Prayer with God – Colossians 4:12-13

It’s Time To Wrestle With God

12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis.

Selfless Servant

Paul commends his fellow worker in Christ, Epaphras, in this passage.  He  commends this saint in Christ, and tells the Colossian church that he sends greetings.  This was common in Paul’s letters, and was an encouragement to the churches.  In the dark times in which we find ourselves today, it is a blessing to hear from disciples in other church plantings and to know that they are thinking about us.  After all, the church is not any specific group of believers, but rather all disciples taken as a whole.  Let us not forget that when one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers with it.

Strenuous Struggle

Epaphras was a prayer warrior.  He was engaged in a type of prayer that we should all be engaged.  He wrestled in prayer.  The Greek word for wrestled is agOnizomenos.  This can be translated as wrestles, struggles, or contends.  We get our English word agonize from it.  Epaphras agonized in prayer for the saints.  The burden on his heart was so great, that he was agonizing over the other disciples, and was noted for his burden with the church in Colossi.

This level of prayer goes way beyond the simple thankfulness prayer, or general request for something.  This is a type of prayer where the heart is deeply moved and dedicated to seeing a specific result.  This is the type of prayer where you are praying for the very life of your child to survive some terrible injury or illness.  Epaphras was gifted with the ability to feel that way about the saints, and was commended by Paul for doing so.  Such prayers can be cathartic, but are very demanding and difficult, and take a lot out of the person.  Epaphras was commended for ALWAYS contending in prayer for the brothers and sisters in Colossi.  That IS commendable.

Sturdy Stand

The first aspect of discipleship that concerned Epaphras was that the church of Colossi stand firm in the will of God.  It is so easy to be distracted by the call of culture and duties that we can take our eyes off of the goal.  We are bombarded daily with the call of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We need to be focused more upon the will of Almighty God as the day of reckoning approaches.  Each of us needs to fill our lamps with oil, so that we will not be caught unprepared.  We each need to put on our wedding clothes in preparation for the return of the groom so that we may join Him in the wedding celebration.

Made Mature

One of the characteristics missing from Western Christians is maturity in their faith.  We are called to grow in Christ, and to draw close to Him.  However, there are many who believe that they are good where they are.  They are happy with the spiritual progress that they have made so far, and think that this is good enough.

However, even Paul had said that he had not yet arrived.  If the writer of most of the New Testament, martyred in Rome for his faith, stoned to death and resurrected, did not arrive, why should any of us think that we have?  There are Christians (and I am specifically using this word rather than disciples) who say that they are baby Christians.  Some of these “babes in Christ” have been walking with God for more than a decade, but are still only ready for the milk of the word.

Not only are we to eagerly desire the milk of the word, we are meant to grow up and mature, tasting and chewing on the meat of the word.  We are to grow into mature disciples, fully and firmly rooted in the word of God.  Staying a babe in Christ for so long is much like living well into adulthood as a child in your parent’s basement.  There is no impetus to grow – as long as the behavior is coddled or ignored, the person never reaches maturity, and as a result, is not productive in society.

While it should not be taken that extended families are in some way wrong as living arrangements, we should have reasonable expectations for our children to grow up and mature, and be useful, productive members of society.  How does the family benefit when a 35-year-old man sits in a basement playing (the latest version of) Halo, doing nothing else but eating their parents food, buying clothes with their money, and ignoring them and everyone else for the enjoyment of a video game?

Maturation is a difficult, time-consuming, arduous endeavor.  It comes with a lot of bumps and bruises, but also with intentionality, discipline, and purpose.  And discipline is the key.  The child does what pleases the child.  The adult does what is good for the family.  It is time that the “babes in Christ” wake up, and take a serious look at their spiritual lives.  There is much to be done, and the rest of the body is trying to cover for you.

Serious Striving

Paul further commends Epaphras for working hard.  This is a characteristic of the mature Christian disciple.  Jesus tells us that we are not worthy if we look back from the plow at what was left behind.  We are to keep our eyes on the goal, and to strive with great purpose towards the way and will of God.  For the path is straight through the narrow gate to life, and broad is the gate and wide is the road towards destruction.  We each need to choose our path.  Paul urges us in the example of Epaphras to choose whom we will serve this day.  Make that choice, and press on towards the goal.  Set your sights upon hearing these words from your Lord and Savior: Well done, good and faithful servant.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I becoming the person that God has called me to become?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for the examples that You have provided to me in the Bible.  Help me to research and understand the life of Paul and the ministry of Epaphras.  Guide me and instruct me in the ways that I should go.  Help me to be more intensely engaged while I pray to You.  Give me the heart of a servant, that I may be Your bond-slave.  Stir my heart for my own spiritual development, as well as the spiritual development of the rest of the body of Christ.  Give me a burden upon my heart for the awakening of your disciples who have taken their eyes off of You.  Help me to greatly desire their maturity, as well as my own.  Place upon my heart the desire to spend more time with You each and every day in prayer and study of Your word.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Redemption of God – Isaiah 65:25

The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
    and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
    and dust will be the serpent’s food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
    on all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord.

God, speaking through his faithful prophet, Isaiah, indicates that this will occur after He creates new heavens and a new earth.  We see this same language in Revelation 21:1, indicating that this will occur after God has poured out his wrath upon the ungodly and taken his His people to be with him.  The implication is that there will be animals in eternity.

God intends to redeem all of His creation.  In John 3:16, Jesus says:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The word “world” is interesting.  In the Greek, it is cosmos.  This word can be translated as all people, as indicated here.  It can also refer to all of creation as well.  God declared prior to the sin of man that:

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

Notice that God saw that it was good.  There is no reason to believe that God will not redeem the creatures of the earth.  Whether the creatures that had already existed in the past will be redeemed or not is mere speculation.  Although they have souls, we are not told anywhere in the Bible that they have spirits.  Most likely (and this is mere speculation), God will create new creatures once He destroys evil and wickedness from the face of the earth with fire:

By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Do you enjoy the company of animals here and now?  Be assured that you will do the same once God prepares the universe for His redeemed ones in glory.  God intends to redeem what we have lost to His Glory and pleasure, and for our pleasure as well!

[Special thanks to T. G.]

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us great and wonderful things in Your word.  We thank you that you are so patient with us, and that Your character is perfect.  Thank You for showing us Your level of care for us as well as for Your creation.  You are restoring what once was and should have been from the beginning – uninterrupted relationship and fellowship with those You have created.  You are marvelous, and Your mercy and grace are seen by all by what You have done, what You do now, and what You have declared You will do.  Keep us until the time of the great and terrible day when Your Son comes in glory as the conquering Lion.  Guard us until that day, and give us a sense of awe and expectation for these things that are to come.  This I ask in the precious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Suffering for Christ – Philippians 1:27-30

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Paul had endured much suffering in order to bring Christ to the world.  He was stoned to death, then resurrected; He was shipwrecked; bitten by poisonous snakes; plans were made to murder him, but he escaped, and much more.  In the United States, it has been, until recently, very easy to claim the name of Christ.  It was a badge of honor.  Now, a new era is upon us.  People who call themselves “tolerant”, are tolerant only of those who believe the same way that they do.  There is no room in their worldview for people with differing opinions.  On college campuses, “safe spaces” have been created so that people can have a refuge from opinions, values, thoughts, or actions that would challenge or possibly offend them.

When people fail to bow to their “superior” understanding of “tolerance”, they use the law to financially destroy their opponents, and beat them into submission with the threat of financial and property confiscation.  This can be seen in the treatment of business owners who refuse to compromise their beliefs and convictions in Christ.  It would be egregious to ask that a homosexual baker provide cakes for a gathering that say, “Homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.”  In the same way, it is egregious to ask a Christian baker to provide cakes for a homosexual civil union with rainbow colors and a pro-homosexual message – even if it is just two men or two women on top of the cake holding hands.  These social justice warriors DEMAND that the Christian-owned businesses not only provide their artistic services for messages counter to their beliefs, they must publicly acknowledge and AGREE with the message they are required to (now by law) provide.

But this is not the first time that Christians have been denied the right of property ownership because of their faith.  Hebrews 10:34 says:

You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

Suffering for being a Christian has been going on for two millennia.  We are only starting to see this in the Church in the United States of America.  But this is a good thing.  Every time there has been suffering for the cause of Christ, a winnowing of the church body occurs.  The wheat kernels fall to the ground, and the chaff blow away in the wind.  Faith increases within the body of Christ, and the body tends to grow in response.

Are you being persecuted for your faith?  You are in good company!  Jesus was falsely accused.  He was railroaded through the justice system.  He was accused of being a child of Satan.  He was asked to leave a town where he had performed a great miracle.  Many of the prophets and righteous men and women living in the past suffered the same and more.  Rejoice!  You have been found worthy!

So, let’s ask the question:  If you were dragged into a court, would there be sufficient evidence to convict you of being a “Christian“?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious to behold.  You have shown us through Your Son that suffering is part of our sanctification process.  Help me to endure all suffering on Your behalf, and may my faith grow stronger every day that I am in the crucible being refined.  Give me the words to say and the restraint needed when I am falsely accused, and there are financial and career losses.  May my heart rejoice, as I look forward to my heavenly inheritance.  Comfort me through these trials, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Calling of God – John 9:4

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

Jesus indicated that we are to work while it is day.  Just as we can see the light fading into dusk, so it is becoming in the world today.  In the Middle East, there is almost no light at all.  It is reported that Jesus is revealing Himself to people in visions and dreams because the people there have effectively put out the light.  It truly is night there – no one can work.

