hope within you now, learn to see your trials in a new way, and allow God to flip your world upside down.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

April 27: 3 things you need to know

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him—since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened—so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense strength. This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.  (Ephesians 1:17-20  NET)

In this prayer for the members of the church in Ephesus, Paul asks God to give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they can know God better. Even the Bible can be a closed book to us unless we have the author of the Bible—the Holy Spirit—to help us understand it. Because of this Paul prayed that the eyes of their hearts be enlightened. Here I believe heart is used not to mean the center of our emotions, but our inner selves, and what an important truth this is. Our inner selves have eyes, and those eyes can be open, or they can be closed; they can be enlightened, or they can be mislead.

This Holy Spirit inspired prayer asks for God to reveal three things to Christians. First, for them to know what is the hope of their calling. Do we live our lives in the understanding that when Jesus returns we will be welcomed into the new heavens and new earth, or do we forget this most of the time? Do we meditate on what life will be like in the presence of the Father and the Son? Do we look forward to our new, glorious bodies which will never age or be touched by any weakness? Do we constantly remind ourselves that life in heaven will never end, and does this thought give us the energy and inspiration to endure the hardships of life that we encounter here? These are what a believer’s hope is all about.

The second thing we should know is the wealth of His glorious inheritance for those of us who believe. Do we think of ourselves as wealthy, or do we get caught up in what we physically see right now? Do we think of ourselves as children of the Almighty, who have an inheritance that cannot be measured in human terms? Do we have a spiritual audacity because of this glorious inheritance, or do we get caught up in the lies of the devil, and end up living in a marginally depressed state of mind? Children of God need to constantly remember who they are and what is theirs.

The third thing we must know is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe—the same power that raised the Lord Jesus from the dead. Do we act like this same power is ours, or do we allow fear and anger to control us? Do we boldly step out in faith determining that great miracles will happen in our lives, or do doubts keep us from believing that this power is ours? 

We cannot afford to be blind and mislead any longer. We need the wisdom and revelation of God to understand how we are to live as true men and women of faith in this world—our hope, glorious inheritance, and incomparable power.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

April 26: Just say the word

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him asking for help: “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, in terrible anguish.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Instead, just say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come’ and he comes, and to my slave ‘Do this’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed and said to those who followed him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel! I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; just as you believed, it will be done for you.” And the servant was healed at that hour.  (Matthew 8:5-13  NET)

This Roman soldier stationed in Israel somehow had found real faith in Jesus Christ. He knew that Jesus had been sent by God and had unlimited power. He also knew that Jesus was a healer. When he came to Him asking for the healing of his servant, he came with confidence knowing that he had come to the One who could help him. When Jesus says that He will come and heal his servant, his faith explodes! He tells Jesus that He does not need to come to his house—in fact he thinks he is unworthy to have Jesus come under his roof since he was a Gentile. The centurion suggests that Jesus just say the word, standing where He was, and the servant would be healed.

And this is exactly what happened! Jesus just spoke the word and the servant was healed on his bed at the centurion’s house. Jesus said, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” What the centurion’s faith was able to envision and claim—Jesus did for him. Jesus was amazed and please at his faith. In the same way Jesus is pleased when we believe great things about Him. If you can conceive in your mind and believe in your heart, Jesus can do whatever you need for Him to do. The centurion knew Jesus was God's Son and His Messenger on earth, so nothing was impossible for Him.

Friday, April 25, 2014

April 25: Temples of the Spirit

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19,20  NET)

The Holy Spirit is God—one of the three persons of the trinity. Throughout the Bible and history part of His job has been to equip God’s people to manifest the power of God in this world. Before Gideon conquered the Midianites, God’s Spirit came upon him; John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit even while he was in his mother’s womb, preparing him for the great work that God would do through him. There are many examples of men and women, in both the Old and New Testaments, that were filled with the Spirit and equipped to make a difference in the world, who were strengthened, were given wisdom, and were transformed into amazing examples of God’s power. The difference is that after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit comes to permanently fill a person, turning them into temples of the Spirit. In the age before the Lord Jesus, the Spirit temporarily filled people for particular tasks.

