Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 30 – A claim we can’t ignore

I did not come to be served but to serve and give my life as a ransom in place of the many.  (Mark 10:45  NET)

There are those who claim that Christianity was an invention of a group of fanatical followers that decided to call their dead charismatic rabbi the Messiah so they could create a new religion for the sake of their own fame.  But Jesus’ own words don’t leave any doubt about who He claimed to be.  In passage after passage, Jesus makes it clear that He is the Messiah, He is the one to die for us and be a ransom for our lost and sinful lives.  A simple religious teacher would never make such a daring statement in that day and age when just pronouncing the name of God was considered disrespectful, and claiming to be the Savior of the world was a blasphemy deserving of a stoning. 

The centuries-old laws and rituals of blood sacrifice in the Temple were everything to the Jews, because God had commanded it from the time of Moses. And now Jesus is standing in the dusty streets of Judea, talking to a bunch of simple folks in a tiny country under the control of the Roman Empire, and telling them that He is the one who will die for the sins of the entire world.  Who was this man to say that His life would replace the sacrifice of the Temple? What upstart would lead a movement by announcing that He was going to serve?  Who in their right mind would want to die?  And who was crazy enough to think their life alone was powerful enough to save all mankind?  If Jesus were just a rabble-rouser with delusions of grandeur, He would have been laughed out of town, stoned and forgotten, and probably never even mentioned in any history book.  

But no one laughed at Jesus.  He was either hated intensely by the religious leaders, or loved intensely by those who had ears to hear the truth.  He was feared, and He was taken dead seriously to the point that His enemies killed Him.  His crime: claiming that He was God.  

After 2000 years, we as Christians have lost that awe and amazement of this promise of Jesus.  We relegate this verse to something nice that our kids bring home from Sunday-school on bookmarkers.  But Jesus’ words here shook the foundations of hell.  Because He took our punishment on the cross and faced death for us, we can have access to heaven, and to all authority over evil while we live on this earth.  This ransom that He paid was so powerful that we who serve Him, are lifted up to such a high position of honor, a position that we will never be able to deserve on our own merit.  The best we can do is to surrender our lives to Him in gratitude and to take on His nature for ourselves.  And if Jesus didn’t come to be served but to serve, who are we to do any less but to serve each other?

Monday, September 29, 2014

September 29 – The root of all kinds of blessing

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.  (1 Timothy 6:10   HCSB)

Some people think they’re quoting the Bible when they say “Money is the root of all evil,” but that’s not exactly what the Bible says.  Excluding the word “love” from the verse changes the meaning completely.  Money in itself is not evil.  It’s neutral.  It’s a tool.  We can use money in good and bad ways.  What makes the difference is whether or not our lives revolve around it.

Yesterday Evelyn, Mark and I had the great privilege of attending our first meeting at the Temple of Solomon in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  For those of you who have not heard about this building, it is a replica of the Jerusalem temple that seats 10,000 people in a working class neighbourhood in Sao Paulo.  It has a life size replica of the Old Testament Tabernacle, and a small museum that explains the story of the people of God throughout time and the significance of the various articles in the Tabernacle and Temple.  Many Jewish people have come to visit the Temple and the large majority have been amazed and honored by it all, even though we make it clear that we believe in Jesus as the Messiah, and hundreds of thousands of others have come and are already speaking about how the meetings there have changed their lives.

Some complain about the cost of the Temple and how all that money could have been used to help the poor and needy.  The fact is that we are helping people all day long, seven days a week in all of our churches, and this Temple was built to combat a different kind of poverty by opening people’s eyes to the greatness of God, and to their need to approach Him with reverence.  It was not built with any man’s glory or reputation in mind; it was built to glorify God by bringing people into His presence.

There were many special moments in yesterday’s meeting, but one of the most touching was how everyone arrived early, as much as an hour beforehand, and sat in silent meditation before the meeting.  You could hear a pin drop.  People were not visiting with friends, answering last minute phone calls, or chitchatting, they were there to connect with Almighty God because of their hunger for Him.  And when the meeting finished, everyone was asked to leave in the same way, in silent respect.

When we love money we make the great mistake of pushing the Creator of all things to the side, and worshipping wealth – a small part of His creation.  God deserves all our trust and respect, and will not withhold an abundant life from us when we put Him first.  The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, yet trusting in a mighty God to provide for you is the root to every kind of blessing.  But we cannot trust in Him completely until we understand His greatness.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

September 28 – Always the majority

Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you.”   (Leviticus 26:8-9 NKJV)

This is one of many promises listed in this chapter of Leviticus that God made to all His people if they obeyed Him and followed His precepts.  With God, we are always the majority, even if we appear to be outnumbered physically speaking. Intimidating threats, people or circumstances can throw us into a panic, but God is telling us that we have no reason to be afraid when we are with Him.

We have to remember at all times that our fight is not against flesh and blood, as Ephesians 6 tells us.  Our fight is against demons, principalities and spiritual forces that want to cause destruction and steal away our salvation.  When emotions get riled up and we begin to look at people with anger or grudges, we immediately move out of spiritual mode and into a fleshly mode.  Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and even when it hurts, we have to choose to see them with eyes of compassion, as people who need to be saved just like us.  But when it comes to the demons that work through the people who try to harm us, we need to be ruthless in our prayers and in our determination to defeat their work.  When we are, we experience these kinds of victories.  We have David and Goliath moments because we have the God of the universe fighting for us.

One of the saddest things that we’ve experienced in counselling over many years, is seeing people learn how to fight the devil in their prayers at church, but become open doors for demons in their daily lives.  Filthy language leaves their lips and they entertain evil thoughts.  They gladly lash out in anger and accusation on their job, or engage in fleshly behavior, but even so, they complain that they’re praying constantly and tying up demons and God doesn’t answer their prayers.  It should be a no-brainer, but tying up the devil is a way of life, not just random prayers.

This promise is for everyone who lives in accordance with the precepts of God, who follows His ways and His Spirit.  When we do, not even the armies of hell can stand against us.