In very rapid succession, countries that were once brightly lit with the light of Christ have become dim.  In England, the cathedrals are being turned into mosques.  There are fewer and fewer people who would darken the doorsteps of a church.  Faith is failing.  And nature abhors a vacuum.  A most egregious evil is now afflicting those people.  When the light is placed under a bowl, it does no one any good.

Here in the United States of America, we are experiencing the same kind of withdraw by people.  Once our young people reach adulthood, they go off on their own, and reject the teachings of their youth (if they were brought up in the church).  Seeking to validate the claims of Faith by looking at the practical effectiveness of Christian living, they wrongly conclude that because Christians aren’t living out their faith correctly, that faith doesn’t work.

Abandoning their faith, they are drawn by the pleasures and values of the world, the devil, and their own evil desires.  Those that do come back only come to their senses after 15-20 years, and only after great consequences have befallen them.  The Millennials also flock to the preachers that tickle their ears with what they want to hear.  Downplaying sin and righteousness, they receive a weekly dose of psychology that tells them God is Love and Grace (and He is!), but there isn’t mention of transformation and sanctification into the image of Christ.  Believing then only that God loves them just the way they are (very true!), they fail to grasp their need to repent, and go on to live their lives just as the rest of the world does, indistinguishable from those who are perishing.  And others, failing to look in the Bible to see how faith is truly vibrant, real, and effective, even if the outcome here on Earth is unpleasant, conclude that faith is foolishness.

As God slowly withdraws his protection and stabilizing influence from all of us as the world continues to reject Him, night falls and lawlessness increases.  The darkness HATES the light, and will do anything it can to flee it, or extinguish it, so that its wickedness will not be exposed, and permit the continuation of its evil practices.

But fear not!  Jesus has overcome the darknessWalk in the light, let your light shine before men, complete the works that God has given you to do, and let God deal with the consequences of obedience.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us a Light that cannot be extinguished, and shines brightly for all to see.  For Your Son Jesus Christ said that if He was lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself.  Father, I have been drawn, and grow weary today, not of doing what is right, but of wading through the thick molasses of evil and wickedness in the world.  Help me to overcome.  Grant me strength to keep on walking.  And as the path to righteousness grows more narrow every day, help me to not be swept away or held in place.  You have declared that I am an oak of righteousness,  and that no one can snatch me out of Your hand.  Guard me, guide me, try me, prove me.  Help me to be a bright light on a hill.  And whatever you allow to happen, even to the point of death, keep me strong that You may be glorified.  This I ask and pray in the precious and faithful character of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Perspective of God – Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

This is a form of Hebraic poetry.  It takes the form:

    B   –   B
  /               \
A                   A

Ellis Scolfield writes, “Hebrew poetry is parallel in nature. A Hebrew poet would say something one way and then repeat the same idea later on in different words. These repeats could be a sentence, a paragraph, or even several chapters long. So how can we identify repetitive prophecies when we see them? By recognizing the Hebrew poetic style in which it was written.  [Textual scholars call this type of repetition the bifidic form.]12  (Brackets added for quote reference clarification)

Isaiah reveals to us something that we should already know – God’s thoughts and ways are beyond ours.  We are so bound by time, that we generally don’t have an eternal perspective.  But there are other instances where this is apparent.  Isaiah shows us something unusual in Isaiah 57:1-2:

1 The righteous perish,
    and no one takes it to heart;
the devout are taken away,
    and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
    to be spared from evil.
Those who walk uprightly
    enter into peace;
    they find rest as they lie in death.

We generally think that it is a great tragedy when someone is taken home to be with the Lord, especially if they are young.  But communicating with us through Isaiah the prophet, God says this is a blessing; that the righteous and devout are taken away to be spared from evil.  Oh, how we long for the influence of evil to finally end!  The pain and suffering it causes; its ripple effects sweeping people into chaos like a tsunami rushing inland.  It leaves destruction and loss everywhere it touches.  Rather than having to resist that force, and pick up the broken pieces, they are taken away, where they are with the Lord now and for eternity.

Our perspective is focused on the loss of their companionship, wisdom, fellowship, giftedness, relationship, and other factors in which we are immediately affected.  From God’s perspective, it is for their benefit that they are now with God, and no longer subject to the trials and temptations that afflict us until the glorious second coming of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  In this, we can see our selfishness at our perceived loss rather than their great gain.  And in our grief, sorrow, and mourning, we can all too soon forget that God’s sovereignty and perfect plan are in action, and that we will, in the lens of Eternity, see them again soon enough.

If you are mourning and grieving, your pain is real;  Let God comfort you through it.  And when you emerge on the other side, rejoice!  For He has done a wonderful thing and has blessed your loved one with the privilege of being in His presence and in final rest and peace from the evils of this world, soon to be reunited with you in glory!

 A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, my heart grieves the temporary loss of my friend and loved one.  Help me to work through the pain of loss.  Although I know that I will see them again when Your Beloved Son comes triumphantly in the sky, or possibly even sooner should You bless me with the opportunity to be in Your Presence before that great and terrible day, I am still in shock.  I am numb as I try to process this.  Please comfort me in my pain.  Uphold me, and restore normalcy to my daily routine.  Surround me with Your love as a mother hen gathers her chicks close to her under her wings.  Oh God, how it hurts!  Remember me this day, Lord, and give me the ability to just breathe.  This I ask and pray in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

[This post is dedicated to T. G., who recently lost his wife]

1 Packer-Tenny-White, The Bible Almanac, 1980, p349.

2 Ellis Scolfield, Bifids and Chiasms, [Unknown], p1.

Blessing of God – Ephesians 1:3

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

You are rich.  Rich beyond your wildest dreams.  God, in His wonderful grace, has blessed the disciples of Jesus with every spiritual blessing.  Not just one, or several; but every one.  We are princes and princesses, guaranteed to share in the inheritance:

who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,

and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

No matter what our financial position is here on Earth, we have a heavenly position of access to the royal treasury.  Jesus tells us:

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[e] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The verb translated as “lay up” in the Greek is thEsairozete, which is an imperative command (not a suggestion), and means “be ye hoarding!”  You have unlimited resources from which to draw upon the moment you say “YES!” to Jesus!  Because of this, even in abject Earthly poverty, you can smile; you have such vast wealth stored for you that you cannot even imagine.  So much so that Paul asked God to show you how much because you probably wouldn’t believe it!

As human beings with sin natures, it is inherent within us to gripe and complain about our situation.  Even when people receive Earthly wealth, it just never seems to be enough;  we always seem to need just a little more.  Paul himself said he needed to learn how to be content.  Isn’t it ironic that we have all this wealth, but cannot seem to see it or access it?  It is because we are blinded by our own selfish desires.

So lets ask the question:  Given all of these things, are we truly content?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your mercies renew every morning, and I am thankful, for I am in need your your mercy and grace every moment of every day.  Father, show me where in my heart that I am not content.  Help me to bring these areas of the life You have loaned to me in stewardship into the light, where they can be recognized and addressed.  Remove any bitterness in me from past experiences that I may move forward.  Help me to recognize the extent of the treasure that You have for me in Your wonderful and glorious inheritance that you freely give to me.  Help me to always come to You first and ask in faith for the things that are needed, for You greatly desire to give Your children good gifts.  Wash me clean; sanctify me, and purge me of all unrighteousness.  Help me to worship You with clean hands and a pure heart, that my every thought, word, and deed would be pleasing to you, an act of worship, and bring glory to Your name.  This I ask in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – 2 Corinthians 10:5

 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

We have been given a great gift – the gift of free will.  To have that gift, God has given us a mind that is able to think with reason AND emotion.  Part of spiritual warfare is recognizing the attacks of the enemy.  Paul indicates to us here that we are to take every thought that we have captive to obey Christ.

The word “thought” in the Greek is noEma.  The Strong’s note for this word indicates that it is:

a perception, i.e. purpose, or (by implication) the intellect, disposition, itself.

We are to take every thought, and path where our thoughts will go, captive (in submission) to Christ.  This is a challenge, but one that the Holy Spirit of God can overcome.

We are to implement a filter based on the Word of God so that every thought we have can be evaluated to see if it is good or malicious.  In the world of computers, there is a device (or application) that does this; it is called a firewall.  Firewalls protect you from malicious programs written by people who want to take control of your computer, steal your money, your intellectual property, and in some cases, render your computer so messed up that it is inoperable. This sounds an awful lot like someone we know:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Once this happens, it takes a qualified computer professional to get rid of everything bad.  Sometimes, this requires reinstalling all of your programs and restoring your files from a good backup (if you have even backed up your critical data!).

The Word of God transforms our mind and protects it against the social engineering attempts of the devil, the world, and the flesh to try to usurp our thought processes.  Some people have said, “Sure, I read the Bible once.  That’s all I need.”  But we see in Ephesians 5:26 that we are continually being washed clean by the Word of God.  The word “washed” in the Greek is katharisas.  It is the word from which we get the English word catharsis.

The Word of God is like anti-virus software: it checks every file (thought) in our file system (brain, patterns of thought) for known malicious software and configurations (patterns of sin  – arguments and lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God) and removes them before they can do any more harm.  But just like viruses, worms, trojan horses, ransomware, and other types of malware, they often cause damage before the antivirus program can clean them off or stop them.  It is the same with sin in our lives.

It is said that some people, as they read the Word of God and apply it to their lives, have had their hearts and minds so infused with the Word of God that when they think, they think in scripture.  Wow!  To know the Word of God so well, and have it experientially in your heart so deeply that it is the first way your mind forms thoughts!

