Responding to the Word of God – Nehemiah 8:9-12

Don’t Just Read The Word Of God – Respond To It

9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”

12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

Massive Mourning

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

As we read the word of God, our hearts should react.  The Israelites who were gathered before Ezra when Nehemiah was the governor over Jerusalem after the wall was rebuilt in fifty-two days experienced great mourning when they heard the word of God read to them.  Jesus indicated that this was to be our state of heart as well when we hear the word of God and we realize that we are falling short of it.

The word of God is not merely words inspired by God and written by men for us to give historical records and inspirational thoughts; rather, the word of God is living and active:

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

The word of God is able to show us exactly who we are in our inward attitudes as well as our outer words and deeds.  Scripture is able to accurately pinpoint the weaknesses and failings in our character, thought processes, and beliefs.  It is able to do so because it is both alive and absolute truth:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

When our hearts respond to the word of God, we are ready to be trained by it.

Supernatural Strength

Nehemiah records that the ordeal in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem was taxing on the people.  Anyone who has been under the threat of violence, where working with one hand and your other hand on your weapon is not a very peaceful ordeal.  The Israelites experience this even today on a near day-to-day basis with the threat of suicide bombers, shootings, beatings, and missiles being directed towards them.

The last thing that God’s people needed right now was to become overwhelmed with dread at the thought of just how far short they were from the glory of God.  Nehemiah commanded that the people not grieve on this day, for it was holy to them.  They were to embrace the joy of the Lord.  This is their strength, and our strength as well.  God has sovereignly paid for our sins with the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.  Our natural response is to mourn over our sin.  But we should then embrace the joy of our salvation, for it is in that joy that we have strength.

Pain, suffering, misery, mourning, and many other physically and emotionally draining situations sap our strength from us.  When we have joy in hope (the certainty of outcome, not wishful thinking), we are able to look at these difficulties and put them in their proper perspective.  Until we are able to grasp the joy of the Lord, we will be subject to the storms of emotion.  Life is hard.  For many, life seems impossible.  When every breath is a challenge, and the situations of life threaten to rob every aspect of normalcy in life from you, only the joy of the Lord can lift you out of the pit of despair.

Stay Still

The Levites (the Levitical priests) had counseled the people to be still.  Elsewhere in the word of God, that phrase is used as well:

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

But what does it mean to “be still”?  One of the best translations of this phrase is “cease striving”.  As humans, we have a desire and drive to do things our way.  We tend to rely upon the gifts and resources that God has provided to us rather than on the provider of the gifts and resources.  When we rely upon God, we will cease striving.  Our hearts will “be still”, for we will be expectantly waiting for God to act, rather than acting on our own.

Cheerfully Celebrate

God had done a mighty work in and through those who had rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem.  The Israelites were told to celebrate this great victory that God had given to them.  Do we take the time to celebrate what God has done in our lives?  Do we publicly acknowledge the victory God has given us over our enemies?  Do we embrace the joy of the Lord in such a way that it is winsome to others?  How we respond to what God has done and is doing in our lives is very important to God.

Embrace Erudition

All of this was very important because of one thing: the people had understood the meaning of the word of God.  We too should seek and embrace the word of God and its meaning in our lives.  Learning the word of God should be foremost in our minds:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

[Blessed is the one…] whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
“Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also reject you as my priests;
because you have ignored the law of your God,
I also will ignore your children.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living in the joy of the Lord?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your joy is made complete in me through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for my sins.  Thank You for this gift, and for Your joy.  Help me to know Your word and to embrace Your word in my heart and my mind.  May Your law be on my lips when I first wake in the morning until I go to sleep at night.  Help me to understand Your word better so that I can live it out in my life.  Help me to cease striving, and to fully receive Your Spirit without measure.  Give me the desire and ability to die to myself so that the Holy Spirit can display Your character through the life that You have provided to me.  Help me to rely upon You more each day and less upon myself.  Help my heart to be attuned to Your word and Your direction so that I might live in a way that pleases You more.  Forgive me for my sins, and help me to have a heart that is sensitive to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Building the Body – Colossians 1:9-14

Prayer Is The Fuel For Spiritual Body Building

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 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. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Foundational Fuel

Everywhere you look in scripture, people are praying.  They are praying to worship God in praise.  They are praying to petition God for assistance.  They are praying for God’s will to come about.  And here, Paul and Epaphras are praying that the seed that was planted in the church body located at Colossi would flourish.

Prayer is the fuel and only offensive weapon we have in our spiritual warfare:

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Jesus definitively recognized that His disciples should pray.  Notice the words He uses when He talks about prayer:

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Jesus doesn’t say, “If you pray…”, or, “Should you decide to pray…”, or, “Perhaps you should pray…”.  Jesus says, “…when you pray…”.  One of the reasons that we are so weak is that we are not doing what our body-building trainer tells us to do – P R A Y!

Body Building

In this passage, there are several tips to successful spiritual body-building.  And just as Earthly body-builders need to practice and have workouts to keep their physical bodies in top shape, spiritual body-builders need to complete their workouts to keep their spiritual lives in top shape.  God is all about relationship.  Prayer is communication, which is a vital part of the relationship process.

