Monthly Archives: May 2013

Today’s Scripture – May 31, 2013

Isaiah 40:27-31 (NIV):  Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”?  Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

 

It is not uncommon these days to hear people talk as if God were absent – a long way off, standing aloof and just watching the world slide down the drain.  People, even Christians, seem to feel like God is simply waiting and watching until it is time to send Jesus back to call an end to the whole sordid drama.  The Israelites felt the same way when He allowed them to be overrun by the nations around them.  They cried out to God, but seemed to receive no answer.

But God is the same today as He has always been.  He is the everlasting God.  He existed for eternal ages before He ever created the heavens and the earth, and He will continue to exist for eternal ages after the whole vast universe is swept away.  His strength is no less now than it has ever been.  A thousand years doesn’t steal away a single atom of His power and His might.  He does not grow tired or weary, and he is never confused or stymied by the events of the day.  He sees the end from the beginning, and is continually working His plan to bring salvation to the ends of the earth; working through all who are willing to shape themselves to His hand, and moving those who would defy His authority by His sovereign power.

We who rely on God will not only endure, but thrive, no matter what the circumstances.  We will be lifted up in His hands when the world tries to shove us down.  He will provide power when the world tries to prevent us from having any influence.  He will encourage our hearts when the events of this life try to steal all of our joy.  He will give us a solid place in His kingdom, and a job with eternal significance when this world tries to convince us that we are nothing more than a cosmic accident.  And He will provide supernatural strength, power, and endurance, so that we will always have all that we need to make it all the way to the finish line in our race.

 

Father, these are amazing and precious promises.  Thank You for all that You are, and for all that we can be in You!  Amen!

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Today’s Scripture – May 30, 2013

Matthew 5:1-2 (NIV):  Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them…

 

God teaches those who intentionally come to Him to learn.  The crowds came to Jesus for healing; He longed to teach them about the kingdom of God.  They came to Him for release from bondage to demons; He wanted to share with them the true freedom that comes from living in the light.  Their whole focus was their worldly existence; His whole focus was eternity.  Some did come to Him apart from the crowds to learn the truths of the kingdom, and those who came, He taught.

It’s the same today.  Modern man has so much information streaming at him all the time, that it is very easy to feel overwhelmed and overloaded.  In order to find rest, we seek refuge in distractions and entertainment, trying to give our brains a little space to sort through all of the data to see if there is any truth there.  But nearly all of the information that the world provides is slanted and distorted.  The vast majority is information with an agenda; the truth with a twist – all designed to manipulate our thinking, our opinions, and our buying habits.

But when we come to God, we will get the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – and we will get it straight!  God teaches His people the REAL truth, because He IS the truth.  Of course God’s truth is often at odds with the “nuanced information” (read “distortions of the truth”) that the world provides, and the directness with which He communicates through His word often makes people uncomfortable.  But it will always be the absolute truth, complete and unvarnished, and ready to confront and restore lost and broken hearts and souls.  Those of us who come to the Lord, apart from the noise of the crowds, and with no agenda other than to learn from Him, He will teach.  And all that He teaches us is the truth.

 

Father, thank You for being a source of truth that we can always depend on – a pure spring of truth that is always clear and cool and refreshing, in the midst of the tainted, carbonated, artificially colored and flavored “truth” that the world dishes out.  Help me to always seek Your truth only.  Amen!

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Today’s Scripture – May 29, 2013

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV):  Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:  If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

 

Just as God said in Genesis 2:18:  “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  People are best when they live together and work together.  It is the same among Christians, but to an even larger degree.  Christianity was never meant to be a solitary thing, full of holy hermits living in isolation.  From the very beginning, God put His people together into groups, communities.  The Church as God designed it is a good example of community:  a group of people, each with his or her own gifts, graces, and skills, but all fulfilling one mission together:  to go and make disciples of everyone.

Part of the problem that the modern Church has today is its tendency toward isolationism.  Each member lives their own lives, and come together as a community only briefly, for worship and study, once or twice a week.  Prayer requests are shared only when there is an unconquerable obstacle, and financial, relational, and spiritual struggles are shared very reluctantly, if at all, for fear of damage to ones reputation or standing.  Work is done together on “projects” or “events,” but each is pretty much left on their own for any evangelism that they do, or any ministry that they do.  (In fact, most people talk about “my ministry,” or “John’s ministry,” as opposed to “our ministry.”)  This isolationism has intensified in this age of technology.  It is rare to see groups of Christians getting together regularly as they used to, just to talk over the events of the day, the importance of current events in the life of the faith, etc.  Nobody seems to have that kind of time any more, and everyone seems to always be tired and stressed from what we do in our “real world” jobs and activities.  And so, instead, we entertain ourselves with movies and television, and computer games, all of which are isolationist in their very nature, even if they are done with other people present.