Today’s verse says, “…you are not your own. You were bought at a price.” Jesus’ death on the cross not only washed away our sins, not only healed our diseases and broke our curses, it made it possible for us to be baptized in the Spirit and become instruments in God’s hands, houses for Him to live in. We are only fulfilling part of God’s plan when we stop short of being baptized in the Spirit. Jesus purchased us so that the Spirit could possess us, working through us to manifest the glory of God in the world.

A good marriage is similar to this relationship. After marriage a man can no longer make decisions solely based on what he wants. Now he has to consider his wife, communicate with her, and arrive at a joint agreement about anything that affects both of them. His body does not belong to him alone, it also belongs to his wife. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is virtually the same, only deeper, and supernatural.

The baptism in the Spirit is not something we can do without. If you have not yet become a temple of the Holy Spirit, seek to become one.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

April 24: The good fear

Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.  (Psalm 25:12-15  HCSB)

Fear ordinarily weakens, debilitates, and paralyzes, but not the fear of the Lord, it’s different. The fear of the Lord manifests as a desire to please Him, a fear of being disobedient to Him, and a respect for Him because of who He is. Anyone who fears God should have a clear understanding of how big God is and how small he/she is. 

When we have the fear of the Lord all other fears are cancelled out. We can’t fear God and then be afraid of the future, of losing our jobs or our heath, or anything else. The fear of the Lord is the opposite of depression and panic, and so we could safely say that the modern world does not value the fear of the Lord. Depression, panic, anxiety, road rage, addictions… all of these are the result of a lack of the fear of the Lord and they are at epidemic levels.

True peace and joy develop as a result of the fear of the Lord. It may sound contradictory—how can peace be the result of fear?—but it’s true. The fear of the Lord creates peace and joy in our hearts because we have the proper perspective of God. So many addictions and sins would be neutralized if people only developed a fear of the Lord.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April 23: Eat + live forever

I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh. (John 6:48-51 HCSB)

Jesus was speaking to a group of people who had just been miraculously fed by Him the day before. They were excited about the thought that Jesus could give them more food, just like the manna that fell from heaven and fed the Jews for forty years. But Jesus reminded them that their ancestors who ate the manna from heaven all died. What He had to offer them was more powerful and life-changing. The manna in the desert was not really the bread from heaven—Jesus was.

This whole world system around us is destined for destruction. When Jesus comes, the world and the works that are in the world will be burned up. The things that men take great pride in will be destroyed. Money, position, worldly accomplishments, they’ll become worthless. The only thing of any importance is: Do you serve Jesus Christ as your King and Lord? Have you died to your old life? Have you eaten of the Living Bread?

To eat of the Living Bread, means that Jesus Christ can no longer be just a person or even the Son of God whom we view from a distance. Eating the Bread means that I must bring Him inside me. He is in me and I am in Him. My thinking, my goals, my behavior, and my reason for living are all determined by Jesus Christ. I live for Him and by His power. I overcome problems and conquer temptation and gain victories because of the Living Christ in me. 

If you eat of this Living Bread who is Jesus, you no longer are bound by the limitations of this world, by the oppression of fears or spiritual forces.  Instead you take possession of the freedom and abundance that was bought for you on the cross, because He now lives within you on this earth and for eternity in heaven.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April 22: Slaves of God

For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with regard to righteousness. So what benefit did you then reap from those things that you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. But now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life. For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.   (Romans 6:19-23  NET)

Today we don’t view slavery as a positive thing. It actually still exists in some small, isolated pockets of the world, but as a whole it is viewed as a very flawed part of civilization and history. But when it comes to the spiritual world, the Bible frequently describes people as slaves to impurity or slaves to righteousness, slaves to the devil or slaves to God. Spiritually we are all slaves to someone or something.