September 27 – We all struggle

Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” Thomas replied to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.”   (John 20:26-29  NET)

This happened after Jesus appeared to ten of the disciples on the afternoon or evening of the day He rose from the dead.  Because Thomas was not with them, he did not see Jesus alive, and refused to believe in His resurrection until he touched Jesus’ wounds.  Because of this, Thomas has been known as a doubter for all these years.  People have criticized him for his lack of faith, but it’s interesting that Jesus did not criticize him for his behavior.  

Jesus allowed him to struggle for eight days.  He could have made an exception and appeared to him that first day, but He left him to battle it out with his faith.  And the simple fact that Thomas stayed with the remaining disciples shows that he wanted to believe but was having trouble.  And when He did finally appear, He immediately offered to allow Thomas to do exactly what he had been demanding – though Thomas no longer needed that proof. 

Doubt and unbelief are unhealthy, but God knows that we all have questions that need to be answered, and doubts that need to be fought off.  We are not perfect, and God doesn’t expect us to be, but what He does expect is that we be honest with ourselves, and make an effort to deal with our doubts.  Things that come easy do not force us to grow, only hard times and struggles do that.  I’m sure that Thomas learned a valuable lesson over those eight days, one that he never forget, but that is only because it was painfully hard.  Because of that it stuck with him.

Nowhere in the Bible do we see God rebuking sincere people who were struggling with doubts.  He always helped and encouraged them.  God only rebuked those who were false and lazy about their faith, those who gave in to hypocrisy.

If you are going through a tough time in your life, hold on, stay sincere, and keep fighting.  God sees your effort and will come through for you like He did for Thomas.

September 26 – Beyond what we can imagine

Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20-21 NET)

Though you may know the correct answer to the question, “Is God all powerful?”  You may not actually live your life as if that were true.  Most of us have to admit that there are times when we doubt whether God will, or is able to, do that impossible miracle what we need so much.  Our limited minds limit God.  Mary and Martha felt that way when Jesus took a longer time to come to their home when their brother Lazarus lay dying.  When Jesus finally got there, Lazarus had already been dead four days.  They loved Jesus and believed in His power, but they were tempted to believe that it was too late for a miracle.  Could Jesus actually have failed them?  Not at all. Lazarus’ death was a part of God’s plan – Jesus wanted them to still believe, despite how hopeless it seemed.  

Be aware that giving up on a request because others tell you it’s too late, may just be the voice of unbelief.  If God has confirmed that He will fulfill His promise to you, then don’t allow circumstances to crush your spirit.  Keep believing in what you don’t yet see, and remember that with God, nothing is impossible.  Imagine for a moment, the absolute best-case scenario that you could possibly conjure up in your mind.  Then realize that God has the power to do far beyond that!  God’s goodness is amazing and powerful, and it’s not just for the first century believers, but to His Church for all generations.  

September 25 – Taking His Word at face value

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. (1 John 5:14-15 NKJV)

In short, God is saying that whatever we ask He hears and grants – as long as it’s according to His will.  What throws off most believers is the question: how do I know His will?  Does He want me to pray for the healing of a painful relationship, or put an end to a lost cause?  Does He want me to stick with this job or move somewhere else?  There are plenty of details of our daily lives that the Bible doesn’t address directly, but the Bible is full of descriptions of who God is and what kind of character He has so that we can base our decisions very solidly on what we know He wants for us.  That begins first with a knowledge of Him based on His Word, and with time, based on personal experiences of the many times He has come through for us.

God’s character is deep and complex, and simple and straightforward all at the same time.  Basically, whatever is good and true and beneficial, whatever will glorify His name and whatever will put to shame the devil, is God’s will.  As we read the stories of victories and miracles in the Bible, we know that what God grants to His people in His Word, we can have faith to receive for ourselves.  (James 1:17)

God is not rigid and legalistic.  He often gives us the choice to choose.  If we have two good paths ahead of us, and no apparent sin or fleshliness is involved in either, God doesn’t want us to sit and agonize over our choice, waiting for handwriting to appear in the sky.  He would prefer that we step out in faith, go for what we believe in, and remain humble and flexible to be guided and corrected if necessary.  But no matter what, God prefers that we act rather than dither.  Gideon wasn’t given specific instructions on how to confront the Midianites – his plan of torches, trumpets and clay pots came from his own imagination.  But God was happy to see a man of action and revolt take a stand for what was right, so He honored Gideon’s initiative with a huge victory.

God is pleased when we believe in Him so much that we act as if His Word and His truths are rock solid.  He wouldn’t give us so many broad promises like this, if He didn’t mean them.  God doesn’t throw around empty words.  Everything He speaks is to be taken at face value.  

This promise is a great comfort to anyone who chooses to take God seriously.  Live for Him seriously, obey Him seriously, serve Him with all of your heart, and He promises to grant whatever you ask.  Though you may need to wait to see it materialize, don’t doubt that it is yours, because His Word never fails. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 24 – 2 are better than 1

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.   (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12  HCSB)

40% of children in the US are born to unmarried, single women, and we wonder why children are getting more rebellious and less responsible, and why this country is falling to pieces.  Raising children is hard enough when both parents are present, but raising them as a single parent is a whole different ball game.  God never intended children to be raised by one parent, He knew that two would be better than one.  He knew that circumstances would force some people to raise children alone, but He never meant for single-parenthood to become as accepted as it is and even fashionable.

This promise reminds us about the importance of marriage, and even of close friendships — something that men have a hard time with.  Two people who are committed to each other hold each other accountable, help each other up when one falls down, and like today’s verse says, have a good reward for their efforts.  Many times we see that two people working as a team accomplish much more than if they were working separately.  Their results are not just double that of a single person, but multiplied many times over.

All of us need to take this powerful promise to heart, whether it is in marriage or friendship.  And like the last phrase implies, when a marriage or friendship also includes God, that cord of three strands cannot easily be broken.

No matter what your situation is, do something about this, this week!  Choose to confide in your spouse about something you need help with.  Swallow your pride and get over your fears, and get the help that you need.  If you’re not married, do it with a trusted friend of the same sex (important detail), and if you are a man, rebuke the tendency to always be a do-it-yourselfer.  Yes that’s manly trait, but only some times.  Certain situations demand that we get help from someone else.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September 23 – The promise in the middle

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits…  (Psalm 103:1,2  NET)

Depending on how you calculate it, these two verses can be called the exact middle of the Bible.  They are not promises, but a number of promises follow them, which we will explain in a minute.  There are 31,102 verses in the Bible, and so verses 15,551 and 15,552 of Psalm 103 would form the two verses in the middle. 

