Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wise Men, Part III of III

Wise Men, Part III of III
December 27, 2010
1 Corinthians 1:21 "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."

Having just celebrated the birth of Christ on Christmas only hours ago, the plan God had for mankind through the destiny of His Son's life should be fresh in our minds. The Magi, or Wise Men, who traveled from the East after seeing His star, recognized the significance of Jesus' birth. They understood and traveled a very long distance to come and worship Him. In a sense, the Magi were among the first believers of Christ's deity. They got the hints, probably from reading through prophecy, and believed. If they did not believe that the Savior had been born was the Son of God, they probably would not have been so willing to travel such a long distance to worship Him, or bring gifts to set at His feet. We often call these Magi "Wise Men" because they were successful at understanding the prophecies of Jesus' birth and finding the star in the sky that pointed to His physical location. But I would suggest they should be called "Wise Men" because of their belief in who this Christ Child was, the Deity of Jesus, the Son of the Living God.

It wasn't until Jesus' death and resurrection that the message of Christ's completed work on the cross for Salvation was preached throughout the world. This message of Salvation is interesting, though. No where else in history had anyone seen that the birth and death of a man could bring about the forgiveness of sins and eternal Salvation. It seemed such a foolish thought, when it was originally proposed, that Jesus was just that man, the fulfillment of what God set out to do for mankind. If you think about it, it seems foolish to this day, the idea that the birth of a Deity -- who would later be slaughtered-- could bring about such Salvation. It truly seems odd, foolish, and downright ludicrous. This is why it takes someone to "believe" in the message. If you could touch salvation, physically see your sin and Hell, then it wouldn't take a "belief" to make you understand what God did for you through the birth of His Son. The "wise" men of our age don't rightly understand this sometimes, that Jesus was sent to live, and then die, for their sins.

The message of Jesus was foolish when it was originally preached, and it is still foolish to many people today. God knew it would be deemed foolishness. But listen to what the writer, Paul, tells us regarding such thought:

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.' Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe."

It is interesting through reading this passage from 1 Corinthians, to realize that smart and learned men do not usually understand or "believe" in what God did through Jesus. I would submit to you, Believer, that you truly can be a learned man and also one who believes in Jesus, His birth, His death, and His salvation for you and mankind. The Magi did. They were clearly smart enough to study prophecy and possessed the ability to read the sky and follow a star, AND they believed in who He was (and is). They declared with their own words that they traveled specifically so they could worship Him. They believed in who Jesus was and wanted to worship Him. Wow. If only you and I could say that every day of our lives. If only we could declare that we believe in who He is and decide each day to go to great lengths so we could worship Him through all of our actions. That would make you a "Wise Man"; that would make me a "Wise Man."

If we did this, our actions would confound the smartest of the smart, but we would also be declaring that we truly are "Wise Men and Women of God." If we believed in who Jesus is, and lived our lives in worship unto Him, then our actions, however foolish they may be to outsiders, would be deemed Wise by the One True God. I'm confident the Magi had a lot of explaining to do in why they set out on such a long trek, but it was clearly a wise decision.

1. When was the last time you did something in your efforts to follow the Lord, that seemed foolish to others?
2. How can you make all your actions a declaration of what you truly believe about the Lord?
3. How is following the Lord and worshiping Him a wise thing for your life?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Prov 17:16, Prov 28:26, Matt 2, 1 Cor 1:18-25, 1 Cor 2:6

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wise Men, Part II of III

Wise Men, Part II of III
Dec 20, 2010
Daniel 9:2 ". . . I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet . . .'"

Daniel was a prophet in the Old Testament who had an amazing ministry from God. Daniel was given many dreams and visions which spoke about both his current time and times to come (many of which are still to come). A little history for background purposes: Daniel was a Hebrew, taken captive by the Babylonians when they attacked Israel; he was brought to Babylon, castrated, and forced into the king's service. When Daniel was placed in service of the king, he decided to work as unto the Lord and serve his earthly masters well. In fact, Daniel grew in stature and standing with the king, and rose up in command under him. The king of Babylon was later overthrown by the king of the Persians, with Daniel remaining a captive in service to the new king. Eventually, Daniel was placed in high command over the entire Persian Empire. In spite of being taken away from his homeland, castrated, and forced into service to not one, but several Godless, foreign kings, Daniel kept his internal compass pointed toward the Lord and served God regardless of his earthly surroundings. Wow. However difficult you think you have it, your life does not compare to Daniel's.

Daniel was clearly a very busy man, being in forced servitude to several different kings. In spite of his work and probable lack of spare time, Daniel decided the most important thing to do was pray and study scriptures. Notice Daniel's own words found in Daniel 9:2--"I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet . . ." Daniel said this after he had risen in command in the Persian king's service (which was also after his famous night in the lion's den). Despite Daniel's many dreams and visions from the Lord, despite Daniel's knowledge and earthly stature, despite Daniel's own wisdom, he still studied the Scriptures, including the words of another prophet who was possibly still alive at the time, the prophet Jeremiah (who wrote the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations).

The point we should take away from Daniel's story is this: no matter how mature we think we are, no matter how wise we think we are, there is still more for us to learn, there is still more for us to understand about God and His Word. The mark of a fool is the display of his arrogance, thinking he has reached his pinnacle, thinking he has nothing else to learn from the Lord. Christian, you will never be done learning, you will never be done understanding, you will never be complete in your wisdom until you come into perfection in Heaven. Until then, there is always something to learn from the Bible, from personal prayer time, from your pastor's sermon, from books, and even from devotionals. The moment you decide you cannot learn a new perspective or detail from a common child's version of Noah and the Ark, you have become a fool. A wise man will find education in everything, even a small child's Bible story.

I've read through the Bible many times, the first time when I was only seventeen. Yet my understanding of scripture doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of all there is to know and understand about God and His Word. From last week's devotional, we read it took three learned men from the East (the Magi, or Wise Men) who understood prophecy and scripture enough to follow a star to where the Christ child was born. This star, because they studied and found it, led them to Jesus. A simple star, yet it took wise men to find it and then follow it. Listen to what the prophet Daniel says about stars in Dan 12:3--"Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." Determine to be a wise man; study and learn your whole life, from everything, especially Scripture, and be wise enough to train your children to do the same. Your wisdom will shine like the stars, leading others to the Lord.

1. When was the last time you truly studied the Scriptures?
2. Have you devoted your whole life to becoming wise and mature or have you plateaued in your understanding?
3. How can you open your eyes to learn from everything, even from a child?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Dan 1:17, Dan 6, Dan 12:3, Phil 2:15, Col 3:23

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wise Men, Part I of III

Wise Men, Part I of III
December 13, 2010
Matthew 2:1-2 "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'"

A compass is a simple tool that has been used for thousands of years, giving navigation and direction to those intent on finding their way. It has a needle that always points North, fixated in magnetic direction no matter how many degrees you rotate the dial. If a traveler follows specific coordinates, always being mindful of North, then a final destination of success is guaranteed. This is true no matter how an explorer is traveling: by sea, by plane, by car, and even by camel. Enter the Magi who probably traveled by camel. Magi were recorded in the Bible as men who came from the Far East, possibly the Orient, following a star to where the Christ Child was born. These Magi, aka Wise Men, didn't use a compass to guide them, but instead used a specific star, directed by God to lead them to their final destination.

The Magi were clearly learned men, hence the commonly used term Wise Men. They were aware of Jewish scripture, so they had probably read the first five books of the Old Testament, and probably most of the writings from the prophets. They had studied the Scriptures enough to know and understand prophecy about the Christ Child as well as His birth and destiny here on earth. Whether these men were true God-fearing men is not known, but they certainly were philosophers who had studied religion. It is interesting that these men, not known as Jews but as "Magi from the east", had enough knowledge of God and His scriptures to be alert to the birth of Jesus. They paid attention and were led by a star to the place of the nativity. My question is: why was there not a single Jew who paid attention to the star or was looking for it? Why weren't any Jews watching and waiting for this sign to lead them to the nativity? Why did it take "Magi from the east" to follow the star? If the "Magi from the east" could see the star, why didn't anyone else see it? Would you have followed the star? Would I?

While we will never know how these Wise Men came to discover the star, leading to the nativity, it still speaks volumes on paying attention to direction. You and I, like the Jews back then, don't pay much attention to direction. If we did, we would always be submissive to the leading of the Lord and always be paying attention to His signs of direction in our lives. If we were like the Wise Men, we would always be alert and headed in the right direction, living our lives on a path to Jesus and success. You need direction in your life, we all do, but seldom are we so confident as these Wise Men who followed the Lord's leading. If only we were as vigilant as the Magi, vigilant enough to be called Wise Men, always looking for and submitting to the leading and direction of the Lord.

While there may not be a star above your head, there is a God in Heaven who represents true North on your compass in life. If you fix your compass on Him, always being mindful of His rightful place in your life, you will reach your immediate and final destinations with success. God should be the constant in your life; no matter how many degrees you turn, He will always be in the same place. This is so comforting to know in the midst of the specific direction you need for your current situation. I have no doubt you need and want direction, God's direction for you and your life. But you must be fixated on Him in order to know the path you should take. It will be the same path the first Wise Men took, a path leading you to worship the Lord. Your life, if you stay on the path God has for you, will become a living act of worship unto the Creator. But you must be like the Wise Men who saw His star and traveled to worship Him. You must look for His direction no matter where it might lead you.