Here are some of the tips and tricks provided to us to up our game in spiritual body-building from Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ:

Dominion of Darkness

Before God the Holy Spirit revealed Jesus Christ to us, we were in the dominion of darkness.  Satan was our father, for our deeds were evil and we neither sought out God, nor gave Him glory.  The world, the flesh, and the devil were our constant companions and our advisors.  We were born with a sin nature passed down to us from Adam.  It’s no wonder that we were slaves in bondage to sin.

Crown of Christ

Jesus came to rescue us from our bondage to sin and from sin itself, and reconcile us to the Father.  When we confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, we were moved into the Kingdom of Light.  We have been adopted as children into the family of God.  Jesus is our brother; we are his brothers and sisters.

This seems very basic, but it has profound meaning and implication in our lives.  No longer are we prohibited from experentially and relationally knowing God.  No longer do we look in confusion or bewilderment at who God is; God is revealing Himself to us through His Son in His word and through the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

To those who have been given much, much is expected.  How much has God given you?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I being faithful in my spiritual body-building exercises?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, the knowledge that You have adopted me into Your family is too wonderful for me to comprehend.  Just as an orphan is stunned after being adopted into a loving family, I am still stunned as I ponder the implications of being adopted into Your family.  You have done great and mighty things on and for my behalf.  You have given me an eternal future with You, access to You in Your throne room any time I need or just want to be there, and you have given me access to the royal treasury by blessing me with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  You have said that to those who have been given much, more is expected.  Father, what do you expect of me?  Show me that I may do all that you desire for me to do and become in gratitude for all that You have done for me.  Help me to remember my brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray fervently for them that they would be built up in Christ.  Give me Your love, so that it will be on display for all to see.  Help me to yield myself to you completely.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Protection by God – Psalm 125

God Is The One Who Protects His People Israel

1 Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.

3 The scepter of the wicked will not remain
over the land allotted to the righteous,
for then the righteous might use
their hands to do evil.

4 Lord, do good to those who are good,
to those who are upright in heart.
5 But those who turn to crooked ways
the Lord will banish with the evildoers.

Peace be on Israel.

Total Trust

God greatly desires that we trust Him.  He has shown his trustworthiness throughout His word, and history bears witness to it by external observers.  As we develop in our relationship with God, there is a level of trust that comes into play.  When circumstances seem to show that God is against us, are we willing to believe that God is for us?  Will He ever truly leave us or forsake us?  Do we trust in His character, or the blessings that He bestows?

Secure Stronghold

The Psalmist indicates here that those who trust God wholeheartedly are like a mountain – they will not be shaken.  That is because any good building is completely reliant upon its foundation.  When we trust in Jesus Christ, we are building upon the cornerstone – the very first and largest stone laid down in a foundation.  When the cornerstone is laid properly – it is level and faces in the right direction – the rest of the foundation that is laid down next to it will be straight and true.

Jesus is our foundation, our solid rock.  Anyone who builds on Jesus, through trust in Him, will build upon the unshakeable cornerstone of God.  God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent; nothing and no one can cause Jesus to change.  He is securely seated at the right hand of God, His power and authority being vested in Him.  Nothing will move this cornerstone from its tried and true positioning.

Power Purged

It is good to know that the wicked will eventually be removed from power over the righteous.  God knows that if wickedness stays in power for too long, the righteous will begin to falter, and they may begin to do evil with their hands and hearts.  Human beings can only endure so much before they “crack”.

Imagine if there were continuously evil rulers since Cain murdered Abel.  What would people think and say?  “Where is our God?  Will He never deliver us from this evil?”  Their hearts would grow heavy, and under the constant barrage of evil, the unending torment of those in power, our will to endure would surely erode, and our belief that God is holy and just would fade as generation after generation prayed for relief but found none.  God surely delivers His people not only to demonstrate that He is sovereign over all, but also to give hope to the hopeless.

Crooked Crushed

And when God does act in justice and removes the wicked from power, He banishes them with the evildoers.  God originally intended the Lake of Fire to be for fallen angels only.  However, He will use this place of torment and separation from His power and presence for all who refuse to repent and turn towards the One True God in faith.  Those who suffer under the rule of evil people can take heart that God is a just, righteous, and holy God.  He will not abandon His people to the whims and depredations of the wicked, but will instead judge the wicked, unrepentant people and place them where they can no longer do any harm.

Permanent Peace

The Psalmist’s cry is that God do good to those who are good.  The funny part is that in and of ourselves, no one is good or righteous.  Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ that He died for our sins, and clothed us with His righteousness.  We who believe and are obedient to Him are declared righteous and good before God the Father*.  And the lasting promise given to those who live for God and obey His commands (in holy fear, reverence, and gratitude) will be peace, first on Earth, and then everlasting peace in His presence for all eternity in Heaven.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I show that I trust God through my actions and my speech?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are my joy, my peace, and my sanctuary.  You have displayed Your awesome power through the creation of the Universe, and You display Your mercy and grace as You patiently, tenderly, and gently woo each of us back to Yourself.  Father, time is short, and even now You are calling the last of the remnant to Yourself in dreams and visions where Your people cannot work.  Give me a sense of urgency as the time grows near for Your Son to be revealed again in glory in the clouds.  Help me to show others that You seek peace for their lives in You.  Help me to get out and declare Your righteousness and our wickedness before You.  Prepare the hearts of all whom I will interact today.  Give me the strength, the words, and the will to boldly praise You in power and glory to others.  This I ask in the precious name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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This blog has been edited for spelling and grammatical errors, as well as clarity.