These verses are great pieces of advice for life, something that will keep us centered and focused on God.  Modern life teaches us to focus on what we want, on ourselves, on what people can do for us, whereas true spirituality comes from taking the focus off of ourselves, deciding that we are second (or third, or fourth) and putting God in first place.  Throughout history people have struggled with the temptation to be selfish and live for their own pleasures, but modern society takes this to an entirely new level with cellphones, the Internet, movies, magazines, video games, Facebook, shopping malls and television.  In most countries, children are completely different from their parents, grandparents and great grandparents when they were the same age.  The influences of modern life have opened the door to self-centeredness and indulging our pleasures in ways that previous generations never experienced.

When we count our blessings as the old hymn goes, when we focus on God and what He has done and will do, our entire attitude about life is raised to a spiritual plane where anything is possible, and where God is free to work.  The more we forget about ourselves and concentrate on God, the happier we will be, and the more we focus on ourselves and ignore God, the more miserable we become.

In verses 3, 4 and 5 of Psalm 103, David reminds us of the benefits of serving God: we are forgiven of our sins, healed of our diseases, are saved from the pit of suffering, are crowned with love and mercy, and our youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  All these amazing blessings are ours, but we risk losing them when we obsess about ourselves and fail to acknowledge the greatness and power of the God we serve. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

September 22 – I will not be upended!

Patiently wait for God alone, my soul! For he is the one who gives me confidence. He alone is my protector and deliverer. He is my refuge; I will not be upended.   (Psalm 62:5,6  NET)

Here we see King David speaking to himself when he tells his soul to wait patiently for God, to trust that He will protect and deliver.  In psychology they call this “self-talk,” and most of the time it is negative, harsh and critical.  Only when we train ourselves to make this running commentary positive, does it help us.  Its default setting, in most or all of us, is negative and critical, causing doubt, fear, insecurity and paralysis.  

Most people do not even know that any negative commentary is going on.  They have heard these words for so many years, they accept it as the truth and allow it to go unchallenged and unquestioned.

But David doesn’t do this.  He had learned from a very young age to use positive self-talk to create faith in God and to combat fear and doubt.  The simple phrase, “I will not be upended,” was a bold statement that he repeats twice in this psalm, and must have used over and over again in life.  When he told his soul to patiently wait for God alone, his reason was rebuking his heart and emotions for giving in to doubt and fear.  He used the higher parts of his brain — his sense of reason and knowledge of God — to control the lower parts of his brain — his knee-jerk reactions of fight and flight.  He resisted his animalistic impulses, and determined to act in a spiritual, godly manner.

When speaking to his soul, David made five positive statements in rapid succession, bombarding his soul with positive words, a technique that we need to perfect if we want to see positive results.  The more we train ourselves to think in positive, faith-filled ways, the more of God’s power we will see in our lives.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

September 21 – Knowing the mysteries of God

To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that, “Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them.”  (Mark 4:11-12  NKJV)

God doesn’t want anyone to be lost.  He wants all people to turn to Him and be forgiven and saved, but He will not share the treasures of His kingdom — His mysteries — with those who disrespect and ignore Him.

Jesus had just finished teaching some very important things, but had done it in the form of a parable, and only explained the parable to His close disciples when they asked Him about it.  Isn’t that unfair?  Is it right for Jesus to say that some people will see but not perceive, and hear but not understand?  Was it okay for Jesus to deliberately hide things by teaching in parables instead of plain talk?  

The fact is we all have the same chances in life with God.  If we show hunger for the things of God, and obey when He speaks, our eyes will see and our ears will hear amazing mysteries that God reserves for people He considers special.  No matter what level of education we have, or whether our past is squeaky clean or filthy, the effort we make to draw close to Him determines everything.  Some extremely intelligent people understand the mysteries of God, but many more are totally ignorant of them in spite of their high IQ, and even make fun of the idea of God and of people who live by faith in Him.  Though they are intelligent, no amount of meditation and study will open up God’s mysteries to them because they have no desire to grow spiritually.

Decide that God will entrust His mysteries to you, by the way you live your life.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

September 20 – Master + Commander

Listen, Israel: Today you are about to engage in battle with your enemies. Do not be cowardly. Do not be afraid, alarmed, or terrified because of them. For the Lord your God is the One who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory. (Deuteronomy 20:3-4 HCSB)

We’ve all seen movies where a commanding general gathers his troops as he’s about to send them off to war.  They stand bravely at attention as he sternly reminds them of their noble mission.  Some will die on the battlefield that day, but that is their sworn duty to their country.  Warfare is a scary thing, and spiritual warfare can be just as scary when we’re battling unseen forces that have existed from the beginning of time.  But our Commander is in another league altogether, and our victory is guaranteed.  We have no need to fear an enemy that cannot destroy us.

Just as conventional warfare requires courage, determination and fierce battle, spiritual warfare is no different.  If we want our problems eradicated but don’t want to engage in the fight, we’ll never see victory.  The Holy Spirit teaches us in Ephesians 6 that God provides us with every weapon needed to fight and overcome demons, principalities and rulers in the spiritual realm, but we are the ones who have to put on that armor, and we are the ones that have to fight.  The power and authority comes from God, but the battle happens when we rise up in defiance out of our own initiative.  

One of the reasons that God requires us to fight is to bond us closer to Him.  We experience His goodness when we face our enemies.  When we fight, we learn how to focus on what we truly want to achieve and how much we believe in what we’re are doing.  Christians who live out a vague and undefined faith see no victories. Jesus fought the greatest, most painful battle that ever was, or ever will be fought, so why do so many shirk the lighter battles that God asks us to fight?  We miss out on blessings, but even more, we miss growing closer to Him. The sweetness of victory over evil is a taste of the sweetness of heaven, and a glimpse of God’s face.

