Monday, June 30, 2014

June 30 – In the shelter of the Most High

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.  (Psalm 91:1,2  NLT)

This is known as the “Psalm of Protection” and many turn to it when they are in trouble. It was one of my mother’s favorites, and is a passage that always comes to mind when I am facing hardship, or when I’m counseling someone in trouble. “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you” is something I have quoted ten thousand times or more.

God is a protector, as a Father it’s in His nature to protect, but He doesn’t protect everyone. A father protects his own, not the children of others. He might if he sees them being abused, but basically his children are his responsibility, and other people’s children are not. That’s why this psalm starts off speaking about people who “live in the shelter” and “find rest in the shadows.” If we want to see great things from Him we have to act like His children by living in His shelter and finding rest in Him. Unless we take these actions, we cannot expect God to do anything that He promises in this psalm.

If we live in the Most High’s shelter and find rest in the Almighty’s shadow, we have to be close to Him. You can’t be in someone’s shadow when you’re miles apart. This means that we have to actively, throughout the day, turn our thoughts to Him and trust that He has our back. When problems come, he should be the first person we speak to. Prayer should be our very first response to any kind of trouble. When people come with doubts and bad news, we should immediately remember what the Most High has promised in His Word.

When we’re close to God we will naturally make powerful declarations similar to the ones in verse two — it’s one of the most natural things for people of faith, and one of the most unnatural things for people who have no faith. These powerful declarations are shocking and confusing for people of no faith, and when they come true (which they always do) they marvel at how we were able to do that. It’s simply a side-effect of living in the shelter of the Most High.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 29 – Lord, why do You stand far off?

Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you pay no attention during times of trouble? The wicked arrogantly chase the oppressed; the oppressed are trapped by the schemes the wicked have dreamed up…… 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 10:1-2 + 16-18  NET)

We’re all tempted to ask “why” of God every once in a while. But just like the writer of this psalm, this question doesn’t have to be one of doubt and blame. When we feel a sense of revolt at the evil around us, or the injustice of our situation, it’s natural for us to wonder why God seems to be doing nothing. But when we have true faith in Him we know that it goes against His character to be apathetic or inactive about our situation no matter how it may look to our physical eyes, we know that He must be doing something… it’s just  beyond our comprehension. The fact that we’re praying to Him, many times, is a sign that we still see Him as our only hope and the One who will deliver us from all our troubles.

It’s infuriating to be confronted by arrogant, evil people who seem to have everything going their way, who have no fear of God, and seem to getting away with anything. At these times a holy, spiritual arrogance and determination needs to rise up inside of us. The devil is as powerful as he is in this world only because godly people frequently do nothing to stop him, they forget the passage in James chapter five that says the devil will run from us when we resist him.

When we determine the truth of today’s promises for our own lives, things have to change. God rules forever! God has heard our request! God listens to our prayers! God defends the fatherless and the oppressed! Mere mortals have no right to terrorize us! — We can’t wait for things to start changing before we believe in these powerful promises, we have to grab a hold of them right now, decide that they’re ours, and that they’re already coming true in our lives and family.

Asking “why” can be the most dangerous question we ask. If it leads to doubt and blaming God, this question is a killer. But if we ask it with a foundation of faith in God and what He’s promised, as a sign of our revolt, and refusal to accept our present situation, then this question will lead to extraordinary answers to prayer, and to a firmer faith in what God has already promised.

If I were you I’d make a prayer like this right now.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June 28 – The cure for panic

No weapon formed against you will succeed, and you will refute any accusation raised against you in court. This is the heritage of the Lord’s servants, and their righteousness is from Me. This is the Lord’s declaration.  (Isaiah 54:17 HCSB)

Is there anything more that can be added to this promise?  

No weapon, no accusation, no attack, no threat that is formed against you will be able to harm you!  If that is so, why then are so many Christians fearful and quick to sink into despair?  It’s not because God doesn’t answer, but their faith is so weak that the slightest hint of an attack throws them into full-flesh mode.  Their negative behavior and lack of faith empowers the devil to actually succeed in his attacks.  

God’s promise here is meant to be acted on, even if the threats around us feel very real.  So your boss is making snide remarks about firing you?  Your ex-spouse is demanding unfair changes in your divorce agreement?  Bills and financial struggles seem insurmountable?  Then act on this promise.  Act in confidence and speak fearlessly to those who intimidate you. Face your fears, knowing that God will speak through you and bring about justice, even before a judge.  This doesn’t happen for those who live in their flesh, for those who just wait around for miracles to fall into their laps, but it always does for those who remain in the Spirit. 

God says that this is our heritage.  He lovingly hands this protection over to us to keep and have and use, and as we do, His righteousness becomes our own.  If you feel evil threatening you from all sides and you find yourself backing into a corner in fear, this promise is for you to begin practicing and believing in.  

If no weapon formed against you will succeed, a great weight of worry can now be lifted off your shoulders.  You can celebrate and relax!  Though faith never relaxes, our spirit and soul can always be at rest knowing this powerful truth.  He makes sure that we get the point when He emphasizes, “This is the Lord’s declaration.”  ‘Nuff said. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

June 27 – A necessary step closer to the Holy Spirit

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  (Luke 6:35-36  HCSB)

The conditions of this promise fly straight in the face of what our flesh wants to do.  Love an enemy?  Do good to those who hurt you?  Lend and don’t expect anything back?  That sounds so painfully unfair!  But fulfilling these commands of God can be done – the right way or the wrong way.  Either we show kindness to our enemies in the flesh in defeat, weakness and low self-esteem, caving into the thought that we don’t deserve anything good from God anyway, or we can act in the Spirit, who doesn’t condone the evil that our enemies have done, but understands the intense power of goodness in the midst of darkness.

God does not ask us to become doormats or to enable people who do evil to continue hurting others.  Doing this God’s way means rising above the evil that is done to you, so that you aren’t dragged down into the same pit of selfishness that your enemies are in.  Loving your enemies strips the demons of their power, and protects you from the destruction that unforgiveness and grudges bring about. Giving, even though you know they won’t reciprocate, is placing something holy into their hands that can only bring about change for the good.

We have to remember that God sees everything and works out all things for the good of those who love Him – one of our promises in the past few months.  Obey your Father, and don’t worry about responding to your friends, family and even enemies in reaction to how they treat you.  Our eyes need to be on Him first.  Haven’t we all needed mercy at times in our lives when we weren’t behaving well?  Aren’t we all in debt to God who loved us even when we were filthy with selfishness and sin?  If we are blessed with His love because He had mercy on us, it is only right that we show mercy to others as well.  

