Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 31 – No Shortcuts with God

…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.  For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 10:9-12 NET)

For us to truly understand this wonderful promise about salvation, we have to understand the circumstances under which it was taught.  In the time of the Early Church, openly confessing Jesus Christ as your Lord meant being willing to die for Him.  Persecution was so harsh, that only a true believer would publicly admit this faith.  

The other requirement in this promise is to believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead.  The word “believe” in English does not have the same impact as the Greek word used in the Bible.  Belief meant more than just agreeing mentally to a concept.  It meant a belief that compelled you to act, something that you knew for a fact was so true, that you lived your life in accordance to that belief. Again, this shocking confession that Jesus actually was God and rose again was enough to cause Christians to be thrown to the lions during the first century. 

Now look at the watered-down form of Christianity that has sprung up around us in the last 6 decades or so.  Confessing Jesus as your Lord is as common as burger joints and strip malls.  There is no penalty, no persecution for saying those words.  In fact the concept of what a “lord” is, is so far from our experience in the 21st century, that we don’t even know what it means to live in submission to a lord at all.  But because the phrase is in the Bible, people with a cheap faith can easily say the words and convince themselves that they are now “saved.”

Ask a roomful of average Americans how many believe in their heart that Jesus was raised from the dead, and most likely more than half would agree to that statement.  But do they believe in the manner that the Bible means?  Do they base everything they do in their lives on that belief?  Would they be willing to die for Him?  Since so few are willing to even show up in church or submit to the leadership of a pastor, or even do the very basics such as paying tithes, fighting against sin and seeking to know God more, the answer for most would sadly be no.

Salvation comes at a cost.  It’s offered to us in grace, but we have to be willing to put our lives on the line for Him, otherwise we believe in a cheap grace.  Jesus paid such a high price for our souls and loved us even while we were such lost and ungrateful sinners.  Giving Him our all could never repay Him, but it is the only way to receive Him and the salvation He has to offer.  

We are promised eternity with Him, and He deserves all we have and all we are.  Let’s believe like the first century Christians, ready to live, breathe and die for our Lord and King in obedience and trust.  It’s not worth taking a short-cut when it comes to our eternity, because there are no short cuts with God. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 30 – The power of our testimony

But they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.   (Revelation 12:11  NET)

Jesus’ death on the cross was a game changer, defeating the devil and paying the price for our sins.  No longer did people have to make animal sacrifice after animal sacrifice in an attempt to wash away their sins, when the blood of animals could never really cleanse anyone’s conscience.  No longer did a curtain separate common people from the holy presence of Almighty God, and no longer did God dwell in a building, but in people’s hearts.  The blood of the Lamb cleanses us from all impurity and makes us acceptable to God, so that whenever He looks at us He sees the innocence and perfection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  So yes, we overcome Satan — the ancient serpent, the huge dragon, the devil — by the blood of the Lamb.

But it’s not enough to believe in what Jesus did on the cross and claim Him as our Lord and Savior.  When our faith is real, our lives will be transformed and we will have a testimony to tell.  It is impossible for a person to believe in that great act and walk away unchanged, but when that change occurs an amazing thing happens, we unmask the devil and everything he’s doing in our lives, revealing who he really is — that he is weak and that God is strong.  The changes that occur in our lives, both physical and spiritual, bring glory to God and shame to Satan, and make the invisible God visible to everyone around us.

But we cannot forget that a testimony has to be communicated.  A testimony is not a testimony unless the person who received it tells others, unless he boasts about what God has done for him.  Whenever a miracle happens, that miracle does not only belong to us, it belongs to the world.  We are not supposed to keep silent about it even if we are shy, we hate speaking in front of crowds, or we have a sneaky feeling that we might “jinx” ourselves if we speak about it out loud.  Giving our testimony is one further step in overcoming the devil, and establishing that miracle as a permanent part of our lives.

So remember, there are two things that overcome Satan…

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 29 – Satan cannot win

Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But the dragon was not strong enough to prevail, so there was no longer any place left in heaven for him and his angels. So that huge dragon—the ancient serpent, the one called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world—was thrown down to the earth, and his angels along with him.  (Revelation 12:7-9  NET)

Scripture teaches that Satan used to be an archangel in heaven who, with the passage of time, became infatuated with his own beauty and perfection, and planned to overthrow God and sit on His throne.  In the process a third of the angels in heaven joined him.  The holiness and purity of heaven could not coexist with the pride and impurity of Satan and so war broke out and the dragon and his “angels” were banished from heaven and cast down to earth.

Huge dragon, ancient serpent, devil — these are a few of Satan’s names, the one who has been forced to make earth his base of operations, and whose anger is now directed at the inhabitants of earth.  But instead of feeling intimidated by the idea of a huge dragon or ancient serpent as our enemy, we need to understand what every successful hero of faith in the Bible understood — that with God, we are always on the winning side.  Those of us who submit ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, have indestructible weapons that He provides out of His love and mercy.  We have the authority of His name, the authority of the Word of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.  All of these allow us to defeat every single attack of evil in our lives.

We need to learn to be tireless warriors, otherwise we will be destroyed and lose our salvation.  But in the Kingdom of God a warrior has a great amount of inner joy and peace because he knows he has already won. In fact, many passages in the Bible indicate that the end times will bring the greatest period of spiritual warfare that the world has ever seen, and we are closer to that time than anyone else who has ever lived. 

Isn’t that wonderful?  Michael defeated Satan and threw him out of heaven, and the same power that worked in Michael is at work in us!  Being a part of this war is a glorious thing and we should be honored to fight side by side with the Lord Jesus Christ.  As long as we stay close to God, live by faith in His word, and reject the appeals of our emotions, Satan — the huge dragon, the ancient serpent — cannot win.

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28 – A watchful Father

O Lord, you examine me and know. You know when I sit down and when I get up; even from far away you understand my motives. You carefully observe me when I travel or when I lie down to rest; you are aware of everything I do. Certainly my tongue does not frame a word without you, O Lord, being thoroughly aware of it.  (Psalm 139:1-4   NET)

We used this passage back on July 24th, but it is so powerful that I think it deserves another go around.