1. Have you ever been mistaken for a Wise Man?
2. How can you fixate your spiritual compass on Him, maintaining His direction for your life?
3. How can you seek His "star" for the specific direction you need right now?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 94:8, Ps 119:98, Ps 121:1-3, Pr 12:15, Pr 13:20, Pr 18:15, Is 29:13-15, Dan 12:2-3, Eph 5:14-16, Matthew 2, 2 Tim 3:15

Monday, December 6, 2010

Blame Blame Go Away

Blame Blame Go Away
Dec 6, 2010
1 Peter 5:7 "Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you."

Blame is an interesting thing. It is our effort to find a reason to be mad, angry, upset, or hurt. We use blame in an attempt to justify our actions, but blame has the opposite effect. The only thing we accomplish by blaming others is maintaining our status as a victim. Certainly, there have been some people who were the initial cause of pain or strife in your life. Absolutely, it was real. However, blaming them doesn't allow you to move forward or move beyond that hurt. Blaming others, or even blaming God, is trying to force them to take responsibility for what has happened in your life, so they might fix you. That is not going to happen. Blame is an effort to guilt others into benefiting your life and it is only manipulative. Even if someone else was the initial cause of your difficulty, identifying individuals as the culprit for purposes of fixing the situation is not actually going to change anything. News Flash: no one else can or will fix your problems, even if someone else instigated the original, perceived harm. This isn't comforting, but it is a reality you must accept.

If you focus all your energy and efforts on blaming others for your difficulty, it does not allow you to focus on living your life, nor is it what God intended for you. There is an alternative to blaming others, however, and it is very freeing, even exciting. God says to cast all your cares on Him because He truly cares for you and your situations. This includes the past hurt, pain, and strife you have been trying to care for on your own. Your own efforts only nurture the painful situation, but God's efforts can nurture your life into new growth. That's what God is after anyway, new growth in your life. While God is not to blame for what happened in your life, He actually is glad to take responsibility for creating new growth from the pain you have experienced (no matter how long ago that hurt was initiated or who's to blame).

God is more than willing to take responsibility for fixing all that is wrong in your life. He is not going to take that incident away, the one you are blaming others for and wanting to be made right. He will, however, take that situation, that pain, and use it for His glory. God will use that past situation to shape you, mold you, to make you into the person He needs you to become. God can take the hurt and pain away and use your past for something amazing in your future. God is in the redemptive business; He wants to redeem your situation right now, the one you've been harboring for so long, blaming others for. He wants you to stop playing the role of the victim and become the victor through Him. There are no victims in God's kingdom, only over-comers and conquerors. If you submit your life to God and allow Him to work, even in your pain, your life can and will become a testimony of God's power for others to see.

There is a huge caveat, however, to becoming the victor over your past situations. You must get rid of the blame. You have to stop blaming others, yourself, and God for all that is wrong in your life. Once you stop the blame game and submit the situation into God's hands, you allow Him to take responsibility for new growth and fruit in your life. I know the past situations in your life were real and have effects on your life today. But focusing on the past and blaming others for any hurt will not allow you to focus on what God wants to do in and through your pain, for your future. Blame will only lead to bitterness, not a solution to your problem. Allow God to take responsibility for your life right now and receive the freedom to move forward in your amazing future.

1. Who have you been blaming for your problems?
2. How can you stop blaming others and begin to submit that hurt to God?
3. How can you allow God to use that past situation toward your amazing future?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 3:12-13, Gen 50:20, Rom 8:28, Rom 8:37

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Nov 29, 2010
Col 1:9 ". . . continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. . ."'

Beating against the wind is a concept that emphasizes futility. It describes an action that expends a great deal of energy, only to result in fruitless effort. There is nothing productive about it, and the only thing gained is, well, nothing. Many, many people live their lives this way, spending their energies on activities that are completely unproductive, fruitless. You've probably experienced this once or twice, investing a great deal of effort into an activity only to have gained absolutely nothing. It is so frustrating, to employ yourself heartily only to realize a vast void where work once abounded. I've seen many people in the latter years of their lives, living with such regret, having spent most of their days on pointless, fruitless activities. They never planned on it, it just happened. You and I don't plan on pointless activities either, but it happens more than you want to admit.

Most of us don't mind a little hard work, but we usually like to see some result from all the effort, rather than see our time wasted. There is hope, though, to help us avoid pointless activity. God does not want you to engage in a life of pointless activities. God wants you to have clarity in what you are supposed to do. God has direction for you, and He would like you to be productive. What this looks like is different for everyone, and to tell you what you should spend your time on is not for me to say. But I can offer the same advice that Paul gave: we should continually ask God to fill us with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives.

Paul's advice, asking for spiritual direction and clarity, has a purpose; the same purpose you and I would expect. It is found in the verses following his advice. It is "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." This would give each of us the direction we need to have hope in the work that we are doing, hope that it will be productive. If our direction comes from the Lord, then it will surely be productive. The productivity might not be for the same results we would expect or hope for on earth, but since God is in charge of the fruit from our labor, we can trust Him to work it out. This trust is in knowing God intends our work to be for our own true benefit or for that of others, so they might come into a full relationship with the Lord. Both options result in an abundance of fruit.

God does not want you to wander through this life wondering what it is you are supposed to do. He wants you to know your purpose and offers wisdom to all those who ask for it. It is critical, then, that you lay down your own ideas of what it is you should do and truly be willing to listen to His recommendations. God's ways might seem different than what you might think, but His work is always for a purpose. It is also critical that you drown out your own voice and the tempting voice of Satan, defeating all that is against what God truly has for your life. God has a plan and a will, and God wants you to align your life with His own ideas for mankind. But finding out what God's will is requires clarity, the kind of clarity that only comes from listening to what it is He has to say. The Holy Spirit will provide you with that clarity, revealing the truth of God's will for your life. I pray that you find God's will for your efforts, that they would no longer be pointless, but filled with fruit, good fruit.

Don't live another moment without seeking God's will for today. Determine to know and do God's good and perfect will in everything.

1. What are you doing that is not bearing fruit?
2. How can you ask for God's will in EVERYTHING that you do?
3. How can you align God's will with yours, ensuring you are bearing fruit?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Matt 6:33, John 8:44, John 16:13, Rom 8:28, Rom 12:2, Col 1:9-12, James 1:9, 1 John 4:6

Sunday, November 21, 2010

God and Polar Fleece

God and Polar Fleece
Nov 22, 2010
Judges 6:39 "Then Gideon said to God, 'Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew."'

God approached a man named Gideon with a task in mind, specifically for Gideon. God wanted Gideon to lead a small army against a large nation in order to defeat Israel's oppressors. Unfortunately, Gideon didn't believe God. Maybe Gideon thought the angel who appeared on God's behalf was feeding him a lie or maybe Gideon simply didn't have the courage to step out. So, Gideon decided to test the word of the Lord with a piece of fleece sitting on dry ground. After the test was passed, Gideon tested the word of the Lord again with the polar opposite, using the same fleece on wet ground. Gideon did this because he was insecure about what the Lord had to say. Gideon identified the angel as a messenger from the Lord, but wasn't willing to receive the message as from God.

If you read the verses preceding the story of the fleece, you will find that Gideon asked the angel for a sign, in an attempt to identify the angel as truly from God. The sign, a rather large sign, was given to Gideon when he made an offering of meat and bread in front of the angel: "Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the LORD disappeared." That was Gideon's first sign and he immediately declared, "Sovereign LORD! I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face!" Gideon knew it was God who sent the angel. He KNEW it was God talking and yet didn't believe in His words (or at least he didn't want to believe). Gideon was insecure with being obedient to the word of the Lord because it was a difficult task, one that took a tremendous amount of faith to believe could come true. He knew it was God talking but still had to test Him with the fleece. If you read Gideon's words, he even asked for forgiveness when he asked to use the fleece the second time. He knew he was testing the patience of God. Thankfully God was patient with Gideon, but testing God is not something we should do on a regular basis, if at all.

Scripture says, "It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" This was said by Jesus when satan was tempting Him in the wilderness. Jesus said it directly and He was quoting scripture found in Deuteronomy 6:16. In its original meaning in Deuteronomy, this "test" was in reference both to the patience of God and God being true to His word. God has always been true to His word and Gideon didn't believe Him. That is why Gideon asked for forgiveness, he knew he was testing God's patience and God's word. Gideon was wrong to use the fleece the first time and was wrong to use the fleece the second time. Yes, God was patient, but if Gideon recognized it was the Lord, then he should have received what the Lord had to say, regardless of how crazy it sounded.

You and I do this sometimes, hear God and doubt it is Him talking. We hear this voice, knowing it is from the Lord, knowing what we are supposed to do, and yet we are afraid to step out in faith and obey Him. Sometimes we try to test Him to see if it is really from Him and other times we simply squelch the word of the Lord; we drown it out with the realities and business of life. This frustrates the Lord. He desires that we believe Him and trust what He says, no matter how strange or preposterous it sounds. Gideon was insecure about what God had to say, but it did not change God's words. You might be insecure about what you should do, what He has asked of you, but it will not change His desires for you and your life. If you decide not to listen to the word of the Lord, then you miss out on being considered a hero of faith. That's right, even though Gideon didn't believe God at first, he eventually had the faith to believe in what God said would happen. And it did. Because Gideon believed and trusted, Gideon ended up in the Faith Hall of Fame (found in Hebrews 11).

Hear the word of the Lord and believe it the first time. Don't use polar fleece to test the word of God. God desires faith and obedience right away.