Our Commander promises to go out into battle with us.  Though he needs us to fight, it’s His power and His authority fighting through us.  Just like young David was no match for the massive warrior that stood in front of him, his faith allowed God’s power to hurl that little stone into Goliath’s head and knock him dead.  All of us who’ve surrendered our lives to the Lord Jesus, have this promise to stand on.  When we face our giants, no matter how scary they try to appear, God is telling us, “Do not be afraid, alarmed or terrified!”  We never have to fight these enemies alone, and we can always be certain of victory.

Friday, September 19, 2014

September 19 – God works in mysterious ways

Indeed, my plans are not like your plans, and my deeds are not like your deeds, for just as the sky is higher than the earth, so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans.  (Isaiah 55:8,9   NET)

“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.”  These are the first lines of a poem by William Cowper who lived several hundred years ago.  Beautiful words, but the first line is not found anywhere in the Bible though many quote it as if it were.  The concept is biblical, only it is expressed differently in the Bible itself.

When people quote this parable it is frequently done in a sarcastic way, treating God as though He were unreasonably complicated and bureaucratic.  They suggest that their logic and way of doing things are superior to His, that they would deal with people and manage the world in a more straightforward manner, and to their loss they insult the One who has the insight and knowledge to lead them to true happiness and spirituality.

Do we really want a god that we can completely understand and predict all the time?  That god would not offer much help — his mind and insight would be on a par with our own, so what good would that do?  When we can’t figure out what God is doing, when He is working in mysterious ways, either we are out of sync with Him and are not hearing what He is saying, or His plan is so much greater than the one we thought up that we are not yet able to connect the dots and figure it out.  Either way, our response should never be sarcastic comments about Him, but an effort to seek His presence and trust in His superior wisdom, insight and power.

We don’t have to stop saying “God works in mysterious ways,” we just need to use it in a different way, and correct others when they use it improperly.  “Mysterious” in this context should mean wonderful, better, superior, first-class, amazing.  When we have this attitude of trust that God is doing something far better than anything we could ever think up, we demonstrate one of the highest forms of honor and praise to Him, and guarantee the fulfillment of that plan.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

September 18 – God’s Word: no guessing game

First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.  (2 Peter 1:20-21   HCSB)

How many times have people tried to disagree with clearly stated principles in the Bible with the response, “Well, that’s just your opinion,” when you know they just want to disregard the Word completely?  The Bible is alive with God’s Spirit speaking through it to anyone who is willing to listen. Obviously we can always benefit from studying it more, seeing it through different angles and learning how to apply it throughout all the various situations we find ourselves in.  But trying to twist the Word of God to say what we want it to, and forcing it to fit the lifestyle that we prefer is what Peter means when he says that prophecy doesn’t come by the will of men or our own interpretation.

Peter is talking in this chapter about the prophecies in the Old Testament that were looking forward to the coming of Jesus, hundreds of years later.  He wants us to understand that prophecies weren’t just wishful thinking or the guessing game of a few spiritual men, but thoroughly inspired by the Holy Spirit, and true word for word.  In fact if you compare prophecies of what the Messiah would be like to what actually happened when Jesus came into the world, you can see that every word was fulfilled by Him in the way He lived His life.

Some people complain that we take the Word of God too seriously, that God’s promises were meant just for specific people at specific times, but not for us to believe in today.  If that were true, the Bible would be a boring reference book filled with useless information.  That completely contradicts what Peter is saying here.  Every prophecy was spoken by the moving of the Holy Spirit, and meant to stand the test of time from generation to generation.  What God promised to Abraham, He promises to us as long as we live in a covenant with Him.  The battles and victories of the Old Testament are meant for us to embrace as promises for ourselves today.  Some prophecies in the Bible do refer to a specific nation, but then at a deeper look, they are also speaking of the Messiah who would only come centuries later.  The Word of God is layered with meaning that is meant for us to believe in, in a very personal way.  

God is so intricate and great that He can speak a word to an ancient king, and also be speaking to each of us in our own towns and cities around the world in the 21st century at the same time.  Decide not to view God’s promises as part of a mere history lesson, but take them for yourself.  He placed them in His book to be used so that He could be proven faithful to His promises no matter when or where.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September 17 – Right before your eyes

Wisdom is directly in front of the discerning person, but the eyes of a fool run to the ends of the earth.  (Proverbs 17:24  NET)

God is so amazingly deep and profound, and at the same time so clear and simple in His guidance of us.  The book of Proverbs talks much about wisdom, how it shouts out in the streets for people to listen and follow it, and how often foolish people walk right by and ignore the words of God for them.

We can see this every single day just watching the world rush around us.  People can be suffering with sicknesses, financial struggles, family and marriage problems, and pay thousands of dollars to seek out help and end up just as unhappy.  All the while, God is offering help right in front of them, but they reject it.  How many people are given flyers from our churches with great messages of hope, with testimonies of others who have overcome incredible obstacles, and yet the treasure God places in their hands ends up in the trash.  They would rather fly across the world to find a “cure,” but have no time for God.

Some Christians’ search for wisdom is often just an attempt to run away from what they already know God is asking of them.  God speaks, but they’ll avert their eyes in the hope that some new exciting possibility will be their magic charm.  They can even claim that it’s “God’s leading,” but when it doesn’t work, they wonder why.  Forgive the people I hate? No, I couldn’t do that… Go to church when I’m feeling so upset?  No, people would ask questions… Put into practice what I read in the Bible?  Maybe after I’m done with that project at work…

God promises that our answers are always within our reach.  We just need to be discerning, and to block out the solutions the world tries to dangle in front of our eyes.  Realize if you are searching endlessly for wisdom, God is telling you that it is closer than you think.  Read your Bible, talk to your pastor, ask God for His direction, and as you continue to seek, you will find.   

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 16 – Honor in Insults

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God, rests on you.  (1 Peter 4:14   NET)

Here is one more promise of God that seems completely backwards to our natural mind.  Who would imagine that being insulted and hated would be a good thing, even something to desire?  The things of God go against our flesh.  Understand that we are part of a fallen world that has distorted the truth — so once we start to live in a way that is right, it feels wrong because we’ve become so accustomed to living crookedly.  We have to trust in God and develop spiritual instincts because we can no longer trust our human instincts.  God tells us in Isaiah 55:8, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord.”