The Old Testament rarely refers to God as Father.  That title became widespread only when the Lord Jesus came to earth and exclusively referred to Him in that manner.  Before Jesus’ time on earth, God was not commonly seen as a Father.  But David’s description of God in this psalm describes Him as the perfect Father.  His constant care and watchfulness, and His interest in even the smallest details of our lives reveal a special relationship that is far more personal than judge or king.

Wouldn’t it be perfectly reasonable for God, who is perfect and holy, who knows all about our lives: when we sit down and when we get up, our motives from far away, aware of everything that we do, to just throw His hands up and walk away in frustration with the messes we keep getting ourselves into?  Yet God is not only perfect in all of His actions and thoughts, He is perfect in mercy and compassion by caring for the weak and imperfect. (That’s us!) And that is a real Father.  Real fathers don’t give up on their children because they’ve mismanaged their money, gone bankrupt, got wrapped up in addictions, or because they went through a divorce.  True fathers never give up on their children because they belong to them, and they will always hope that their lives will change and that they will live to their full potential.

This is such an important concept, but one that needs balance.  No matter what we’ve done wrong, or how our lives are right now, God is intimately aware of every single detail, and has a burning desire for us to be blessed, spiritually and physically.  He is ready to forgive and erase the past and look to the future.  He believes in our potential to a degree far beyond what anyone could match, and is ready to do anything to help us develop it.  But… we need to be careful not to take advantage of this merciful, kind, forgiving side of God.  Like any father, God needs to be loved, but He also needs to be “feared” — to be respected and treated with honor.  Since He can understand our motives from far away, He knows when we are sincere, whether we’re trying to fool each other and whether we’re just trying to get what we want out of Him.

Let’s stop treating God like a common man, and start acting like He is the mighty, life-altering, merciful, kind God that He is.  When we treat Him as if He has the weaknesses of a man who cannot forgive or see our true nature, not only do we insult Him, we lose out on His amazing power to transform our lives.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27 – The joy of your Master

His master answered, “Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.”   (Matthew 25:21 NET)

This is part of a parable Jesus taught about three servants who each were given a number of “talents” or amounts of money to invest by their master.  One invested and multiplied his talents greatly.  Another invested as well, and increased what he had.  But the last one was so fearful of losing the one talent he had been given, that he just buried it in the ground and waited for the day his master would return so he could give it back untouched.  Needless to say, the master was very pleased with the first two, but the last one made him furious.  The last servant was considered lazy and ungrateful for the opportunity he had to multiply the little he had been given.

Jesus taught this to give us a picture of what God is looking for in each of us.  Everyone is born into the world with both blessings and limitations.  No one is alike, each of us grows up in different circumstances.  But one thing we all do share is the opportunity to make use of the blessings that we have.  It’s risky to invest your life in God, to kill off old ways of thinking and feeling and to submit your ways to His Word, but that’s the investment that exponentially multiplies positive changes and blessings in very real and practical ways.  Everyone has that chance: rich, poor, educated, American, Chinese, African, Russian – everyone. 

Like I’ve said before, faith is the great leveler – the great equalizer of people.  While we may feel pity for those suffering in underdeveloped countries, I have personally witnessed people in poverty taking great risks to believe in God against all odds, and coming out far more blessed than many Americans who only rely on the resources they were born with.  It’s hard to listen to overfed people with two cars and five Bibles collecting dust complaining about the economy, while far less privileged people are outdoing them just by sheer guts and faith!

Jesus teaches us here that God wants us to risk it all – all our lives, all our faith - and invest in giving our all to Him.  For if we prove trustworthy to God with the little, insignificant lives that we have now, He will see us worthy of trust to handle bigger and bigger blessings.  But those who are lazy to invest their lives in God or are too afraid to lose the little that they have, will have to deal with God’s anger sooner or later.  Remember that promise weeks ago, “for whoever keeps his life will lose it…”?

This parable can be used to encourage us in so many ways.  In how we spend our money with tithes and offerings, in how we invest our thoughts in reading His Word, in how we invest our time in coming to His house, and in serving and caring for others.  The more we risk for Him and His glory, the more He will trust us with greater and greater things.  And we can be sure that each time we take those risks, we can hear Him speaking the sweetest words ever, “Enter into the joy of your Master!”  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 26 – Undoing the work of the devil

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.  (1 John 3:8  ESV)

Jesus came to this world to save us from our sins, to die on the cross in our place.  But today’s promise reveals something else — He also came to destroy the work of the devil, which begins with sin and extends to many other areas of life.  

The word “destroy” in the original Greek can be used in various ways, but one of its meanings is to “undo.”  In the gospel of John this verb is used to mean undoing a sandal strap, and at Lazarus’ resurrection, to undo or unwrap the grave clothes.  The imagery of actually undoing the work of the devil, dismantling all he has done in our lives, all the wounds and trauma, the disappointments, the bad habits and bad character traits, is such an exciting thought.  The things that appear to be impossible, that have haunted us continuously for so many years, even our entire lives — can be undone once and for all when we grab ahold of the power and authority that Jesus offers us through His death on the cross.  He came to undo the work of the devil.  He taught the twelve to do the same, as well as the group of seventy, and now as His disciples today, we are being called to do the same. 

An interesting third possible meaning of the Greek word for destroy is “abolish.”  In that sense, we have the power to completely eradicate all the devil’s work with no trace left.  But this can only happen when we have the audacity to believe in big things.  The Lord Jesus promised that we would do what He has done, and even greater things, but if we don’t believe in ourselves as God’s true children, this great promise will never come true in our lives, and the world will miss out on seeing the extraordinary.

For over one year now I have repeated this passage to myself at least three or four times a week, and I challenge you to start doing the same.  If the devil can be determined to see people suffer, why can’t we be even more determined to undo his work in our lives and in the lives of others?

Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25 – We are not ashamed

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”   (Romans 1:16,17  NET)

Most people stick to a rule of etiquette that says: Don’t talk about religion or politics with people you are unfamiliar with.  It can lead to uncomfortable exchanges, and to people getting offended when our views clash with theirs.  These are two areas of life where people can have very strong views — even if their view is that they don’t like to be reminded of God.