*Faith without works is dead – James 2:17; If you love me, you will obey my commands – John 14:15-24; Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved – Joel 2:32.

It is not our works that save us, but grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ – Ephesians 2:8.  God accepts us as we are, but loves us too much to leave us where He found us.  God cleans us up and prepares us to be a holy sanctuary for the Holy Spirit – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.  This process is called Sanctification.  God did not save us just so we could avoid Hell (fire insurance), but to be adopted as His children – Ephesians 1:5.

And just as every parent has expectations from their children (yet loves them unconditionally even when they misbehave), our Father in Heaven has expectations for our behavior as well.  He has forgiven all sins of ours, past, present and future – Psalm 103:12.  But we should, in gratitude, try to honor Him with our lives in every way, knowing the price that He paid for our freedom, and adoption into His family!  It is relationship that He desires with us, along with a singular pursuit of Jesus in holiness and righteousness – Matthew 7:21-23.

Obedience to God is not legalism, for we are to live righteous and holy lives, not sinning in order that grace would abound – Romans 6:1-2.  Obedience is an act of gratitude towards God as an acknowledgement of His holiness and righteousness – Romans 12:1-2.  Obedience to the word of God shows that we are growing spiritually and being sanctified by the Holy Spirit through the word of God – John 17:17.  It is something that every believer in Christ should greatly desire in their lives – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8.  If you disagree, please bring this before God and the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of it to you – James 1:5-8.  God’s word is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness – 2 Timothy 3:16.

Fire-Breathing Dragons and God – Job 41:12-34

Myths Are Often Based In Fact

12 “I will not fail to speak of Leviathan’s limbs,
its strength and its graceful form.
13 Who can strip off its outer coat?
Who can penetrate its double coat of armor?
14 Who dares open the doors of its mouth,
ringed about with fearsome teeth?
15 Its back has rows of shields
tightly sealed together;
16 each is so close to the next
that no air can pass between.
17 They are joined fast to one another;
they cling together and cannot be parted.
18 Its snorting throws out flashes of light;
its eyes are like the rays of dawn.
19 Flames stream from its mouth;
sparks of fire shoot out.
20 Smoke pours from its nostrils
as from a boiling pot over burning reeds.
21 Its breath sets coals ablaze,
and flames dart from its mouth.
22 Strength resides in its neck;
dismay goes before it.
23 The folds of its flesh are tightly joined;
they are firm and immovable.
24 Its chest is hard as rock,
hard as a lower millstone.
25 When it rises up, the mighty are terrified;
they retreat before its thrashing.
26 The sword that reaches it has no effect,
nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.
27 Iron it treats like straw
and bronze like rotten wood.
28 Arrows do not make it flee;
slingstones are like chaff to it.
29 A club seems to it but a piece of straw;
it laughs at the rattling of the lance.
30 Its undersides are jagged potsherds,
leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge.
31 It makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron
and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.
32 It leaves a glistening wake behind it;
one would think the deep had white hair.
33 Nothing on earth is its equal—
a creature without fear.
34 It looks down on all that are haughty;
it is king over all that are proud.”

Tantalizing Tale

Just when you thought you had seen everything, God decides to throw you a curve-ball.  Many people believe that dragons are merely folklore, stories to scare and entertain children, and the product of the imagination of overly bored fantasy writers.  If we believe the Bible, and that everything that is written in God’s word is truth, then we have an interesting dilemma – what do we do with Job 41?

Let’s take a closer look at the description of the Leviathan.  Perhaps we have written off a myth and lore a little too early as the delusional fantasy of bored writers?

Amazing Armor

The Leviathan has two coats of armor – an outer shell of something that God is calling shields.  Is it possible that the outer armor of the Leviathan are scales that are so thick that they are of a size, thickness, and hardness to be called shields?  Although the Bible doesn’t say exactly what the inner armor is, dragon’s skin has been said to be so tough, that spears, arrows, and swords could not penetrate it.  In folklore, only “magical” weapons could pierce it.

The shields (scales?) are so tightly connected, that not even air can get between them.  It is rumored that the scales of dragons are so tightly connected that it is nearly impossible for any weapon to pry between them to even attempt to pierce the inner skin.

Fiery Foe

One of the most powerful, and compelling, features of the dragon is the ability to breath fire.  Here in the Bible, we are told that Leviathan snorts out flashes of light, and that its eyes glow.  This might have been written off as an interesting optical feature, for other creatures can produce light.  But the Bible records that smoke pours out of its nostrils.  Additionally, flames stream from its mouth, and its breath will light coals on fire.  This is not merely some interesting optical phenomenon – it is fire coming forth from the mouth, and the smoke and light of the eyes are evidence of it.

Strangely Strong

The skin of the Leviathan is like a millstone – extremely strong and resistant to anything that might attempt to pierce it.  Even swords, arrows and spears are like hay against it.  This is no ordinary skin.  Nothing in the time of Job made by man could even touch it, let alone pierce it.  This very well could have been the second layer of armor mentioned.