Though obedience to God usually means denying our flesh, there are always huge blessings on the other side that please our spirits, our emotions and even our physical lives.  But we have to go against our flesh first to find them.  God is teaching us here how to find joy and blessings despite the hatred and insults that others hurl at us.  We are to know without a doubt, that His Spirit is resting on us whenever we are misunderstood or mistreated because of our faith.  We are closer to Him in times of persecution, more than even in times when we feel at peace.  His glory is over us and we can expect His blessings and answers to our prayers to become evident because we are suffering for the sake of His name.

Our response to these insults and mistreatment, is to rejoice, and to tune in to the Holy Spirit who is resting on us right then.  We are being given more authority to fight against evil, and He will give us clarity to see how to respond to our problems in a supernatural way.  When Peter and the other apostles were arrested and thrown in prison for preaching about Jesus, they remained just as confident and joyful as ever.  The Spirit of God opened the prison doors during the night, and they escaped.  But instead of hiding in fear, they obeyed the guidance of the Holy Spirit who told them to go right back and preach in the temple that morning.  Their boldness in faith threw their enemies into confusion (Acts 5). 

If you don’t know yet how to deal with feelings of anger, hurt, or offense, you haven’t yet experienced the joy of being empowered by the Holy Spirit that is resting on you at that moment.  Don’t forget that many who once ridiculed the apostles later were saved, and many who react unkindly towards you today could easily change in the future.  Consider it an honor to suffer insults for your Lord, and make your flesh take a back seat to give God’s Spirit room to work miracles in you and even in the hearts of your persecutors.   One thing you may want to consider, however, is if you have never faced rejection or any insult for your faith at all, are you really following Christ as you should?  

September 15 – God’s yoke + burden

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.  (Matthew 11:28-30  NET)

What an interesting promise.  Jesus calls the weary and burdened, promising them rest, and then asks them to place His yoke on their necks and shoulder His burden!  Isn’t that a contradiction?  How can people experience rest when someone places a new load on their shoulders, fastens a new yoke around their necks?  You would think that rest meant no yoke and no burden, but in God’s world things are reversed.  God’s yoke is easy and His load is not hard.  In fact all weariness and burdens in life come when we try to avoid God’s yoke and burden.  The more we try to experience freedom and happiness by ourselves, without God, the more oppressed and unhappy we become.

A perfect example of this is discipline in the home.  All children are hungry for discipline and boundaries.  When there is no discipline in the home, no clear rules and strict, loving enforcement of those rules, children feel insecure and unloved.  Somehow their small, underdeveloped brains reason that if their parents really loved and cared for them, they would lay down the law and punish them for breaking it.  It seems contradictory because children complain about rules and discipline, but the results prove otherwise.  Children thrive when they are given “yokes” and “loads” by loving, strict parents; that is when they feel truly loved and cared for.

Not only do non-Christians and unbelievers get this wrong, many churchgoers and self-professing strong Christians also get this wrong.  The world teaches that complete freedom from any and all restrictions makes us free, that restrictions block happiness, that satisfying pleasures brings true joy and satisfaction — but it’s all a lie.  True freedom, strength and happiness come from surrendering our wills to God.  True blessings and wisdom beyond our years come when we fear God and are careful to follow His commands.  When we shoulder God’s load and yoke, all of a sudden, problems that have constantly haunted us all through our lives are no longer a problem.  On the other side of God’s yoke and burden is a life of happiness and strength that we’ve never experienced.

If you are weary and burdened, ask yourself how serious you have been with God.  Sure, we all experience problems and hardships in life, but when we’re walking with God, trusting in Him and using our faith, every problem turns into something that is easy to bear and easy to carry.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

September 14 – Plugging into the source

For all the gods of the nations are worthless, but the Lord made the heavens. Majestic splendor emanates from him, he is the source of strength and joy.  (2 Chronicles 16:26-27 NET)

When the Bible mentions idols and gods, we tend to picture ignorant, primitive civilizations bowing down to crude statues. But among church-going believers, there are many who invent their own gods.  When a believer does not want to submit to spiritual authority, but prefers to hop from church to church, and from one TV evangelist to another, they are in fact trying to custom-make their own god who will tell them what they want to hear.  When they don’t want to be held accountable for their spiritual lives and development, or be given guidance when they fall into sin, they have made a god in their own image.

We are all tempted to want an easy path, a god that doesn’t require much of us, and an appearance of spirituality that needs no sacrifice.  Christians who have become lax in faith but then return to God, are always ashamed of how far they’d drifted from Him, and of the fantasy-god that their minds so quickly created.  Unfortunately there are many who have drifted and never returned.  No wonder the Bible says that our hearts are more deceitful that anything else and incurable (Jeremiah 17:9).

In contrast, the Almighty God is our source of all strength, and all joy.  Picture being loved and empowered by the One who created the entire universe and all there is in it, with splendor and might radiating from Him, offering you authority over all evil, and a position as heir in His Kingdom – forever.  No pitiful patchwork god that our little minds create can compare to Him.  Why would anyone want to choose a false god that is worthless, over the true God who is full of power?

When we don’t submit to Him, and when we don’t die to our flesh, we cut ourselves off from strength and joy.  He is that source, and that is His promise to us.  For the depressed, the weak, and the fearful, the source of deep and lasting joy begins with God.  For those who are facing problems that intimidate them, that are beyond human effort, the source of supernatural strength to overcome is available in God.  This is not just a nice poetic saying, God is teaching us something practical to put to use right now.  

First, rid yourselves of all false gods that may have subtly crept into your hearts.  They are worthless and an abomination to God.  But once you have made the true God your Lord, count on majestic splendor shining over you, and strength and joy that surpass human understanding to be resources that you can tap into and use whenever you need.  Don’t accept anything less – this is a truth that He has spoken.  This is your promise.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

September 13 – Rescued hostages

He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him. (Colossians 1:13,14   HCSB)

Lately we’ve seen heart-wrenching stories on the news of hostages that were kept in captivity for many months and then brutally beheaded for the whole world to see.  Though we all wished that these men could be rescued and brought to safety, the reality is that governments, leaders and armies are not always equipped or prepared to confront the evil in this world.  Good governments and leaders try to have a positive influence on the world, and to save the oppressed, but their efforts are not always successful or appreciated.  No government, no matter how good, can solve all our problems.