And yet, God commands us not to be ashamed of the gospel, because it is the most important issue in life.  Nothing else matters more than a person’s salvation, and so God never wants us to be ashamed of our faith.  We shouldn’t drive people crazy by constantly talking about God and faith, but on the other hand, neither should we pass up an opportunity to reach out to someone who’s suffering, even if they are a stranger.  When the subject comes up, we can’t be ashamed of making it clear that we go to church on Sunday mornings, that we read and believe in the Bible, that we fight demons and sin, and that we expect to go to heaven when we die.  The gospel means good news, and stands for the new way of understanding and approaching God that Jesus brought into the world — something that very few people understand in a proper way, and something we need to be prepared to explain in an easy to understand and practical way.  Now salvation and holiness do not depend on a list of dos and don’ts, but on our faith in what God’s Son did for us and our willingness to give up our way of living for His.

Though salvation was first offered to the Jews, it is now offered to ANYONE… regardless of nationality, race, or language, regardless, or what we have done, good or bad.  Now our ability to please God and to be saved is accomplished from start to finish by faith.  When we have faith in what the Lord Jesus did not the cross, God see Jesus’ righteousness and purity whenever He looks at us, and our lives start to be filled with life… real life.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 24 – He encircles us with His love

O Lord, you examine me and know. You know when I sit down and when I get up; even from far away you understand my motives.  You carefully observe me when I travel or when I lie down to rest; you are aware of everything I do.  Certainly my tongue does not frame a word without you, O Lord, being thoroughly aware of it.  You squeeze me in from behind and in front; you place your hand on me.  Your knowledge is beyond my comprehension; it is so far beyond me, I am unable to fathom it.  (Psalm 139:1-6  NET)

This entire psalm is full of beautiful promises of how close, loving, and intimately aware God is of our lives.  It’s for all those who claim that God has too many more important things to do than to bother with their insignificant problems.  Not only does He know every tiny thought and every word we utter, but His immensity and wisdom is far beyond our capability to understand Him.  His love is big and He IS big!

God is not only able to know all of our thoughts and motives, He deeply cares about them and carefully observes everything we do.  That goes for every human being on the planet, from the beginning until the end of time.  We can never use the excuse that God can’t expect us to do what’s right in a given situation, because He didn’t foresee this sort of predicament  would exist 2000 years ago when He wrote the “Manual.”  But as hard as it is to obey in circumstances that seem impossible, He already knows everything about us, and knew it long before we even existed.  He made no mistake when He wrote the Bible.  His principles never become invalid just because we can’t figure out how they’ll work. 

When Mark, our youngest, was born in South Africa, a wonderful assistant in our church worked in our home and took care of him as a baby when Evelyn had to be away for meetings.  As is the custom there, Fikile would snugly wrap him in a towel or blanket and tie him tightly to her back as she went about her business cooking or cleaning.  Her gentle movements and the warmth of being bundled up against her would quickly lull him to sleep.  He felt safe and secure, and many nights we’d return home to find him knocked out, with his little arms spread wide against her back.  It was easy to unwrap him and lay him straight into his crib with no disturbance.

God promises to “squeeze me in from behind and in front,” just like I picture our son, without a care in the world, warm and safe.  This is how we need to visualize God as our loving Father.  He goes ahead of us to guard us from danger, and He protects us from behind.  He encircles us better than any human parent could care for their child.  Other versions of this verse say He hems us in, or hedges us in.  If God’s Word is true, and we choose to allow Him to be our Father, then we have absolutely nothing in this world to fear.  Whenever the devil tries to convince us that God has left us or doesn’t care, we have these promises to fight back with.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July 23 – Running interference on the devil

I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.  (Matthew 18:18  HCSB)

Those of you who are members of our church are very familiar with the way we often say, “That’s tied up!”  Whenever we can identify some news or problem that is not from God, we teach ourselves to respond immediately by coming against the spiritual forces behind that problem.  For some, it’s just a catchphrase, but for those who are truly spiritual, they understand that our own determination to tie up the devil’s work has very real implications.  

Most Christians have very little, if any, understanding of just how much demons influence our whole world and the impact that our faith has when it comes to binding up demons.  If they did, they would be in a constant state of victorious spiritual battle, and this world would be a different place.  

Jesus is speaking a very basic truth to His disciples: God joins in our battle when we first determine that evil is bound up.  And when we determine that His Spirit of healing, life and enlightenment is loosed, God agrees and releases that power from His throne in heaven.  Though God hates watching evil destroying His beloved creation, He has set in motion a spiritual reality. We are the ones expected us to initiate the attacks against the devil, and not wait for Him.  But once weak, simple people have the faith to bind up evil, God will have already bound it up from His throne in heaven and we will see the results before us.  The beginnings of the battle are ours, but the victory is His.  

If you often feel frustrated and wonder why God isn’t doing more in your life, or why the world is in the state that it is, remember that you have the answer right in front of you.  God has graciously given us the authority to use His name and to bind up and loose whatever we ask for, and He will see that it is accomplished.  Of course there is one requirement that isn’t mentioned specifically in this verse, but is implied through the context of all of Jesus’ teachings, and that is submission to God and His Word.  Jesus is not offering a magic charm to indulge our whims, but a powerful weapon to fight for what is right for the glory of God.  

If saying, “that’s tied up!” is not yet in your vocabulary, start using it, and mean it.  You have power to run interference on everything the devil wants to do against you and your family.  Who wouldn’t want to see that happen?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22 – A towering rock of safety

O God, listen to my cry!  Hear my prayer!  From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.  Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.  Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings.   (Psalm 61:1-4   NLT)

During a tense 13-day period in 1961 Americans prepared for nuclear war by buying all the canned goods they could find, stockpiling water, and working on makeshift bomb shelters in their back yards.  For a year before the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy had encouraged people living in the US to build their own bomb shelters in case of nuclear fallout from war with the Soviet Union.  And when Soviet missiles were discovered in Cuba, 90 miles off the coast of Florida, nuclear war became a real possibility.  Fortunately that war never happened, and even if it had, most of those homemade shelters would have been completely inadequate.

In the past kings built castles with high walls and moats to protect themselves from enemies.  In the time of Jesus, shepherds herded sheep into enclosures made of stone or briars, and would lay down in the door opening as a human shield to prevent lions and wolves from attacking their sheep.  Today advanced security systems are available for homes and cars, we have bulletproofing and burglar bars, identity theft protection and insurance for every imaginable disaster.  But are we really any safer from our true enemy?