Addictions are a very real form of modern slavery, and society has uncovered more addictions than ever before: alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, gambling, pornography, cutting, and so forth. Though people know that their addiction brings them pain and suffering, they continue to practice it because they are enslaved by demons. Anger, anxiety, depression, worry, negativity and various other attitudes can also clearly be considered modern forms of slavery that take over people’s lives and force them to do what they do not want to do.

But we should not be afraid of being God's slave. When we are, we are also sons or daughters of God, we are citizens in Jesus’ eternal kingdom, and heirs of God. Being God's slave translated into true freedom. Therefore, we should not hesitate to surrender to God—everything we give to Him, He will purify, bless, and multiply, and then send back to us.

Every one of us should determine to take control of our life right now and become God’s servant and slave. Refuse to allow sin and the devil to rule over you. You belong to the Lord Jesus Christ—He bought us at a very high price, and so we are no longer slaves to immorality, drugs, lies, and so forth. This is not simply a good idea, it’s a life and death issue because the wages (payoff) of sin is death—but the gift of God is eternal life.

Monday, April 21, 2014

April 21: Jesus brings division

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.  (Matthew 10:34-36  NET)

We often hear Jesus called the "Prince of peace," and He is. But in today’s passage Jesus points out another aspect of His ministry, the sword and turning one family member against another. For Jesus to be true to Himself and to the Father, this was a necessary and inevitable aspect of His life. Some people loved Him and had faith that they could be healed of any sickness and freed of any demon by seeking help from Him. But at the same time there were people that rejected His message and even wanted to kill Him. In the Kingdom of God there can be no peace without war, there can be no harmony without division. If we are holy and good we have to align ourselves with people and things that are holy and good, and have to separate ourselves from things that are unholy and bad.

Yes, Jesus came to bring peace, but He also came to bring war. His death on the cross and His resurrection were the greatest attacks on Satan and his kingdom that had ever been mounted, one that utterly defeated forever the power and control of Satan. But in the same way, His death and resurrection brought peace between us and God, and were the greatest examples of love the world had ever seen.

It is important to realize the cost of following the Lord Jesus. Since the world and most people in it are under the power of Satan, we can expect to be persecuted and rejected like Jesus was. We should do our very best to help relatives and friends to connect with God, but if they reject Him, we have to continue to be faithful to Him, even at the risk of losing them. We regret any division that is caused by following Jesus, and yet we know this is the price we have to pay. He is worth any sacrifice we make and any persecution we suffer.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

April 20: He carried our diseases

When it was evening, many demon-possessed people were brought to him. He drove out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick. In this way what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet was fulfilled: “He took our weaknesses and carried our diseases.”  (Matthew 8:16,17  NET)

Jesus was not only a great teacher and philosopher; He did not travel around only preaching sermons. He drove out demons and healed the sick. The power, authority, love, and truth of Almighty God were demonstrated in everything that Jesus did. Not only that, as He travelled around doing this work of teaching, healing, and deliverance, He selected and trained others to do the same, and when He established the Church, its mission was the same, to proclaim the Good News of salvation, healing, and freedom in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible says, “He drove out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick”—but it also says that this was a fulfillment of a prophecy from Isaiah. This prophecy is a detailed description of the death of Jesus that was written close to 800 years before He came into the world—Isaiah chapter 53. Most people realize that Jesus carried our sins on the cross, but here the Holy Spirit explains that Jesus “took our weaknesses and carried our diseases.” He died to set us free from sin, disease, and all the works of the devil; on the cross Jesus purchased all the blessings of God that we will ever need!

The arms of God are open to us. Whatever we need we can find in Jesus, the Son of God. He cleanses us of sin and transforms our life. If we are sick, He will be our Healer. Since He has all power and all authority, it doesn't matter how long we have been sick or what type of disease we have. If we are victims of witchcraft, have pains or diseases that doctors are unable to diagnose, are depressed, can't sleep, have constant headaches, or suffer from any of a multitude of ailments brought on by demons—Jesus will set us free. This is why Jesus died on the cross—to purchase all this, plus eternal life for us!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

April 19: Be strong + confident!

Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience the Lord’s favor in the land of the living? Rely on the Lord! Be strong and confident! Rely on the Lord.   (Psalm 27:13,14  NET)

Here is a man who was praying for God's blessings. They had not come when he expected them, but he is not discouraged or giving up. Instead he is confident that God will answer his prayers, and that he will experience the Lord’s favor on earth. He isn't just thinking about blessings in heaven and eternal life—he knows God will bless him on earth, during his present life. When we read the Bible, we notice that God's servants sometimes had to wait patiently for the help they needed. But the main thing we must remember is that God always responds; He always fulfills His promises. If His answer to your prayer is delayed, there’s a good reason. Remember, God can see everything and knows the beginning and end of everything—so He knows the best time for blessing us.

This Psalm encourages us to rely on the Lord, and to be strong and confident. If there is nothing in your life that is blocking the answer to your prayer—no sin or rebellion, no unforgiveness, no divided heart—then be strong and press ahead in faith knowing that God has to bless you. The word of God says, “…whenever we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests that we have asked from him.”

When the Bible says “Rely on the Lord” (some versions say “wait” on the Lord)—the meaning is to depend on Him and know for certain that He is going to act. This does not mean that we should be passive or inactive. It does not mean we should fold our hands and sit down—definitely not! Throughout the Bible we are commanded to go forward in faith—to do all that we can to cause our prayers to be answered. So be confident, be strong, and move forward in the unconquerable faith that you will very soon experience the favor of God in the land of the living!

Friday, April 18, 2014

April 18: Doubt is not due to insufficient evidence

The Jewish leaders surrounded him and asked, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus replied, “I told you and you do not believe. The deeds I do in my Father’s name testify about me. But you refuse to believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”  (John 10:24-30  NET)

The religious leaders of Israel were demanding more signs and more arguments from Jesus to prove that He was the Christ. Jesus simply told them that His miracles and words were enough to convince honest people who truly loved God. Their unbelief, Jesus said, was due to the fact that they were not His sheep. They did not love God, therefore, they did not love or accept the Son of God. Since Jesus only spoke the words of God, and did nothing but the works of God, and since His character was the very image of God—the religious leaders’ lack of faith and rejection of Him revealed their true spiritual state.

Don't think that people's unbelief and lack of devotion to Jesus is due to insufficient evidence of His greatness and godliness. Hearing the Good News preached, reading the New Testament, or coming in touch with someone that God sent their way, is enough to convince anyone who is genuinely seeking God. Men and women's rebelliousness and determination to hang on to sin is what causes people to reject Jesus. That is why Jesus preached, “Repent and believe the Gospel.”

Do you belong to Jesus? Is He your shepherd? Do you listen to His voice and follow Him? If you are not yet one of His sheep, His invitation to you is, “Come, follow me!” Look at all the blessings that He gives to His sheep (mentioned in the verse above). He will have a personal relationship with you; He will know your name; He will give you eternal life, and you will never perish.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April 17: Knowing the Bible, but not God

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

April 16: Content in any circumstance

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15: Adam = death… Christ = life

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 14, 2014

April 14: Sons of God

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

April 13: The place called “The Skull”

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 12, 2014

April 12: God springs into action

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 11, 2014

April 11: Healing those oppressed by the devil

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 10: Good gifts to children

What father among you, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?  (Luke 11:11-13  NET)

Good parents would never want to harm or trick their children. They want to help, encourage, and bless them. If we have children, we find pleasure in being able to give them what they need and want, as long as we are able. In today’s passage Jesus says that no father deceives or ridicules his children—even though we are evil compared to God, we all have the sense to treat our children well. We listen to their requests and hear their cries and do our very best to meet their needs.