1. Have you heard from the Lord but are still waiting for an additional sign?
2. What word of God have you been ignoring, refusing to believe it's God?
3. Is it time to step out in faith, acting on what God has asked of you?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Deut 6:16, Judges 6, Ps 78:41 & 56, Matt 4:7, Luke 4:12, Heb 11:32

Monday, November 15, 2010

Good Things to Come

Good Things to Come
Nov 15, 2010
Isaiah 64:4 ". . . no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him."

There is an old saying that suggests good things come to those who wait. I have difficulty with this, because the statement doesn't really mean good things will naturally come when and if you simply wait. The statement means you should be patient for what you are expecting. No one likes to wait, especially if it is something we are expecting or anticipating. However, when it comes to spiritual things, waiting and expecting go hand in hand, especially when we are on God's time, schedule, and plan. God wants us to be in a state of expectation, anticipation of future things, but He wants us to wait for them, realizing they might not happen in this lifetime. Let me explain.

Isaiah 64:4-5 declares, "Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways." This is a picture of God coming to the rescue of His own children, a picture of Him making everything right. It is telling us that God will act on our behalf, but we have to wait for Him. This waiting, though, is not necessarily what we think, especially if we are waiting for God to bring us a new house or a better job. The apostle Paul makes the passage slightly clearer for us by his interpretation of the same passage in the New Testament. He writes his own version of this verse, "However as it is written: 'What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived'---the things God has prepared for those who love him." Notice Paul never mentions that we have to wait. Thankfully Paul leaves this word out. The word "wait" is misleading because we now must understand the scripture in light of seeing Jesus already live and die on this earth. Remember the original verse was written before Jesus came to die on the cross; we are no longer waiting for that.

If we are waiting for something, we are hoping it will come sooner than later, maybe even today so we can live tomorrow having already received it. Paul knew that the "things" we are waiting for are no longer for this earth. He knew they would not happen for us in our own lifetime, while we are all still alive in the current order of life. Paul knew these "things" would only happen when the Bridegroom comes to the earth again. Paul used the word "prepared" because he wanted us to understand it was a heavenly thing, not a worldly thing. The prophet in the Old Testament used the word "wait" because the Israelites were waiting for the Christ to come to the earth the first time around; they had not seen Jesus yet. They were waiting for Jesus to be born on the earth. Now, we are expecting Jesus and eternity in Heaven with Him; we are not waiting for his life and death on the cross, we are waiting to have what God has prepared for our future--IN HEAVEN.

The scripture is one and the same (both the Old Testament and the New Testament version), but the interpretation is different. The interpretation is in what we are expecting, in what we are waiting for. The scripture was partly fulfilled when Paul was quoting it, but both instances require us to wait in expectation of what God is going to do in the future.

There is one caveat, though, to both versions of the original verse. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the future arrival of "things" depends upon being a child of God. Read the words and verses right after each individual verse (look it up yourself), they denote a sense of obedience to God's words and teaching. In the Old Testament version, it clearly talked about doing right and following God's ways, but in the New Testament version, Paul leaves out obedience and instead brings in the word "love." Paul was aware that a new order of things began when Jesus walked the earth. In fact, Jesus gave the disciples the interpretation for the very verse in question, directly out of His own mouth. "Jesus replied, 'Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.'" And these are the "things" referenced in both versions of the verse. This is what God prepared, fellowship and a home for us with Him. Paul knew this and wanted us to understand what we are waiting for, what we are expecting for the future; it is no longer that Christ would come to live among us and die on the cross. It is now waiting expectantly for the time when God meets with us and we arrive into a heavenly home with Him.

Your eye has not seen and you cannot even begin to fathom the future God has for you, but you must wait for it; it won't happen on this earth. It will happen when Jesus comes for us again.

1. How can you read these scriptures and understand they speak of heavenly things?
2. How can you live expectantly of future heavenly things?
3. How can you ensure you are a child of God, thereby receiving those future things from Him?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Is 64, 1 Cor 2:8-9, John 14:23-25

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jealous Lover

Jealous Lover
Nov 8, 2010
James 4:5 ". . . he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us . . ."

The full Scripture for James 4:5 reads, "Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?" The interpretation of James 4:5 is said to be one of the most difficult verses in the Bible to make clear. It is difficult for two reasons: 1. No one can confirm which other Scripture to which James is making a reference. 2. No one knows for certain what the reference to "spirit" means (it could possibly mean Holy Spirit). In light of not claiming to have the most definitive answer, I will interpret this Scripture in light of the entire Bible. It will paint a picture for you to consider God in a possible different color, Dark Green.

James is a very distinct writer, and he kept a very consistent theme throughout his words. Since James never mentions the Holy Spirit in his letter but only refers to what is inside a man, "spirit" probably does not actually mean Holy Spirit. "Spirit" in this verse represents the human spirit, or more accurately, what God put in us when He created us--a spirit of free will. That is what differentiates us from the angels; we have a free will. We can choose to love God or not. We can choose to serve God or not. This is what God wants, what God longs for, for us to choose Him. God put in us a free will, so when we do worship Him, it is voluntary, of our own accord. We are not forced to do it but we worship Him because we want to, because we choose to. Our worship, then, to God is far sweeter than when a perfect angel worships Him. God wants this; God desires this.

In fact, God wants this so badly, our free will worship, that Scripture uses words like envious, longing, jealousy, and even....adulterous. That's right, God wants our love and affection so badly that He is likened to a jealous lover. And when we choose not to love Him, or worship Him, we are committing adultery. WOW. What a picture so opposite of Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." God isn't mad at you, He is jealous for your affection. God doesn't want to destroy you, He wants to woo you. But the Bible states very clearly that you must decide. You must make a choice. If your actions don't choose God, you are in adultery and His jealousy turns Him into something similar to resembling a green eyed monster. Read the Scripture preceding James 4:5. It says directly that our actions are adulterous if we like anything about this world. And it further says that we become enemies of God if we love anything other than Him.

While God created everything, if we love something more than Him, it is wrong. It is adultery. If we love our career more than Him, we are in adultery. If we love our children more than we love Him, we are in adultery. If we are even friends with this world, we are in adultery. At least that's how God sees it. If it sounds harsh, I'm sorry, but that is the depth of how God feels. God is in love with you and every time you choose something else over Him He gets jealous. He longs for you so deeply and so passionately that when you don't choose Him, His deep feelings are wounded so badly, as when a spouse strays with another sexual partner. It is that intense for God. Almost the entire book of Hosea is dedicated to this analogy.

You know this feeling, too, of jealousy. You've been jealous a time or two and remember how intensely it can burn inside of you. So, while sometimes my actions are not perfect, I would rather offend this world greatly than make my True Lover jealous.

Since James didn't specifically say which Scripture he was referencing, I've included some options for your consideration. Read them for yourself and learn of God's jealously for your affection.

1. What have you chosen lately over God?
2. Does the world consider you its friend or is your Christianity slightly offensive to it?
3. How can you be in this world, but not of it, thereby keeping your lover from becoming jealous?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ex 20:5, Ex 34:14, Deut 4:24, Deut 6:15, Deut 30:15-19, Josh 24:15, 1 Kings 14:22, Zeph 3:8, Zech 8:2, Lk 6:46, Jn 15:19, Jn 17:16, 1 Cor 10:22, 1 Tim 6:12-14, Rev 22:12-17

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Forgiving the Unforgivable

Forgiving the Unforgivable
Nov 1, 2010
Genesis 50:17 ". . . I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. . ."

Most are familiar with the story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph really didn't do anything wrong to deserve such harsh treatment by his brothers, but they plotted to kill him and sold him into slavery instead. Through Joseph's many years of suffering, after being enslaved and later falsely accused and imprisoned, the Lord was able to shape him into quite the man of God. In Joseph's twist of fate, he was elevated to second in charge of all Egypt and found himself staring in the faces of his brothers. What an opportunity Joseph had for revenge, except he didn't harm them or give them the punishment they rightly deserved. He forgave them. That's right, Joseph forgave them before they even had a chance to ask for his forgiveness.

It's one thing to forgive someone after he has come to you to beg for forgiveness, but it's another to forgive someone BEFORE he asks for it. Read Joseph's story to see for yourself. In fact, Joseph's brothers NEVER did ask forgiveness; they knew they didn't even deserve it. At one point, after their father died, his brothers were in fear of Joseph's possible retribution, even after he forgave them. His brothers knew Joseph would respect the wishes of his father. So they sent a messenger, in their stead, and told Joseph that their father had instructed him to forgive his brothers.

This story does not stop here though, it is picked up again by, none other than, Jesus. Jesus doesn't speak directly about the story of Joseph, but He tells us all to forgive our brothers. Jesus served as a messenger who instructed us that God, the Father, has asked us to forgive our brothers. Jesus' instructions parallel the forgiveness extended to Joseph's brothers. Your brother may not deserve forgiveness, like Joseph's brothers, but nonetheless, you are to forgive. In forgiving others, even before they deserve it or ask for it, you are representing the forgiveness of God. God provided for our forgiveness through the death of Christ, even before we asked for it, even though we never deserved it.

It gets better. Jesus tells us that we are to forgive our brothers or else God cannot forgive us. He was saying this to make perfect the forgiveness of the Father in our lives. Why would God forgive you if you were harboring resentment and anger and bitterness toward someone else? It would be a slap in the face to God, asking that forgiveness be extended toward you but not being willing to extend it toward others. If you asked for God's forgiveness, but were not willing to extend it toward others, it would demonstrate to God that you really didn't care about Him or His forgiveness, that you really didn't want forgiveness you just wanted to get rid of the guilty feeling. It would tell God that you really weren't repentant and changed, you just slightly felt bad for what you did.