The real terror that attacks us is spiritual.  Our fears of failure, loss and humiliation are a great playground for the devil’s colorful imagination.  Attacks that start with our minds and toy with our emotions can easily transform into real physical attacks on our families and possessions.  Allowing vivid thoughts to dance around in our heads of how powerless we are and how urgently we have to “fix things” by our own flesh, just feeds those demons and gives them full permission to wreak as much havoc as they want.  No amount of insurance or bullet proofing will do you any good here. 

God’s promise is to be that strong tower where we rise above all the problems of this world.  He is a fortress where nothing can reach us, nothing can harm us.  Like a mother bird who hides her young under her wing, God lovingly protects us and asks us to trust Him.  But where is this strong tower that we need to run to?  His sanctuary.  In one way that signifies His house, the church where you receive God’s Words of life for you to live out.  But also it means that holy place within yourself that you set aside only for God, where His Spirit is always welcome to speak, correct and inspire you.  

Don’t forget that no matter where you are – on the job, on the road, in the middle of a group of hostile people – you have a sanctuary to run to in your own heart and mind.  Run to Him, hear His Spirit speak, and gain the comfort you need for whatever issue you are going through.  He promises to be that tower to lift you high above your enemies and all the accusations that they bring, and then to guide you to know how to attack the devil back and win.  Just as the devil’s thoughts can transform into real physical attacks and losses, the thoughts and wisdom of God always transform into real physical protection and blessings that are untouched by evil.

Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21 – Problems the size of our faith

No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others.  And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.  (1 Corinthians 10:13  NET)

This is one of my favorite promises in the Bible, one that I constantly use when counseling others, and one that comforts and strengthens me.  It makes a whole lot of sense, and is a thought that is constantly being challenged by the devil.  It’s so easy for him to plant the idea in people’s heads that God is unfair and mean for allowing us to go through problems that are too big for us when He could stop them or heal us or defeat our enemies for us.  Many people have allowed their faith to be weakened because they inadvertently blame God for burdening them with unbearable loads.  But if God is the bad-guy, none of us has any hope.

Another trick that the devil repeatedly uses are the thoughts: “You are the ONLY one with this kind of problem, you are REALLY bad off, don’t even tell anyone how bad you are, you’re some kind of FREAK.”  How many people walk through their local mall, or on their job site or even in their church, convinced that everyone else is just fine, while they are the embarrassing loser?  Just based on my informal poll of all the people I have ever counseled, a vast majority of people struggle with those thoughts.  When you fall for that lie, insecurity blocks you from building healthy friendships and fear of rejection creates erratic behavior that in the end actually pushes people and opportunities further away from you.  That’s why Jesus made sure that we knew that there is absolutely nothing that the devil attacks us with that he hasn’t used on others as well. 

But more than the comfort of knowing our problems are common to everyone, is the knowledge that God always promises a way out. God will show us an escape when we’re tangled up in problems.  God doesn’t promise an escape only when we’ve been perfect, He gives escapes to those who choose to trust in Him.  Even if the mess we’re in was caused by our own foolishness or negligence (and it usually is, isn’t it?)  God promises to show us a way out as soon as we sincerely turn to Him.  

I’ve heard many complaints from people who said they begged and pleaded for a way out, but God wouldn’t move a finger.  But on closer investigation, I discovered that God had been showing them a way out all along, but they just didn’t like His way out, and so, they ignored Him.  We can’t complain to our Lord that His way doesn’t suit our tastes and that He should put together another idea more agreeable to us.  But people do that all the time.  Usually only those who value God’s help find all the secret ways to escape the traps.  They are humble, and when God says, “Here is my way out,” they go.  They not only find ways of escape from the devil, but they find shortcuts to further blessings just because they chose to trust and obey.

So when your pastor gives you counsel such as, “Come to church more often,” or “start treating your family with more kindness,” don’t roll your eyes at the challenge, just take it that this is God showing you a way out of the problems.  Whether you really want a way out or not is up to you.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 20 – Choose death, or life + peace

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  (Romans 8:6  ESV)

How can you be sure that you “know” God and are saved? This is the most important question in life, but most people are more familiar with their bank balance than they are with the answer to this question.  People can make sure they have good health insurance, that their car is serviced, and that their children go to good schools, but these very same people can easily assume that everything’s okay with God, without making sure.

The future of someone who lives for the flesh is death, and the future of a person who concentrates on the Spirit is life and peace.  This is the big battle of life.  Our biggest battles are not our finances, health, appearance, family, or career — though all those things are important.  The most crucial thing in life is whether or not we are setting our minds on the Spirit, and killing the flesh. 

Are we fighting against sin, our own will, doubt, disobedience, wanting the “freedom” to do whatever we want (which ends up not being freedom at all), selfishness, putting ourselves first, and loving the world? James 4:4 says, “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God,” and so, if we want to belong to God and have a future, we have to stop being the world’s friend.

On the other hand, setting our mind on the “Spirit” means making God a priority, hating sin, accepting God’s will for our lives, living by faith, being obedient to God even though it entails giving up certain things, and hating the world.

How can we be sure that we “know” God and are saved?  It’s simple.  Do we live for the Spirit, or do we live for the flesh?  Is God a side issue for us, or is He everything?  Do we love the world or do we love God?  If God’s Spirit is everything to us, real life and real peace are ours to keep.  They don’t just come and go with circumstances, but they overcome them.  With so many people desperately searching for inner peace, doesn’t it make sense to give all you have to living in His Spirit to find it?  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

July 19 – God’s invitation to enjoy Him

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!  Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into his presence with singing!  Know that the Lord, he is God!  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!  Give thanks to him; bless his name!  For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.  (Psalm 100  ESV)

What comes to mind when you hear the words “praise and worship the Lord?” In churches around the country you can find a wide variety of worshippers enjoying lively performances and catchy tunes.  Among them are:  sincere believers who want nothing more than to praise their Lord and seek a deep relationship with Him, somewhat sincere believers who love to sing praises but aren’t interested in any correction from God, half-hearted church-goers who really like the cool band and hope to get to know the good looking date opportunities on the other side of the room, and absolute hypocrites who want to impress everyone with their superior spirituality for mere personal gain.