Powerfully Protected

With two layers of armor – scales and skin, breath of fire so hot that it ignites coals, and powerful strength, what more could it need?  God gave it just a bit more.  It’s undersides are like pot shards – extremely jagged and sharp.  It leaves a wake as it moves, churning up the sediment below, but also boiling the water with its breath.  And it has a mouth ringed about with fearsome teeth.

Fearless Foe

Any who would come near the Leviathan would tremble with fear.  This was no ordinary creature.  God indicates that the Leviathan had no equal – nothing was as strong, powerful, dangerous, beautiful, graceful, or fearless.  The dinosaurs were large and ferocious.  But they were no match for the Leviathan.  Apart from flying not being mentioned by God in this passage of scripture, the Leviathan has every characteristic that was ever written about the fire-breathing dragon.

Superstition or Amazing Creation?  The Bible says it really existed.  We should believe what God has to say in His word.  What other interesting gems of intrigue are buried in the Bible?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When presented with information in the Bible that challenges my preconceptions of belief, how will I choose to respond?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are Wonderful Creator of all the universe, and everything in it.  Thank You for making the Leviathan, a creature of renown whose legends remain even today.  Your creativity and expressiveness in Your creation is beyond my ability to comprehend.  Help me, Father, when I am presented with truths in Your word that may conflict with my understanding of You, Your word, and reality.  Help me to accept Your word as truth, and to realign my thoughts, attitudes, and opinions to align with Yours.  Give me the grace to struggle with concepts that challenge my perceptions, and help me to come around so that I would embrace Your truth in every facet.  Father, You have taught me in Your word that we cannot cherry-pick what we want to believe, but rather that everything You say is truth, and that the truth would set us free.  Set me free from the bondage of lies, misinformation, and feelings that obscure Your truth.  Give me a heart of wisdom and discernment, that I would be able to let go of that which is false, and embrace all that is true.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Meekness and God – John 2:13-17

Whips And Tables And Flying Change – Oh My!

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Body Building

There needs to be a preface to these scriptures.  Jesus was the firstborn child of Mary, stay-at-home mom, and her husband Joseph the carpenter.  However,being conceived by the Holy Spirit, they were not his biologically parents, but rather God’s chosen surrogate parents.  During the life of Christ on Earth, as the firstborn son, He would have been taught His father’s trade.  Carpentry at that time was far more intense than it is today.  Without the use of modern machinery, a carpenter would have to shape each piece wood using rudimentary tools.  This required a LOT of strength.  They would have to move beams and trees into position, cut them to their proper lengths, and further refine the wood into their final shapes, then use them in whatever fashion was required for the job.

There was a man in Pennsylvania who owned his own sawmill.  He was the only employee, a sole proprietor.  A man came in to his workshop one day to see about having some lumber that he and a friend had cut from a felled tree to be quarter-sawn into planks for use in building boxes and chests.  While he was talking, the sawyer picked up a huge tree with one hand that had just been sawn on the head saw, and placed it on the resaw to be cut into planks.  The tree section must have weighed well over one hundred pounds.  Most people would be unable to do this, but because the sawyer did this type of work every day, his strength was amazing.  He wasn’t a towering man, but extremely strong.  Now the stage is set.

Answer to Anger

Jesus never once sinned.  When He arrived at Holy Temple of God, he was the market that was occurring in the court of the Gentiles at the periphery of the Temple grounds.  This was a place where non-Jews could come and worship God.  Jesus became very angry.  But Jesus didn’t immediately go out and talk to the people who were desecrating the holy ground of the temple, like most of us would.  He did something else, something that each of us should learn – and do – when faced with a situation that infuriates us to the point of seeing red.  He paused.

Measured Meekness

Meekness is a word that is often misunderstood.  Meekness means “strength under control”.  It does not mean weakness, but rather a measured reaction proportionate to the circumstance.   The word of God doesn’t say that Jesus burst on the scene yelling and screaming.  He instead took the time to make a whip.  This is not a task that is usually done fast.  To braid a good whip, it takes manual dexterity, time, effort, and patience.  The word of God doesn’t say how long the whip was, but it gave Jesus time to reflect on how He would respond to this mockery and desecration of The Lord God Almighty’s house.

Many people believe that Jesus was merely a soft-spoken, wimpy, gentle guy who just loved everyone and exuded a form of effeminate weakness.  On the contrary – when the situation called for it, Jesus used His strength and powerful words:

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, … 34 “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

Jesus also said:

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Jesus didn’t mince words with those that were self-righteous.  These are not the gentle, kind words of a soft-spoken, timid man.  And when He saw His father’s house being used to cheat the people, and denying the Gentiles access to worship God in the temple, He also said,

Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

Mighty Mayhem

But Jesus didn’t only talk.  Let’s go back and remember the sawyer placing the cut log on the saw for cutting.  Jesus was STRONG.  He put his back into His labor because He never sinned, and everything He did, He did with ALL OF HIS MIGHT to the glory of God.  Years of carpentry would have chiseled His body into that of a bodybuilder.  Jesus, under those robes, would have looked formidable.