But how different God is!  He has already rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us into the kingdom of His Son.  We were doomed, condemned to a life of addictions, lies, unfaithfulness, anxiety, depression, poverty, emptiness, anger, weakness and sin.  We used to be slaves to our flesh and to the ways of the world.  We followed the crowd (even though it was lost), and ran after things that never brought us the happiness we were seeking.  God mercifully rescued us from a life of exploitation and slavery, from a prison from which there was no escape.  When there was no hope whatsoever for us, He intervened, plucked us out of the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of light.

The Greek word “redemption” (we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him) points to a slave being redeemed through the payment of a ransom.  Though we did not even know we were in need of being saved, and were incapable of paying the price, Jesus intervened and rescued us.  It would be a terrible insult for us to ignore the amazing, heroic work of God to set us free and give us a new life.  The old way of living is so obsolete.  Give it up, and grab onto this new life!

Friday, September 12, 2014

September 12 – Figs from thistles

You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.  (Matthew 7:16-20   NET)

An orange farmer in Florida expects every tree in his orchard to produce a certain number of oranges of a particular quality.  His business depends on it.  If any trees under produce, or produce no fruit at all, he would cut them down and replace them with trees that would produce like all the rest.  We wouldn’t call him cruel for doing that because he has every right to expect fruit from his trees.  He wouldn’t expect oranges from the palm tree in his front yard, or from his rose bushes.  But his orange trees have to produce oranges.

Jesus’ argument is just as obvious as the one about oranges; it’s a very simple truth that no one would argue with.  Even a child would understand these concepts.  And yet, when we apply these ideas to salvation and faith, to knowing God, to doubt and fear, and demons, people get very confused.  For some reason, people are not as logical when it comes to their behavior and habits, to the question of whether or not they are saved.  Some people claim to know God and to be absolutely sure of their salvation while they are involved in terrible sins and have habits that no child of God would ever allow.

Fruit is the yardstick of our walk with God.  It reveals whether or not we are free from demons, and when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit.  Like the farmer, we should expect to see fruit when we surrender our lives to God, when we use our faith, when we seek God’s presence. It’s not enough to attend church, pray, sing songs, smile at our friends, and pretend to be good Christians.  If God is truly living inside us we will see fruit like we have never seen before, fruit that cannot be faked or manufactured by our flesh.  When Jesus said that figs are not gathered from thistles He was referring to a plant that no only cannot produce figs, but cannot produce any kind of fruit.  God’s peace and joy has never been felt by people living for their flesh, by people who put themselves first and push God to the side.  That fruit is reserved for people who have gone all the way with God.  It is exclusive to that class of people.  Anyone else is completely incapable of experiencing those emotions.

This is not complicated, but we frequently make it so.  Be honest with yourself… brutally honest.  Only the truth will set you free.  If you discover that your relationship with God is weak or non-existent after an honest evaluation, you have just done yourself an enormous favor, and if you go one step further and humble yourself before God and decide to change, God’s power will flow into your life and help you to change.  This is the most important decision of our lives; please don’t neglect it.

September 11 – Godly complaints

After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”   (Genesis 15:1   NKJV)

This is one of the most powerful passages in the Bible, and one that has great significance for us all.  In fact, there is good reason to believe that these words were spoken by the Lord Jesus Himself, since He is known as “the Word.”  Most, or all Bible scholars believe that Jesus made several appearances in the Old Testament, what they call “pre-incarnate” appearances, meaning that they happened before Jesus came to earth in the flesh. And so, this promise is significant because Jesus Himself came and spoke to Abram, and because He used a powerful phrase that would later become the personal name of God, the name that God gave Moses on Mount Sinai… I am who I am.  When Jesus said “I AM” your shield, your exceedingly great reward, He was making a powerful statement of His intrinsic nature, something that would never change.  He was declaring that He would always protect and provide for Abram, but instead of eliciting a series of Praise Gods and Hallelujahs, He got a complaint.  Confusing for some, but a great lesson for us all.

Abram complained because God had promised on several occasions to make his descendants great, as numerous as the dust of the earth.  But up to that point he remained childless, and so Jesus’ promise of protection and wealth was not enough for him, and he reminded God of that.

Instead of a rebuke, Abram was blessed in an extraordinary way for his complaint.  It pleased God to such degree that He reiterated His promise to him, and made a covenant with him that very night.  He told Abram to sacrifice five animals: a three year-old heifer, and three year-old female goat, and three year-old ram, a turtledove and a pigeon.  They were cut in half and the pieces were placed opposite each other, and then in the middle of the night God appeared as a smoking firepot and a flaming torch and passed between the pieces.  This was an ancient tradition of making a solemn vow: whoever walked between the halves of the dead animals was declaring that the same should be done to him if he failed to keep the agreement that the two parties had made. And so, God made this solemn vow to keep His word to Abram in response to his complaint.

The moral of this story is that God wants His children to fight for what has been promised.  We cannot expect God’s promises to automatically come true simply because He made them to us.  God expects us to believe in them even in the darkest moments of our lives, to wrestle with Him like Jacob, to complain like Abram, insisting that they come true for us.  We can’t just speak about our faith, we have to act it our in a concrete, bold manner.  If we don’t, our faith is dead, because genuine faith refuses to stop until it has received what was promised.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September 10 – Being a blessing

I will make a covenant of peace with them and eliminate harmful beasts from the land so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.  I will make them and the places around My hill a blessing. And I will cause showers to come down in their season; they will be showers of blessing. Also the tree of the field will yield its fruit and the earth will yield its increase, and they will be secure on their land. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bars of their yoke and have delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them. (Ezekiel 34:25-27 NASB)

This is one of many prophecies about the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, who would set God’s people free.  All of us who live in the time after Jesus’ sacrifice can now benefit from this amazing promise.  Read this with spiritual eyes, and see that the harmful beasts are demons who want to devour our lives.  The problems that prowl around us and threaten to destroy us, are now eliminated when we determine that this promise is ours.