God is the same, only on a much larger scale. He is infinitely more loving, and has the wisdom and foresight to bless us with those things that will truly be good for us. Being a Christian means having God as our Father… a Father that is always eager to fulfill His responsibilities. Some people think of God as a stern judge or policeman, just waiting to punish them. Others think of Him as far off and unconcerned about people and their problems. But the Bible states that God is a Father who loves and wants to provide for us. Only when we believe these truths can we pray with faith and get answers.

The Holy Spirit is the very best blessing that any person can receive. When He is inside He encourages, enlightens, strengthens, and protects, and when we are filled with the Spirit of God, all other blessings will follow. 

Have you asked your Father in heaven to fill you with the Holy Spirit? We should be hungry for this amazing experience. It is something that we should earnestly seek with all our heart until it happens.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April 9: What God can do with the ordinary

When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and discovered that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized these men had been with Jesus.  (Acts 4:13  NET)

Peter and John had been called before the highest court in Jerusalem (the Sanhedrin), accused of healing and preaching in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. A few weeks before, these same Jewish leaders had crucified Jesus. After His resurrection the apostles had been baptized with the Holy Spirit, and a great manifestation of the power of God had begun—people were healed and thousands had become followers of Jesus. As Peter and John stood before the Supreme Court of Israel, they spoke with courage, boldness, and wisdom. Humanly speaking, they were uneducated and ordinary, but there was something different about them, they were filled with God's Spirit and the glory and power of God was manifesting in them. The conclusion that these hypocritical religious leaders came to was that they had been with Jesus… their attitude and behavior must have reminded them of Him.

This is what God wants to do in you and me! He wants the world to see His courage, character, and wisdom in us. He wants to remove fear and doubt, and anything else that pollutes us, and make us new and whole. When we have been with Jesus—weak people become strong, poor people become prosperous, sick people become healthy, and sinful people become holy. 

Jesus wants people to see His transforming power at work in us, and if those proud, hypocritical, self-centered religious leaders noticed the different in Peter and John, good and bad people around us will see the difference in our lives. But first we need to surrender our wills to God, and be humble to receive the Holy Spirit. Then an only then will people be amazed, and recognize that we have been with Jesus. 

April 8: Jesus’ example…

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, that he should betray Jesus. Because Jesus knew that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, he got up from the meal, removed his outer clothes, took a towel and tied it around himself. He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself… So when Jesus had washed their feet and put his outer clothing back on, he took his place at the table again and said to them, “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and do so correctly, for that is what I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you too ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example—you should do just as I have done for you.”  (John 13:2-15  NET)

This was the night before Jesus death. The twelve were with Him at the Jewish Passover meal. On a number of occasions they had argued about who would have the highest position in Jesus’ kingdom—and most probably thought it would be a physical kingdom. That night on their way to the room where they were now, they had argued again. How could there be unity and togetherness when these attitudes were at work in them? How could Jesus count on them to finish His ministry?

So Jesus taught them an unforgettable lesson—even with Judas Iscariot at the table. Since they all had walked into the room, taken off their sandals, and been too proud to wash their own feet or wash one another's feet, Jesus did it for them. He was their Lord, the Creator of the Universe,  but He chose to do a job that was normally reserved for slaves. No one even offered to do it in His place, maybe because they were in shock. But in fact His entire life among them was one of serving, and Jesus told them they would need to follow His example.

The Kingdom of God is very different from the kingdoms of this world. Jesus once said about this same issue, "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." In God's Kingdom servants are the greatest. This is what Jesus is teaching when He tells us to wash one another's feet. Our concern should be not who is the greatest, but how can I serve my brothers and sisters?

Monday, April 7, 2014

April 7: What defiles a person?

Don’t you understand that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach and then passes out into the sewer? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a person. For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are the things that defile a person; it is not eating with unwashed hands that defiles a person.”   (Matthew 15:17-20  NET)

Jesus had been criticized for not obeying a tradition about ritualistic hand washing, and than stated an important principle. He said that it is not what goes in your mouth that defiles you in the sight of God, but what comes out of our mouth and heart. Jesus is not saying that all foods are equally nutritious or healthy, but He is saying that what we eat makes no difference to God. As long as we thank God for our food and are devoted to Him, He is pleased with us. Various religions have laws about what a person should and should not eat, what to wear, what to touch, etc. but these rules are marks of false spirituality. Human beings are attracted to rituals like this, but they are nothing to God. They only cater to human pride.