Now let’s go back to the court of the Gentiles.  Take a step back, and look at the scene through the eyes of an observer nearby.  All of the sudden, a Jewish teacher of the law appears in his white robe with a whip in one hand driving out the cattle, and the other hand overturning tables.  He was furious!  He wouldn’t have just toppled the tables.  Although the word of God does not describe exactly how He overturned them, it would be easy to picture this: with a whip cracking in one hand, and throwing heavy tables UP INTO THE AIR with the other hand, no one would have wanted to be in His path.  Anyone capable of throwing heavy furniture WITH ONE HAND into the air – and deftly using a whip in the other – would have been an amazing, if not formidable, sight indeed.  Everyone would have scattered – the money they would lose would not be worth the threat of their life with this whip-wielding, table throwing man rebuking them for desecrating the house of Almighty God.

Jesus was no wimp –  He was meek.  His formidable strengths were completely under His control.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I am emotionally provoked, how do I respond?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your word is amazing.  Thank You for showing me how to temper my anger.  Give me the courage and ability to ensure that the strengths that You have provided to me are kept under control at all times.  Instill within me the ability to react and respond to any situation that I may find myself in a way that honors and glorifies Your name.  Help me to properly channel my emotions so that they will not control me, but that I would use them in a constructive way.  Help me to always remember that You are a loving and kind God, but that when required, You will show Your strength and power.  Help me to yield myself to Your guidance in all things, that I would not dishonor You with my thoughts, words, or actions.  This I ask in the precious and mighty name of Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

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

Weakness Before God – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

God Uses the Weak To Shame The Strong

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Poor Position

Most of those called by God have been called from lowly positions.  God did not call Pharaoh, but rather Daniel.  It is noteworthy that even His Son, Jesus Christ, was born into this world in such lowly circumstances as among animals.  God generally calls those of simple circumstances because when He uses us, it is recognized that it is His power working through us rather than anything special about us.

Superior State

God chooses the simple over the wise.  He chooses the insignificant over the influential.  He chooses the common over the noble.  God reveals that He cares about all people, and uses the simple, common, poor, ignored, and otherwise passed over in the eyes of the world to do the most amazing things.  Moses, chosen of God, wasn’t useful to Him in Egypt, but only after he had become a shepherd for forty years.  Shepherds were considered the lowliest of professions.  It was only after finding himself in these circumstances that God used him mightily.  While many of us desire wealth, fame, or rank in society, the superior state for being called and used by God is to be ordinary:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Becoming Better

God is able to use the ordinary to do the extraordinary.  When we are in Christ, He becomes our wisdom – our righteousness, holiness, and our redemption.  We no longer operate through our own power, but rather through the power of Him who called us.  God uses the lowly and the despised to shame the powerful and important, for all glory belongs to God and God alone.  When we begin to believe that we alone are responsible, we begin to become prideful.  Nebuchadnezzar discovered this at his own great peril.  Even after being warned by Daniel the prophet, Nebuchadnezzar still believed in his heart that everything that had been provided to him was of his own strength and doing.  After being humbled by God by living as a wild creature for seven years, God restored Nebuchadnezzar who then gave glory to God:

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”

36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I content being seen as weak in the eyes of men?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are able to use the despised and lowly things of this world to shame the powerful and desired.  Thank You for giving me the opportunity to be used by You for Your purposes.  Help me to be strong in You, for Your strength is provided to me when I am weak.  Help me to boast only in You, for it is You who enables me to be strong in the face of adversity.  Help me to be the person that You desire me to be, so that I would be able to be used by You.  Anything done in my power is tainted by sin, but anything done by You through me will last the testing of time and fire.  Help me to yield myself completely to you so that all that You desire to do through me will be accomplished.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Joshua 14:6-12

Give A Good Report

6 Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’

10 “Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”

Complete Conviction

Caleb was one of only two military-age males that survived the forty-year trek through the desert.  He and Joshua were the only ones to bring back a good report of the land from the twelve spies that were sent forty-five years ago by Moses.  It was the reports of the other ten, and the fear of the hearts of the people, that caused them to wander for forty years in the desert.  Caleb had complete conviction in his heart that God would help them to overcome the inhabitants of the land that God was giving them.

Reputable Report

Caleb gave the report that with the help of God, that the people of Israel could drive out the inhabitants of the land across the Jordan.  Caleb remembered that God had parted the Red Sea and that Pharaoh and his army of chariots were completely destroyed by God when the waters collapsed upon them.  Caleb remembered that God had delivered them from the tenth plague that took the life of the firstborn male of man and cattle during the Passover.  Caleb remembered every time that God had helped His people through the most difficult situations.  It is only remembering what God has done that we can look forward and say that God will do something.

Still Strong

Caleb then declares that, after eighty-five years, he is still strong and able-bodied, and requests that Joshua give him the hill country of the Anakites.  Caleb knows that regardless of his physical age, God is able to provide for him and his family.  Caleb knew that God is not able to go back on His word.  And God had said that the land that his feet tread upon would be his.  Caleb was merely claiming what God had already provided.  It should be noted that he took the most difficult of terrains available, in part because no one else wanted them, and in part because they were the best and most defensible.  Finally, he requested them because God had already given them to him – his feet had tread upon that land.  The other ten had already died.  Caleb had the pick of the land, and he chose the most difficult part of the land.  With great risk can come great reward.  And since God is for you, who can be against you?