Living securely in the wilderness means that we don’t have to run away from evil any more, since Jesus has given us authority over demons.  Now evil has to run away from us.  Even when we are in an area that once felt unsafe, we can be in complete peace, because we have made a covenant of peace with Him.

Showers will come, blessings that will nourish and strengthen us, and make us more fruitful.  Rains will come from season to season, and all these things will happen when we are gathered around His hill – His hill being wherever His presence is.  Gathering with others of the same faith in church, drinking from His Word, being attentive to what He wants and what He has to teach us, is what it means to be on His holy hill.  Not only will we be blessed, but we will be a blessing to others who are far from God and be drawn to Him because of us.

The earth, the plants and the sky will all work together in harmony to create fruit and safety for the people of God.  This corresponds to another passage, “Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them.  Or the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.”  (Deut. 11:16-17)  As good as God’s blessings are, we can’t afford to turn away from Him and idolize any other thing or person.  We curse ourselves when we degrade God by treating what is holy dismissively.

God wants the world to know and see that He is God through us.  It glorifies Him to break off our yokes of oppression off of us.  Since our greatest desire should be to honor and lift Him up, let’s make it our life’s work to live on His hill so that these blessings can rain down, and become evident to everyone around us. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

September 9 – Praying as Moses did

Let your work be manifest to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.  Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands!  (Psalm 90:17 NRSV)

Most of the psalms are attributed to King David, but Psalm 90 is entitled a psalm of Moses.  Scholars believe that it had been passed down by oral tradition from generation to generation, and became a frequent prayer among all the people of God for hundreds of years.

But how can it be a prayer and a promise at the same time?  That’s the beauty of the Word of God.  He teaches us that prayers made by godly men, are to be imitated and treated as a promise that God intends to fulfill.  Our prayers should be based on who we know God is, His character, His promises, and His will.  If you don’t know any of those, your prayers will not be effective at all.  When we pray with the knowledge of what God has already promised and purposed, we can have full assurance that God has said yes, and amen to what we have asked.  As far as God is concerned, it’s done.  It’s just up to us to stay in that faith until we see it.  (See 2 Corinthians 1:20 for that reference.)  

If Moses, David and all the Israelites had been praying this against the will of God, He would have severely rebuked them.  Yet here it stands as an example for us to follow.  Why would God want us to pray for what is already His will?  If it’s His will, why won’t He just do it? God’s will includes our cooperation.  He wants us to reach out to Him, and hold Him accountable for His promises.  To stand firmly on those promises, to cry out to Him and act in faith as if they were already true.  That is the only way faith works.

For those who feel that asking God to prosper them is selfish and bordering on sinful, obviously Moses had no problem with it.  When word repetition appears in the Bible, “prosper…yes, prosper,” that means that God is being emphatic.  Even demanding.  

Good and moral Christians, faithful tithers, givers of time and care for others, can stand by and watch evil steal many things that should be protected by God.  That’s because few truly stand on His promises.  They may tithe, but when a potential problem arises, they cave in and allow the devil to eat away their possessions.  They imagine that nothing will harm them just by virtue of their giving.  But a tithe is a representation of the faith in each of us.  If we have no determination to fight for God’s promises to come true, our tithe turns into just a monetary donation.  A warrior with a weapon, who is too passive to use it, is an impotent soldier.

Our crucial weapon is to pray as Moses did, and as King David recorded here for us.  Insist on God’s promises coming true for you.  We’ve been learning about the passage in Isaiah 14:24 “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.”  God is calling us to plan and purpose His promises to come into being in very real ways here and now.  Begin to determine that His will in heaven will be done right here on earth, in your own life.   Let His work be manifest and let His glorious power be seen!

September 8 – Made in God’s image

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule…”  (Genesis 1:26  NET)

What does it mean to be made in God’s image?  Obviously, we are not God and never will be God; we are only made in His image.  This means that certain powers and characteristics that are uniquely God have been given to us also.  But if God created us in His image from the very beginning, it only makes sense for us to take a hold of these powers and characteristics and live the way He intended.  The problem is that the devil works overtime at convincing us that we can’t.  If we take a hold of this promise and live it out, the devil and his kingdom will have no power, and so evil works night and day to convince us that ruling over our problems, over our flesh, and over evil, are beyond our reach.

Verses one through twenty-five of Genesis chapter one have just finished describing God’s creation, where He created all things except man by the words that came out of His mouth.  God planned things in His mind, and then spoke them into existence. As Isaiah 14:24 says: “Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass, and as I have purposed, so it shall stand.”  And so, when God speaks about making man in their own image, clearly one important characteristic of God is what has just been described.  Like Jesus said a couple thousand years later, if we speak to a mountain and order it to be thrown into the sea, it will be done if we do not doubt in our hearts and believe that what we say will happen.  And so, not only were we made with the authority and power to rule and create, the Lord Jesus commanded us to live this way.

There are many other characteristics that reflect the image of God in humanity: our social nature, the way we enjoy family and friends, our ability to communicate, our moral compass, our free-will, and the fact that we can reason and choose.  But one of the most important is this godly power to decide on something by faith, and have it turn out exactly the way we want it to.  This is what faith is all about.  This is the inverse of what Satan does 24/7, all around the world.  He speaks words of doubt and fear with the determination that they will cause death and destruction.  He is constantly creating chaos and confusion, and his only real weapon is his words.

It’s time for us to rise up and become what God intended from the very beginning.  One of the very first concepts of the Bible is that we have the power and authority of God to create, and yet an extremely small percentage of Christians practice this concept.  For many it even sounds foreign.  We cannot be like them.  We need to be people that determine things, plant our feet firmly on the Word of God, and know that what we have planned is already ours.  For us, circumstances, what we hear and see, and what happened in the past, have no effect because we believe that what we have said will happen.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

September 7 – Only the humble

I tell you the truth, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” After he took the children in his arms, he placed his hands on them and blessed them.  (Mark 10:15-16  NET)

In Jesus’ day, the religious leaders saw women and children as second-class citizens who had no voice.  The great and profound discussions of scholars and scribes were considered too high and mighty for the likes of the uneducated.  So when mothers brought their little ones to Jesus to be blessed, the disciples assumed it would annoy Jesus, so they shooed them away.  But the Bible says that Jesus was indignant with what His disciples were doing.  He not only blessed them, but used little children as an example of how we need to be before God in order to enter into His kingdom. 