So, let’s ask the question:  How deeply has the Word of God penetrated my heart?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You amaze us with Your forethought for our every need.  Even Your Word has greater purpose than to just instruct and provide direction; it cleanses us, protects us, renews us, and restores our minds.  Grant me success this day, Father, as I read Your Word, that it would so penetrate my heart that it would never come out.  Help me to remember Your word in such a way that all darkness and unrighteousness is exposed for what it is – sin.  Help me to reprogram my mind, that it would be transformed into what You would want, rather than what the world, the devil, and the flesh want it to be.  Guard my every thought, and help me to bring it captive to Christ.  This I ask in the precious and powerful name of your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Identity in Christ – John 15:5 (ESV)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Just as a branch needs the sap of nourishment from the tree, so do we need the same from Jesus Christ.  The branch is attached, and attached tightly; it’s not on the ground, or off doing its own thing.  It is bonded (even if grafted in) to the plant itself.  We should be so firmly bonded to Christ and in Christ, that there is no break between Christ and ourselves.

And Jesus shows us the benefit of this: when we are In Christ, we will bear much fruit.  When we go off and do things ourselves, there may be a result, but it is not bearing spiritual fruit in accordance with the Will of God, for the Purposes of God, in the Timing of God, and to the Glory of God.  Jesus also says,

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 

This is a sobering thought.  When we are not in/attached to the vine, receiving nourishment and direction, we may be doing things, but not bearing the correct fruit.  It is as if we were a foreign, invasive species of plant trying to imitate the original plant.  Others may think that we are part of that plant, because we have mimicked the original; however, we have no part in the original plant.  Jesus gives us this direction as well:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 

When we have our identity in Christ – when we solely and ONLY identify with Him – we will bear much fruit, receive nourishment from the vine, and find the small gate with the narrow path.  Once we do that, we, like Christ, will be able to say,

“Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Our citizenship will be solely in the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than in earthly things, like race, ethnicity, nationality, religious denomination, Northerner or Southerner, political affiliation, sports team, male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free, or any other thing on earth.  For when we identify with Christ, all are ONE in Christ.

So, let’s ask the question:  With whom or what do I identify most?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we thank You for the wonderful opportunity to be reconciled to You through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  You love us so much that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us on the cross.  Lord God, we have been set free from sin; but we were made to worship and serve.  I greatly desire to serve You and You alone.  Remove from me any and all identity with earthly things that would hinder my walk with you.  You have shown me the small gate and the narrow path.  Guide my feet, my heart, and my mouth, that as they see to glorify your name in and offer themselves as a living sacrifice to You, that my feet would not slip, and that they would not wander off the path.  Bring revival to Your body, that it would turn away from the draw of temporal blessings and set our hearts on Heaven, so that our treasure may be found there.  This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Praying to God – Luke 18:1-8

1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

We live in an instantaneous culture.  Within milliseconds, we can get answers to just about everything on google.com.  We have instant oatmeal, instant rewards in video games, instant hot food with microwave ovens, instant news, instant communications with just about anyone in the world, and we expect results instantly.

Jesus shows us that we should be persistent in prayer to the Father.  Using this parable as an illustration, He also reveals to us that when He comes, people may very well not be persistent in prayer by saying, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  That should sober us up and give us pause.

This isn’t the only place Jesus exhorts us to be persistent in prayer.  In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus says that those who ask will receive.   In the Greek, the verb “ask” is aiteite. There are two interesting qualities about this.  First, it is an imperative command.  We are expected to do this – it is not merely a suggestion.  Secondly, the verb tense is not a passive, one-time thing that we do.  A better translation would be, “Ask, and keep on asking”.  This is true of the other two imperative commands in that sentence – “Seek, and keep on seeking; Knock, and keep on knocking.”

George Müller, a Christian evangelist and Director of the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England, prayed for five friends of his to be saved.  It took over 50 years for that to come to pass, and George prayed faithfully for all of them.  The last was saved just after George died.  Persistence in prayer pays off powerfully!

We can pray for anything that we want.  God knows what’s best for us and may not give us something that would impede us, even when it would bless someone else.  But even in that, James tells us something interesting:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

Our prayers should be aligned with the will of God.  We shouldn’t pray selfishly or for worldly things (to merely gratify the flesh).  When we become a friend of the world, we are an enemy of God.

Daniel, after having a vision, fasted and prayed for three weeks for an answer.  What the messenger said to him when he arrived should give us pause:

A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 He said, “Daniel, you who are highly esteemed, consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up, for I have now been sent to you.” And when he said this to me, I stood up trembling.

12 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

15 While he was saying this to me, I bowed with my face toward the ground and was speechless. 16 Then one who looked like a man touched my lips, and I opened my mouth and began to speak. I said to the one standing before me, “I am overcome with anguish because of the vision, my lord, and I feel very weak. 17 How can I, your servant, talk with you, my lord? My strength is gone and I can hardly breathe.”

18 Again the one who looked like a man touched me and gave me strength. 19 “Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,” he said. “Peace! Be strong now; be strong.”

When he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Speak, my lord, since you have given me strength.”

20 So he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come; 21 but first I will tell you what is written in the Book of Truth. (No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince.

There is a spiritual battle going on, and answers to our prayers may be delayed by them!  We are to be faithful and continue to pray, in full faith that God will answer our prayers.

When we pray, we should have our eyes focused on God and His priorities, not on our own selfish desires.  After all, God is not some cosmic vending machine where you put in a prayer and out pops the blessing of your choice.  He desires relationship with us.  He wants us to desire Him for who He is, not what He can provide to us.  The latter type of relationship is a vendor-customer relationship, where we have no loyalty to the vendor, we just want the best product at the best price.  He wants friendship and trust, for He loves us unconditionally, sacrificially, and volitionally [this last one is an act of the will].

So, let’s ask the question:  In my prayer life, am I asking God for the things that are needed to further His purposes, and am I diligently seeking Him for these things even when there may be great delay in the arrival?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the giver of great gifts to us.  You shower us with Your love, affection, mercy and grace, when we justly deserve death and separation from You.  Grant Your servants success this day in all that we do, that whatever we do would honor and glorify Your name.  Give us strength when delay is occurring, and help us to be faithful, even until Your Son comes in the clouds in glory.  Let us not grow weary, but be encouraged by Your people of old who show us how to respond to delay.  This we ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Saved by God – Joel 2:32

And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    there will be deliverance,
    as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
    whom the Lord calls.

For those who have questions:

What is being saved?

Being saved is a spiritual state where God has legally declared you righteous because of your acceptance of the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross as payment for your sins, as the final and only payment acceptable to God, and you have chosen to repent of those sins.  For it is by faith and faith alone, that we declare with our mouths that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead for our sins.  Because of this, God restores to us a spirit of life, for we are spiritually dead because of our sin nature.

What about works?

James says that faith without works is dead.  So what place does works have in our walk with God?  Works are the outpouring of our lives in gratitude for what God has done and is doing inside of us.  It is a visible manifestation of the change of heart we have towards God and sin.  Works do not make us any more acceptable to God than we already are – for it is Jesus’ righteousness that makes us acceptable.   God has prepared works in advance from before the foundation of the world for us to do in order to glorify His name, not to earn our way into Heaven.

Who can be saved? 

ANYONE who calls upon the name of the Lord.  And His name is The Lord Jesus Christ.  For all who would come to the Father must go through the Son.  Jesus said that if He was lifted up, He would draw ALL men to Him.  The Greek word translated “all” means exactly that – “ALL.”  Just because you are drawn doesn’t mean you have arrived.  If you are drawn to go to the Superbowl, but instead go bowling, it doesn’t matter how much you wanted to go; YOU WEREN’T THERE.  God says that He does not want anyone to perish.  But the wages of sin is death, so respond if you feel God tugging at your heart today.  For God so loved the world, He sent His one and only Son, that whosoever shall believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

What does it cost to be saved?

EVERYTHING!  It is like a drug addict on the verge of overdose coming to a methadone clinic.  They want to be healed.  But the only way to do so is to GIVE UP THEIR WAY OF LIFE FOR A NEW ONE.  If the drug user gets clean but refuses to stay clean, what good was it to them?  God cleanses us of our unrighteousness, and give us the righteousness of Christ.  We can then, with the power and help of the Holy Spirit (think AA with a multi-billionaire as your sponsor) you are able to live a life free from being enslaved to sin.  Sin is a drug – once it gets its claws into you, it is very hard to break free of its grasp.  And what you thought you could control, now controls YOU.  But God is merciful and full of grace, and is faithful and just to forgive us when we sin if we repent.

The good news is, just like the drug addict, when you come to God, He gets rid of your addiction, and then gives you His wealth and strength to crawl out of the hole you dug for yourself.  God says He owns all the gold and all the silver.  And He is more than able to give you what you need, for He created everything, and can create some more if He wants.  Not only that, He gives you Himself.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence in you to empower you, encourage you, direct you, and keep you clean and sober from sin. But because the world is like Bourbon Street, with bars lining both sides, it is hard to not walk in and have a drink.  When we do, the Holy Spirit becomes our advocate, and urges us to get sober, and gives us the strength to do so – no matter how embarrased we feel for falling off the wagon.  And as God helps us to grow in strength, it gets easier to say no to sin.  Whatever you feed inside you will grow.  Make sure you don’t intentially feed the monster by sinning…

When you come to God in intial repentance, you are basically saying that you are morally bankrupt.  God then fills your account with Christ’s righteousness until it is astronomically large (for you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing).  Who cares if you come to the table with 23 cents in your pocket?  God owns all the banks!  What’s 23 cents compared to immeasurable riches?  Change is never easy, is it?