Fight the good Fight

In all of this, Caleb was ready to go out and to take what God had promised him.  Caleb was fighting the good fight, not depending upon his strength or ability, but rather upon the strength and ability that God is able to provide.  He was merely going out to get what God had already given him.  Caleb had the eternal perspective that God had, and that gave him the confidence to go and take the most difficult and fortified regions of the land because it was God would be fighting for him and with him.  When we have been given a word from God, we should approach it in the same fashion.  Have a firm conviction in your heart that God will do what He says He will do, and then go and do what God has told you to do, regardless of what your circumstances appear to be.  For if God has said it, it is already done and written in stone.  For no one can change what God has already said will be done.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I claiming through obedience what God has already promised me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have been gracious to Your servant.  Give me the strength and courage to do all that You have commanded me to do, and to leave the results up to You.  Help me to be faithful and obedient in all that You have revealed to me, and let not my heart faint when giants oppose me.  Rather, help me to be like David and Caleb, that I would remember that You are fighting for me, and have already gone out before me, and let me rush at my enemies that they would know I am not afraid, and that You are the all-powerful Lord God Almighty.  Amen.

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

Justice of God – Psalm 58:6-11

The Righteous Cry Out That Wicked Leaders Receive Justice In This Life

6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions!
7 Let them vanish like water that flows away;
when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.
8 May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along,
like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.

9 Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns—
whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away.
10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged,
when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 Then people will say,
“Surely the righteous still are rewarded;
surely there is a God who judges the earth.”

Purge the Powerful

Nothing stinks quite as bad as people in leadership that have gone astray and have abused their power and responsibility over others.  For there is no authority except that which God has established.  David, having been on the receiving end of such a terrible power, the relentless pursuit by Saul’s troops for many years, cries out that their power would be broken.

Without its teeth, the lions, though powerful, would be crippled in their ability to bring down prey.  David calls for the de-fanging of those leaders who would use their power to oppress and destroy the very ones that they have been called by The Lord God Almighty to protect and to serve.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every petty dictator lost their ability to enforce their wickedness upon the helpless and the oppressed?

Salt the Slug

David makes another reference to those wicked leaders and uses the metaphor of a slug that melts as it moves along.  Slugs need the comfort and protection of darkness and a moist environment to move safely.  Just as they melt in the hot sun, or in salt, so does David wish that all wicked leaders would find themselves – melting as they move, their strength ebbing as they struggle, surely a fit end to the ones who would cripple and destroy the innocent and righteous that they themselves are oppressing.  Not only is it fit, it is just that they should, in the sight of those whom have been denied mercy, receive the same measure of mercy.

God is full of love and mercy, but He also says that a man reaps what He sows, for God cannot be mocked.  It is terrible but just when the leaders that sow wickedness in their rule are treated this way by God.  It is both a public humiliation and ruination, but also a warning to future leaders to submit themselves to God or face the same.  God gives them every opportunity to do what is right; however, there are limits even to the patience of God.  And once those limits are met, the mercy of God becomes the just wrath of God.

Quench them Quickly

For those who are oppressed by wicked rulers, relief from unrighteousness cannot come too quickly.  David calls for the swift destruction of wicked leadership.   When wickedness is allowed to flourish, it erodes the endurance of the righteous to bear it, for it appears that God either does not care, or will not intervene.  The usurpation of power of wicked rulers is greatly anticipated by the righteous, for God will not allow such behavior to continue forever.  And when anyone is on the receiving end of such vitriolic hatred and the expenditure of time and effort directed at themby wicked rulers, relief from their power is greatly desired.

Glad they’re Gone

Once the wicked have been removed from power; once the righteous have been avenged by God on behalf of their enemies, the righteous will rejoice, for they will know that God is still just.  It is only fitting that the righteous “dip their feet in the blood of the wicked”.  For so long, the righteous have had to endure oppression by wicked leaders who spill their blood and destroy their lives, that vengeance is desired.  The Lord God Almighty has said that vengeance is His, and He will repay.  The righteous look forward to that day, and pray that it occurs in their lifetime.  They will then see deliverance from evil by The Lord God Almighty Himself.

Joyful Justice

When the unjust rulers are removed from power, the righteous will rejoice, and joy will fill their hearts.  It is then that the righteous can say that they have experienced deliverance from such evil by God.  They will participate in His character through experiential knowledge of His glory and grace.  Then the wicked will fear, and the righteous rejoice, for the reign of terror and destruction will be at an end.

Beware, you rulers who seek wickedness and operate under the cloak of darkness – your time is short.  Repent now, and give glory to God, or face His wrath and your very public destruction in front of the very people you oppress.  God’s vengeance is coming, and there is nothing apart from repentance that will stop it.  You have been warned.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I walking in justice when I have been given leadership over others?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for your holiness and Your love of justice.  You alone are perfectly just, able to rightly discern the motives of our hearts and the intent of our actions.  Examine my heart, oh God, and see if there be any unrighteousness within me.  Purge it out of me, and strengthen me as I am disciplined.  Remove the dross from my character, that I may walk ever closer with You.  Destroy my enemies, oh God, just as you destroyed the enemies of David.  Give me victory over those who would oppress me, and may your vengeance be upon all who rule without mercy and justice.  May their rule in power come quickly to an end, and may their public humiliation be so great in the eyes of all, that the wicked would shudder before You and fear for their very souls.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – 1 Corinthians 1:22-25

Seek After God, Not Signs And Wonders Nor Worldly Wisdom

22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Seeking Signs

The Jews would often look for signs in the person who claimed to be a messenger from God.  In the past, God would use signs and wonders to confirm the validity of the prophets’ ministry.  However, many people desired the signs and wonders more than the message.  Jesus rebuked the people who were following Him after he had fed thousands with a few loaves of bread and small fish because they were seeking the gifts of the giver, and not the giver Himself.