Although we should do all of this merely because it is right, God lovingly gives us a reward!  “Your reward will be great…” not only in heaven, but right now.  We will become more like Him, have more protection from evil, have more authority to fight the devil, have greater wisdom and sensitivity to hear His voice, bear the fruit of the Spirit, just for starters.  Though this is guaranteed to kill your flesh, it’s a necessary step to becoming alive to the Holy Spirit.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

June 26 – One day with You

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.  (Psalm 84:10,11  NET)

This is not the attitude of most people in the world. Driving to church on Sunday morning is a breeze because there are no cars on the road. The golf courses are full on Sundays, as early as 6am. Bars and nightclubs are filled to overflowing on Saturday nights, as are cinemas, with people spending hours on end drinking or being entertained, but suggest that these same people spend one and a half hours in God’s House on Sunday morning and you will hear laughs, groans, and complaints. These people might think they’re living the good life, but in reality they’re rejecting the one place that can give them everything they need.

The person who wrote these words had experienced the presence of God and had traveled to the Temple in Jerusalem, and had found that the journey was well worth every sacrifice to get there. A thousand days anywhere else did not come close to equaling one day in the courts of God’s Temple — that’s two years and nine months compared to one day! I wonder if we would make that same choice… thirty-three months indulging our flesh compared to one day in the church? I’m afraid most would make the wrong choice.

But God reserves special blessings for people who have the determination and courage to value His presence and His house. He gives them favor and honor, and withholds “no good thing” from them. These are extraordinary blessings. Some people live their whole lives and feel that they’ve never experienced the favor of God, but here God promises an entire life of His favor and honor. Why would anyone reject that for the life of the world?

We need to re-examine our attitude towards the House of God. Sunday mornings, and even several more days during the week (Wednesday night, Friday night) should be sacred and untouchable for us. If we put God first and everything else after that, how different our lives would be.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

June 25 – Why are you depressed?

For I was once walking along with the great throng to the temple of God, shouting and giving thanks along with the crowd as we celebrated the holy festival. Why are you depressed, O my soul? Why are you upset? Wait for God! For I will again give thanks to my God for his saving intervention.  (Psalm 42:4,5  NET)

When Israelites travelled to the Temple for the three annual festivals in the past it was a joyful, uplifting experience. Walking together in groups, singing as they went, all eager to enter God’s house, feel His presence, and have the privilege of sacrificing to Him — it was something they longed for. It was something that built up their faith, reminded them of the wonders that God had done in the past, and helped them to focus on putting Him first in their lives.

Today the Temple is our bodies — being filled with the Holy Spirit — even though gathering together at church brings us the exact same type of joy (at least it should). Our church has just completed an amazing replica of the Temple of Solomon in Sao Paulo, Brazil as a modern-day version of this very thing, which we believe will be the epicenter of a wave of the Holy Spirit washing over people all around the world. What people experienced in the past, what people will experience in our Temple in Sao Paulo, we should also experience today: an aching hunger, and craving for God’s presence and His Temple.

Twice in this psalm and once in the following psalm, David speaks to himself and asks, “Why are you depressed? Why are you upset?” If we are not careful, it’s easy for our emotions to get carried away with what we see and hear, trumping the Word of God in our minds and creating depression, doubt, fear, frustration, and every other demonically-inspired emotion. At these times we have to slam on the brakes, put a stop to our feelings, and turn our minds to the greatness of God. This is the time to remember how we’ve experienced the amazing presence of God in His Temple, how we once had unshakeable vision and faith, and how God came to our rescue and destroyed our enemies. No matter how many exhilarating experiences we have of God, there will always be deserts to walk through, and the good times need to pull us through the bad. When we’ve met God face-to-face and experienced His blessings, it’s a well of living water that we can draw on in times of trouble which brings victory and conquest.

Don’t allow your heart and soul to be depressed and upset. Turn your mind to the greatness of God and determine victory!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

June 24 – Success in everything we attempt

He is like a tree planted by flowing streams; it yields its fruit at the proper time, and its leaves never fall off. He succeeds in everything he attempts.   (Psalm 1:3  NET)

This psalm introduces the entire Book of Psalms, setting the tone for how we should live. Its theme is that there are two paths in life, righteousness and wickedness, prosperity and destruction. A simple concept, but one that we have to continually remind ourselves of. Speaking about the wicked in the beginning of the psalm, it refers to increasing levels of contact — walking with them, standing among them, sitting with them. We cannot avoid contact with the wicked, with sinners or with scoffers, even if we lived in a monastery, and God’s will is not for us to hide from society. God’s advice is for us to live in the world but not allow ourselves to be affected by it.

A tree planted by a flowing stream might evoke images of a sturdy sycamore tree by a country stream surrounded by greenery, but what was probably envisioned by the author of this psalm would be a sturdy date palm, producing fruit and shade at an oasis in the desert. When drought, hunger, and heat is all around, the oasis offers food, water, and shade. This is what God wants for us. Our life on earth should be fruitful, stable, and pleasant. Though problems come, we don’t just weather them, we thrive and offer hope and shelter for anyone around us. A thriving palm tree by an oasis would be an exception in the desert and would be seen at a distance, just what God wants for us.

When we stay faithful to God we WILL bear fruit… at the proper time. We don’t bear fruit constantly because it takes time and effort to produce, but there is a season to produce fruit. Like Jesus’ parable about the vine, and the parable about the fig tree that had not produced fruit for three years, as God’s children we are expected to bear fruit. It is our mission in life, and our way of bringing shame to the devil.

When this verse says that we will succeed at everything we attempt, this means finances, marriage, career, family, spirituality, salvation… everything. Obviously we will encounter hardships and even failures (as Jesus did) but in the end we will turn every potential failure into success. And more, the process of working our way through the hardships will teach us valuable lessons about trust and faith that will only deepen our relationship with God. Even the devil’s attacks will boomerang back on him.

Get busy putting down those roots into the pure, clean water of God’s Spirit.

Monday, June 23, 2014

June 23 – Do not envy evildoers!