How do I become saved?

Click here for more information.

Am I saved? 

Have you confessed with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead as payment for your sin by faith and faith alone?  Then you are saved!  Read the Bible.  Pray to God.  Beg God to help you to live righteously for Him and to get rid of all the things in your life that are displeasing to Him.  God is faithful and will joyfully answer those kind of prayers!  Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.  Having put on the helmet of salvation, (experentially) know that you are saved!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us in Your word how good You are.  For You are a just God, and must punish sin; yet being filled with mercy and grace, have given us a way to be reconciled to You.  Father, forgive me for my sins.  I deserve to go to Hell, but you have given me a way to be with You instead.  Help me to live this life in obedience to You.  Carry me when I cannot walk.  Strengthen me for the battles ahead.  Provide all that I need physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, that I may be equipped to do Your will.  Guide me in the way I should go.  This I ask in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

Stewardship with God – Ephesians 5:15-16

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

The great equalizer of man is time.  Everyone gets exactly 24 hours in a day (unless it is their time to give an accounting of themselves to God), and can manage that time any way they choose.  Like the parable of the bags of gold, God has given us various amounts of material wealth, and gifts as well to use for His purposes and to bring glory to His name.

These can be summarized as follows:

Time

  • Every second of every day, we choose how to apply ourselves.  Some watch TV for hours on end; others play video games;  some invest in their family;  some in their job; others in pursuits that bring them pleasure or to fulfill their obligations; some choose carousing and sleep.  Lastly, there are those that invest in God’s kingdom for God’s purposes during God’s timing.
  • We cannot ever get even a second of time back.  Once it is spent, whether for good purposes or not, it is spent; it becomes one less second that we have left in the life that God has provided to us.  Use your time wisely.

Talent

  • What gifts has God given you?  Are you a word-smith?  An artist?  A teacher?  An athlete?  A scientist?  A pastor?  God has given us all gifts that can be used to further His purposes, or squander on our own lives.  The Holy Spirit has also provided you with Spiritual Gifts.  What a tragedy when someone with a great gift refuses to use it!  Imaging the world today if Marie Curie chose to write limericks?  How about if Albert Einstein chose to play tiddlywinks?  Or, Christopher Columbus decided to make rock gardens?  What if Martin Luther chose to tan leather?  You have talents!  How you choose to use them, or not, is up to you…
  • For most people, working at a job – whether their own business or in the employ of someone else – is a daily need and responsibility.  God has provided you with talents that, when used for Him, will bring differing levels of wealth in compensation for the efforts applied, risks taken, and perceived value by others for your skills.  The Holy Spirit has placed within you special talents in addition to your other talents.  Find the one (or ones?) that give(s) you such great joy that you cannot wait to go to work!  Remember that the Sabbath was made for man – God intended for work to be so satisfying that we might forget to set aside some time to worship our creator!  Don’t believe culture – find what God has placed in you and live a more rewarding life!
  • Even if you are scrubbing toilets, do it with all your might as unto the Lord.  Others will notice your diligence, and will provide you with better opportunities to make them more money (if they are wise).

Treasure

  • Whether you inherited money, make it from working, get it from a charity, or receive it from the government, you have been entrusted with wealth.  Even if you have no money, the fruit of your labor is your treasure.  Be aware of what treasure you have, so that you can honor God with it.
  • Remember that money is merely a medium of exchange – it allows you to freely trade the fruit of your efforts for the efforts of others in goods and services.  Use it wisely.
  • If you don’t have money, barter your goods and services well.
  • Some people want to win the lottery.  Why?!?!  It came from the backs of the poor, the destitute, and math-challenged people looking for a quick fix to their financial woes.  Unless a person has experience in managing great wealth, they are more likely to abuse it, and end up worse once the money is gone than when they were before they received “the blessing”.  Who would want to have to give an accounting to God for what they did with it?

When we bring these three things – Time, Talent, and Treasure – into submission to God, our lives will begin to become more focused and effective.  God rewards faithfulness in stewardship with more responsibility.  And with more responsibility comes greater reward – not just worldly wealth, but treasure in heaven – when it is used for God’s purposes.

So, let’s ask the question:  How effectively am I managing the Time, Talent, and Treasure God has provided to me for His purposes?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we praise You for You are wonderful.  We thank You that You have seen fit to permit us the opportunity to work, and to use skills to create and flourish.  Father, we are humbled that You provide this knowing that we mess things up.  I pray that You will show me, Father, how I can better use these resources to bring glory to Your name.  Reveal in me the talents You have placed in me that will bring me joy when used in Your service.  Help me to make any adjustments in life to fulfill this calling that You have given me, and fill my heart with joy knowing that doing this pleases You.  Forgive me, Father, for I don’t like change, and uncertainty causes me anxiety.  Remove these things from my heart that I may  die to self, pick up my cross, and follow Jesus with complete abandon.  This I ask in the name of Your Perfect Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Mark 9:29

He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting (the text in these brackets does not appear in all of the manuscripts)].

Some of the greatest feats in the Bible were done by people who prayed AND fasted.  Fasting is a nearly lost discipline in the American church.  We have been so blessed by God, we truly miss our three square meals (and sometimes snacks in between) each day.  People in Biblical times knew the value of fasting, and its importance.

In Mark 9:14-29, we see a desperate father looking to the disciples for help with his demonically possessed son.  They had tried unsuccessfully to remove the spirit that had seized the boy and tried to kill him.  Luke tells us, however, that Jesus had already given the disciples power and authority to drive out demons and heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2).  So what made this so difficult?  Jesus provides us with the clue in His response to the disciples’ question about why they couldn’t drive it out – this kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.

It wasn’t the act of prayer, or even fasting, that made it possible.  It was the relationship with the Father that gave Jesus the ability to drive it out.  Prayer is our first go-to for intimacy with God (although some find it through praise worship).  However, we have a sin nature, and our flesh can cause us problems.  The flesh is constantly crying out, “feed me”, “pamper me”, “I don’t want to”, and all other kinds of rebellion towards God.  Paul said he beat his body into submission.

One of the easiest, or hardest – depending on your viewpoint, ways to bring your body back into submission is fasting.  The flesh greatly dislikes being denied its pleasures – food, sexual gratification, comfort, etc.  When we fast, the flesh initially protests.  But after a while, it calms down, and we experience a type of peace that we don’t normally have when we eat.  As our bodies are brought into submission, we are able to draw ever so much closer to God in prayer.

Jesus knew this spiritual discipline, and practiced it often.  When the Holy Spirit let Him out into the desert to be tempted (tested) by the devil, He was fasting.  He was fasting the day that he drove out the spirit from the boy that was brought to Him.  Jesus is our role model.  We should walk as He walked.  And He fasted.  Even the Pharisees fasted, but to outwardly show their piousness, rather than draw close to God.  Daniel, when seeking an answer, fasted by only eating simple food to mourn and draw close to God.

Are you lacking power in your spiritual life?  Do you require answers in order to move on?  Do you seek a more intimate relationship with God?  Be obedient to God’s word, and fast.  Tell God in prayer that it is the desire of your heart to draw close to Him, and when you fast, He will meet with you in a mighty way.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is my desire to draw very close to You.  Help me to overcome my flesh, and be obedient to Your word.  Help me to set aside time to fast, that I may experience Your presence and power in a more intimate, satisfying, and joyful way.  Help me to bring my flesh into submission through fasting.  Grant Your servant success that it might bring glory to Your name.  This I humbly pray in the character of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

God the Father – Matthew 5:16

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

In a stunning turn of events, the disciples and the crowds who were listening to Jesus heard something that they had never heard before, or even thought of:  That God was their FATHER.   They had such a reverential view of God, that when they would write the name of God, YHWH, they would throw away the stylus they were using because it had just become holy, and could not be used for any other purpose.

God as father was a new concept for them.  They knew He was sovereign.  They knew He was omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.  They didn’t realize that He also desired to have that level of intimate relationship with them (and us).  Jesus showed them the father through His life.  We have been greatly blessed with the writings in the New Testament that show us this wonderful concept.  Rather than just a Deity caring for His creation, He is so personally invested in us He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross to reconcile what we have squandered – our spiritual life.

As you go throughout the day, remember that God seeks that level of relationship with you.  Go to Him, tell Him that you love Him as “abba” (Aramaic for “daddy”).  Then remember to tell your earthly father that you love him too.  They both greatly desire to hear from you!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are so good to me!  You have saved me from my sin, and reconciled me to Yourself.  Thank you for your mercy and grace today.  Thank you for taking the time to care for my every need.  You know all things about me, and even the hairs on my head are numbered.  How glorious is your character that You so desire to have this relationship with every human being!  Thank You, and bless You this day.  Help me to crawl into Your arms today and be with You as a child does with his father.  Oh, how you love us!  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Calling of God – Matthew 5:13

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Salt, during the time of Jesus’ ministry, was of far greater value than it is today.  Communities were often formed around areas where salt was found, or could be traded.  It was literally worth its weight in gold.  Because Roman legions were paid in it, we get our word “salary”.  We also get the phrase, “worth his salt,” from it.  It was so valuable, wars were fought over it.

Besides being valuable as currency, salt served two very important functions at that time:

  • Salt brought out flavor
  • Salt preserved
    • Prior to modern refrigeration, salt was used to preserve food.  Meats would often go bad in hot, humid environments, but salt helped to extend the time that food would still be edible.
    • Our words and actions should have a preservative effect on culture, to retard the spread and decay of sin and unrighteousness, keeping life palatable for a much longer period of time.