So in light of that, delete any preconceived ideas you may have of what praise is supposed to be.  True praise can only come from a true worshipper, and only you and God can know the motives and desires of your own heart. 

C.S. Lewis, who became a Christian after years of atheism, dove deeply into studying the Psalms.  He wanted to know what God expected of him when he prayed.  He had no problem with prayers of thanks, or of confessing sins.  He regularly interceded for others and made requests of God.  But the type of prayer that was the hardest for him was praise.  He found that the Bible was constantly encouraging us to praise God.  Many times a day, every day, and without fail.  It was a command.

Does that mean God is egotistical?  Not in the least.  Lewis discovered that God is showing us one direct way to participate in all the beauty and wonder and amazement of His presence and His goodness. When we praise Him we learn to enjoy Him.  When we focus on all He is and has done, we stop looking at the small finite things of our limited lives, and begin to expand our minds to see His infinite power and love and mercy towards us.  

Praising Him can heal us of our fears and worries, because we are looking to Him and not at ourselves.  Psalm 34 says, “delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  Delighting, enjoying, celebrating and magnifying Him with our mouths, with shouts, with a joyful noise, is a powerful spiritual experience.  Praise demands that we become humble and recognize Him as far superior to us. We are sheep in His pasture, and grateful for it!  Without humility, true joy is impossible. Without praise on our lips, a bond with God is also impossible.

Praise is a natural part of our everyday lives.  We enjoy spreading the news of a great movie, a great bargain, a good restaurant, a funny story.  We tell whoever will listen all about the things our children have done.  Facebook and Twitter sing the praises of our friendships and families with each picture and comment we post.  Praising each other draws us closer to those we care about, and we don’t think twice about it.

So what does it say when we struggle to mouth a few words of praise to the God we claim to believe in?  When we’re embarrassed to sing to Him or raise our voices to heaven?  It shows that the most natural things that we do for the very flawed people we love, we can barely bring ourselves to do for the One who loved us so dearly that He gave His life for us.  If we really knew and loved Him, praise would naturally flow.  If we want to learn to love Him, we need to begin to praise, even when we don’t yet feel we can do it well. 

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . . The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”  (C.S. Lewis Reflections on the Psalms)

Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18 - God does not change!

Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands.  They will perish, but you remain forever; they will wear out like old clothing.  You will change them like a garment and discard them.  But you are always the same; you will live forever.  The children of your people will live in security.  Their children’s children will thrive in your presence.  (Psalm 102:25-28  NLT)

Scientists estimate earth to be close to 4.5 billion years old — based on dating techniques used on rocks and minerals — while many Christians estimate it to be between 6000 and 7500 years old, and the Hebrew calendar begins at 3761 BC, making earth 5775 years old.  Whichever date is true, the fact is that the oldest minerals to be analyzed are small zircon crystals from the Jack Hills of Australia.  When scientists compare the brightness of our sun to that of other stars, they conclude that our solar system cannot be much older than those Australian crystals.

If the earth is in fact that old, then creation was not simply 6 normal-length days, but 6 periods of time involving billions of years.  If creation was 6 normal-length days, then God would have had to create earth, and the universe, as already mature planets, stars, and galaxies.  Either way, God is the creator, the Bible is true, and this world has been here long before we ever came along.  Astronomers have invented powerful telescopes to study the universe, some have even been placed in outer space to avoid the limitations of the earth’s atmosphere, but the more they search, the more they find.  No one has ever discovered the end of the universe, it seems to be endless.

All this is mind blowing stuff.  The world we live in is amazing, and the universe beyond understanding.  But even with all this beauty and permanence, compared to God, this universe is a robe that He will one day take off.  At the flick of His finger all this will one day disappear, and be transformed into a new world, yet God will never change.  God is always the same.  Before what we know was ever created, He existed.  Even before what we know as time was created, He existed.  And like the Bible says, for God one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.  God is so great not even time effects Him.

What does all this mean to us?  It should burn into our consciousness that what God did in the past He is ready and willing to do today.  He is ready to open the Red Sea again, or to do something even greater;  He is ready to raise up another Lazarus or to transform another Mary Magdalene.  We need to be very careful about limiting God or making silly assumptions about Him.  He is a great God that has done wonders in the past, is ready to do wonders today, and will continue to do wonders in the future.  We just need to be sure we are not left out of an exciting and secure life with Him.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17 – Instant credit with God

For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”   (Romans 4:3  NET)

This is actually Paul quoting the book of Genesis, explaining that this is what God is looking for in us – true belief, not perfection, and not a holiness attained by our own strength. We become cleansed and right with Him, the moment we choose to believe and obey.  

“I don’t think God will answer me because I’m not good/strong/spiritual/perfect enough,” is a common excuse people give as to why they couldn’t possibly expect a miracle. False spirits teach us that God only rewards the “super holy,” those who have built up a credit account of super holy acts of faith and denial of the flesh, who never think an evil thought, never raise their voices, and constantly read their Bibles with utmost reverence. We fall for that lie and make God out to be so picky and legalistic. We look at our track record of failures and figure that we’ve pretty much ruined all our chances to ever make it into that elite group of Christians who deserve answered prayers.

But look at what the Bible says – that teaching is all hogwash. What gave Abraham credit before God as righteous and holy? It was because the moment that God spoke, he immediately acted on his belief. God said, “leave the land of your father and travel to a place that I will show you.” Abraham packed all his belongings, said good-bye to the father he would never see again, and walked off into the desert with  just a promise of “I will show you.” God said, “Sacrifice your son, your only son, the one you love, Isaac…” and with a heavy heart but full of faith, Abraham packed wood and fire and took the long hike with his child up Mt. Moriah to kill and burn him according to God’s command. If you don’t know the amazing details of this story, read Genesis 22.  (Spoiler alert: Isaac ends up just fine.)

So what if you’ve done things you are ashamed of, have deliberately sinned even in your recent past? Then choose to live for God today, and act your faith right now! Obey His commands radically and fully despite how scary they may seem. Your faith will make you righteous, not a résumé of perfect church attendance or a world record for fasting or scripture memory. Even if you feel unworthy of God’s blessings, take the leap of faith to just believe right here and right now. You would not only see a miracle, but would start becoming transformed from within. That is how God has chosen to purify each of us – by daily living out a faith in Him.