Do not fret when wicked men seem to succeed! Do not envy evildoers! For they will quickly dry up like grass, and wither away like plants…. Commit your future to the Lord! Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf.   (Psalm 37:1,2,5  NET)

Psalm 37 is an acrostic poem, meaning that the first word of each verse spells out the Hebrew alphabet. A lot of thought was put into the message of this psalm, but also into making it beautiful and clever, a sign of God’s attention to detail and His wisdom. One of the messages of this psalm is for people of God to remain strong in times of trouble. They can only do this when they are certain that God will do what He has promised, both here on earth and in heaven after we die.

Learning to resist the temptation to get bent out of shape over the seeming success of evildoers is an extremely important weapon in our arsenal. The more we react to evil, the more we envy evil people, the more we allow the “success” of the ungodly to make us depressed, the more we empower the devil. He and his demons are nothing; they’ve been defeated; we have authority over them. They don’t act defeated, and want to trick us into believing that they are strong, but we need to keep in mind that whatever they seem to have will quickly be taken away. Not even Satan stays faithful to his own. He turns on them after a while and destroys them because he is incapable of love, faithfulness, and loyalty.

But our God is different. If we commit our future to Him He promises to act on our behalf! The word “commit” in ancient Hebrew, translated literally would be “to roll it over on.” When we “roll over” our future onto the Lord like a giant boulder, when we place our plans in His hands and trust Him to help us accomplish it, God will act. Throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments we see God acting on the behalf of His people. Hebrews 11 puts it this way: And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, put foreign armies to flight, and women received back their dead raised to life.

Our lives CANNOT be different than theirs. We need to expect the same things that happened to the great heroes of the Bible; we need to expect God to act on our behalf because we commit our future to Him.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

June 22 – We do not fear no matter what

God is our strong refuge; he is truly our helper in times of trouble. For this reason we do not fear when the earth shakes, and the mountains tumble into the depths of the sea, when its waves crash and foam, and the mountains shake before the surging sea.  (Psalm 46:1-3  NET)

Some say this psalm was the basis for the traditional hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” written by Martin Luther. And just like the song, this psalm gives us a powerful sense that we have nothing to fear because we have a might God on our side.

In Bible times castles and fortresses were indispensable to life. Cities erected high walls to keep themselves safe from their enemies, and many times cities were built on hilltops or at the edge of cliffs. Even so, any fortress could be penetrated when an enemy was determined enough. But here we are reminded that God is vastly superior to any man made structure, and that His protection is absolute and unfailing. When trouble comes, God is aware of it and runs to our side to help… that is when we are trusting in Him and placing our faith firmly in His promises.

Later in the psalm, we are encouraged to trust in God when enemy armies attack, but here we’re told that God is our refuge even when it appears that the world itself and the universe is falling apart. Even when the world is coming to an end, or “powerful” demonic forces are attacking us, we can be sure that God is stronger and that we are safe with Him. When people do witchcraft against us, or we are trying to break a curse that has existed in our family for hundreds of years, we should not fear. We can count on God’s help in times of trouble.

I challenge you to examine your behavior and thoughts in times of trouble, when everything seems to be falling apart and going wrong. What your eyes show you at that moment is not important. What you feel is a useless bit of false information. Our trust needs to be in the God of the Bible who created all things, who has delivered us many times, and who was and is the God of the many heroes of the Bible.

Look forward to your next “time of trouble” and be determined to practice trust and confidence in the middle of the chaos. The miracle will be guaranteed.

June 21 – Worthless as a puff of wind

O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. Common people are as worthless as a puff of wind, and the powerful are not what they appear to be. If you weigh them on the scales, together they are lighter than a breath of air.  (Psalm 62:8,9  NLT)

Today’s promise is that God is our refuge, and the dictionary defines refuge as: a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble. And so, if we truly believe that He is our refuge our thoughts, words, feelings, and behavior have to reveal an unshakeable sense of safety and being sheltered. It’s dishonest for us to claim God as our refuge and then live in fear and insecurity.

We can all remember times that we felt safe and sheltered; we can also remember times that we felt scared, unprotected, and abandoned (these memories may even be more vivid). One experience fills us with the faith and confidence to do anything, to conquer the world, to achieve our dreams, and to do what no one else has ever done. The other experience fills us with the fear and doubt that makes us second-guess every decision, convinces us that we’ll never work through the past, that we are not special, and that we cannot expect anything special from God. One experience fills us with life and light, the other with death and darkness.

We are God’s chosen people when we choose to have faith in Him… a faith that’s lived out and radical. When we’re in that state we don’t need to worry about what’s going on in the world, or about other people — powerful or ordinary — because they’re a puff of wind, they’re not what they appear, they’re lighter than a breathe of air. Because we belong to God and He is our Refuge, it is incompatible for our life to be characterized by fear and insecurity.

Why does the Holy Spirit emphasize this point about the powerful? Because this is one of the worst things we can do to ourselves. When we’re impressed with or depressed by the power of evil or of evil people, we have already lost. Evil people and evil itself needs to be considered as worthless as a puff of wind; the ONLY person we should be awed at and impressed with is Almighty God. Though we identify and fight against evil, we cannot be awed by it. This is a secret of success that we have learned over the years… whether you ignore it or take it to heart is up to you. Either way you will reap the consequences.

Friday, June 20, 2014

June 20 – Don’t quit on me now

God, high above, sees far below; no matter the distance, he knows everything about us. When I walk into the thick of trouble, keep me alive in the angry turmoil. With one hand strike my foes, with your other hand save me. Finish what you started in me, God. Your love is eternal––don't quit on me now. (Psalm 138:6-8  MSG)

The great paradox about God is that He is the most powerful and mighty, but cares for the most weak and defeated. It’s rare to ever witness someone with such power being so gracious and merciful, and usually it’s only to soothe a guilty conscience. We can easily fall into the trap of thinking that God is like a man, that He’s too busy for us, that our “small” problems don’t interest Him, or that we are too unworthy of His attention. All of these excuses could not be further from the truth. God is not a man with human weaknesses. He is Almighty God, and is vastly different than anyone or anything we have ever experienced. Though He is high above, He sees far below!

When we’re in the middle of “angry turmoil” we should switch on our faith, being absolutely certain that God is by our side and that nothing the world tries to do can harm us. Our natural tendency is to panic and expect the worst, but if we truly are men and women of faith, aren’t those times what we live for? Goliath made David into who he was. Who would he have been without the giant? Read and see that David never once called Goliath a giant, because he was determined that he was the stronger of the two through the mighty power and presence of God. 