Jesus gives us a caveat, however.  If salt loses its saltiness, or no longer has its intended effect, what good it is anymore?   He warns that it would be thrown out, to be trampled.  Inedible salt was practically worthless.  This is what the Christian Church in the United States of America has become.  No one seems to care anymore for the flavor of Christ, and we have certainly failed in preventing the rapid spread of spiritual decay here.

Who really wants to eat mashed potatoes without a little salt on it?  Would you really want to eat meat with mold on it?  That is what our culture is eating today, because we have failed one of our most important callings – displaying Jesus for all to see.  But God can change that.  Let us live our lives for Jesus, that our words and actions would have the same effect that Jesus had on the culture 2000 years ago when He walked the Earth with His disciples.

So, let’s ask the question:  Am I the salt of the Earth?  Or am I salt thrown out on top of the Earth?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us a very high calling, to preserve, display, and enhance righteousness in this world.  We are grateful that You desire to bring glory to Your name through us.  Father, help me today to be salt in this wicked generation.  Remember me – act divinely upon my half – that in everything that I say and do, Jesus would be reflected.  Strengthen me through the trials of today, and may my words and actions have the intended effect that You desire of me.  Guard me against all unrighteousness, and I pray for the opportunity to bring You to a people who are feeding on the rotting trash of culture.  This I ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Sanctification by God – Matthew 7:1-2

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

When we are first saved, we are like Lazarus coming out of the tomb – we still have our grave-clothes on.  Our stinking, smelly rags that cover the fresh aroma of Christ.  We have been made alive in Christ, and yet our outer appearance is that of a dead man.  Immediately, we begin to change.  Attitudes, likes and dislikes are moving in different directions, and we may not even be aware of them until we realize that we no longer do or say certain things, and begin to desire other things.  As the “grave-clothes” are removed, we begin to look different as our changed nature becomes more apparent.

But there are some grave-clothes that just seem to stick with us for a very long time.  In the culture of this age, in the United States of America, one of these is being critically judgmental.  Oswald Chambers says in “My Utmost for His Highest” that this attitude makes it impossible to enter into communion with our Creator because of how hard it makes us and where it places us – as superior to others.  It would appear that everyone wants to be right; and as we judge others, we fail to rightly judge ourselves.

The brain is interesting.  When we develop patterns of thought, it creates real grooves in our brain that direct thought patterns.  And we need to fight against that to create new grooves in our brain (transformation through the renewing of our mind by repeated exposure to the Word of God).  The problem is, that like a scratched vinyl record (does anyone remember those?), the needle may stay in the same groove.  We need to force the needle – the thought process- of our brain into a different area so that a new groove can be made.

When there is something in our lives that is deeply ingrained, it may seem impossible for us to change it.  That is when we need to confess this to God, and ask Him to supernaturally address the issue.  God generally does this in one of two ways:

  • He supernaturally and instantaneously removes the desire from us
    • Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!  You are delivered!  Now walk in that deliverance…
  • He consistently and repeatedly puts us in situations where we can practice creating a new groove in our brain (a new pattern of thought and action) to replace the one we want expunged (He disciplines us).
    • This is never fun.  It is also why many seasoned Christians will warn younger Christians to give careful consideration to the consequences of praying for patience.
    • Be careful what you pray for – you might just get it!
    • If you ever pray for patience, you should expect that God will send the meanest, nastiest, angriest, rudest, most irritating, most ignorant, verbally violent, and socially unpalatable people into your life to help you to put on Christ (love) in the form of patience.
    • Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that we don’t need it or shouldn’t ask for it.  Once we are disciplined, it will bring a great harvest of righteousness.

So let’s ask the question:  are we critically judgmental of others?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You today for the love that You show me when You discipline me.  Please do not discipline me in Your anger.  You are able to rightly discern my innermost thoughts and motivations.  Show me the true nature of what I am doing.  Search my heart, Lord, and see if there is anything displeasing to You in it.  Purge me from it, for my desire is to live this life in righteous obedience to You and Your Word.  Give me strength to endure the trials necessary to sanctify my mind.  Remove from me those desires and attitudes that in any way interfere with my walk with You.  Guard me on all sides, and may Your righteousness show through me that others will be attracted to You.  Bring glory to Your name, and help me to be humble when You shine.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God- 2 Chronicles 20:15

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'”

It never goes well when we try to do things on our own.  When we are faced with any issue, it is best to seek The Lord our God, for He will fight the battles we cannot fight.  God is more than willing to stand between us and our enemies.  We see this throughout the Bible:

There are others, but this should suffice.  When we are faced with overwhelming issues, we should always seek the Lord.  He may very well have planned to fight for us.  Joshua did not inquire of the Lord, and was tricked by the Gibeonites.  So, why don’t we seek God when we are faced with overwhelming issues?

  • We think we can do it on our own
  • God has been silent, and we don’t think He will come to our rescue
    • This is usually a test.  The teacher is usually silent when we take tests…
    • Sometimes, in order to see the beauty of the stars, night has to fall, because the Sun drowns out everything else…
  • We are paralyzed with fear
    • We have taken our eyes off God and placed them on our circumstances
  • We may have sin in our lives, and we feel guilty about asking God for victory
  • Disease, or worry, has worn us down and brought us to a place of misery and despair
    • When we are worn down by these things, we are in a very bad place.  Even seeking the Lord is difficult when every breath brings pain and every moment is sheer misery.
    • We need to be obedient to Scripture.  Have you followed God’s prescription for healing?

In all of these things, we need to seek God for everything: the large battles, and especially the small ones; forgiveness, and strength.  God is always working, and greatly desires us to seek Him in prayer that He may show up and bring glory to His name.  When God is silent, be faithful, and know that He is with you.  Seek Him out as did the Psalmists in Psalms 83 and 109.  Let nothing come between you and God.  We have so much technology that we often go to Google rather than go to God.  And God WILL show up to help, for He loves you very much.  And always remember:

But God…

So, what situation has you backed into a corner where you desperately need to hear, “But God…”?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are beautiful beyond description and a marvelous to behold.  You enter into our pain, give us comfort and strength, and guide us in the ways we should go.  You provide for our every need, and even for our desires.  You are forever faithful, and like all fathers, delight in Your children.  Help me this day, Lord God, for I am weary.  Enter into my circumstances.  Deliver me through them, and fight the battles that I cannot win.  Guard me against all evil, and my heart greatly praise You for who You are.  Help me to seek You always, even when You seem to do the opposite of what I ask.  This I ask and pray in the name of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

 

Trusting in God – Psalm 56:3

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

Fear is an interesting emotion.  Just about everyone has experienced the heart wrenching, gut kicking, grip of fear in their lives.  When we experience that level of emotion, it has a tendency to so overpower us that we are unable to see things clearly – it effectively incapacitates us.  Fear is a natural response that God gave us to help us to survive.  Without fear, we would most probably do things that no level-headed person would ever consider doing.

The Bible indicates that fear has to do with punishment.  Yet we are told to fear God.  In the latter case, this is a reverent trust in God; not a gripping, emotional aversion.  How we respond in circumstances is a witness to the power and glory of God.  When we show fear, we are in effect saying that we cannot trust God to deliver us from our circumstances.  While this may seem odd, you may want to take a look at the life of King Hezekiah when Assyria was threatening the kingdom of Judah.

When we trust in the Lord, even when there seems to be no way to victory, it brings glory to God, and strengthens our faith.  The reason we trust is because God is faithful.  And in that, we are able to be faithful, regardless of the issues that plague us.  We trust in God for the big stuff – Salvation, Resurrection, Eternal Life, etc.  But we are told to have faith like little children.  They don’t question – they have complete, unwavering faith in their parents, especially when they don’t understand something.

So let’s ask the question:  Are we trusting God in the little stuff?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, in my times of need, please drive all fear out of my heart so that I may be able to trust you more.  My fear gets in the way of trusting that You are who You say You are.  Deepen my faith in these times, Lord God, and help me to respond in a way that glorifies Your name.  You have revealed Yourself as faithful so that others may see Your faithfulness and trust in You.  Do not let my emotions instruct my will to direct my intellect; rather, help my intellect to instruct my will so that it can direct my emotions.  You are able to do this and far more than we can ever imagine, Lord God.  Help me to be faithful to You in childlike faith and trust.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ name, Amen

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training With God – Ephesians 6:14-17 (ESV)

14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

Soldier, you have been given your marching orders by your commanding officer.   Now stop by the armory and pick up your armor and weapons.  Wait – you only need to pick up the last two components of your armor and your weapon.  The first three you already have on!