In Hebrews 12, God tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please Him. Remember that in the Bible, faith and belief mean action, not just agreeing to an idea. Without acting your faith, you can’t please Him. Without acting your faith, you can’t become right with Him. And without that living active faith, there is no salvation. Isn’t it time to start acting your faith now and watch Him graciously credit you as righteous, without deserving it? Your eternity depends on it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 16 – Joyful heart vs. broken spirit

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.   (Proverbs 17:22   HCSB)

A common mistake is to think that circumstances determine our future, but nothing could be more wrong. Circumstances are responsible for only a fraction of why our life turns out the way it does. Two people can be standing in front of the same problem and have very different outlooks. One can be depressed and other be encouraged. One can be impressed with the impossible nature of a situation while the other one is impressed by the amazing potential just waiting to be used.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus says that good eyes fill a person’s body with light, whereas bad eyes fill him with darkness. Much of how our lives turn out depends on the way we look at life, the way we interpret what our eyes see. Everyone’s retinas and pupils are the same, but our different brains process those identical images differently. At times our reactions may be the result of learned behavior from our parents and relatives, but it could just as easily be our own decisiveness – or lack thereof.

Studies have shown that people who spend all day in a lab learning which muscles are involved in the making of different smiles, end up leaving the lab much happier than people who were asked to practice the formation of frowns all day long. The simple decision to smile caused their attitude to change, affecting the chemicals released into their brains. Unrelated to any existence of happy or sad thoughts, the expression on their faces alone triggered a change in their feelings. Imagine what could happen if a person focuses on having good thoughts, thoughts of faith, thoughts of how with God it is impossible for Him to fail.

Cheerful hearts and broken spirits determine the outcomes in our lives more than anything else. Regardless of what our situations are, how difficult or how impossible, our attitude makes all the difference in the world. But the real kicker is that we have the power to determine our attitudes. We don’t have to wait for anything or anyone to cooperate. Faith in God, that faith that is sure of what it does not see, refuses to give in to a broken spirit. Because it is sure of God’s existence and of how He has to fulfill His promises, faith is stubbornly determined that God is going to make things right.

A cheerful heart undergirded with faith in God is one of the most beneficial forces in the world, and a broken spirit encouraged by the doubts and fears of Satan is one of the most destructive forces in the world. Choose well, and fight to keep that attitude alive, and you will have a fantastic life regardless.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July 15 – Wake up sleeper!

Everything exposed by the light is made clear, for what makes everything clear is light. Therefore it is said: Get up, sleeper, and rise up from the dead,
and the Messiah will shine on you. (Ephesians 5:13-14  HCSB)

It’s interesting how so many things of the devil are only enjoyed in darkened rooms – drinking, immorality, theft, drugs, prostitution. Other evil activities may happen in broad daylight, but all under a secretive cover – fraud, embezzlement, gossip, slander, character assassination. Evil loves the darkness, and just like we’ve preached about on Friday deliverance services, when demons are exposed to God, they scatter like cockroaches when the lights are turned on.

This understanding is crucial for all believers who want to become free from the snares and traps of the devil. Many Christians carry a heavy burden when they have allowed the devil to tempt them, but embarrassment stops them from seeking help. They may have many questions, or an understanding ear to sort through all the confusion that their lives have become, but shame keeps those cockroaches safe and snug inside their heads and hearts. And just like filthy roaches, demonic accusations and doubts multiply and overrun a life with infestation. 

Jesus said that we are to be the light of the world, that His Word is a light unto our path. Every time angels or God manifested in both Old and New Testaments, light was present – sometimes a blinding light. The closer we get to God, the more we want to be in His light, because the light of God purifies, cleanses, heals, gives joy and inspires. We can see God more clearly, and we can see a clear path ahead of us.

If evil is attacking you, open up to your pastor to get help and forget about thoughts of shame or what he might think about you. If your pastor is spiritual, he’ll be proud of you for having the courage to ask for help by exposing the work of the devil to the light.  Then he can lead you in the right direction and get you on the right track. Don’t resist the correction of the light, because that’s what will keep you safe.

Another lesson from this passage is: if God has blessed you, why keep His goodness hidden from sight? Share your testimony! Bring into the light God’s power, even if you think it doesn’t matter to others. Answers to prayer need to be spoken of, so that the honor can go to Him. Every deed done by the Spirit of God, brings light into the lives of those who are exposed to it. You will bless everyone who hears of what He has done for you – even in small things.  

See how the devil wants to keep us in the darkness? He causes us to fall into sin, and makes us ashamed to expose it, but when God blesses us, the devil wants us to be ashamed and keep quiet. Are we God’s or not?  Then get out of that darkness and start pursuing the light! Wake up sleeper, and rise from the dead, and the Messiah will shine on you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

July 14 – Restoring lost years

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten… (Joel 2:25  NKJV)

Modern farming techniques and pesticides have largely made locust plagues a thing of the past. But when these were common, a swarm could cover hundreds of square miles and consist of many billions of locusts. The noise of a swarm chewing on plants and leaves could be heard for miles, and nothing green was left in its wake. The landscape looked as if it had been through a war after a swarm had passed through.

But virtually the same thing happens today when people and families are attacked by a drug or alcohol addiction, continuous financial problems, divorce, crime, violence, and abuse. People can feel robbed and destroyed when year after year a problem continues its ruthless destruction of their lives and/or families. After many years of this, if people are not taught to fight back in faith and overcome the past,  they will tend to accept their “new”, limited, depressing way of life, and decide that anything more is completely impossible.

In this case, today’s promise is truly amazing news. It promises that the many years that the locust have eaten will be restored to us. What the devil stole over the period of five or ten years, God could restore in only one, and so for people of faith, their old life and mistakes are no longer a complete waste, because God will restore all that we have lost… and more.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13 – Lessons from a tiny seed

Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain. The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life.”  (John 12:23,24   NET)

Sacrifice is a four letter word for most people, even though it can be found everywhere in life. A person that gets drunk on Friday nights sacrifices money, time, and the next morning for the sake of alcohol, and is guaranteed to completely destroy his life and family if he keeps it up. But a person can also sacrifice four years of his life to get a college degree by spending large amounts of money, time, and effort, and is almost guaranteed to get a good job when he’s finished. This type of sacrifice is likely to build up his life instead of tear it down. 