What would Abraham have been without the sacrifice of Isaac? That sacrifice, or angry turmoil, made him who he was. And we can say the same for the falling of the walls of Jericho and Rahab, Pharaoh and Moses, Gideon and the Midianites, the cross and Jesus. God is the champion of finishing what He starts, and all of the very best lessons that we learn from Him come in deserts, in times of trouble, in moments of angry turmoil. But as long as we have faith in God and are determined to overcome, we will see His power and bring glory to His name.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

June 19 – He will not allow my foot to slip

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.  (Psalm 121:1-4  HCSB)

This is the second of a series of psalms called the Songs of Ascents that the Israelites would sing as they travelled to the Temple in Jerusalem on one of the three annual feasts — Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. People would sing this and thirteen other psalms as they made the strenuous trek to the House of God, speaking of their troubles, their enemies, God’s power, His deliverance, and their worship of Him. They must have even sung them as they walked through the streets of Jerusalem and as they entered the Temple. As you meditate on these words and have faith for them to come true in your life, remember that they have already come true for countless pilgrims on the dusty roads of Israel, just like they will come true for you.

Our help does not come from mountain hideouts, from reserves of money in the bank, from family and friends, or from physical strength — our help comes from the God who made all things…. the Grand Canyon at 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and 1 mile deep; Mount Everest, at 29,029 feet above sea level where climbers have to use bottled oxygen to breathe; the Great Barrier Reef along the coast of Australia which is the largest structure in the world created by living organisms; Victoria Falls at a width of 5604 feet with the worlds largest sheet of falling water; and Alpha Centauri, the closest star to earth at a distance of 4.37 light years.

This mighty God can be trusted to take care of us. If he can create and manage nature and the universe in all its magnificence, surely He will keep our feet from slipping — we are the center of all He has made. The secret is for us to put our faith in God and trust that He is going to do what we’ve asked Him to. Faith doesn’t need to see things changing, it doesn’t rely on what is visible. Faith is certain of what is not seen, it forces things into existence.

Isn’t it great (and even comical that God feels He needs to say it) that we have a God who will not fall asleep on us? We can be sure no matter when or where we need His help that He is awake and attentive to our cry.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

June 18 – Be a subduer!

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.”  (Genesis 1:28  NET)

God’s first words to humanity were for them to subdue the earth and rule over it. In the verses just before this passage the three persons of the Trinity spoke to each other and decided to make man in their own image. As was later ordered in the Ten Commandments, no image of God is ever to be created, this is something that God hates. No wooden carving or metal sculpture can do justice to Almighty God, and so God prohibits it, but WE have been chosen to be His image! God’s desire is for His people to reflect His power and glory so that the world and the people around us will see God in us. He wants us to rule over the world in the manner that He would, and to be His representatives on earth.

The word “subdue” is an unusually strong word for this context. The original Hebrew word is always used for kings and armies, when a king conquers another people and forces them to live under his rule. In the Garden there was no need for this forceful behavior, but God knew that sin would come into the world and that we would have to do battle with unbelief as well as Satan and demons. He also knew that faith would not bring automatic blessings, that being a good person would not guarantee a good life. He knew that we would have to work at our salvation, and work for the miracles and blessings that we want to see. Just like Jesus took authority over Satan and evil on earth, never backed down from healing a blind man or cleansing a leper, never was intimidated by demons but cast them out with a word, God’s first words to the first two people on earth were for them to use His authority and power — subdue the earth and rule over it.

I challenge you to set aside time today — it has to be today — to identify things, and situations that you need to subdue. We’re made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), He has already blessed us (Adam and Eve’s blessing is ours), but we need to rise up, summon a spiritually audacious faith from deep inside, and do battle with whatever is blocking us from what is rightfully ours. If subduing sounds too aggressive and uncomfortable, get over it!! Just do it!!  This is God’s first command to humanity, and as long as we make excuses for why we can’t do it, we will experience unnecessary problems. It may feel strange at first, but once you start seeing the results, it’ll become second nature.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

June 17 – What is God’s will?

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 12:2 HCSB)

There is so much power packed into this small verse, it’s hard to know where to begin. Again we have a condition, “do not be conformed,” and a promise that comes with it, to discern the perfect will of God. God’s will has always been a big question mark in the minds of Christians for ages. “Does He want me to take this job, or that one? Does He want me to marry that girl or this one? Does He want me to suffer through this oppression to teach me a lesson? Is He mad at me? Does He even love me?”

These and all the other questions that bombard most people, are no longer a struggle when our minds get out of the rut of the mundane, and allow God to renew and transform them. When our minds begin to think in godly terms, we begin to discern what His thoughts and desires are, and what aren’t. We don’t even need to know all the details of what God wants or how the answer we need can come about.  We just go by faith and determine that what we decide He will make possible, because it’s in sync with His character and nature. Only those whose minds are renewed can understand how that kind of audacity is possible, and how much it pleases God.

A Christian whose mind is being transformed day by day, is one who knows how to determine his or her blessings. That’s the person who says unexpected things, who has joy when no one else could even conceive of being happy. A mind transformed by God, is one that sees beyond human limitations and can visualize the blessings that are sure to come. Who wouldn’t be joyful with that kind of vision?

Not only that, but a transformed mind can discern the counterfeit “words of God” that the devil serves up to na├»ve and weak believers. Christian leaders and teachers who may have great authority can be deceived just as much as a young Christian, if their minds are stuck in church traditions or inflated by their own status and position. Satan is always searching for a way to infiltrate our minds through people we once assumed were spiritual. Our only protection against that is to ensure that we each keep ourselves transformed by God’s Spirit every day. Our standards should be those of heaven, and we will be guaranteed a clear view of the will of God for ourselves and for this world.

Monday, June 16, 2014

June 16 – Seeing into your future

Dear friends, don’t let this one thing escape you: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:8-9 HCSB)

It’s time for us to get some perspective on what it takes to see our promises fulfilled.  For God, a day, a year, a thousand years, is just a drop in the bucket.  He can work outside the limitations that we are bound to when it comes to time.  Just think, how could Jesus die for all sins, past present and future, if thousands of years worth of sins hadn’t even yet happened?  How could promises and prophecies be written in ancient Israel, and yet we see them accomplished over and over throughout history? God doesn’t see time as one long unbroken line of events, and He wants us to learn to see into our future, and to see our past healed, long after it occurred.