There have, undoubtedly, been many people in your life that have never asked for your forgiveness. This doesn't mean you don't have to forgive them. You must. In forgiving them, you are making perfect God's own forgiveness in your life and becoming more in His image. Though your brother or sister may not deserve forgiveness, it is your obligation, as a Christian to extend it. In doing so, it might actually lead him to his own repentance before God. It's not easy to forgive the unforgivable. It took God putting to death His own Son, that we might be forgiven (recall it was Christ's death on the cross that provided for the forgiveness of your sins). In order to forgive, you may have to let something dear to you die, that pride of being right, in order that your forgiveness might be made perfect and complete, too.

And remember that unforgivable person. . . it was you at one point.

1. Who have you not forgiven, are there one or two people in your life who have never asked for forgiveness?
2. How can you forgive them, even though you don't feel they deserve it?
3. How can you put to death your resentment and bitterness in order to forgive, making you more Christ-like?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 45:4-8, Gen 50:15-21, Matt 6:14-16, Matt 18:34-45, Lk 17:3-5, Acts 5:31, Rom 5:8, Col 3:13, 1 Tim 1:15, Heb 9:22, 1 John 1:9

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My God Will Provide

My God Will Provide
Oct 25, 2010
Philippians 4:19 "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

God will provide. Such a trite saying, so easy to say but very, very difficult to understand. I know this first hand. When the Scripture is talking about God meeting all our needs, it is talking about our physical needs. God knows that we have basic human needs: food, water, shelter, clothing, even emotional and relational support. The Bible says that God will be faithful to ensure we have those basic needs met. If you're reading this right now, there is no doubt in my mind that you need the provision of God in your life. In some area, you feel you are lacking and desire the provision of God. But I would submit to you that God IS providing. God has always provided for you, even through your complaint, and He will be faithful to continue His provision. BUT, God's idea of provision may not be the same as yours and mine.

I have been homeless. No, I was not living on the streets, but I lost my home years ago in the beginning of the current economic crisis. But God provided a place for me and my family. It certainly wasn't a presidential palace, but it was warm in the winter, dry in the rain, and safe at night. It wasn't MY home, we lived with someone else, but it was the provision of God. I had a place to stay; my needs were met. My needs were NOT met in the manner in which I desired, but God still provided for my needs. If you reflect upon your life, I doubt there have been many times, if any, when you've been forced to sleep outside in the elements. While you may not have eaten the greatest of delicacies for every meal, there probably have been few times you've actually gone to bed without enough food to sustain you or fat on your body to keep you from being faint. The fact of the matter is, God has ALWAYS provided for you and me. The problem is that we don't like the sufficiency of God. We feel we are due more than we have because of the gluttonous society in which we live.

God, the Father, has promised to meet all your needs. He has promised to clothe you far greater than the lilies. God has promised that your children will not go begging for bread. God has promised that if you will seek first His kingdom, then even earthly riches would be given to you. BUT, He never promised to provide for you to the point where you don't need Him or His provision any longer. We want more so we won't have to trust in God to provide. We want to provide for ourselves and trust in our own storehouse, eliminating the need to trust God for tomorrow. If that is your desire, to have a storehouse so you don't have to trust God to provide, then you will never know the peace of His sufficiency. God will not put you in a position where you don't need Him any longer. God will not put you in a place where you will never have to trust in Him again. God is not interested in you trusting in yourself; He desires that you entrust yourself to Him for the provisions for need in this life, however humble that provision might seem.

God's provisions, though, are for His children; they are not for the wicked. You cannot claim the rights of a child of God if you are not behaving like a child of God. You do not get the protection of the Father if you are not living in the Father's household. You do not get the riches and inheritance of the Father if you are not a son or daughter, a rightful heir. So, if you lack, first consider if God is truly your Father. If you lack, first consider if you are seeking His kingdom and His righteousness. If you lack, first consider if you are trusting in God or if you are trying to eliminate the need to trust in Him for your present and future needs. If you lack, first consider if you are submitting to the sufficiency of God or if you are trying to live above His provisions for your needs. If you lack, first consider if it is because you tried to live beyond His provision. If you lack, first consider that God wants you to trust Him today, and then rest in the peacefulness of His provision, however it might present itself in your life.

If you are having trouble trusting in the sufficiency of the Father, I encourage you to review the Scriptures below. My God will provide.

1. How is your sleep at night; do you rest in the sufficiency of God's provision, even if it means you lose a few earthly possessions?
2. How can you trust in Him to provide even though you don't know what tomorrow might bring?
3. How can you always have a dependency upon God and still make wise decisions toward the future?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Ps 28:7, Ps 37:4, Ps 37:25, Pr 3:5-6, Nahum 1:7, Matt 6:33, Matt 10:29-31, Lk 12:26-28, Philippians 4:6-7, James 4:2-3

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Purpose of Prayer

The Purpose of Prayer
Oct 18, 2010
Ecc 5:2 "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few."

God, despite being intangible, gives us a way to contact Him, to communicate with Him. It is called prayer. He gives us the opportunity to have a relationship with Him through an open line of communication. God established prayer from the very beginning, long before Jesus walked the earth. He wanted His children to know He was and is listening. This is probably one of the most generous things He has done for us, yet we don't utilize it properly; we are ineffective in our use of prayer. God gives us the wonderful tool of prayer, but seldom do we use or even grasp its full potential. Our prayer lives do not reflect what God truly intended them to be.

Go back to the Garden of Eden. God's original love was to physically BE with His children. Adam and Eve got to physically walk with God, to spend time with Him. They were able to communicate and share their hearts with each other. It was an intimate relationship, benefiting all parties, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Since the fall of man, God does not physically walk with us, but established prayer as a means to keep that closeness alive. The fall of man, though, makes that closeness difficult, as there seems to be further distance between us and God, much more distance than Adam and Eve had. That distance, a result of our sin, makes the relationship far more difficult, where even the greatest of men could not stand in God's presence, unable to look upon His face.

For this reason, the writer of Ecclesiastes said, "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few." The writer, King David's son, Solomon, understood the purpose of prayer and was clearly aware of the humble nature of man in his relationship to God as a result of sin. But Solomon's words create a dichotomy in the Bible because in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul writes that we should "pray without ceasing." Solomon, the beloved of God, tells us to keep our mouths shut, but Paul, the appointed apostle to the Gentiles, tells us to pray non-stop. This creates confusion; does the New Testament trump the Old Testament writings?

The New Testament actually offers another verse, adding to the dichotomy of Paul's advice to pray non-stop. It reads, "And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." This seems to reinforce what Solomon said about keeping our mouths shut. And these specific words were spoken by Jesus Himself. Jesus instructs us to keep our words few. These three verses, telling us to keep our words few but pray non-stop lead us to an understanding of the true purpose of prayer. Review those last few lines from Jesus' instructions, ". . . your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Jesus was saying that God already knows what's in your heart. For Adam and Eve, the relationship was set up so BOTH parties could know the other's heart, for true intimacy. But since God already knows your heart (and what's in it), the purpose of prayer for us is to know the heart of the Father. The purpose of prayer is to truly know and understand God's heart.

It has been said that you have two ears and only one mouth, suggesting you should listen twice as much as you speak. This should be true in your relationship with God. You are to be in a constant state of prayer, but not talking. You are to listen to God. So often, we go into our prayer time, tell God everything there is to know, and then go on about our daily lives. That is NOT what God intended for prayer. He wants you to go into a time of prayer with Him, but LISTEN instead of talk. You can't know the heart of God if you don't give Him the chance to get a word in edgewise. Listen very intently, because He is a gentleman; He doesn't yell and won't talk over you. Pray non-stop, just don't say much, if anything at all! You'll find that knowing His heart is far better than telling Him what's on your mind.

1. What does your prayer life look like?
2. How often do you come out of prayer knowing the heart of God?
3. How can you listen instead of talk, in an effort to hear from God's heart?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 1 Kings 19:11-13, Matt 6:5-15, Romans 8:27, 1 Thess 5:17, James 1:19

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Measure Your Mercy

Measure Your Mercy
Oct 11, 2010
Matthew 7:2 "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

It is so easy to judge others. Every one of us is guilty of this EVERY SINGLE day. We see someone walk in the room and she doesn't even need to open her mouth before we think certain thoughts about her. You do it just as often, if not more often, than I do. We can't help it. For some reason, our predisposition to sin also predisposes us to judge others. We don't intend to judge people, we just do it. It is as natural as breathing sometimes. It might come naturally, but it is still wrong. Judging others is wrong, wrong, wrong and we all know it. If we all know it is wrong, then why do we continue to judge? The answer is in finding the opposite to the question. If we weren't to judge others, what WOULD we do? We would have compassion and mercy for them. You can't judge people at the exact same time you are having compassion and mercy for them.

Compassion and mercy do not come as naturally to us as our judgmental attitudes. It is not second nature, for most of us, to have compassion and mercy for our fellow man. This would be contradictory to our sinful nature, therefore compassion and mercy must be something learned rather than trusted to be instinctual. For God, though, it is instinctual. The Bible says that His compassion and mercies are new every morning. To interpret this correctly we must understand WHY His compassion and mercies are new every day. God doesn't wake up with a fresh load of mercy for us. In fact, God doesn't wake up at all; He has the same merciful attitude He had 1,000 years ago. It is the sinful person who rises in the morning NEEDING a renewed dose of mercy and compassion. We are the ones who are granted a new day and God is telling us we are allowed to start over with Him today. Despite the probability of falling into the same sin as yesterday, God allows us to start over fresh, receiving a new bath of compassion and mercy for our dirty, rotten selves. God's bath of compassion and mercy is renewed because our sin is renewed; He gives us a fresh start.