Notice the verb tense in verses 14 and 15:

  • having (already) fastened on the belt of truth
    • The Greek verb here (perizOsamenoi, meaning “girded about”) is past tense, indicating that it has already been done
    • Paul speaks of the Roman soldier’s armor because everyone at that time was familiar with it
    • The belt holds all of the Roman soldier’s armor together
    • TRUTH holds everything together.
  • having (already) put on the breastplate of righteousness
    • The Greek verb here (endusamenoi, meaning having put on) is past tense, indicating again that it has already been done
    • The breastplate was designed to take the full force of the enemy’s blows that were directed at the vital organs of the body
    • This is the imputed righteousness of Christ, which was placed upon you when you were saved
    • RIGHTEOUSNESS of Christ, for no one is righteous
  • having (already) put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace, which is the word of God
    • The Greek verb here (hupodEsamenoi, meaning sandaled) is past tense, indicating that it has already been done
    • The shoes of the Roman soldier’s armor were designed to thwart caltrops, a weapon of war designed to cripple foot soldiers.
    • With their shoes on, they could safely kick the caltrops away, clearing the path to their goal, and giving them a greater chance of victory
    • The WORD of God helps you to safely avoid the enemy’s tricks and insidious schemes to harm and cripple you in your walk with God

Now it’s your turn:

  • take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one
    • The Greek verb here (analabontes, meaning taking up) indicates something you do and continually do
    • This is something that is present and that you must do.  Your faith is your shield against the accusations of the enemy (flaming darts)
    • Your inheritance is that none of these accusations will stick, because you have been forgiven of all sins. past, present, and future.
    • The Roman shield wasn’t one of those itty-bitty round shields; it was a shield that would cover the entire body from the enemies frontal attacks when the soldier knelt down and dug in (when we are called to STAND FAST).
  • take the helmet of salvation
    • The Greek verb here (dexasthe,  which means “Receive ye!”) is an imperative command – Do it!
    • Know that you are saved.  This part of the armor protected the head from attacks.  Know that you are saved; don’t let the enemy gain any purchase into your mind.  Any attacks that get by your shield must be deflected by your helmet that are directed towards your head (your seat of intellect, judgement, will, and emotions).
  • the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God
    • When Jesus was under direct attack from the devil, how did He fight?  He used the scriptures (He may have been doing a devotion in Deuteronomy that day…).
    • The truth will always expose darkness and shine light to illuminate your path
    • The enemy prefers darkness for confusion and chicanery.  But when you use the word of God, it clears everything up.

Gird up, and soldier on.  It is now time to get our daily strategy from our Commander-in-Chief.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You provide for our every need.  You have given us Your Word to help us, and great protection against the schemes of the enemy.  Help me this day to fasten on my armor, and to fight the good fight.  Show me this day, Lord, what I should do and how I should do it so that You may be glorified.  Provide to me today, Father, opportunities to share the gospel, and give me the strength, courage, and words to speak when these opportunities present themselves.  I know Father that this is Your will, and that You will joyfully provide this to me as I am obedient to You.  Give me a heart of obedience and submission to Your perfect Will.  May Your words be on my lips and penetrate deep into my heart, that I will be ready to give a reason for believing to anyone that asks.  This I pray in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

 

A Promise of God – Psalm 145:15-16

15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

God provides for our every need.  He tells us that whatever we ask in the name, the character, of His Son, Jesus Christ, we will receive.  Here, we see something even better – God satisfies the desires of every living thing.  In Psalm 37:4, we see that God is encouraging us to desire Him in our hearts:

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

David, in a prayer to God in 1 Chronicles 29:17-19, asks God to keep the hearts of the people in wholehearted devotion to Him:

I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. 18 Lord, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. 19 And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.”

But there is a caveat.  When our hearts are corrupted, and we refuse to come back to God, He will give us the desires of our heart even then (Romans 1:24):

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.

It is important that we keep our eyes on the Giver of Good Gifts so that our desires would be in line with that of Jesus Christ.  This will ensure that when our Father in Heaven gives us the desires of our hearts, we will be satisfied in them.  If God hasn’t given you the desire of your heart, it may be for a number of reasons:

  •  The timing isn’t right
    • You aren’t ready to receive the gift (you don’t give the keys to the $1,000,000 Ferrari to your 14-year-old son who doesn’t know how to drive yet)
    • God’s not ready for it to be given (you wouldn’t give Christmas gifts to your children in July).
  • The desire might be harmful to you or your family. 
    • Not every good desire in our heart will end well.  God is perfect and sees the end from the beginning, and may withhold the blessing because it might cause you difficulty.
      • One man greatly desired to apply for a position in his company in another state.  Everything went well until the very end, and the transfer fell through.  The man did not understand why God would not allow the transfer.  After a year, the division of that company was closed.  Had he taken the job, it would have left him in a difficult place.
  • There is sin your life that needs to be addressed.
    • There are times when we have a sinful attitude that needs adjusted.  God may use the withholding of a desire of our heart to draw us closer to Him so that He can reveal it to us to be addressed.
      • You may withhold access to the car for your teenager that refuses to do his/her homework and has bad grades.
  • God may want to give you a better gift
    • When you were young, did you ever ask for something, like a bicycle, and your parents instead got you a car?  God may be trying to do the same thing.
  • God wants to bring greater glory to Himself

Our Father in Heaven (as do all good fathers) greatly desires to see His children prosper and provide for them.  He does not intentionally withhold giving us the desires of our heart without good and just cause.  And just because something may bless someone else doesn’t necessarily mean that it would be a blessing to us:

  • For someone who is used to managing large amounts of money, the windfall of a large inheritance would not be a burden.  But for someone who has been poor all of their life, it might be a great burden, for they don’t know how to manage it properly, and will most likely squander it rather quickly, perhaps even going deeply into debt, thus making the blessing a curse for them (look at the outcome of many of the lottery winners…).

So, let’s ask the question:  Are the desires of our heart of such a nature that God would joyfully give us what we want?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your mercies renew every morning, and we thank You that You know what is better for us more than we do.  Guide me this day, Lord, and remove the dross from my heart that as You purify it, it would be as pure silver.  Purge my heart of any wrongdoing and sinful desires, Father, that I would greatly desire You, and may my heart be tuned to Yours.  Grant me peace, mercy, and grace as I patiently await for the desires of my heart to come to fruition.  This I ask and pray in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Worshipping God – Psalm 46:10

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

The imperative command, “Be still!”, is very interesting.  It is translated in Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible as “Desist!” Another good way to translate this is “Cease striving!”

How often we strive!  As we go about our daily lives, we take our eyes off of God and try to do things our own way.  God offers us this wonderful place of refuge in Himself, yet we keep trying to change our circumstances ourselves.  We do not avail ourselves of our fortress, our hiding place, our place of rest.  Instead, we worry, we scheme, we fret; we forget that it is God who is sovereign.  When we cease striving, and (experientially) know that the LORD is God, we are able to properly put everything back into perspective.

We then can relax a bit, knowing that the Lord is taking care of our circumstances.  When we step back and do this, we are also better able to properly worship our loving Father.  We get to see with greater clarity the ways in which He works.  We see our prayers being answered, and know for sure that it was God – because we stopped trying to do it ourselves.  It isn’t until we cease striving that God is able to fully manifest Himself in our circumstances and bring the greatest glory to Himself.  Then will we be able to say that God is our refuge.

What issue has you frazzled today?  What deep and abiding pain just won’t go away?  Take God’s advice:  Cease striving, and know that He is God.  Let him enter into your circumstances in a greater capacity, and allow Him to reveal Himself to you in a deeper, more intimate way.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I come before you today to praise You and worship You as Almighty God.  Too often in this life do I try to do things when You earnestly seek to show me new facets of Yourself – if I would only stop and let You.  Guide me, comfort me, and show me how to step back from these issues so that You would be glorified.  Help me to find rest in You as You work these things out.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Obedience to God – John 14:15 (AMP)

“If you [really] love Me, you will keep and obey My commandments.

How do we reconcile all of these statements?  Why does it appear that there may be some works that we need to do?  The answer is that we are being sanctified.  God is in the process of renewing our minds so that we move from the world’s way of thinking to His way of thinking.  Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 (AMP):

1 Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].

We are (or should be!) progressively transformed into the likeness of Christ as our thinking changes and we act on what we believe.  The word transformed is very interesting.  In the Greek it is “metamorphousthe” (an imperative command – we are expected to do this – it is not a suggestion!) from the root word “metamorphoo”. We get our word metamorphosis from it (think butterflies. They don’t just look a little different from caterpillars; in their cocoon they literally liquefy [in our case, it is the Word of God, and trials that cause crises of faith] and emerge on the other side something completely and irreversibly different).

Transformation is not merely intellectual ascent, but rather the practical application (or implementation) of the values and ideals that we have learned into everyday living.  How does this work, do you ask?

  • Do you believe that you need to eat food in order to live?  So, do you eat food?
  • Do you believe that you need to put gasoline in your car to keep it running?  So, do you put gasoline in your car?
  • Do you believe you should put on clothes when you are in public?  Do you put on clothes when you leave your residence?
  • (Special thanks to Dr. Steve Vesolich for all four example questions)

If you have answered yes to these, it would appear that you act upon your beliefs by implementing them in practical ways in your daily life.  Now let’s ask another question:

  • Do you believe that you should pray continually?  Do you pray without ceasing?

If you answered, “Well, I guess I fall a little short (a lot short?) in that department,” then do you really believe it?  How long can you go without food before your body suffers (that is a GREAT feedback mechanism that God gave to us!)?  How many times do you need to run out of gas in your car until you fill it up BEFORE the needle gets to “E”?  When we pray, we are spiritually filling up with God.  The problem is that we don’t always “feel” the spiritual feedback mechanism that occurs when we don’t “fill up” with God until the consequences of ignoring this very important requirement of spiritual life impact our lives, often in very detrimental ways.

Jesus calls us to be obedient to all that He says.  This is for our benefit, the benefit of others, to produce righteous living in His called out ones, and finally, it brings glory to God.  Jesus became completely obedient to the Father though submission to the Holy Spirit.  How much more should we then, who need guidance every second of every day of our lives?

The works that pour forth from us are a response to the love of God.  Additionally, He has graciously planned in advance to use our gratefulness to Him in a real and practical way to save the lost and bring glory to His name as we are being transformed into His image.