Even nature itself practices the laws of sacrifice and greater returns. Jesus taught about the simple grain of wheat that has to be stripped from the stalk that it grows on. Only then does it die, fall to the ground and be buried in the soil to be transformed and sprout as a new living plant, totally unrecognizable from the seed it once was. The amount of new living seeds of wheat that grow from one dead seed is typically 50 grains per stalk. That is a perfect example of what Jesus wants us to visualize when we allow our own seed to “die” (our sacrifice), be planted and nourished by the soil, (our prayers and faithfulness to God) be given time to grow (our perseverance in faith) and finally to see the miracle come into full bloom!  

Death and resurrection, sacrifice and abundant renewal are all visible in God’s creation around us. What God asks us to voluntarily do should be as natural as a seed that gives it’s life so that more can grow. Why would we want to hold onto one tiny seed that has no power to sustain us, when we could have a multitude? If we try to hold onto our lives, our possessions, our stubborn will, and our control, we destroy ourselves in the end. But when we surrender our lives, and even hate our lives, we actually protect ourselves for all eternity.  

This is such a freeing way of life, an answer to all our needs, but only those who are spiritual can grasp it and live by its fruit.  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July 12 – As reliable as the law of gravity

With the kind You show Yourself kind;
with the blameless You show Yourself blameless; with the pure You show Yourself pure,
and with the crooked You show Yourself astute.   (Psalm 18:25-26  NASB)

We reap what we sow, and that goes far more than just in the giving of tithes and offerings.  God reveals Himself to us in the manner that we treat Him.  Interestingly enough, God doesn’t just observe the way we pray or attend church to determine how much we love Him, but in the way we treat others around us.  

Jesus once taught about how many who thought they would go to heaven would find themselves being told “I never knew you,” and cast into the fires of hell.  They were shocked to be refused entrance into heaven and when they asked why, Jesus replied, “As much as you have done it to the least of my brothers, you have done it to me.” (Mat. 25:40)  How we treat others, is how we treat God.  Be unkind, rude, judgmental, selfish, critical, snobbish, and know that you have just been all of those to Jesus.  You will have to answer for that when you stand before Him.

 God’s promise here is that when we are kind, both to others and directly to God, it’s an established law of the Spirit, that He will be kind to us.  When we are blameless, with no hidden sins and no hidden agendas, God openly reveals Himself to us. Our pure-hearted lives release blessings that are direct manifestations of God’s purity.  God mirrors the good that we do, and returns it to us much fuller and in greater abundance than what we give to Him.

But those who are crooked come across a God who is a few steps ahead of them, blocking their attempts to look spiritual while secretly being unscrupulous.  Their prayers go unanswered, things fall apart and plans fail.  God is astute, shrewd and cautious with them, knocking them down a notch or two to help them realize that they are wandering outside the boundaries of His protection and need to humble themselves and return to Him in humility.

The law of the Spirit is just as reliable as the law of gravity, or the speed of light, or planetary motion.  We can be joyful when we show purity, blamelessness and kindness, because even though it may be difficult at the moment, we are guaranteed to see God’s response manifest in our lives on a bigger scale than what we gave.  And when we are deceitful or rebellious, God makes sure to get our attention so that if we are wise, we can pull ourselves back in line.   

Friday, July 11, 2014

July 11 – Healing body, soul + spirit

If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.   (Exodus 15:26  NKJV)

It wasn’t easy for God’s people to get free from slavery in Egypt.  It took 10 horrific plagues to break the demonic pride and greed of Pharaoh before they could be let go.  But even though they lived in that land of evil and idolatry, they were safe.  God only sent those plagues to the Egyptians outside the area of land where the Hebrew slaves lived, an area called the land of Goshen.  But as the freed slaves were heading to the promised land, they were fearful of getting sick or dying of contaminated water.  But God spoke to them clearly: I am the God who heals you.

Whatever the Egyptians had to go through was because of their unbelief and stubborn rejection of God.  But now that God’s people had experienced Him in a big way, they were required to do more.  They were expected to obey Him as their God, to do what is right, and to uphold all of God’s ways and laws.  If they did, they wouldn’t have to worry one bit about the diseases of the Egyptians or anyone else around them.  The protection that had been in the land of Goshen still surrounded them as they traveled through the desert.  

God is saying that to us today.  If we do what is right in His sight (not by our own low standards) and if we listen and obey His teachings, we are promised healing and freedom from disease.  Sicknesses that are a direct result of rejecting God will have no room to work in us if we live in obedience to Him. Healing is possible because He names Himself, “the God who heals you.” What a great comfort that must have been for this multitude of families, old and young, who had just left everything they had ever known to walk through an intimidating desert to find a land they had never seen.  

Many ordinary Christians suffer sicknesses that should not be a part of their lives.  When you look deeper, you find grudges, unresolved anger, unconfessed sins, hidden doubts, double lives, and the physical sicknesses that accompany each spiritual sickness.  Those who are humble and courageous enough to totally submit to God and be honest about their inner turmoil, are able to find healing from God, and protection from any other ailment related to sin.

But those who stubbornly hold onto their spiritual decay, watch their health waste away needlessly.  Those who are too ashamed to admit that they have hidden problems and sin are those that don’t qualify for God’s protection and healing.  Why would you want to hold onto the decay of your sins and keep doors open for disease to take over your body?  Doesn’t that sound like a lose-lose situation?

God is encouraging us to strip off all the falseness, come before Him in humility and allow Him to heal us of everything.  His healing is complete, body, soul and spirit.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

July 10 – Back off!

“He will not enter this city, nor will he shoot an arrow here. He will not attack it with his shielded warriors, nor will he build siege works against it. He will go back the way he came — he will not enter this city,” says the Lord. “I will shield this city and rescue it for the sake of my reputation and because of my promise to David my servant.”   (Isaiah 37:33-35   NET)

These are the words of a God who loves His people!  This is a story that shows exactly what we can expect of our God when threats are being shot at us from every direction.  He is the champion of the oppressed who stands in defiance against the attacks of the enemy and shouts, “Back off!” while driving them away with one swipe of His hand.  All of us have dreamed of a rescue as magnificent as this, and It’s what God wants to do for us all.