The life that God has called His people to cannot be effectively lived alone – it must be lived out in real community, where God’s love and grace is set free to create a deep and abiding unity; so deep and passionate that it makes the world sit up and take notice.  A unity in diversity, where people’s gifts and graces and skills complement those of others, and make the mission of the whole Church effective.  Where the “real world” is the world where God has called them to do the work of His kingdom.  Where everyone works together to accomplish the ONE, multifaceted mission of the Church, and where everything else in a person’s life is done in support of that one mission.  Where life is shared on such a profound level that prayer requests are naturally shared on every facet of a person’s life and faith walk, with no fear of gossip or recrimination.  Where God’s people have a good return from their work, because of the synergy that comes from unity – each one’s work and gifts reinforcing each other’s.  Where those who stumble have someone (or several “someones”) walking beside them who can help them to regain their feet quickly.  Where needs are met immediately and completely without any need for a program or structure, because there are others right there, living their lives together.  Where physical and spiritual safety are easy to come by, since life is lived together, and any threat is faced not by one, but by many united together.  Where unity is the norm, and factions and divisions do not exist – and where there is so much unity in the atmosphere that any factions and divisions that the enemy does try to foment, instantly die from lack of oxygen!  This is the Church as God designed it.  This the Church that He can and will restore in any place where He is asked, and allowed to work,

 

Father, this is the Church that I want to be a part of.  DO work powerfully in my congregation, and in congregations all over our nation, to remake and rebuild Your Church as You designed it to be.  Amen!

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Today’s Scripture – May 28, 2013

Psalm 19:12-13 (NIV):  Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.  Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

 

Even though human beings are often weak, and frequently fall into error through lack of information or misunderstanding, not all error is a sin; not every misstep breaks a person’s relationship with God.  The actions that are sin are willful actions that violate a known law- what is termed in the Old Covenant “sins with a high hand.”  You know that an action is wrong, but you choose to do it anyway.  Or you know that God requires you to do something, but you choose to leave that action undone.  Such actions legitimately break our relationship with God (not just our “fellowship” with Him), because they are done in a spirit of rebellion against Him.  In fact, the break in the relationship is caused by the rebellion before the sinful action is actually done.

People may make mistakes trying to do the right thing.  Those missteps do not stem from rebellion, and do not break our relationship with God.  When they are discovered, they need to be repented of (meaning that, in addition to admitting the error to God, and godly sorrow for any harm done, adjustments need to be made in one’s life to avoid repeating the misstep), and often admission and restitution need to be made to any who have been wronged.  To refuse to do those things is rebellion, and will be counted as willful sin.

The main issue is that sinful actions, actions that break our relationship with God, have behind them a rebellious heart.  Such sins are NOT inevitable, not inescapable, and, in fact, will be judged by God as open rebellion against His rulership in a person’s heart.  For the honest mistakes that even the best people make from time to time, those that do NOT spring from open disobedience or rebellion, God’s people do not need to fear His wrath any more that a two-year old who accidentally spills his milk should have to fear wrath from his loving parents.  They should reasonably expect teaching, and there may be some corrective measures, but no wrath, and no broken relationship with the parents.  (If there are those things over a simple two-year old mistake, the problem lies with the parents, not with the child!)

God is the ideal parent.  He loves His children enough to die for them.  He teaches us patiently how to live in His kingdom, and helps us to grow in wisdom and to mature in discernment and judgment so that our missteps grow fewer and less serious as time goes by.  But He cannot and will not tolerate open rebellion and willful sins among the people of the kingdom.

 

Father, thank You for Your love and Your mercy, and for Your patient instruction.  I pray along with the psalmist:  Forgive my hidden faults.  Keep me, your servant, also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

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Today’s Scripture – May 27, 2013

Matthew 9:37-38 (NIV):  Then (Jesus) said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

 

The harvest was abundant in the days of Jesus.  It is just as abundant today.  Many seem to feel that the harvest is small – that few, if any, are interested in pursuing a relationship with God in America today.  But that is very far from the truth.  There are seekers EVERYWHERE!  Some of them get drawn into cults and false religions; some become discouraged and give up, believing that there really is no objective truth, or that the truth is hidden from them.  Many others are still searching.  The waters for some of these seekers has indeed been clouded up and muddied by the false information out there that goes by the name of “knowledge,” but an exposure to the real truth, embodied in a Christian who lives it out daily in their presence, can clear the waters and start to bring the harvest in.

But God’s people must be ACTIVE in the harvest.  Too many believe that it is not their job, or that someone else is better equipped (even though it is God Himself who gives the power to be an effective witness to anyone who needs it!).  Others pray that God will drop an opportunity in their lap, and then walk right past dozens of people during their day, any one of which they could bring right into the kingdom, or at least start the process with.  They ask for the opportunities, but then immediately focus their minds on other things:  their plans, their concerns, their worries, the things of this world.  And they do not look intentionally for the opportunities that God has put in their path in answer to their prayers!  They must LOOK in order to see!  Opportunities don’t always look like opportunities.  Sometimes they look like a Samaritan woman coming to get water, and not the least interested in a theological discussion.  Sometimes they look like a jailer just doing their job, not interested in what one of their prisoners might have to offer.  Sometimes they look like an Ethiopian eunuch, high and mighty, and eager to get home from a long trip.  And sometimes they look like a busy mom pushing a grocery cart; or a guy in front of you at McDonalds, who just wants a cheeseburger; or a young man with his baseball cap on sideways, regarding everyone he sees with a sneer.  The harvest is ripening everywhere, but only those who are sincerely looking will have the eyes to see it.  There are SO many opportunities that a handful of harvesters will leave far too many drifting toward hell.  We must be involved in the harvest ourselves, and at the same time pray for more harvesters, so that they can all be gathered in!