We already know the trouble disobedient children can be, but every child longs to be told they are good, smart and loved.  A child who is motivated to do what’s right, can amaze adults with their purity and loyalty.  These are the childlike character qualities that God is looking for in us all:

Trusting that our Father only wants the best for us at all times.
Being eager to please and honor Him with the best we can do.
Being humble, sorry, and accepting correction from Him.
Being quick to forgive others and believe the best in others.
Showing affection to our Father with great enthusiasm.
Quick to show gratitude by freely giving to Him
Tagging along behind Him, wanting to follow every footstep.
Being a faithful brother and sister to those who also share the same Father.
Seeing our Father’s House as our own home.
Knowing that our real home is with Him.

As sophisticated and self-important as we like to imagine ourselves to be, God sees who we really are.  Even the most successful businessman is a simple person who has to battle his emotions, flesh and fears every day.  Strip off salaries, degrees and job resumes, and we’re all just children in need of a Father.  We are all healthier and wiser when we acknowledge that, and stop trying to insist that we are someone we are not.  We are blessed beyond belief when we know our limitations as children and trust in the unlimited power of God.  

Don’t you love it when your children humbly apologize when you correct them, and then try their best never to make that mistake again? If seeing our little ones copy all we do and say is enough to make our hearts burst with love, God feels just the same. He wants to find ways to bless us more and more when we treat Him exactly like that.  We sinful parents strive to give the best to our children, so of course our perfect Father will give His best to us.  Only the humble who are like little children enter into His kingdom, and those who are not, Jesus says will never enter it.

September 6 – A perfect family + a blessed life

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. And that man was pure and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions included 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys; in addition he had a very great household. Thus he was the greatest of all the people in the east.  (Job 1:1-3  NET)

This passage is a statement of how Job lived his life and the results that followed, which basically makes it a promise.  If you live the way Job lived you can expect the results that Job got.  But if you’re unfamiliar with Job’s story, you may say you don’t want the life that he had because he was a good man that suffered unjustly for many years.  But you’d be wrong.  The Bible doesn’t say how long he suffered (my opinion is that it lasted 3 to 9 months), but it does make the point that he was very blessed before he lost everything, and was much more blessed afterwards, and enjoyed that blessing for four generations.  In comparison to the length of time he was blessed, his time of suffering was very short.

When we look at the Bible’s description of Job’s physical possessions before he lost everything, it’s clear that God is trying to communicate something.  He had 7 sons and 7,000 sheep, he had 3 daughters and 3,000 camels, and he had 500 yoke of oxen (a yoke would be a pair) and 500 female donkeys.  This is a description of perfect wealth and abundance because the number 7 represents perfection in the Bible and the number 3 represents God. By having 7 sons and 3 daughters, he had a perfect family. 3,000 camels not only represented a godly number of camels, one camel was like having a long haul transportation business.  Camels were for them what eighteen-wheelers are for us today, and so it’s as if he owned a business with 3,000 trucks. A pair of oxen was also the equivalent of a tractor or truck, and 500 yoke meant that he could farm a huge tract of land, or hire the oxen out at a price. Because of his family, servants and livestock, Job was the greatest man in the east, and after his time of testing, God basically blessed him with double of everything!

But most important of all is the Bible’s description of what made him wealthy and blessed.  Four qualities were used to describe him: pure, upright, God-fearing, and a man that turned away from evil.  This is why both God and Satan had noticed him and were talking about him.  The world values certain qualities, but not one of these four.  The world ignores the type of life that Job had.  People laugh at anyone who is pure, who is God-fearing, and who quickly turns away from any kind of evil.  But this was the secret to Job’s success, and to ours, if we are humble enough to accept it.

So today’s promise is this: If you are pure, upright, God-fearing, and turn away from evil, you will have a perfect family, a blessed life, God’s presence and a guaranteed future no matter what.

Friday, September 5, 2014

September 5 – A logical conclusion

What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?  (Romans 8:31-32 NET)

Growing up in a Christian home, I couldn’t figure out what to do with all those amazing promises and miracles in the Bible.  They all materialized to people of faith back then, but no one I knew had ever seen anything remotely like that in their lives.  It even made me wonder why God blessed those early Christians so much, but stopped blessing us.  Was He unfair?

But these two verses say it all.  If God reached so low to rescue us by sacrificing the life of His own Son to be punished for sins He never committed, doesn’t that say something powerful about what kind of God He is?  Wouldn’t that give us a clue that He has an amazing love that no one on this earth could ever match?  Which one of us would be willing to send our own sweet and innocent child to be tortured and killed to spare the life of an unworthy criminal?  But God has done that for us on an epic scale.  And because Jesus so freely gave His sinless life, He was raised again with even greater power and authority than before.  Now, He gives us His authority to use with His blessing!

God has given us the unthinkable.  We have a reprieve, a chance to truly live in oneness with God in His Kingdom.  We don’t deserve it, but His grace and mercy offers it.  All He asks is that we submit to Him as our Lord in humility and gratitude.  What He asks us to give is nothing compared to what He has given us.

And now He wonders, why do we doubt Him?  If He gave us such a precious treasure, won’t He freely also give us all things?  How about His promises to set us free from the bondage of depression, or financial ruin?  How about the promises to give us favor and victory over destruction in our families?  Every promise (like we state every day) is meant for us to believe in, because it’s meant for us to see materialize in very tangible ways.  

The reason why many good Christians don’t see the miracles of the first century believers, is because they don’t have the determination to live in a first century faith.  Insisting that the Word of God is true, even when doubts try to crowd in, is part of that faith.  Do you battle with the fear that you can’t search for a better job?  If you truly knew how loving your Father was, you would be able to push that fear aside and take the risk by faith to find a great job for His honor and glory.  There is no need to dither and waver between decisions.  Though you may need to ask for counsel or pray for specific guidance, the foundation of our faith needs to be firm:  if God is for me, who can be against me?