What a wonderful representation of love, to have a renewed sense of compassion and mercy every morning. I know I need it and so do you. This means your fellow man needs renewed compassion and mercy, too, FROM YOU. Your husband or wife needs your renewed compassion and mercy today. Your son or daughter needs renewed compassion and mercy today from you. Your co-working doesn't need judged today, he needs compassion and mercy. Your boss doesn't need your judgmental attitude today, she needs your compassion and mercy. The Bible says that whatever measure you use to judge someone else, it will be used against you. This is referring to the judgment you will receive from God in exchange for what you did to his children, your fellow man. But, your fellow man will also take notice. You know who is judging you; you can feel it in his eyes, in her tone of voice. You also know who has compassion and mercy for you; you've seen it a few times and it refreshes your face. Others notice it, too, when you have compassion for their cause. It is reciprocal.

When you have compassion and mercy on others they will, in turn, be far more willing to give you a little extra wiggle room the day you need it most. Your co-workers will be able to give you some extra compassion on those bad days if you've been generous to them in the past. Your children will have extra mercy for you when you act like a foolish parent, unless you've been too harsh with them for far too long. Your spouse will be more willing to overlook your offenses.

Instead of judging, try having compassion and mercy, even for that foolish person you just can't seem to stand. It's funny, it feels good to have mercy on others, even though it might not feel natural. Do it often enough, and you might replace that judgmental attitude you've been carrying with you your whole life.

1. What is your natural inclination, to judge or to have compassion and mercy for your fellow man?
2. How can you switch to compassion and mercy the moment you begin to judge someone else?
3. How could you go an entire day/week with having nothing but compassion and mercy for others?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Lam 3:22-23, 2 Sam 24:14,Ps 25:6, Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:8, Zech 7:9, Matt 5:7, Matt 9:13, Matt 7:1, Rom 2:1, Rom 14:9-11, 1 Cor 4:5, Heb 4:12, James 2:4, James 4:11-12

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Earnest Rewards

Earnest Rewards
Oct 4, 2010
Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

Read this Scripture slowly: "And without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

If you are reading this devotional, it is doubtful you disbelieve that God exists. We all know there is a God and He is at least somewhere "out there," probably up in Heaven. For many, this is the extent of their Christianity. They believe He exists but they don't believe what He says. This is true of you and me, more often than not. While you might argue your Christianity goes further than merely believing God exists, your actions probably do not prove otherwise. My actions don't prove otherwise; If I believed all of God's words, I would believe this scripture with all of my heart. You would, too. We would read this scripture, believe it, and achieve it. But we don't. For some reason, we don't want to please God, we don't want to earnestly seek Him, and we don't want a reward. Well, maybe. We at least want the reward part.

Everyone in our society wants a reward. We live in a place and time where we feel we deserve something, a prize, a present, a gift, a reward for simply being "me." It is the selfish dogma of electronic social networking, focusing on our own "tweets" or "blogs," believing we should get a prize. I tweet therefore I should be rewarded-- rewarded with friendship, notoriety, and the blessings that follow. No where is this found in Scripture. In fact, Scripture teaches the complete opposite of being selfish, which is opposite of how most of us live. We are not supposed to live to please ourselves but we are to live to please the Lord. That is kind of why He created us in the first place, to bring glory and honor to Him, to please Him. It takes faith to do that, faith to please Him. This is a bizarre concept; it doesn't take money or service to please God; it takes faith. It doesn't take tweets and blogs; it takes faith. Pleasing God is actually rather simple. But after we have faith, the kind of faith that pleases God, He gives a neat little formula for us to follow so we may go ahead and get a reward anyway.

The formula is actually a promise. If we do our part, He will do His. The formula, after we have pleasing faith, is to seek Him and believe. If we seek Him and believe, then He will reward us. So, we actually have to DO something to achieve a reward. We don't get rewarded for simply being "me," we get rewarded based on sincerity of actions, the sincerely of our "seek and believe." That reward, though, is not clearly defined in the Bible. If you interpret the Scripture correctly, the reward is based on what is being sought. If you dig for oil and are rewarded, you have found oil. If you pan for gold and are rewarded, you have found gold. If you earnestly seek God and are rewarded, you have found God.

Wow, to find God. We believe He exists and is somewhere "out there," at least up in Heaven. But to find God, wow. If I was walking down the street and I physically bumped into God, I would take out my cell phone, pull up my camera app, take His picture, and tweet to the world that I FOUND GOD, literally. But none of us do that because none of us has truly found God. We don't find Him on the street because we aren't earnestly, diligently seeking to find Him. We aren't digging for God as if for oil. We aren't panning for God as if for gold. We aren't daily on our knees in prayer, earnestly seeking to find His face, the face of the one true God, the face of the one who can set us free, the one who can heal our diseases, the one who can heal our land, the one who can make us whole. Because if we did this, we WOULD find Him. We would achieve the ultimate reward: the fulfillment of all that is lacking in our lives, because we would find God.

This is why the Scripture doesn't say what the reward is; when we seek God we will simply be rewarded. To name a specific reward in Scripture would be to limit what God could give us. Instead, He gives us EVERYTHING. When we find God, we have found the answers to ALL our problems. We will find ALL that we are missing in life. We search and work in this world in an effort to fulfill all that is empty within us, to make full all that is lacking, to satisfy the stomach of desire in our lives. But anything that is lacking in our lives could be had if we find God. You can have that reward; you get it by seeking for God with all your heart, mind, and soul.

We are all lacking in our lives, because we haven't TRULY found God.

1. What does "pleasing faith" mean to you?
2. How could you start earnestly seeking God?
3. What would it look like if you truly found God?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 2 Chron 7:14, Ps 14:2, Ps 53:2, Pr 28:5, Is 45:19, Is 51:1, Jer 29:13, Hosea 5:15, Amos 5:4, Acts 17:27

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kickin' Against

Kickin' Against
Sept 27, 2010
Acts 26:14 ". . .'It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'"

A "goad" is a familiar thing if you are either cattle or a cowman. For simplicity's sake, a goad is a cattle prod, meant to spur the oxen or cattle forward during their work in the plow. A goad is sharp and is sharpened often, to keep it intact for its intended purpose. If the cattle do not move forward in their work, the farmer makes sure to spur them on with the goad. A cow or ox might be tempted to kick against the goad, but this would result in the cow being bloodied by its own doing. It is never wise to kick against the goad. In Scripture, God is likened to a farmer or shepherd who uses a goad to prod us forward in the direction He wants us to go in our lives and work. In one particular instance recorded in the book of Acts, God directly asked Saul why he was kicking against where God wanted him to go. God's question was meant to make Saul think, think about God's work in His life and the direction God wanted Saul to take.

God does this same thing with you and me. He leads us in a direction for our lives but if we fight it, we end up kicking against the goad, which leaves us a little bloodied. While you might not think you are directly resisting God, you may be fighting the work He is trying to do in your life. Think of an uncomfortable situation in your life that you are just not able to shake, something you'd like to get rid of, never having to deal with it again. Well, this may be God at work in your life, trying to teach you a valuable lesson. If you don't stop to learn and instead kick against the situation, you may be kicking against God's work in your life. I'm not asking you to enjoy the situation, but if you're in it, you may as well become a better person through it. God is at work in everything you do, Christian, and it is up to you to make sure you submit to God in all things.

The Bible says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." This means God is at work in your life, working for your good, even in the situation you are dealing with right now. While you might not like it, God wants to use this situation right now to make you a better person, more useful to God because of these skills and abilities you are learning. He will use your new found skills for His glory in the work you are to do. Resist the situation and you are resisting God. Just ask the apostle Peter, who didn't like the path that God was going to take. Jesus rebuked him for it and said, "Get behind me, Satan." Peter was corrected for kicking against the goad, leaving him a little bloodied.

But a goad is also a helpful thing, not just a sharp pointy thing meant to keep you in line. The farmer uses it to move the cattle forward in their work. God uses it to keep you moving forward for Him. You may feel insecure about your work for the Lord, but He wants you working for Him, in the direction He has you. He has work for you to do, every one of you, even if you're not a pastor or missionary. Don't be insecure about whether you will succeed or not, just submit yourself to the yoke and allow the Lord to move you forward. Don't kick against success. After Peter received his rebuke from the Lord, Peter went on to have a very successful ministry. At one point, he was going to be killed for his ministry but someone stepped forward and actually spoke up for Peter. This man who spoke up was one of Peter's adversaries but said, "'Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.'"

Paul's adversary knew of resisting God. He knew that if you kick against the goads you would end up bloodied. Though he did not appreciate Peter, he respected God's work, and therefore Peter's work. Peter had a successful ministry because he stopped kicking against the goads. He submitted to God and what God had for him and because of it, had one of the most successful careers for the Lord. Likewise, you might be insecure about moving forward, but if it is from the Lord, nothing can stop it, not even you.