When God tells us that faith is believing before we see, being sure of something before it even happens, He is asking us to enter into His supernatural realm.  Faith is seeing and visualizing what will happen in the future, and to be so certain of it that we base our decisions on that certainty.  To the world, that is craziness.  The Bible says that this kind of craziness is the only way we can please God (“…for without faith, it is impossible to please God.”  Hebrews 11:6)  

The devil is an expert at convincing us that God takes too long and that He probably didn’t even hear our prayer or care about answering us.  He keeps us focused on the monotonous line of time and circumstances marching on into the future, and the impossibility that an answer from God could occur outside of that line.  But we have come to discover that when a crazy, audacious faith is active, time, space, and even the laws of science, can be suspended. God accomplishes what He wants, when His people are bold enough to believe beyond what their eyes can see.  When it takes time, it’s because God is doing a better job of answering you than you realize.  His greater vision is that all come to Him and repent.  If a quickie miracle causes people to become selfish and turn their backs on God the moment they get what they want, that would accomplish nothing.  Sometimes God is working on a deeper level to bring about our own repentance, or for those around us.

“God does not delay,” is His promise.  So what do you do when it feels like your answer is dragging on too long?  Stand firm and claim this verse: God does not delay.  The answer is yours to such a degree, that you have to act on it.  Be joyful when the sickness still appears to linger.  God does not delay.  Boldly move forward in your life, when it seems like you’ll never break free from the past.  Do you have faith for something big?  Is it the will of God?  Will you honor God with your testimony?  Then visualize that answer as yours, and act, think and react, as if it has already been granted to you – because it has!  

For those who feel to afraid to live in this kind of radical faith, come to church more often this week and learn how to.  Hear testimonies and have your questions answered.  You can’t afford to live so far from God a day longer.     

Sunday, June 15, 2014

June 15 – We cry out “Abba, Father!”

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs…  (Romans 8:15-17  HCSB)

As we celebrate Father’s Day it’s useful for us to think about how God calls Himself our heavenly Father. Why is that? He could call us any number of things — slaves, servants, citizens of His kingdom, priests, warriors, saints, His workmanship, jars of clay, sheep, chosen people, branches — and He does. But the Father-child relationship is the most prominent and repeated designation in the New Testament… so much so that the Lord Jesus referred to God as Father exclusively while He was on earth. The only time He called God “God”, was when He was left alone on the cross and cried out “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

It even appears that Jesus was in the habit of using the phrase “Abba, Father”, which was the Aramaic and Greek forms of father, and which emphasized the closeness of the relationship, and the dependence that a child has on his father. This was a huge departure from the Old Testament where is was unusual to see God referred to as Father. To the Jews it must have been a shock to hear Jesus speak in such an informal, personal way with God — but obviously He was introducing a new way of approaching God. Like today’s promise states, “Abba, Father” communicates the belief that we are God’s children, and heirs to all that He has.

It’s rare to find people that have not heard the phrase “Abba, Father.” Many have read it in the Bible, or heard it preached on, but the million dollar question is… do we treat God in this intimate, bold, expectant way? This way of looking at God is not exclusive to Jesus. He came to show us how to live, and how we need to have a relationship with Him that guarantees big blessings — a confidence that He will never, ever, ever fail us. If we had this down pat, our lives would be completely different than they are today. We all need to work on this.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

June 14 – Fear is a killer

The Lord is on my side, I am not afraid! What can people do to me?  (Psalm 118:6  NET)

What a simple promise, and yet so deep. These two phrases reveal an intelligent thought pattern that is indispensable to faith. The psalmist reasons, since the Lord is on his side, he doesn’t need to be afraid… what could people possibly do to Him? This is the reasoning of someone who will receive a miracle, who will conquer enemies, who will see the impossible come true in his life.

George Patton, an controversial army general in World War Two said: “Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.” An interesting statement from a man considered to be fearless and tough as nails. But even he admitted that fear was something he had to deal with. There was a time that he advanced against the enemy in Europe faster than any other general, conquered more land, and took on the toughest enemies. His secret was deciding what needed to be done and doing it no matter what. Many hated him, and many more loved him, but without a doubt confidence in his own abilities made him what he was. 

Fear is a killer. It kills faith, it kills miracles, and it handcuffs God. Though we all feel fear, we cannot allow it to master us. We have to reason it away with the Word of God. Only those who believe in the Word of God more than they believe in their fears will see God’s promises coming true in their lives. Though fear does not protect or bless, it has many worshippers, many slaves. Fear has never pulled people out of their problems, and yet, if we’re not careful we will find ourselves being suspicious of faith and trusting fear. This can only be the logic and reasoning of hell… an emotion-based reasoning.

What if you decided to repeat today’s verse at least once every day for the next month? Do you think it might make a difference? I have no doubt that it would give you perspective and help you to see the power of God in your life.

Friday, June 13, 2014

June 13 – Whatever you ask for…

…whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.  (Mark 11:24  NET)

“I have faith,” is a common statement I hear every week, and people say it sincerely believing that what they’re saying is true. But what many people refer to as faith is not faith at all according to the Bible. Real faith is not at all fragile; it’s tough and determined; real faith refuses to give up no matter what’s happening around it. Real faith is not based on circumstances or abilities or even a person’s merits; real faith is based on God’s promises and takes a bold, adamant stand on them believing that they have to come true. Because faith is based on GOD’S promises, it’s the most powerful, enduring, persistent thing in the world.

When people say “I have faith,” most of the time they do not mean that they are already believing that what they have asked for is theirs, what they mean is that they hope that they’re lucky enough to get what they’ve asked for, but know that the chances of that happening are slim and unlikely. Sadly, most people who say “I have faith” do not have a track record of overcoming the impossible and seeing extraordinary miracles in their lives, and because of this they give God a bad name. Though they say they have faith, their type of faith is not genuine, godly faith at all, it’s their own version of faith.

When we decide to have real faith in God we do exactly what Jesus explained, we believe that what we’ve asked for is already ours, even though it’s not in our hands yet. It sounds crazy to the world — a foolish exercise in false hope — but this is what transformed the lives of Abraham and Sarah, Hannah, Ester, David, Noah, Peter, Paul, Mary Magdalene and so many others, in the past and today. In Hebrews eleven is says: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. So faith is anything but false hope… it gives substance to what we’re asking for, it’s our evidence. Faith gives us access to the spiritual world, to God, and just like we cannot see God but know that He exists, we cannot see what we’ve asked for but know it exists and is already ours.