So, let’s ask the question:  Are we being obedient to the portion of God’s word that we know and understand?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy, holy, holy.  You have called us out of sin and into righteousness.  Father, our sin natures are interfering in our ability to be obedient to You and Your Word.  Help me, O God, that these hindrances would be removed, and that in every aspect of the life that You have provided to me, that I would be obedient to You.  Cleanse my heart Lord God, and give me a greater desire to be obedient to You, especially where I feel any resistance in my heart.  Holy Spirit, reveal to me the root cause of any resistance.  Bring it out of me, and show it to me, that I may deal with it, for my heart longs to obey you.  Help me to overcome any fears with it, and heal my heart where needed so that I can let go of the past.  Help me to be accountable and take ownership of any part of my past that has led to this rebellion.  Father, give me strength that I may confess these sins to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that we may pray for one another and be forgiven.  You long for holiness in your people; please start with me.  This I pray as a representative of your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Forgiven by God – Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

It is a blessing to be forgiven. What a relief!  It is also expected that we will forgive as we have been forgiven.  So why is it so hard to forgive when we have been forgiven so much?  We suffer three injuries every time we forgive:

  • The Initial Offense – We suffer from the harm that happened because of the event
  • The Pain of Reconciliation – We must come to terms with the pain of offense and let that pain go, since we consider it as though it never happened
  • The Absence of Justice – We suffer knowing that since we have chosen to forgive, justice will not occur for the offense

Yet, we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven.  But why does it seem that every day people are getting more evil than ever?  Perhaps this is why (Matthew 24:12-13):

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Besides, everything has already been paid in full already.  Just as some physical injuries take longer to heal than others, the pain of sin and forgiveness can take longer for certain events.  Either way, we are called to be perfect like God.  So, like everything else in life, practice makes perfect – make forgiveness the first state of mind when someone wrongs you.  And let God take care of the rest.  Lean on Him for strength and healing.  For:

Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

Be an oak of righteousness; forgive as God has forgiven you.  And let God give you the oil of joy and a garment of praise.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have forgiven us more that we can even comprehend.  From the worst of sinners as Paul described himself to the ones who led good lives, we have all sinned and fallen short of Your glory.  Forgive us this day our trespasses, and help us to forgive the trespasses of others.  Strengthen us as we deal with the consequences of not only our own sin, but the sin of others.  Help us to remember what it cost You to forgive our sins, that we might put everything into perspective.  Touch our hearts and comfort us as we draw close to you.  This we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Blessing of God – Galatians 3:14

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Everyone wants a blessing.  We seek it in approval from those we respect and love.  Who doesn’t want their parent’s blessing when they are going to be married?

A blessing in the Old Testament was more than just a physical inheritance; it was often a prophetic pronouncement over the life and future progeny of the children.  Isaac, when giving his blessing to Jacob (who was tricked into believing it was Esau), pronounced a prophetic future blessing for Jacob’s family.  When Jacob pronounced the blessing for his sons, he too pronounced a prophetic blessing on them.

We have been grafted in to the vine of Christ.  And in it, we receive the blessing given to Abraham.  This is not replacement theology – we are the wild vine grafted in, being sustained by the same root as the native plant.  And with it comes the blessing.  You have riches in Christ (read Ephesians 1-3).

But all of this is because of the relationship we have with the source.  A branch pulled from a live tree, left alone, will die if it doesn’t have another source of nourishment.  It is the relationship of the branch to the root that provides it.  We often come for the blessings, and stand on the blessings, and sing of the blessings, and praise the blessings.  But, as it was once said, God is not a cosmic vending machine where you put a prayer in and out pops the blessing you selected.

So let’s ask ourselves a question: do we desire the relationship with the giver – desire Him – more than we do the blessings?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have blessed us so much, for You have taken us out of darkness and brought us into the light.  You provide for our every need, and many of our wants.  Father, help us to look to You today, to gaze upon the beautiful face of Christ, to remember who our blessings came from, and to desire to be at the feet of Jesus more than all of the blessings you pour out upon us.  Prepare our hearts for the journey You have planned for us today.  This we ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Unity with God – Ephesians 5:21

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ouch.  There’s that word – submission.  Yielding your preferences, desires, goals, way of doing things – to someone else.  Admit it – it’s HARD to submit.  We greatly desire to have our own way.  Very few things chafe us more than having to do something someone else’s way, especially if we are certain our way is better.

But we see something else at work in the Bible.  When Jesus put on flesh (became fully human and fully God), He submitted Himself to the Holy Spirit, became nothing, and took on the nature of a servant.  Jesus also said that in order to become the greatest among us, we should become a slave in serving others.  We are also to submit ourselves to the ruling authorities.

Mutual submission helps us to grow in character to become more like God.  There is a sense of submission to each other of each of the three persons in the Trinity.  Additionally, as we interact and submit, we are constantly being refined – “Iron sharpens iron.”  Mutual submission to one another in the body builds a unity within the body that cannot exist elsewhere, for it is not possible with us, but through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  As we submit to one another, we are becoming one in purpose.  People will know we are Christians when we love one another.  And love does not seek its own interests, but the interests of others first (the JOY principle – Jesus, Others, You, in that order…).  Since God IS love, do we not demonstrate this when we love one another?   Paul says that we should devote ourselves to one another.

Imagine how winsome the Church, the Body of Christ, would look if ALL Christians submitted ourselves to one another?  No more division would exist between us!  The world would see a unified front of love extended inward AND outward.  People might actually WANT to become a Christian by our example, rather than be turned off by division and rancor within our own ranks.  Families would grow in love and grace as they submit to one another in Christ as well!

So, let’s ask the question.  Are we submitting ourselves to one another?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown us in Your word that submission is a good thing, unlike what the world and culture make it out to be.  Submitting to one another In Christ draws us closer to You, and reveals Your nature to the world.  Help us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds through Your word.  Change us into what we should become, that glory would be brought to Your name.  Help us to shed those things that hinder us as we try to better reflect your glory and light in a dark and unbelieving world.  Grant us mercy and grace as we struggle with these things, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – Ephesians 6:10-13

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Evil people are not our enemy; the devil and his minions are.

We forget that people are not the real enemy because they are the tools of the enemy for the visible manifestations of evil.  We see people do horrific things out of malice, indifference, ignorance, or selfishness.  We get so tied up in dealing with the tools of the enemy that we forget who the enemy really is.

One of the interesting aspects of this is that the enemy has ranks.  Just as in a human army, the demonic army has its authority structure as well (the rulers, the authorities, and the powers of this dark world, as well as the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms).  When the archangel Gabriel was delayed in bringing a response to Daniel, he indicated that it was due to a battle with the prince of the Persian kingdom, and that the archangel Michael came to assist him to overcome the resistance to bring the message.  Gabriel, an angel, could wipe out any human being.  This was a power of our dark world.

Sin blinds us to the spiritual.  But it is recorded in scripture that Balaam’s donkey saw a Christophany (a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ before He took on flesh) and wouldn’t move.  Balaam beat his donkey, and in a very interesting turn of events, God opens the mouth of the donkey to speak (when was the last time you were at the zoo and the animals spoke to you?  The serpent spoke to Adam and Eve…)!  But this isn’t the only time we see that we are blinded to spiritual things.  Elisha asked God to open the eyes of his servant to see what the servant was spiritually blinded to – hills full of horses and chariots of fire.

When we see people do evil things, remember that they are the servants of their father, just as we should be the servants of our Father.  The only difference is that they don’t really have a choice in the matter.  Every person that you see is in one kingdom or another.  God marks His own with a mark – the Holy Spirit.  The devil is a counterfeiter, and marks his own as well.  And every spiritual being in the heavenly realms can see the marks.  But God, in His grace and mercy, seeks them out through His servants.  And when we don’t do our job fighting this spiritual war, He will intervene and reveal Himself.

Gird up with the full Armor of God.  Recognize who you fight this day, soldier of Christ, and, when you have done everything that you can, STAND.  The word stand is interesting as well.  It is intended to give a visual of a Roman soldier placing his shield in front of him, hunkering down behind it, and digging his feet into the ground to bear up under the pressure of an attack.

In light of this, let us now look with our eyes using this lens at those who wrong us, who run us off the road, steal our identities, mug us, rape us, murder us, and perform every other kind of evil against us, as prisoners in a war that they don’t even know is going on around them, let alone know that they are active participants.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us spiritual life in You.  You open our eyes to reality in Your Word, and show us Your heart and intentions.  Help us to see this world and all in it as You do.  Remove the spiritual blinders that we have, and open our eyes that we would be better prepared as we are engaged in Battle.  We pray that You will go before us this days, and make our paths straight, and make them known to us, that we may do Your will and Your will alone.  Help us to give grace, mercy, and forgiveness to all who wrong us, as You did and still do to us.  Make known today to us our marching orders, and may our spirits be sensitive to You when You ask us to make corrections.  This we pray in the precious name of Your Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Promise of God – Isaiah 54:17

17 no weapon forged against you will prevail,
    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
    and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

The Bible contains many promises of God.  This one is very encouraging.  It is comforting to know that we are being protected by God against all of the weapons of the enemy.  It is also comforting that anyone who says anything against us will be refuted, for we have been forgiven all sin.  This is our HERITAGE!  God will VINDICATE us!

There only appears to be one qualifier – “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.”  Who are the servants of the Lord?

Servants wait upon the master.  They are in His service to do His bidding whenever and wherever He directs them.  They direct their talents to complete the tasks assigned to them.  They are often given guidelines, and are expected to do the work when they see work to do.