1. In what situation in life are you finding yourself a little bloodied?
2. Where do you need to submit to God and learn a few lessons in order to make you a better person?
3. How can you then submit to God's future work for your life, giving you an amazing success story?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 1 Sam 13:21, Ecc 12:11, Matt 11:29-30, Matt 16:23, Mark 8:33, Acts 5:38-39, Romans 8:28, Eph 2:10, Phil 2:13

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Name of Blessing

Name of Blessing
Sept 20, 2010
1 Chronicles 4:9 ". . . His mother had named him Jabez, saying, 'I gave birth to him in pain.'"

Many people are familiar with the "prayer of Jabez," due to a book with the same name. The prayer of Jabez is a simple prayer found in 1 Chronicles 4.
"Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain."

There was a reason Jabez prayed this prayer; it was because of his name. "Jabez" means, and sounds like, the Hebrew word for "pain." His mother, who is nameless in the Bible (hypothetically, her name might have been Budala) gave birth to him in pain and decided to name him such to commemorate the day. Evidently, his name stuck, because he prayed earnestly that he would not have such pain the rest of his life. Children must have teased him when he was younger, maybe even ridiculed him. Somehow he became what his name meant. He did not want to be a pain; he wanted to be a blessing. Budala's words came true for her son.

For Hebrews, naming a person was important; they always chose names with significant meanings. God even renamed people in the Bible; it was THAT critical. If God had an important meaning or blessing to bestow upon someone, He would change their name to suit. Names carried with them a blessing, and in the case of Jabez, a curse. This is made clear for us when Jacob (whom God renamed Israel) was blessing his children before he died. He bestowed a blessing on each of them, or prophecy for their lives, which became their legacies. Each legacy came true. You didn't want to be the sons Simeon or Levi and instead, would prefer to be Judah or Joseph. These blessings, that their names carried, went on for generations.

While you may argue that generational curses are moot in the eye of the New Testament, your words still have the power to curse someone or enable a blessing. The brother of Jesus, James, said that each of us has that power, the power to curse, with a simple weapon, the tongue. Jesus even said you can move a mountain by telling it to go into the sea. Whether you know it or not, your words have the power of life and death; you can speak life or death directly into someone's life. If you want to speak a blessing into someone's life, try it with their name. While names aren't necessarily magical, if you give someone a name with an intended meaning, you are praying that meaning over their life every time you say their name. When choosing to name your child, pick one with a name of blessing you'd like to give them. If there are people you would like to see blessed, trying giving them a new name, maybe even keep it a secret and just pray that name over their lives. Jesus renamed several people, giving them names with important meanings He wanted to bestow upon them.

Conversely, if you call someone a bad name, even in your anger, you are cursing them with it, whether you truly mean to or not. The Bible says you are not to call someone a "fool," as carries with it a curse all on its own, a curse to the speaker of the poor word. You may think name calling is harmless, but that is not the case, just ask someone who is old and bitter from hurtful words spoken to them when he or she was a child. Words can stay with you and even shape your life, especially name calling.

All my children were named in the traditional Hebrew fashion. We gave them names with important meanings dear to our hearts. I pray every day I would live up to the meaning of my own name. The name "Adam" means "dirt." Oh, that I would become less so God could become more in my life. Jabez's mother spoke a curse on his life by calling him "Pain." He had to work very hard in prayer to overcome his mother's curse. Incidentally . . . "Budala" . . . means foolish; don't name your child that.

1. What prayer of blessing do you want spoken over your life? What name carries with it the meaning of that blessing you'd like to have?
2. What foolish words have you spoken over other peoples' lives, consequently cursing them?
3. How can you turn the curses of your life into a blessing, like Jabez?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Gen 49, Ps 64:3, Pr 10:31, Pr 12:18, Matt 5:21-23, Mark 11, John 1:42, Acts 13:9, James 3

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sword of the Spirit

Sword of the Spirit
Sept 13, 2010
Ephesians 6:17 "Take the . . . sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. "

In Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus, he makes them (and us) aware of the spiritual battle around us, instructing us all to put on God's armor. The armor, having several critical pieces to it, helps us combat the devil. Specifically, we are to put on the armor to "stand against the devil's schemes." Satan's schemes are this: to separate you from God, both now and in eternity. He does this by using any desperate and crafty tactic possible, the chief of which are lies. Satan is described in the Bible as being the father of lies: deceiving for the purpose of causing harm to those who believe his lies. He is so talented, in his lies, that we can rarely distinguish between his lies and the truth. He is that good at it. No matter how discerning you are, it is often difficult to distinguish his lies from the truth.

Because Satan is THAT talented at deceiving us, we are to constantly be alert and, with the armor, to fight against Satan in his efforts. In putting on the armor, our only weapon we are instructed to fight with is a sword, the Sword of the Spirit. Back when Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, he was well aware of the armor used in battle; he had intimate knowledge of many Roman soldiers. Paul knew that soldiers, when going into battle, didn't take just one weapon. Yes, they took a sword along with them, but they also took daggers, bows and arrows, maybe a mace, axes, cleavers, etc. There were many weapons available to the soldiers during Paul's time, and they were usually proficient with several. Paul names several pieces to the armor of God available to us, but only one weapon. Armor is intended to protect the soldier, but a weapon is intended to inflict harm on the opposing party. Paul only gives us one weapon in our spiritual battle, and it is a very specific weapon, the Sword of the Spirit. Evidently, only one weapon was needed.

Paul even goes so far as to elaborate on what that weapon, the Sword of the Spirit, is. The Sword of the Spirit is the word of God. This 'word' is the past and present voice and promises of God. It is far bigger than simply the Scriptures as used in a historical context. The word of God is truth used to combat Satan's lies. God's word is active, meaning it is alive. Paul was aware of God's imminence in our lives and of His active communication with us, not only through the written Scriptures but also through His voice of truth spoken to our hearts. We are to arm ourselves with this; it is our only weapon. Consequently, it is the only weapon needed to defeat Satan's schemes. The way to defeat Satan in our lives is to speak the word of God; against this truth Satan has no lie.

It is interesting, though, that after Paul instructs us to arm ourselves with the word of God, we are to told to take one specific action. Right after we have put on the full armor of God, and we take up our one and only weapon, we are immediately told to pray. "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 saints." We aren't told to run against Satan in battle, looking for a fight; we are told to "stand and pray." Why would Paul tell us to arm ourselves for battle but declare that the only action we are to take is to pray? This doesn't make sense. Well, it doesn't make sense unless we take our weapon with us in prayer. We are to take the word of God and use it as our chief tool in prayer, prayer for ourselves and intercessory prayer for others (who need help in fighting Satan, as well). Our prayer should be based on the word of God, in accordance with His truths and promises.

It is critical, then, if you are to arm yourself with God's word, that you actually know what God's word is. How familiar are you with the Bible, I mean really familiar with the word? Can you quote it? Can you explain its meaning to others? Do you hear from God on a daily basis? If you can't say "Yes" with enthusiasm on all counts, then you won't do very well in battle against Satan, against the very talented liar.

1. What specific Scriptures do you use in your prayer life?
2. How often do you intercede, with God's promises, for others?
3. Try praying these specific truths every day, for yourself and others: Numbers 6:22-26, Ps 139:14, Is 54:17, Rom 8:28, Phil 4:13.
4. What other verses should you be praying every day?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: 2 Chron 7:14, Matt 4:4, John 8:44, Rom 8:27, Eph 6:10-18

Monday, September 6, 2010

Broken Body

Broken Body
Sept 7, 2010
1 Corinthians 11:24 "and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."

Within the elements of Communion there is a great deal of symbolism. Jesus, at the famous Last Supper, shared the first Communion with His disciples, giving them a drink of wine and a broken piece of bread. He told them it was a representation of Himself and they were now partaking of that representation upon themselves. It was a way of identifying themselves with Jesus' actions on the cross, the spilling of His blood and the brokenness of His body. Most of us understand the representation of the blood, the shedding of His blood to cover our sins. But few of us understand the depth of meaning in His body, or the broken piece of bread. Fortunately, the apostle Paul speaks volumes with us on "The Body," but we seldom take it all in, especially in the context of Communion.

Paul asked the early Christians a rhetorical question, "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" He asked it that way because the answer was obviously "Yes," but the early Christians were not applying the symbolism correctly. Paul sandwiches his discussion on the symbolism of Communion between two large discussions on "The Body." To understand "The Body" in Communion, you must understand "The Body" in all that Paul discusses in the chapters before and after the verse pertaining to Communion. Paul assumes you already read the first half of his letter to the Corinthians BEFORE you got to the point about Communion and he assumes you'll keep reading AFTER that specific point, not simply take one line out of context.

Before the discussion on Communion, Paul tells us that the human body is something that we are to put into submission, making it do what we WANT it to do, rather than allowing the body to submit to the human nature: "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." Paul is saying that he puts his personal self aside and works unto the Lord, for the Lord's plans, not his own. He said this to tell us that our lives are a part of the work of God's plan for mankind and we are to participate in this no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable it seems. This is meant to invoke empathy, as Jesus suffered on the cross, through the torture of His body. As we share in the Body of Christ through Communion, we willingly share in any hardship of our lives, if it means accomplishing God's plan for mankind on this earth. Paul later said this specifically, ". . .the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives." Similar to Christ's suffering to accomplish God's plan, we will participate in that suffering on this earth if we allow ourselves to be used for God's plans. When we take Communion, we acknowledge that this is the case, whether we like it or not. Jesus gave us the worst case scenario with His actions on the cross; we are to follow suit.