What matters to God is our heart, our inner self. Do you love God and the people around you? Do you obey God even when it means going against what you want? Some of the most evil, depraved people in history have been religious—religious people even demanded the crucifixion of Jesus. The Crusades and the Inquisition were carried out by outwardly religious people, but those people’s hearts never belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ because a man or woman of God would never do those types of things to another human being. Don't be deceived by ritual and tradition. Concentrate on being a real man or woman of God.

Forget about religion, about pleasing people, and seek a close relationship with God. He wants to be your Father, and He wants you to be a child that loves, depends, and obeys. When you do, He will raise you up to live a new life just like He was raised from the dead.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

April 6: When no good thing is withheld

How lovely is the place where you live, O Lord who rules over all! I desperately want to be in the courts of the Lord’s temple. My heart and my entire being shout for joy to the living God… Certainly spending just one day in your temple courts is better than spending a thousand elsewhere. I would rather stand at the entrance to the temple of my God than live in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is our sovereign protector. The Lord bestows favor and honor; he withholds no good thing from those who have integrity. O Lord who rules over all, how blessed are those who trust in you! (Psalm 84:1-2,10-12)

This beautiful prayer and song of praise was written during the Old Testament period when people went to the temple in Jerusalem to worship God. The author of this psalm rejoices at the prospect of going to the temple; his entire being longs to return there to hear God’s voice and take part in praising Him. One day in the temple is better than a thousand days somewhere else, he says. He would rather occupy the lowest place among those who served in the temple, than occupy the highest place among the wicked. These thoughts can only come from a person that knows God—knows that He is a good and loving Father, who does not withhold any good thing from his children.

As we grow in faith and come to know God in a genuine way, those times that we spend seeking His presence and connecting with Him are more and more precious. When a person is not here-nor-there about God’s presence, that is a clear indication of his bankrupt spiritual state. At home, on the job, and especially in church, our body, soul, and spirit should be energized and strengthened when we enter His presence. The more we do it, the more we desire to be in His presence, and we even feel an obvious void when circumstances block us from seeking Him. When we value the times in His presence, God rewards us with favor and honor, and withholds no good things from us. A man or woman who trusts in God is truly blessed.

We become like the thing we value and obey. Valuing God and the Lord Jesus lifts us up and makes us blessed, strong, and wise. God will be a sun and shield to us. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

April 5: God, strike him down!

Rise up, Lord! O God, strike him down! Do not forget the oppressed! Why does the wicked man reject God? He says to himself, “You will not hold me accountable.” You have taken notice, for you always see one who inflicts pain and suffering. The unfortunate victim entrusts his cause to you; you deliver the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evil man! Hold him accountable for his wicked deeds, which he thought you would not discover. The Lord rules forever! The nations are driven out of his land. Lord, you have heard the request of the oppressed; you make them feel secure because you listen to their prayer. You defend the fatherless and oppressed, so that mere mortals may no longer terrorize them.  (Psalm 10:12-18  NET)

Being a good Christian is not synonymous with being patient, loving, and kind ALL the time. Following God also demands that we get angry at certain situations and people, that we feel frustrated at the state of the world along with the majority of its population. Being a good Christian means that we fight evil and injustice, especially spiritual injustice, and that we have faith to change ourselves and the world.

If King David’s attitude in this psalm is foreign to you, if you never feel like this, or pray this way—you should reassess your faith and relationship with God. David was a man after God’s own heart for a number of reasons, one being his readiness to fight against evil and the enemies of God. David hated to lose, and rarely did. But he didn’t just fight against other people, he fought against sinful thoughts in his heart, he fought doubt and fear, he fought the thought that God forgets the oppressed, or that evil people will win in the end.