There are many gifts given to believers once they accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Here are just a few ( 1 Corinthians 12:4-11):

  • Wisdom
    • The ability to understand the difference between wise and foolish things (think: King Solomon)
  • Knowledge
    • Are you able to absorb great amounts of information and then process it so that it is understandable by others?
  • Faith
    • Do you trust God to move mountains, trusting Him to do things when other people would normally give up?
  • Healing
    • When you pray, do people get well?
  • Prophecy
    • Do you know things about what is going on and things that will go on, when you have no reason to know them?
    • Does God often let you know something that you should share with a person or people He directs you to share with, even if you don’t understand the message?
  • Distinguishing between spirits
    • Do you know who’s who?
    • Do you sense the presence of angels and demons and their activity in this world?
    • Do you know when, if someone is speaking, whether or not what they are saying is Biblical, even though you don’t know why?
  • Speaking in tongues (languages)
    • Are you able to speak in a known (already existing) language but don’t understand what you are saying?
    • Are you able to speak in an unknown language and don’t know what you are saying?
  • Interpreting tongues (languages)
    • When people speak, do you know what they are saying, even if everyone else around you doesn’t because they don’t speak the language (and you may not know the language either)?

This is not an exhaustive list.  There are many others.  Here are eight more to think about:

  • Craftsmanship
    • Can you make a masterpiece out of nothing?
    • Or, can you take a box of parts and with a few simple tools, put the item back together without any instructions?  If so, you may have this gift.
  • Hospitality
    • Are you driven to constantly feed and attend to guests at your home?
    • Do you enjoy throwing parties and events?
    • Are you the first one to get up to pour drinks at an event?  If so, you may have this gift.
  • Music
    • Can you play a musical instrument in a way that inspires others to greatness?
    • or, are YOU an instrument (should you audition for “Stomp“)?  You may have this gift.
  • Leadership
    • Do people have a great tendency follow what you say and where you go?  You may have this gift.
  • Teaching
    • Can you take the most difficult subject and explain it to most people so that they have a clear understanding of it?  You may have this gift.
  • Pastoring
    • Do you constantly feel the need to guide and nurture people in their faith and walk with God?  You may have this gift.
  • Service
    • Are you the one who gets great joy from doing the jobs that no one else does, and is content that the job is done and done right, even if no one else notices?  You may have this gift.
  • Prayer
    • Does God wake you up in the middle of the night to pray about something that He then places on your heart?
    • Do you struggle (wrestle) in prayer for individuals, issues, leaders, and/or nations (or other things)?
    • Do you enjoy spending hours communicating with God in prayer about anything and everything?  You may have this gift.

There are over 30 implied and delineated gifts that the Spirit of God gives to us to use to glorify God and help the body.  Are you using the gifts that were provided to you in stewardship by the Spirit of God at the direction of the Spirit of God for God’s Glory?

If not, why do you call yourself a servant?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we all fall short of perfection.  You have saved us from this, and give us the wonderful opportunity to know You, the only One True God.  You have given us great privileges and responsibilities as well.  Show us what gifts the Holy Spirit has provided to us.  Empower us to act in these gifts, and guide us in the way that these gifts should be used.  Father, do not let me be afraid of these gifts, but help me to embrace them that Your kingdom would grow.  I am your servant, Lord God.  Speak to me that I may do Your Will, in Your Way, in Your Time, for Your purposes, that You may be glorified.  This I ask in the the precious name of your Most Holy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Holiness of God – 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.

God takes things very seriously. When Moses struck the rock twice to bring forth water after God had told him to speak to the rock, it cost him a blessing – going into the Promised Land. But God still held Moses in high regard – Moses appeared with Jesus and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Do we take the things of God as seriously as He does?  Notice the observation by Paul that some of the believers were weak and sick and had fallen asleep (their bodies died) because they were taking communion without discerning the body of Christ.  If you believe this to be the case for you, read James 5:14-16 and be obedient to the Word of God to resolve the issue.

God calls Himself Holy in His Word time and time again.  Here are three instances:

The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (carm.org) defines Holiness as:

Holiness is a quality of perfection, sinlessness, and inability to sin that is possessed by God alone. As Christians, we are called to be holy (1 Pet. 1:16). But this does not refer to our nature. Instead, it is a command of our practice and thought. We are to be holy in obedience (1 Pet. 1:15). God has made us holy through His Son Jesus (Eph. 1:4, 1 Pet. 2:9).

Holiness is being set apart FROM sin, and set apart TO God.  So, let us take some time today to set ourselves apart to God.  When we do that, we will be setting ourselves apart from sin.  Let us take some time before we take communion to discern whether we are in the faith.  Cry out to God to show you any sin in your life; acknowledge what He shows you (if anything) and repent.  Then, with clean hands and a pure heart, we can confidently take communion in joyful celebration!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are Most Holy.  We fail to even begin to recognize how Holy You are.  You have told us in Your word that if we saw Your face, we would perish.  Help us to grasp the extent of Your Holiness, so that we can rightly discern ourselves as the Body of Christ.  Prepare our hearts for holy communion.  Forgive us our sins.  Cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Instill within us such a sense of Your presence that we are better able to humble our hearts before You.  You take this so very seriously; please help us to do the same.  Please do not discipline us in Your anger, but renew your mercy, for we are in desperate need of it.  Thank You, Lord God, for Your faithfulness in all things.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Healing with God – James 5:14-16

14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

One of the most effective and visible ministries of Jesus was His healing ministry.  The needs of the people for spiritual and physical healing were immense.  Jesus healed people from demonic possession, disease, and even death itself.  In every case, there was always faith.  In one instance, it is recorded that Jesus was unable to do many miracles because of a lack of faith.  Faith was the key ingredient.  And it wasn’t always the faith of the one being healed:

  • A centurion’s servant was healed.  Who had the faith?  The centurion or the paralyzed servant?
  • The son of a man who was demon possessed was healed by Jesus when the disciples could not drive it out.  Who had the faith?   The man, or the son?
  • A Canaanite woman’s daughter who was demon possessed was healed.  Who had the faith?  The woman or her daughter?
  • A paralyzed man was healed when his friends lowered him through a roof to give him access to Jesus.  Jesus then saw THEIR faith.  Not HIS faith.  It was the faith of the friends that Jesus saw and responded.

In all of these cases, it was the faith of someone other than the recipient of healing whose faith prompted Jesus to respond with healing, and in some cases, even praise their faith!  In that light, let’s take a look at James 5:15

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

In this case, it is the prayer of the elders offered in faith, not the person who is sick.

So, are you sick?  Do you need a healing touch from God?  Be obedient to God’s word: go to a Bible teaching, Bible believing church, and have the elders of that congregation anoint you with oil and pray over you, so that whatever issue you have, spiritual or physical, it will be healed; and if you have sinned, you will be forgiven.  And remember that it is the faith of the elders, not yours, that will heal you.  Since you have gone to them IN FAITH, IN OBEDIENCE to scripture, your faith is noted as well.  And if you are still concerned, pray what the father of the demon possessed son said/prayed, “I believe – help my unbelief!”

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, you respond to faith, for faith is the expression of our belief in You of who You are.  Cleanse me this day of my unrighteousness.  Forgive my sins.  Bolster my faith, and help me to be obedient to Your Word, even if it doesn’t make sense to me.  Father, You healed even Naaman, commander of the army of Aram, when in obedience, he washed himself seven times in the Jordan, and his leprous skin became like the skin of a young boy.  You are sovereign, Lord God, and nothing is impossible for You.  Remember Your servant this day.  In obedience, I come to You and will do as You ask, that You may be glorified.  Prepare the elders’ hearts as I go to seek them out.  For You are forever faithful, doing everything that You promise.  Prepare my heart now, Lord, for I know You will bring this about.  This I ask in the name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Promise of God – Ephesians 1:13-14

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

What a wonderful gift!  That the blessed Holy Spirit would take up residence within us!  He whose power raised our Lord Jesus Christ up from the grave abides in us.  We often can feel alone, but Christians should never say that – God is ever present within us, praying for us, comforting us, empowering us, and convicting us (among other things).

Paul indicates elsewhere that we should respond by being holy.  He exhorts us to consider that, because of the indwelling of the Spirit of God, we ought to respond in a correct way.

I Corinthians 6:12-20 states

12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

The word “temples” is especially interesting.  In Israel, the Solomon temple had four parts to it (from outside to inside):

In it was the Temple building itself:

  • The Holy Place.
    • This was also known as the Temple, and
  • The Most Holy Place (or Holy of Holies).
    • This is where the Ark of the Covenant was kept behind the veil, which was the seat of God’s power and presence.  The only person permitted to enter here was the Jewish High Priest, and only once a year, in order to offer the sacrifice of the people to God.  God took this so seriously that if the High Priest didn’t perform the ceremony properly, God struck him dead.  It was a practice at that time for the High Priest to tie a rope around his waist, so that in the event something went wrong, they could pull his body out of the Holy of Holies.  Otherwise, they would have to wait a year for the next High Priest to remove it…

The Greek word for the Holy of Holies was naos.  This is the same word that Paul uses in this passage to refer to our bodies as temples.  We are not the entire temple, or any less-important part the the temple – we are the Holy of Holies!  Because we have the imputed righteousness of Christ, God Himself can reside within us.  Wow.

So, in light of God’s glory and grace, how are we treating our naos?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, you have done the unthinkable and prepared our bodies as Holy Temples for your presence.  You have cleansed us of all sin, and with the righteousness of Christ, provide us with the Holy Spirit.  Teach us the ways in which we should go.  Help your servants to remember not just who You are, but who we are supposed to be.  Strengthen us this day, Lord, that we would treat these bodies – our thoughts, words, and deeds – in a manner worthy of being a naos.  This we ask in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?