An additional consideration in "The Body" through Communion is the actual breaking of the bread. When Jesus broke the first bread, it was a social event, communal, shared with others. Paul reaffirms this when he says, "Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf." Communion was meant to be a corporate acknowledgment suggesting the fact that we are all in this together, each one of us. All the broken pieces of the bread can come together to make a full loaf of bread. We are all those broken pieces, simply parts of the whole. Paul's comments about "pieces of the whole" lead right in to his discussion on being members of one body but having different functions. Paul writes, "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." This is meant to further instill in us the imagery of all fitting together. There are no solo Christians, just the Body of Christ; we are the members of that body.

When we partake in Communion, we are saying that we are the body of Christ and we share in His sufferings to accomplish God's plan. If this doesn't sit well with you, then don't drink of the cup during Communion or acknowledge that His blood is what gives you forgiveness for your sins. You can't have one without the other, the blood and the body go hand-in-hand. Just as we eagerly accept the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we must eagerly accept His broken body as an example for our possible suffering in the face of God's plan for mankind.

To understand Paul's explanation thoroughly, read straight through from 1 Corinthians 6:15 through 1 Corinthians 12:30. Ignore the headings in the Bible for now, because Paul didn't put those in his original letters. All the apostles understood this; John, Paul, James, Peter, and the author of Hebrews all wrote about sharing in Christ's sufferings, or His broken body through which Communion is symbolic.

1. What has been your understanding of "The Body" in Communion?
2. How much emphasis have you placed on the blood versus your emphasis on the body in Communion? Are they equal?
3. How can you apply this clearer understanding of "The Body" into your everyday life?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Rom 8:17, 1 Cor 9:27, 1 Cor 10:16-17, 1 Cor 12:12, 2 Cor 1:7, 2 Cor 4:10, Phil 3:10, 2 Tim 1:8, Heb 2:10, 1 Peter 2:19, 1 Peter 4:12, Rev 1:9

Sunday, August 29, 2010

300 Unlikely Spartans

300 Unlikely Spartans
August 30, 2010
Judges 7:7 "The LORD said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place."

In the famous battle of Thermopylae, 300 Spartans are depicted as heroes. But the funny thing is, they lost and they all died. The King of Persia, Xerxes, marched against the Greeks roughly 480 years before Jesus walked the earth. Xerxes allegedly had "millions" of men in his army; for arguments sake, we'll say a lot of men, too many to count. The Greeks had about 7,000 men; clearly they were outnumbered. They were outnumbered by over 275:1. When it came time to concede defeat, 300 Spartans decided to stay behind and hold Xerxes off as long as possible (with the aid of 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans). Despite losing the battle, the 300 Spartans were touted as heroes because they were truly fighting men among men, career warriors who lasted longer than anyone else.

There was different battle though, also with an army of 300, that had a better outcome. They were not career warriors or fighting men, they were Israelites. The Midianites were oppressing the Israelites for far too long so God chose Gideon to lead the battle against them. Thirty two thousand men showed up to fight with Gideon. But listen to what God said about those 32,000 men, "You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into [your] hands." God did not want the army to be the victors; He was clear that He wanted to be the cause of the mighty win. So, God chose unlikely methods to whittle down the army to 300 unlikely men, men who were too afraid to get on their hands and knees to get dirty.

The Israelites faced a vast army; scripture says the battle was about 135,000 to 300. They were outnumbered 450:1; clearly the odds were not in Israel's favor (worse than the Greeks at Thermopylae). Remember, they did have these 300 special men with their "amazing" weapons. They were armed with trumpets, jars of clay, and torches. Yep, that's right, not even a shovel or pickax among them. These men were inadequate, otherwise God would not have distinguished the men as "men that lapped." If they were truly akin to 300 Spartans, God would have called them "men of valor" or "fighting men," but instead they were the "men that lapped." Read it in Judges 7.

God said He did not want Israel to boast in the victory. He wanted it to be clear to everyone that God was in charge and God caused the win. God still works this way; He does not want you to think you did it on your own. You may feel inadequate, maybe even a failure, but that's when God likes to step in and help. He doesn't want to help you win the battle, He wants to win it for you. You may have tried on your own and failed, you may have messed things up so the victory seems rather impossible, but that's okay. God delights in a challenge; He likes showing you His mighty strength over the situation that seems impossible. You may be facing an impossible battle, but despite how ill-equipped you are, it is the Lord who is able to win the victory. Basically, if you can breathe, you can still be victorious with God.

God caused the 300 unlikely men to win the battle that day, because He fought for them. The 300 Spartans should not be touted as heroes, the real heroes are the 300 unlikely men who trusted in the Lord to win the battle for them. Any man who can trust in the Lord to fight for him, THAT is a mighty man. I'd rather face the entire world with God on my side than stand against even one person on my own. God is able to give you victory over your situation right now, but you've got to stop fighting it on your own and let Him fight for you. And when you win, make sure you do not boast in your own efforts. Give all the praise and honor of the victory to God. He deserves the credit; He's the real victor.

God wants to win your battle, but He may ask you to lessen your arsenal so the odds are clearly against you. Then He can make that mighty win, the one where it is obvious you didn't really do anything on your own or even had a chance.

1. In what areas of your life are you still trying to gain the victory on your own?
2. How can you step back and let God win the battle for you while you give Him the praise?
3. What unlikely areas are you still willing to let God have the victory over?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Deut 1:30, Judges 7, Judges 8:10-11, Malachi 3:6, Matt 24:35, 2 Cor 10:4

Sunday, August 22, 2010

God is Ignoring You

God is Ignoring You
Aug 23, 2010
Judges 6:13 ". . . "if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the LORD has abandoned us. . ."

Gideon and the children of Israel were feeling ignored by God, even abandoned. The Midianites were oppressing them and there was nothing the Israelites could do about it. The Israelites had to go so far as to hide from those who were taking advantage of them and destroying their hard work. Gideon was hiding in a wine press, one particular day, when an angel appeared to him and said, "The Lord is with you." It is interesting to note Gideon's response. He said, "If the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about." Gideon spoke his true feelings about God's hand in everything; he felt ignored and abandoned by God when it truly mattered. If God was with him, then why were the Israelites being persecuted by the Midianites? Gideon had the same perspective you and I would have had. We would wonder, "Where is God in all of this?"

Surely, there are times when you feel like God is not with you: those times when others hurt you, those times when you lose a job or a secure family structure, those times when others steal from you. IF God was truly with you, then those terrible, rotten, horrible, no good situations clearly would not have happened. Maybe you've served God and cried out to Him when it mattered the most, but it seemed He ignored you. It seemed as if He did not show His awesome wonders, like He did way back when, for the Israelites out of Egypt. We have all felt that way, and we are in good company with Gideon. Gideon knew what it felt like, to feel like God had left and was ignoring the opportunity to display His wonders.

God is not ignoring you and He has not abandoned you. If you are a child of God and you have called out to Him for help to no avail, it is not right to assume God is ignoring you or has abandoned you. Just because God does not do what you want, when you want it, does not mean He has decided to ignore you or abandon you. For Gideon, God's seeming abandonment was a timing and power issue, based on their sin. It wasn't God's time yet to display His power.

I've had a specific prayer request for seven years now, praying everyday for God to intervene. On two separate occasions I have fasted for three days. On one occasion, I have fasted for seven days, taking no food or drink, other than water. During those times, I PRAYED. But God has still not answered me. God is not ignoring me and God has not abandoned me. On the contrary, God is with me. Christian, God is with you. Even though you don't see God act the way you think He should, it does not mean God has left.

When we complain that God is ignoring us, we are suggesting that God is errantly executing His perfect plan for us and mankind. Check for sin in your life and then wait for God. It is more likely that God has decided an alternative to what you would like to see happen. It is more likely that it ISN'T GOD'S TIME YET! It is more likely that God's perfect plan is different than yours. Go back to Gideon's conversation with the angel. The angel declared the Lord was with Gideon, before Gideon's situation was resolved. The angel didn't say, "The Lord WILL be with you and then your situation will resolve." The angel of the Lord said, "The Lord IS with you." The Lord was with Gideon at that moment and long before Gideon's situation was ever righted. The Lord never abandoned him and God was certainly not ignoring him.

Christian, God IS with you even though your situation is not righted yet. He is not ignoring you and you have not been abandoned. The Lord is with you.

1. What areas in your life seem ignored by God, that need righted?
2. How can you gain perspective on God's perfect plan and timing, even if your situations are never righted?
3. How can you trust that God IS with you, even when you don't FEEL like He is with you?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Deut 31:8, Judges 6, Ps 9:10, Ps 37:28, Ps 94:14, Is, 55:9, Jer 2:19, Rom 8:28, Heb 13:5

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Greater Than Great

Greater Than Great
August 16, 2010
Col 3:23-24 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

God wants you to be great. Well, sort of. He wants you to do great things, but He is not interested in your status or your standing with others. His greatness is intended for you in Heaven, not here on earth. If you've been a Christian for any length of time, you've undoubtedly heard that God has great things in store for you. This is true, but it is easy to misunderstand what those "great" things are. When you become a Christian and decide to serve Him, He unfolds His plans for you and your life, what He needs and wants you to do for Him. These plans and works that He has for you are the "great" things, that is, whatever He asks you to do. Funny thing is, you're unlikely to see the greatness in the things that He asks of you.