The simple truth is that we cannot please God without faith. If we say we know God but have not see His miracles in our life, something is seriously wrong because the God of the Bible has always done miracles for His children when they believed. So let’s rise to the challenge and start having genuine faith like never before!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

June 12 – No comparison

That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next.  (Romans 8:18,19  MSG)

Human nature tells us that we can grit our teeth and hold on a little bit longer as long as we know something better is just over the horizon. People handle difficult customers and high-pressure bosses simply because they know they’re going on a vacation next week, or because they’ve been promised a raise. Looking forward to a reward or to good times is a powerful incentive to bulldozing our way through hard times.

But for those of us who have faith in God the present hardships are so small compared to the amazing blessings that we have been promised, here on earth and in heaven. There is simply no comparison. In another passage Paul labels all our present suffering as momentary and light, no matter how severe it may seem to us, and Jesus promises that we will receive back one hundred times whatever we give up for Him. So whenever we go through hard times it’s crucial for us to step back and get some perspective on the situation. Things are not as bad as they seem… and even if things are very bad, we believe in a God who walks on the water and raises the dead, and so we have to lift up our heads and determine that everything is going to turn out alright.

The last part of today’s verse says that creation can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Other versions say that it eagerly waits the revelation of the sons of God. In the original Greek the meaning is closer to creation “watching with outstretched neck.” At times the mountains, forests, and oceans are smarter than we are. All of God’s creation knows that great things are coming. It knows that the children of God will be revealed one day, that their earthly shroud will be lifted, and that glory and blessings beyond measure are awaiting them. Creation is so convinced of this that it’s waiting with outstretched neck.

Surely, as the pinnacle of God’s creation we could be smarter than we are many times. We should be eagerly expecting the blessings of God here on earth, and in heaven. If creation knows what’s coming, how can people baptized in the Holy Spirit not know this in an even clearer way?

Don’t give in to the way of the world. Grab a hold of what God has promised and eagerly expect great things, both here on earth and in heaven.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

June 11 – Be an imitator

Dear friend, do not imitate what is bad but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does what is bad has not seen God.  (3 John 1:11  NET)

No one would admit to being a person who does what is “bad.”  Even criminals have ways to justify all that they do, to put a positive spin on why they have no choice but to commit these crimes.  We all think we are good in our own eyes, but that’s the problem.  It’s God’s eyes that matter.  What is “good” and “bad” to Him can be totally different from what we tell ourselves.  God is urging us to learn what is good and bad, right and wrong, through the process of imitation.  Because of sin, human nature is selfish, egotistical, and corrupt, so God wants us to learn by copying Him and His people. 

“Doing good,” can sound so simple and easy to identify, like a boy scout helping an elderly woman across the street.  But it really means, doing whatever God asks of us at all times.  Doing good requires the combination of humility to accept what God asks, and the courage to execute it.  It’s more than an act of charity, but a lifestyle of constant communion with Him.  You can’t know the will of God at all times, unless you’re eagerly trying to listen to what He says.  These people are of God – they are born of His Spirit.  They are truly His children, and that is saying a lot.

But those who do what is bad, have not seen God.  This doesn’t mean seeing God in heaven, but they don’t see Him in their everyday lives.  They don’t see the opportunities He holds out to them, they don’t see the blessings He wants to shower them with.  They don’t see through the lies of the devil to know that God’s power is greater, they see nothing but their own dull fleshly thoughts.  These are the people who argue with us in church when we encourage them to believe in God’s power, and say that they already know what to do and that their faith hasn’t worked.  When you are doing what is good, your eyes are opened and you see Him even in the hardest times.

Don’t take this simple verse as nothing more than an encouragement to be a “good person.”  Look deeper and ask yourself if you are imitating those who you admire as spiritual leaders, or are you trying to do it all on your own?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

June 10 – Richness in the desert

The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt. I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land to a land that is both good and spacious, to a land flowing with milk and honey.  (Exodus 3:7,8  NET)

Moses was in the desert when he saw the burning bush on Mount Sinai, far away from the noise and distractions of the big city. He had probably been raised in what is now Cairo, in Pharaoh’s palace, with the best teachers and the best food. He had the best of everything. But God did not appear to him there. God appeared to him when he was in the desert.

The same thing happened to Jesus. At 30 years of age, right after He was baptized by John, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the Judean wilderness for forty days and forty nights when He did not eat, and was far from the distractions of the world. There He was tempted by the devil, but He must also have experienced powerful moments of communion with the Father. Though He was in the desert, a harsh place lacking all the comforts of life, He felt the rich presence of God.

What God did for the Hebrews in Egypt, He wants to do for us today. He wants to free us from slavery and oppression, and lead us to physical and spiritual abundance, but He can only do that when we cut ourselves off from the worries and distractions of this world… when we’re in the desert and can hear His voice and understand His leading. If Moses had seen a burning bush in Cairo it wouldn’t have impressed him — there would have been too many other things going on. But in the desert it stuck out like a sore thumb and he realized it lead to something important… and the conversation he then had with God was life-changing. And so, if we want to see changes and to hear God’s voice, we need to enter a self-imposed desert… cutting ourselves off from the normal distractions of this world. We need to be still so that we can hear His voice.

One of the curses of modern life, and big cities in particular, is the distractions we face. We’re surrounded by man-made things (cars, parking decks, office buildings, air-conditioners), cellphones are ringing, radios blaring, TVs show images of the latest bad news of the day, billboards, the Internet… and on and on. Though technology has made our lives easier, it has also cursed us. If we want more of God, we need to have less of this world and its busyness.

We’re starting the 40-Day Fast of Jesus today, which means that we’re voluntarily cutting ourselves off from all secular entertainment and information, and focusing on God, His Word, silence, and meditation. Like Moses, Jesus, and many others, we believe this self imposed desert will prepare us for a new phase of our lives. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

June 9 – A “yes” to every promise

For every one of God’s promises are “Yes” in him; therefore also through him the “Amen” is spoken, to the glory we give to God.  (2 Corinthians 1:20  NET)

“But how do I know it’s the will of God?” I’m asked constantly when I encourage people to believe in a miracle or an answered prayer.  The prevailing idea is that God is extremely picky with who He chooses to bless, and that not all promises are meant for everyone.  He is a mystery that must be solved, a judge who is quick to condemn, or even a bureaucrat who requires so many clauses and conditions to be fulfilled, you can never get what you want from Him.  The reason that we’ve come up with these distorted images of God, is that we have tried to pray in the past, and have known plenty of others who have as well, and received no answer.  We foolishly assumed that God didn’t want to come to our aid, even in desperate and painful times.  For every soul that makes this assumption, the devil celebrates with glee because he has succeeded in creating a barrier between us and God.