Even today, there are Christians who seek after the manifestation of the gifts of God in the form of miracles, signs, and wonders.   They will go to any length to be present when the gifts of the Giver are given to bear witness to the power and glory of God to the unbelieving generation He is trying to reach.  It has been said that signs and wonders should follow Christians, rather than Christians following signs and wonders.  If a disciple of Christ is yielded to God, and is doing His will, God will provide whatever is necessary to bring about the results that He desires.  The disciple won’t need to follow signs and wonders:  God’s power and presence will be present in the disciple’s faithful execution of ministry.

Worldly Wisdom

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  When we seek wisdom, we need to first consult with the One who created the universe, and in whom all things in the universe are held together.  Only God knows the beginning from the end, how the laws of the universe were placed, and why all things that are taking place are doing so.

When we seek worldly wisdom, we eventually put aside the wisdom of God and, believing ourselves to be wise, become fools in His sight:

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

When we seek wisdom only in the creation, and not the creator, we exchange the glory of God for what has been created.  Look at the detrimental effects of Secular Humanism.  Those who engage in this begin to worship human leaders rather than God because they believe that humans are capable of achieving moral and ethical righteousness apart from religion and God.  Paul, seeing this almost two thousand years ago, penned a letter to the Corinthian church.  And even now we are seeing the fulfillment of it.

Sweet Salvation

The message of the cross is a stumbling block to those who seek signs because the miracle has already happened:  God has raised His Son from the dead to everlasting life, and gives the amazing gift of salvation to anyone who believes.  Rather than believe the miracle, the Jews still seek Messiah of God to rescue them from the oppression of their enemies.  Two thousand years ago, it was the oppression by the Romans.  Now, it is the oppression by the fundamental adherents to Islam.  The players keep changing, but the situation is still the same:  Satan, the greatest of deceivers, is always after the chosen ones of God.

For those who are not direct biological descendants of the line of Israel, the message of the cross is foolishness.  After all, in life, everything must be earned or stolen to be gained.  It makes no sense that an all-powerful God could be the embodiment love, and give the gift of salvation freely to any who believe, given the effects that sin has brought upon us.  It appears either too fantastic to them (because they are too busy studying the creation for clues to the meaning of life, the universe, and everything that they are unable to look up to God for answers) or that it is far to simple to be plausible.  God has provided the answers to the big questions in life through His word so that we could focus on living in the present in relationship with Him.

God is Greater

Because God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, He sees and knows everything that ever happened as well as everything that ever will happen.  When we humans look to ourselves or His creation for answers without first going to Him, we come up with the stupidest of conclusions:

  • The Earth is flat.  If you sail far enough across the ocean, you will fall off the world to your death.
  • The Earth sits on a great turtle, who in turn sits on another great turtle, and it is turtles all the way down…
  • There is nothing beyond this life – once we die, we just push up daisies with our dead, decaying flesh.
  • There is no such thing a God who exists outside of the physical universe.  Because man feels the need to worship, we must worship that which we see, because obviously it is the things on the Earth, beneath the Earth, or above the Earth that have power over us.

The wisdom of men is foolishness to God.  And the greatest strength and power of men is mere weakness to the God who, by speaking, caused the universe – including all matter and the laws that the created manner are to follow – to be formed in the first place.  What man cannot explain he mocks.  But be assured of this – God cannot be mocked: a man reaps what he sows.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I seeking God’s wisdom or man’s wisdom in all that I do?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have caused all things to be created and know all things.  Thank You for Your counsel in Your holy word, and for the counsel You have given those who fear Your name.  Help me to always seek Your counsel first before I undertake anything so that Your will would be done, and You would be glorified.  Keep me from the false teaching of the world and the devil so that I would solely and completely trust in You.  Guard my heart and preserve it for the day when Your Son comes in glory.  This I ask in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

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

Faithfulness to God – Acts 14:19-20

Never Stop Doing What Is Right In The Eyes Of God

19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

Difficult Days

Most people have a really bad day every now and again.  But Paul had it a little harder than most people.  Even God said (about Paul’s life):

15 …”Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Paul had some interesting trials to undergo:

23 …I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

Most of us have not had to face the threat of death even once for the cause of Christ.  We do not yet know the difficulties that Paul encountered.  But even if that should change, we should take heart; Paul has shown us the way to overcome.  He was stoned near to death at least once.

Faithful Friends

Paul had very good friends.  After he was nearly stoned to death, they surrounded him.  They too could have faced stoning as well.  When a mob begins to act in emotion, it is difficult to dissuade them from their course of action.  Look at the recent mob activity in the United States of America.  Once the mob engages in violence, then comes the fires, and the looting, the beatings of innocent people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It takes faithful friends to join you when the mob turns its full wrath upon you.