Two times in this passage David describes what many of us feel, that evil people think they can get away with anything, that no one will punish or stop them, that they are invincible. This is an old trick of the devil that was used over 3000 years ago with David, and is still being used today with you and me—and it’s effective if we are not careful. But David quickly recovers every time these words come out of his mouth, and declares about God: “you have taken notice…” “you deliver the fatherless…” “the Lord rules forever…” “you have heard the request of the oppressed.” Even though he had not yet been rescued by God, even though the situation was exactly the same, David spoke by faith and declared that the victory was already his; he was certain of what he could not yet see… he was walking in faith.

When David asks God to “break the arm of the wicked” or  to “strike him down”, David is not asking for the spiritual destruction of his enemies—their damnation—but rather to show the world that He was alive and that evil cannot win against God and His people. David wanted God to be glorified through his life on earth; he wasn’t concerned about his glory, but about God’s, and God’s glory was a very personal, dear thing for him. Whenever we adopt this attitude ourselves—that our mission in life is to glorify God through our life—we reveal a level of spirituality and understanding that pleases God deeply.

Friday, April 4, 2014

April 4: Don’t be afraid. Speak!

The Lord said to Paul by a vision in the night, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent, because I am with you, and no one will assault you to harm you, because I have many people in this city.” So he stayed there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.  (Acts 18:9-11  NET)

Paul was reaching out to people in the unbelieving, skeptical, idolatrous, materialistic city of Corinth and many people were opposing him. The Jewish people who met in the synagogues every Sabbath had refused to believe in Jesus, and so Paul had left them and publicly announced that he would work with the Gentiles (non-Jews) instead. But God had a great work for Paul to do in Corinth, irrespective of the fact that it was an evil, godless city. It didn't matter that the Jewish people who should have believed in Jesus did not. Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision to strengthen him, telling him not to be afraid, not to keep silent, and to open his mouth and speak about Him. God promised to protect him from all harm and from evil people, and then told him that He had many people in that city. In spite of how the city looked or how people had treated him up to that point, there were many lost and suffering people who were longing to know God.

We should not be quick to give up on people, places, or situations. Our physical eyes are so limited and deceptive. Unless we use the eyes of faith to see what God sees, we will constantly get discouraged and allow ourselves to be convinced about the impossibility of situations and people. Unless we rebuke the fear (and we all feel it), open our mouths, refuse to be silent, lift up our heads by faith, and determine that the victory is ours, people and places will overwhelm us. Corinth was the most corrupt city of the time, but God had a great work for Paul to do there… and God has a great work for you to do wherever you are! The same God that used Paul in Corinth wants to use you to reach people and places. Don’t let appearances deceive you. Listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice and move forward. 

Isn't it great that we don’t have to simply be patient, loving, and kind—that God wants us to be bold and determined and stubborn (in a good way)? Through your words, life, and reactions people are going to connect with God and end up in heaven. There are people around you who will listen to what you have to say and be influenced by you, people that no one else can reach.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April 3: That you may believe…

Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  (John 20:30,31  NET)

This book was written by John—one of the twelve—through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It was the last of the four gospels to be written, around 20 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, and instead of being a retelling of Jesus’ life, it picks and chooses what to retell in an effort to prove that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record only a small part of the works and words of the Lord Jesus on earth. But the things that were chosen to be recorded have a special purpose, they were written so that people would have a foundation for their faith in Jesus; so that they could believe that He is the Christ, the Son of God. Once we have faith in Jesus and who He is, life will begin to flow in us. 

Unlike the other gospels, John does not refer to miracles, he calls them signs, and he only records seven. He chose seven special signs that would represent the power of Jesus and His desire for people in this world. Here is the list of the seven signs; please meditate on them because this is what God is ready to do in your life and mine: (1) Changing water into wine; (2) Healing a man’s son; (3) Healing a lame man; (4) Multiplying bread and fish; (5) Walking on water; (6) Healing a blind man; (7) Raising Lazarus. All seven show that the Lord Jesus is God, that He has power over nature, power over disease, and can do the impossible. John’s message is that Jesus has the power to change the problems around you, but more importantly, to save your soul.