God wants us to know that as far as His promises are concerned, it’s a “Yes.”  HIs conditions? Trust. Obedience. Perseverance.  We are to assume His promises are for us to use – all of them!  We are expected to be so audacious that we hold onto them and demand that they come true in a personal and real way.  Whatever conditions He places on His promises (just look through all the ones we have listed so far this past month) we should set our minds to fulfilling.  They are simple and straightforward with no mystery, hidden clauses or red tape.  And equally as important, we are to persevere in believing in them, even when we don’t see our answered prayer on the horizon.  It’s in perseverance, that we prove how much we believe in Him, and it’s in perseverance where most people fizzle out.

Giving up on God’s promises is a false type of humility.  Believing for a while and then losing hope when the answer takes too long for our comfort, is a harsh insult to God’s character.  He is saying in this verse, “Of course, I want to bless you! It’s Yes and Amen, as long as the glory goes to Me.”  

Begin to see God with new eyes, eager to bless you, and knowing that through the process of you trusting and persevering in His promises, you will be strengthened and purified in your faith.  You are meant to be blessed, so go for it.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

June 8 – Never ashamed

Those who look to him for help are happy; their faces are not ashamed.  (Psalm 34:5  NET)

It’s not God’s will for us to be miserable. He wants us to be happy, to be unashamed, to be filled with His presence, and to be victorious against our problems and enemies. Todays psalm (and Psalm 56) were written after King David was captured in Gath — what is now the Gaza Strip — a Philistine territory where Goliath had been born. In order to avoid being killed or imprisoned he pretended to have lost his mind, started speaking incoherently, scribbled on walls, and drooled on his beard. The officers of the King of Gath wanted to kill him because they recognized who he was, a powerful commander in Saul’s army. But the king dismissed him, thinking that he had lost his mind and was no longer useful to anyone.

This was a humiliating time for David. He must have been tempted to feel weak and alone. His own king and father-in-law (Saul) wanted to kill him out of jealousy, and at that moment he had resorted to hiding among the enemy to survive. But right after this experience David formed an army of warriors that eventually swelled to 600 men — a small army that no one could defeat. Most probably many of his trusted officials and commanders in the future came from this initial group of men that gathered at the cave were David started hiding out.

David declares that those who look to God for help are happy, that their faces are not ashamed. This doesn’t mean that we will not go through unhappy, shameful times, but it does mean that those times will be temporary stops on our way to ultimate victory in heaven and here on earth. When we look to God for help, realizing that we do not have what it takes to overcome, we are manifesting humility. David felt this in the enemy’s camp… all alone, surrounded by enemies whose brothers and fathers he had killed. Only God could save him from that situation. And when we reach that same point in life, when we realize that we are bankrupt, physically and spiritually, and need God’s power and character to continue, that is when our situation can be flipped and our victory come rushing in.

At those times when things look darkest, if we look to God for help in spite of how everything looks, God will be obligated to come through for us and provide a way out. Determine that you are going to be happy, that your face will be unashamed.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

June 7 – Free from fear

Taste and see that the Lord is good! How blessed is the one who takes shelter in him! Remain loyal to the Lord, you chosen people of his, for his loyal followers lack nothing! Even young lions sometimes lack food and are hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.  (Psalm 34:8-10  NET)

This psalm was written by King David after he had pretended to be insane before the King of Gath. David’s plan succeeded when the king declared him harmless and had him released. When his life was at great risk, David was determined to see the deliverance of God.

When he challenges us to “taste and see” that the Lord is good, he has personal experience of what happens when a person does. Basically he is telling us to test God, to act on His promises and experience for ourselves whether or not they will come true. Sadly, most Christians today do not do this. They view faith and God as a club membership, a place where they can go to see friends, where there’s good music, and a funny sermon. The idea of testing God and seeing miraculous results is a foreign idea to them… even though they profess to believe in a God that has always done miracles for His people.

David’s excitement at being protected while in enemy hands made him compare men and women of faith to young lions. Though powerful, natural killers, and considered one of the top predators of God’s creation, they will at times go hungry — but as God’s children we never will. We will lack no good thing.

We all need to view ourselves in a more powerful way… stronger even than young lions.

Friday, June 6, 2014

June 6 – Don’t drag His name through the mud

He restores my strength. He leads me down the right paths for the sake of his reputation.   (Psalm 23:3  NET)

When we’re at the end of our rope and have no strength to continue, this promise (and many others like it) should come to mind to strengthen us. If God has allowed us to go through a certain problem it’s because we have the strength and faith to overcome it, as long as we trust in Him. When our strength runs low, He promises to restore it. So we can never complain to God about not having enough strength to overcome the problems that come our way. Even when our feelings tell us that we’re weak, He will supernaturally make us strong.

I believe in complaining with God — like Abraham, Gideon, Hannah, and Jacob — and insisting that His Word come true in our lives when we see that we are living a contradiction. That type of complaint is based on a strong belief in God’s Word and a determination that it come true in our own lives. This is a healthy type of complaint with God. The unhealthy type, implies that God is not holding up His side of the bargain… It’s rebellious and dangerous, and comes from a lack of faith. It can destroy us by taking us farther and farther away from God’s Word. Today’s promise is an unequivocal statement that God will provide us with all the strength we need for our present situation.

He also promises that He will guide us down the right path when we look to Him as our Shepherd. Any shepherd that does not lead his sheep, but leaves them to wander alone and lost, would be an incompetent, lazy shepherd. Jesus is nothing like that kind of Shepherd. We can count on Him to guide us. As long as we live by faith and trust in His voice, we can be sure that we are not heading for a dead end, or for failure. As a good Shepherd, Jesus only leads us to victory.

The most powerful part of this promise is the last phrase: “for the sake of his reputation.” God has to renew our strength and lead us on the right path because His reputation is at stake!!  If He doesn’t take care of those who truly trust in Him, who accept Him as their Shepherd and who take on the role of His sheep, His reputation will be dragged through the mud. Our failed lives would cause Him to lose credibility. His glory would be diminished… and God cannot put up with that. He is a God who insists on His name being glorified, not out of pride, but because it is true and right.  When we glorify Him, we are filled with light and are drawn near to Him.