Continue to Contend

Most people, facing a near-death experience at the hands of an angry, murderous mob, would “take a hint” and go elsewhere.  Scripture shows us Paul’s reaction: he went right back into the city to preach.  That takes great faith and trust in God.  In speaking about hardship, Paul said:

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Regardless of our circumstances, we should continue to contend for the faith.  God will provide our strength as we are faithful in His service.  We have no fear of this: whatever God calls you to, he will provide the means and resources for you to complete your tasks.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I being faithful even when I experience great trial?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are faithful in all that You do.  You keep every promise that You make, and do so in perfect timing and in Your methods.  We know that we can count upon You to always be faithful.  Strengthen me this day, Father, that I would show that same faithfulness to You, regardless of my circumstances.  Help me to rely upon You totally and without reservation as trials come into my life.  Help me in my weakness that You would be strong for me.  Carry me when I cannot walk, and protect me from my adversaries.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Loving God – Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Trinitarian is not Polytheistic

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Only One

God greatly desires to reveal Himself to us through the scriptures.  In this passage, God reveals that He is One God, not three Gods, or three separate beings, but three separate persons who together are one God.  Matt Slick, President and founder of CARM.org, explains this very well on his website.

Longs to Love

God is perfect, and has no needs.  But since God has made us in His image, we can see certain traits and desires of God within us.  And one of the traits that He exhibits is that God is love.  He lavishes His love upon us in many ways:

He also shows His love through His people Israel.  How many times does He send them into foreign lands to chastise them and them bring them back to Himself?

Longs for Love

God also wants us to love Him.  He so greatly desired this that He allowed His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to save us from our sins.  Yes, this is so important that we need to constantly remind ourselves of His level of dedication to everyone that He creates.  And He desires that we love Him – not for being a gift-giver, but rather for who HE is.  He greatly desires that we be in communion with Him in His perfect love.

Absolute Abandon

So great is God’s desire for us to love Him as He loves us (as an expression of being made in His image), that we are to love Him with:

  • ALL of our heart – the inner person: the mind and the will (our thoughts and convictions, which should direct everything we think, say, and do)
  • ALL of our soul – the greatest desire of our being (our emotions and desires)[Please Note: This can also be translated life, or spirit]
  • ALL of our strength – To the extent that we exert ourselves in action (our deeds)

God longs to reveal Himself to us, and does so by helping us to experience Himself though His character.  God doesn’t do things the way that we do them.  He carefully plans everything perfectly, and follows through with His plans to bring them to fruition – in perfect harmony with His desires and will.

The Trinitarian Trait

Because God is One, we love just one God, not three Gods, or three beings; but three persons who are One God – unified in will, purpose, and love.

The Qualifying Question

So let’s ask the question:  Are we loving God with all of our heart, soul, and strength?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, thank You for your unfailing love, mercy, compassion, and grace that You pour out upon us every day.  You reveal Yourself through Your creation, Your word, and Your work in our lives.  Help me this day, Lord God, to love You with complete abandon.  May my heart so greatly desire You that all other passions are mere whispers in comparison.  Help me to better grasp Your love so that regardless of my circumstances, it would be settled in my heart.  Watch over me as evil increases, that my love would not grow cold.  Strengthen me this day for the works that You have planned for me before the universe was created, and reveal them to me as I yield myself to You.  This I ask and pray in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Walking with God – Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

This is a very famously quoted passage in scripture.  But there’s more here than meets the eye.  The NIV translates the first part of this as “But those who hope on the Lord…” from the Hebrew uqui, meaning “and ones being expectant of”.  However, the Septuagint indicates a different translation.  The words “wait upon” in the Greek is hupomenontes.  It means “to bear up under trial” and has the meaning of “being stretched (when enduring through a trial).”  When we are in the crucible of trials, God stretches us to our very limits, but doesn’t allow us to break.  When we are stretched, we can be extended, like a rubber band, but we spring back, and unlike the rubber band, we are stronger than when we started.  We renew our strength after the trial is over.  When we are enduring it, God gives us the strength to endure, for He will not allow us to be tempted without giving us the ability, or provide options, to overcome iteven if it means fleeing.

The other interest aspect of this is that when we walk, it is indicated that we might faint.  The Christian life is a very challenging one.  As we grow in Christ, we become more aware of His holiness, and the path seems straighter and narrower every day.  It takes great strength to continually walk in a manner pleasing to God.  But thanks be to God for sending Jesus, who in turn sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us and empower us!

Rejoice!  God gives you the ability to walk with Him, even when the day-to-day trials of life wear us down, sap our strength, and put us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in a place where we feel at any moment we will just pass out from exhaustion.  Cry out to the Lord, and receive new strength!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are Almighty God; may all honor, glory, strength, power, and dominion be Yours forever, Amen and Amen!  You give me hope when there is no reason to hope, and strength when my strength fails.  Father, I humbly come to you in brokenness.  Help me in my circumstances.  Provide a way for your servant to overcome.  Grant me success this day.  Bless my enemies, and may Your kindness in this draw them to You.  Open doors that I cannot open, and fight these battles, Lord.  I need You Lord God, and greatly desire Your fellowship.  Help me to overcome, in Jesus’ Name, 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?

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?