The city of Jerusalem was under siege by the ruthless King Sennacherib.  Judah’s King Hezekiah knew that Jerusalem was next, but instead of panicking, he relied on God to save them. He went straight to the Temple, tore his royal robes in anguish and cried out to God to rescue His people from this evil king.  

But as usually happens when it comes to attacks of the devil, Sennacherib’s threats got worse.  He started taunting and insulting God Himself, shouting at all of the people of Jerusalem about how easily he had wiped out every other nation and city. None of their gods saved them, why should the Israelites believe their God was any better?

The threats got worse, so King Hezekiah complained to God more, presenting all of those threats to God in the Temple.  He demanded that God keep His promises to His people, and God answered in a big way.  God responded so swiftly that an angel swept through the enemy’s camp and killed 185,000 troops.  When they woke up the next morning, Sennacherib’s army was annihilated. 

For those who hear our messages in church, this story encapsulates so much of what we teach:  1. Satan’s threats can easily be overcome by God, no matter how convincing he may appear. 2. Panicking and thinking that the solution is only up to you is the reaction that brings the worst results.  Do the opposite – run to God’s house to pray immediately.  3.  When things look like they are getting worse (predictable strategy of the devil that we fall for all the time), stay the course, eyes forward, and get even more aggressive in faith.  4. God will fight for us to defend His own name which is stamped upon every true believer.  5. Miracles come to those who know God’s mind and heart, who make God’s enemies their own enemies.  

Face down your oppressors.  Believe that as you fight through your prayers that God is proclaiming to all the threats of the devil, “Back off!  This one is Mine!”

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

July 9 – Complaining with God

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram! I am your shield and the one who will reward you in great abundance.” But Abram said, “O sovereign Lord, what will you give me since I continue to be childless, and my heir is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram added, “Since you have not given me a descendant, then look, one born in my house will be my heir!” But look, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but instead a son who comes from your own body will be your heir.” The Lord took him outside and said, “Gaze into the sky and count the stars - if you are able to count them!” Then he said to him, “So will your descendants be.” Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord considered his response of faith as proof of genuine loyalty.   (Genesis 15:1-6  NET)

For people who say a person can’t complain or speak back to God, here is Abraham, the father of faith doing just that and being understood and blessed in a great way by God. Don’t just listen to what traditions say about how God thinks and acts. All the heroes of the Bible were radical and audacious, doing what others were afraid to do, focusing on a sincere, simple faith rather than one of religion and rules.

There are times that God is looking for a feisty, fighting attitude from us. Many times God would prefer us to feel frustrated than to be at peace, to feel revolt instead of satisfaction. It is wrong to describe Christianity as solely being patient, loving, and kind; at times we need to be angry, to feel hatred, to be looking for a fight, to be hungry for a huge victory over our enemy. God feels peace, but at the same time is frustrated at the way evil controls the world. God loves us but hates the devil who constantly tempts us to doubt Him and sin.

Abraham was right to question God. He believed in His promise, and while waiting for it to be fulfilled he reminded God of it. Instead of revealing doubt and disrespect, Abraham’s complaint revealed absolute faith in God’s word and an insistence on it coming true. And as a reward for his determined faith, God promised him not one son, but as many children as stars in the sky.

How does this relate to us? God wants us to complain with Him and insist on His promises coming true, all the while never losing our respect and awe for Him. Complaining joined with the fear of God, is a quality that greatly pleases God. Our complaint proves that we expect Him to be exactly who He promised: faithful. Our respect and sense of awe prove that we regard Him as the Almighty God, and yet know that we are nothing without Him. He is pleased to answer us so that this sinful world will take note that He is alive and powerful. Like Abraham, don’t be discouraged when difficult, and seemingly impossible problems come your way. Use the methods and faith of Abraham, and just watch how your bond with God strengthens as prayer after prayer is answered.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

July 8 – God’s searching eyes…

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.   (2 Chronicles 16:9  ESV)

A prophet spoke these words to a king and was immediately thrown in jail for it… go figure!

Amazingly, God who is completely self-sufficient, is all powerful, all knowing, and is everywhere at every moment in time, is searching for something. His eyes are running to and fro throughout this world searching for people who are blameless, who trust in Him, who have the faith and courage to believe in His promises more than they believe in what’s happening around them. And from the context of this passage we see that what God is looking for is rare…

Asa, the king in today’s promise, was the great-great-grandson of King David who God Himself referred to as a man after His own heart. Though he made some big mistakes and went through hardships because of them, he also made many great decisions, was constantly going to war against God’s enemies, and was eager to build God a temple. Other versions of the Bible translate the word “blameless” as loyal, devoted, and completely His. All these attitudes can be clearly seen in David.

This is what God is looking for. Though He has everything, much more than any one of us could imagine, He senses a lack of men and women who are loyal to Him and His goals. As a result, He is constantly searching throughout the world for people with this quality, and when He finds them He gives them strong support… just imagine what that means!!

Asa was a great king for most of his reign. Ten years into it he trusted in God when Egypt and Libya attacked him with a million-man army. He was outnumbered 2 to 1, but trusted in God for victory and won, and for many years no one dared attack Judah because of that victory. But in his thirty-fifth year as king, Asa was attack by his countrymen, Israel, and instead of once again trusting in God for victory, he took treasures out of the House of God and paid the unbelieving king of Syria to protect him — that’s where todays promise fits in. A few years later he contracted a foot disease and once again did not pray to God for healing, but only consulted doctors. He died after two years of sickness.

Why do some people trust in God early on in life, experience His greatness, see miracles… and then turn away? Why are some people so smart for a period of time, and then turn so foolish? We could come up with a long list of reasons why, but the real issue is a lackadaisical attitude toward loyalty. If God is ready to strongly support us, why experience this amazing blessing for only one phase of our lives? Why not have it forever? If we want this blessing, we need to make loyalty to God our main priority in life. We need to remind ourselves of our desperate need for Him both in good times and bad. In fact, we may need Him more in the good times.

I believe that God’s searching eyes are going to lock onto you.