Why does God promise to keep you strong and make sure you’re on the right path? For the glory of His name. As long as we cooperate, His promise is guaranteed to come true.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

June 5 – Hunted down by God

Surely your goodness and faithfulness will pursue me all my days, and I will live in the Lord’s house for the rest of my life.  (Psalm 23:6  NET)

Most people are used to a different translation of this verse, the last of Psalm 23. It’s usually translated “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”, but in fact, the Hebrew word that is translated “follow” in some translations, should be translated as “pursue” or “chase”. Psalm 23 is the only place in the Old Testament where these nouns are linked to this verb. “Pursue” is normally used for something that is done to your enemies, or for an animal going after its prey. To find it linked to goodness and faithfulness is ironic and strange, but purposeful on the Holy Spirit’s part. When someone chooses to see God as his Shepherd, and places himself under His care as a sheep, God is so pleased that He will hunt that person down and bless him with goodness and faithfulness. There is no way that one of God’s children can fail to experience these two great blessings; wherever he is in the world, God will chase him down not to hurt him, but to make his life richer and fuller.

This is an important insight into this well known chapter of the Bible. Though Psalm 23 is read by millions, people hang posters of this psalm on their living room walls, and many have committed this chapter to memory, most Christians do not understand the idea that is portrayed in the last verse. We don’t have to beg for God’s goodness and faithfulness, or talk Him into blessing us — as long as we trust in Him as our Shepherd, His blessings will hunt us down and find us wherever we are in this world. Just like the woman with the twelve-year hemorrhage was healed after touching Jesus’ cloak, even before Jesus spoke to her, or knew she was there, the goodness and faithfulness of God is automatically ours when we adopt Him as our Shepherd.

Do you want God to hunt you down in order to bless you? Then make Him your Shepherd and you become on of His sheep — humble, and obedient.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

June 4: A voice shouting in the wilderness

“Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way, the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight.’”  (Mark 1:2-4  NET)

This is the first promise in the book of Mark, and the only quote of Old Testament Scripture. Mark is not a biography of Jesus’ life because it does not go into detail about His family or career. Instead it concentrates on what He did, the power He had, and the difference He made in people’s lives; Mark does not present a teaching Jesus, but a Jesus of action.

Interestingly, the book is written in the present tense, as if Mark were a reporter and we were his listeners. It comes across as action packed and alive, making us feel that we are there watching Jesus. Mark wants to transform the reader rather than inform him/her, and wants the reader to be convinced of who Jesus is not by Old Testament prophecies or explanations, but by the things he did: deliverance, healing, miracles, and the changed lives of His disciples.

In today’s verse Mark speaks about John the Baptist being a messenger sent ahead of Jesus to prepare the way for Him. In ancient times, like today, whenever a king would visit a city or country His coming would be announced, and people would respond by repairing roads, fixing up communities, and preparing for the special visit of the king. This was done to make the journey more comfortable for the king, but also to give him the best impression of that city or country. Three authors of Scripture and one prophet proclaimed the coming of the King of kings — Isaiah, Malachi, John the Baptist, and Mark.

If we want more of God in our lives, if we want to see more of God’s power and presence, the prophet Malachi says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” We must prepare the way for Him, and make our paths straight. We have to draw near to Him in our thoughts and actions, in the way we live our lives, and in our decisions. When we put Him first above everything else, we are crying out for His presence using one of the most powerful means possible. As we work at cleaning up our lives and straighten up our behavior so that God will be pleased with us, both our consciences and the Holy Spirit play the role of John the Baptist in our lives today, they prepare us for Jesus and are the voice crying out in the wilderness. When we respond to them in humility and obey, we will be visited and transformed by Him.

We are preparing to start the 40-Day Fast of Jesus on June 10th, less than a week from today. We will voluntarily enter into our own wilderness — depriving ourselves of secular entertainment and information — in order to hear this voice in a better way, and to prepare ourselves for a new phase in our lives. Get ready.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

June 3: A cure for that horrible, aching void

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  (2 Timothy 1:7  NKJV)

“It’s tension right in the center of my chest.  I can’t breathe, like there’s an ache that won’t go away no matter how happy I try to pretend to be…”  I’ve heard this a lot, especially here in the United States.  The spirit of fear, anxiety, stress, and dread has made itself such a part of our everyday lives, we’ve learned to live with it and accept it as normal, even though we hate it.  It’s the spirit of fear that causes good people to snap when circumstances overload them with stress.  It’s the iron weight that pulls people down into a pit of depression.  Just willpower alone cannot break us free from it — only the power of God can destroy its hold on us.

God wants us to know without a doubt, that what He has to give us is the polar opposite of fear.  Power.  Love.  A clear, strong, and decisive, sound mind.  When we allow His Spirit to operate in us, our thoughts and perspectives make perfect sense.  Our mind is practical, spiritual, and leads us to success.  We understand our power over evil and over circumstances.  We can freely love ourselves, love God and love each other with no fear of being hurt, because He is in us and we know it.  That is just the tip of the iceberg of what the Spirit of God wants to do in us.

People who feel no need to seek the baptism in the Holy Spirit, unknowingly resign themselves to a life of fear.  They don’t see any need for God’s power or love or even a sound mind.  They assume that the horrible aching void in their chest will just go away once they get a raise or once their spouse quits being so annoying, or if they just have a few drinks to dull the pain. If they could see and feel what God’s Spirit is offering them, they would do whatever it took to find it, but unfortunately their dull minds keep them blindly and pridefully stuck. 

How can we help those who are held captive by fear but don’t understand that God has the answer?  We need to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit ourselves, to begin seeking Him, hungering and thirsting for Him as Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount.  Become living examples of the Spirit of power to overcome all obstacles, with no fear of evil, and no fear of the future.  Love to enjoy those around us, to find the good in everything, large or small.  And a sound, intelligent faith that reasons with God, based on His promises.  Nothing can shake a man or woman with the Spirit of God!  

Weigh the options.  Fear, stress, anxiety and dread on one hand, power, love, and a clear mind on the other.  One held captive to the spirit of this world, the other, filled to overflowing with the Spirit of God.  And you say that seeking the baptism in the Holy Spirit isn’t for you?  It’s a promise of God for you – choose wisely.  Prepare yourselves for the 40-Day Fast of Jesus coming up in a week.  It’s the perfect time to finally find His Spirit and find your cure.