 

Father, forgive me for not being more intentional about the harvest – for letting my own thoughts, my own agenda, get in between me and those who need You, blocking them from my sight.  Give me eyes that truly see, starting right now.  And DO send more workers into the harvest.  Amen!

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Today’s Scripture – May 26, 2013

Philippians 2:14-16a (NIV):  Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life–

 

God’s people are to do all of their work in this world without complaining or arguing.  If we complain, what do we complain about?  Other people?  How can we tell other people about Jesus while complaining to them or about them?  The weather?  It is God who sends the rain and the sunshine as He determines, so it is HIM that we are complaining about.  The economy or the government?  We are to be concerned about GOD’s kingdom, and not be immersed in the kingdom of this world, which is ultimately doomed to destruction.  With whom do we argue?  With non-believers?  How do we share Jesus while arguing with someone?  With fellow Christians?  That destroys our witness when non-believers see or overhear.  (And much more of this is overheard than the arguers are aware of!)

We, as God’s people, are to be blameless and pure, so different from other people that we are like a candle shining in the dark; like stars gleaming in the jet black of space.  Only when we live that kind of life can we hold out the word of life with any credibility.

 

Father, thank You for Your guidance so we know how to live, and for Your Spirit, which can help us to live that way!  Help us, Lord, to really shine in our dark world, so that we can bring everyone into Your light.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 25, 2013

Psalm 119:17-20 (NIV):

Do good to your servant, and I will live; I will obey your word.

Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.

My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.

 

Only those who truly hunger and thirst for righteousness will truly desire to obey God’s commands.  Only those who long for His presence in their lives will truly seek to know His will, so that they can instantly and fully obey it.  Too many these days seek God casually, as an add-on to their already full lives.  When they accept Jesus as their “personal Savior,” there is no laying down their lives in favor of kingdom interests; no death to the many idols that steal their time and attention away from the one true God and His agenda.  Yet those people still expect to experience all of the blessings that He has promised to His people.  They still expect immediate and exact answers to their prayers.  But they are double minded and double hearted (cf. James 1:7-8).  They, like the Israelites of old, worship at God’s altar one day a week, and at the altars of other gods, other interests, for the rest of the week.

The true believer, the one God blesses, the one whose prayers He hears and answers, is the one who has laid down his or her life for Him.  The one who is single-hearted.  The one who loves Him and His commands with an all-consuming love.  The psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 was one of those:

  • ·         He had made up his mind that, whatever it took, he would study and learn and obey God’s commands.  (Legalism, some would call it – God calls it love for Him and His word!)
  • ·         He understood that only God can open a person’s eyes and heart to see all that is contained in His law, so he went to God asking for grace to truly see.
  • ·         He fully realized that his exclusive focus on heavenly matters alienated him from most of the people here on earth; making him understand that heaven is his true home, and that he will never be entirely comfortable on earth ever again.  He has thrown his all behind God, and so asks His help to live a kingdom life here and now.
  • ·         Out of his love for God and his gratefulness for all He has done for him, he constantly desires to live a life of obedience; a life pleasing to God.

This is the life that God delights to bless; the life that is full of gratitude, and is consumed with living for Him.  This is a picture of the true saint whose prayers God can, and will, answer.  This is even a picture of the saints of the early Church, as they devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles; as they met together every day in the temple courts to praise God and to learn from Him. (Acts 2:42-47)  These were not casual believers who shoe-horned “church” into already busy lives.  When they received Jesus as the Savior, their whole lives changed!  They had a new center, a new focus, and EVERYTHING in their lives was readjusted to fit around that center.  (Anything that wouldn’t fit was eliminated!)  And God blessed those sold-out, single-hearted disciples with blessing upon blessing, with abundant power, and with the fruit of new believers every single day.

 

Father, forgive us for being casual in our devotion to You.  Forgive us for being double-hearted, for pursuing other interests with far more passion and fervor than that with which we pursue You.  Forgive us trying to fit You into our already crowded lives instead of reorganizing our lives around You.  You gave absolutely everything for us, and we give You a portion of our week in return.  You love us 24/7, and we give You our spare time and leftover money in return.  You give us Your very best, and we give You our weary leftovers!  Forgive us, Lord, and give us the strength we need to seismically shift our lives to a new center in You.  Amen.

        Of all in earth and heaven, the dearest name to me
        Is the matchless name of Jesus, the Christ of Calvary!


        I cannot help but love Him, or tell His love to me,
        For He became my ransom, the Christ of Calvary.


        I could not live without Him, His love is life to me.
        My blood-bought life I give Him, the Christ of Calvary.


        The Christ of Calvary!  the dearest name to me
        Is the matchless name of Jesus, the Christ of Calvary.

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