There was a great woman in the Bible, who lived in Israel at the time of Jesus' birth; her name was Anna. Anna was a prophetess (a woman of God who had a direct line of communication with the Heavenly Father). She was married when she was young and then widowed shortly thereafter. After becoming a widow, she dedicated her life to serving the Lord. All she did was pray and fast, fast and pray. She never left the temple, it says; she lived there for roughly sixty years. She interceded for us, for the children of God. She prayed to God for the benefit of us, for the deliverance of God's people through a Savior, Jesus the Christ. When Jesus was born, she spoke over His life and confirmed to those listening that He indeed was the Christ child. That was all she did. Really, it was rather uneventful, her accomplishments. She lived a boring life, and aside from seeing Jesus as a baby, she didn't get to see anything she worked for. But Anna was great. She did great things for God, because it was what God asked of her, nothing more, nothing less. She lived a lonely life, poor, and without great accomplishments in the eyes of man, but she was greater than great.

God's terms are not the same as ours. When we think greatness, we think big, magnanimous, enormous---even famous. But not so with God. His greatness for you will never be big, magnanimous, enormous, or even famous until you are in Heaven. Until that day, He wants you to be the least on this earth but working for Him. In fact, the less famous you are, the more you are probably accomplishing for God, since people will notice God and not you in all your efforts. The things you are doing for God are great, if it is what He has asked of you. That greatness will be revealed to you in Heaven, not on this earth. If you don't see the fruit in your efforts for Him, don't be discouraged. Just keep doing what God asks of you and it will be great.

You will never know the ripple effect that your work has on this earth. You might bump into a random person at the grocery store, have a three minute conversation about Christ, and never see that person again. But you might have planted a seed, a seed that leads to that person's salvation and possibly the salvation of that person's entire family. Maybe that person has a family member who gets saved and then goes on to become the pastor of the worlds largest church, seeing millions of people saved. All that because you simply did something so "great" as to have a three minute conversation with someone during your busy day.

The Prophetess Anna's prayers were heard by God, she interceded for many people and her work impacts your life to this day. It is quite probable that she prayed for the safety of Jesus' life when He was a young boy, during the time Herod was trying to kill Him. She would have been aware of the scriptures that foretold the threat on Jesus' life. Her prayers helped keep Jesus safe from Satan's grip all His days on this earth. Partly because of Anna's prayers, Jesus went on to give His life for you and me. Anna worked hard and did great things for God; she can look down from Heaven and see the impact her life has on yours right now (you're even still reading about her two thousand years later).

Do what God asks and it will be great; I promise. Don't be discouraged, though, if you don't see the greatness in what you're doing, especially if your work seems pointless. God will reveal your greatness someday, just not now.

1. What are you doing for the Lord?
2. Considering the things you've done for the Lord, how great do they seem?
3. How can you put fame aside in doing things for the Lord?

Don't take my word for it; study it for yourself: Psalm 131:1, Matt 2:13, Matt 11:11, Matt 18:4, Mark 9:33-35, Luke 2:36-38, Luke 9:48, Luke 22:23-26, 1 Cor 2:9, 2 Cor 4:18, Eph 2:10, Philippians 2:13

Sunday, August 8, 2010

You Offended Someone

You Offended Someone
August 9, 2010
Matthew 5:23-24 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift."

If you have ever had an interaction with another human being in your lifetime, chances are you have offended someone. Whether you intended to or not, you've made someone angry. You've spoken carelessly, you've made thoughtless actions, or maybe even purposefully sinned against another. It happens to everyone. No matter how genuine and purposeful you are in life toward others, someone was still offended by you at one time. This offense, whether intended or not, is now your responsibility. The offended person might be completely wrong in their interpretation of your words or actions; nonetheless, you now have an obligation toward him or her. You are obligated by Christ to make it right, as right as you can, even at the expense of your pride.

In Matthew chapter five, Christ was teaching a large crowd of people, giving them words to live by. As part of His instructions, He told them (and us today) if they offended another person, they needed to ensure things were made right between themselves and the offended party. Read His words slowly, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." We've all probably heard this scripture before, but there is more to understanding it fully, not simply apologizing for your wrongs. Jesus was saying that reconciliation with an offended person was just as important as bringing a gift or offering to the Lord. You should be reconciled to him or her, which means being in harmony with the other person, before He would even accept a gift from you.

The Scripture says the thought of reconciliation occurs while you might be making a gift to God. This original offering or gift is an act of praise and worship to God, but God does not want your praise if you are not at peace with others, especially if you are aware that your brother, sister, friend, neighbor has been offended by you. Jesus didn't say go to your brother to ask forgiveness for your sins. You might not have actually sinned or done anything wrong. It says, "your brother has something against you." The offense your brother has against you might not even be valid. You may have done nothing wrong; maybe the only thing you did was wake up this morning, but it frustrated someone. It is your job, if you are aware, to go to that person and figure out how you can be at harmony with him. While you might feel this is being an emotional slave to another human being, it is still your responsibility to see if there is anything you can do to make it right. Maybe your actions were pure, but someone took them the wrong way. This is still an offense the other person has against you. It requires reconciliation.

When you go to be reconciled to the offended person, you must take responsibility for the fact that your actions, whether intended or not, had an adverse affect on someone else. Make every effort to be at peace with the other. To be reconciled, you might have to give a little, something that you don't necessarily feel you need to give. There is a point to this. Jesus said to be reconciled before giving your gift to God. You must be willing to give to another human being before you can give to God; this, in itself, is an act of worship to the Father, especially if it means laying down your pride. In doing this, He will now accept your personal gift or praise unto Himself as true worship.

It takes humility to go to another and admit that your actions hurt them or their feelings. It takes a big person to make every effort to make things right, even if you did nothing wrong. This is the bigger gift to God, far bigger than the one you were bringing to Him in the first place.

1. Who is holding a grudge against you?
2. Who have you offended someone, though you didn't actually do anything wrong?
3. How can you be at peace with others before you worship God?

Don't take my word for it; study it for yourself: Matt 5:9, Rom 14:19, Eph 4:3, Heb 12:14, James 3:18

Sunday, August 1, 2010

God Tempted Me

God Tempted Me
August 2, 2010
James 1:13 "When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;"

The most famous miracle Jesus ever performed was his very first one. Jesus was attending a wedding reception with His disciples when the host ran out of drink for his guests. The host had plenty of water, but had run out of wine to serve. Jesus was asked by his mother, Mary, to do something. Soon, Jesus had performed His first documented miracle and turned 120 gallons of water into 120 gallons of fermented alcoholic grape beverage (wine). This is the modern day equivalent of over 600 bottles of wine. While you may debate whether it was alcoholic drink, if it were not, why then would one of the wedding guests say, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now," if it was simply grape juice? No, it was alcoholic drink.

This miracle sets up a great opportunity for sin. While most every Christian would not debate that being an alcoholic is a sin, many argue that sipping one glass of wine is worthy of judgment. Why would God set the wedding guests up to sin through Jesus' first miracle? Why would God provide the vehicle to sin if it actually was a sin to drink one glass of alcohol? God didn't. God does not tempt man to sin; therefore Jesus did not provide that temptation to sin by giving the guests alcoholic beverages. Jesus knew what people would do with the wine. He knew they would drink it. Jesus intended for the wine to be consumed. If it was a sin to drink one glass of wine, then Jesus would not have turned the water into wine. While this opens up a debate for many Christians who vow not to drink alcoholic beverages, it is not a sin. The sin associated with alcohol is the uncontrolled use of the alcohol, drunkenness. Being drunk is a sin, but drinking a glass of wine is not.

Drunkenness is an issue of self-control. Another example of a self-control sin is gluttony, spoken harshly about in the Bible. No one would suggest eating food is a sin, but we've all indulged too much on more than one occasion. This is the same sin associated with alcohol, only alcohol is a substance that causes one to lose ALL self control after more than a few sips. Much is the same with heroin. We would all argue that using heroin is sinful, but morphine is an important by-product of heroin, used in many critical medications. All has been created by God; it is man that uses it poorly.

This still does not mean you should consume alcohol every day and in any way. Since alcohol, in many cultures, presents a negative stigma of sin, it is wise to avoid it in many situations and circumstances. Some people's faith suggests that alcohol is still a sin because of what mankind has done with it. Therefore, in their presence, you should not drink wine, as it could cause them to stumble. "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved." This was a directive written by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians.

You do have the freedom to consume alcohol. Paul tells you this before he warns you to stay away from it in many situations. He said, "Everything is permissible—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others." Your job, then, in consuming alcohol is to drink responsibly. Drinking responsibly in the Christian sense is void of the argument of drunkenness (since that IS a sin). Drinking responsibly means ensuring you are not drinking in an act of rebellion, not breaking any laws, not losing self control, and not consuming in front of others who would be offended by it. For this reason, many have chosen to avoid it altogether. It is far easier to not sin if you don't engage in any activities that could lead you to sin. I will not tell you it is a sin to drink one glass of wine. I will tell you that it can lead to a great amount of sinning if you aren't one who has a large amount of self-control. If you've never overeaten in your life, then you probably aren't at much risk for sinning while drinking a glass of wine. But for the rest of us (basically EVERYONE), who lose self control at large meals, we should tread very cautiously.

1. How can you view alcohol as a creation of God?
2. How can you ensure you maintain self-control no matter what you are doing?
3. How can you ensure you aren't offending other Christians by your actions?

Don't take my word for it; study it for yourself: Pr 23:2, Pr 25:28, John 2:1-22, Rom 13:13, Gal 5:22-24, 1 Cor 10:18-33, 1 Tim 3:2, 2 Tim 3:3, Titus 2:2