Most of the people that read this blog have already been convinced that Jesus is the Son of God. But if you aren't, the best thing to do is read the book of John in its entirety. It will take only a little more than one hour. Sit down and read it all at once, or read it a chapter or two a day until you’re finished. Before you read, ask God to reveal to you whether or not what you are reading is the truth.

The miracles of Jesus are still going on. You’ve probably experienced some of them in your own life, and if you have, be an eye-witness of what He has done in you. If you haven't experienced any of His miracles, open your heart and seek Him. Ask for what you need and tell Him you want to testify to others about how great He is!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April 2: Dead to sin, alive to God.

So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.  (Romans 6:11-14  NET)

When we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are baptized in water a death and burial takes place, and a new life and resurrection happens. At that point we are dead to sin but alive to God. The devil's chains are broken and we can freely walk out of his prison. Jesus and the Holy Spirit give us the power to change and become new creatures in every way. God's power is available but we have to use it. This passage says that we should not let sin rule in our bodies, that we should not longer offer the parts of our bodies as instruments of evil, and should instead offer them to God as instruments of righteousness.

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, and because of the amazing power of God that resurrected Him from the dead, we can be sure that a new life is waiting for us. Sin and Satan are no longer our masters—we’ve been set free. So leave the prison, walk out of it into the freedom of Jesus. Your eyes, mind, hands, etc. that were previously used for sin, should now belong to Jesus to be used by Him. The old person who was a slave to the devil needs to die and be buried so that the new person that you are through faith in Jesus, can live by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This transformation takes place through the combined efforts of us and God. If we have no desire to leave sin behind and repent, obviously nothing will happen. But if we truly turn to God and turn away from sin, His power is guaranteed to begin its work in us.

April 1: Being extreme…

And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”  (Matthew 22:34-40  NET)

The religious leaders of Jesus' time often found fault with Him, and asked Him questions they considered difficult, in the hope that He would say something which they could use against Him. Today the same thing happens with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors; these tests are a fact of life which we need to be prepared to deal with in a clear and effective manner, without getting irritated. Skeptics, doubters, and even haters will always exist in our circle of acquaintances, but some of them, like Paul and Nathaniel, can be saved when we answer them correctly and have the life to back it up.

Here the question was about the almost 600 commandments of the Law of Moses—which one was the greatest. Jesus answered the question quickly and plainly, and in a way that no one could criticize. In fact, He not only told them what the first commandment was, He also told them what the second one was too. His answers are true for the Law of Moses which the Jewish people lived under at that time, and for us who are Christians today.

The central thing in life is to love God in a radical manner… heart, soul, and mind. Belief and faith without this no-holds-barred attitude is corrupt and useless. All the teachings and commandments of Jesus can be classified under: Love for God and Love for Neighbor. If God is first in our lives, we will serve Him and worship Him; we will obey His commandments and make an effort to please Him. And if we truly love God, we will love our fellow-man. But remember, the love that God calls us to have is not some milk-toast, wimpy kind of love that wants to be liked by everyone. True love for God puts us at war with the world and with Satan. True love for God means that we are ready to fight sin, demons, the devil, sickness, passivity, complacency and everything else that wants to turn our love into a mutant, wimpy, touchy-feely monster that make us weak instead of strong.

The detailed laws and commandments of the Old Testament against stealing, lying, and adultery are simply God’s way of teaching us how to show love to the people around us. Jesus once said, "In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you." What we are talking about here is true faith—any other “faith” is false! Loving and obeying God to the extreme (which includes hating sin and the devil), and being kind and helpful towards others, even our enemies (which is an attack on Satan and demons), are the path of life eternal. So let’s concentrate on these Two Greatest Laws of God. Don't make the mistake that many make—having “faith” and being “holy” but not loving God or other people to the extreme.