Sunday, September 30, 2012

Conformed Into Christ

Read: Mark 4:14-20

“Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” – Colossians 3:10

I love to witness to people, but I often succumb to discouragement when they reject a personal relationship with the One who loves them more than life itself. Even with Jesus as God in the flesh walking among them, they still rejected Him. His own siblings did not believe He was the Christ until after His resurrection. This dismissal of Jesus, then and now, puzzled me until my pastor husband reminded me of Mark 4:14-20, which chronicles the four types of soil into which we sow the seed of God’s truth

Some people that we witness to receive God’s Word like seed sown alongside the highway. Satan comes along with his sly deception and snatches the seed away. The second type of person has a stony heart, and though they joyfully receive our witness, they never develop deep roots. Therefore, when trouble or persecution comes they blame God for their misfortune and fall away. The third group is so enmeshed in the thorny worries and cares of the world, or the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for carnal lusts and earthly possessions that their preoccupation chokes the seed of truth they received, making it unfruitful.

Only one-fourth of our audience actually possesses fertile soil, which is tilled and ready to receive the seed of the Gospel of Christ. Only these people are ready to take His Words to heart (1 Peter 1:13-14). They accept God’s truth and allow us to disciple them, until they in turn start to disciple others and to produce a spiritual crop of their own. Making disciples actually begins prior to Salvation, when we first share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with someone. Once they accept Jesus’ sacrifice for them on Calvary’s cross, we can encourage them to continue growing in Christ though the sanctification process, until they are "conformed to the image of God’s Son" (Romans 8:29).

What does it mean to be conformed to Christ’s image? From birth, we bore the likeness of a carnal, worldly, earthly person. Once we are Born Again by the Spirit of God, we take on the image of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:49). God raises us with Christ from the death caused by sin. We reflect the glory of the Lord as the Holy Spirit transforms us into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are renewed in the image of our Creator (Colossians 3:10). As we pursue eternal, heavenly concerns and focus on the things of God rather than temporal, earthly ideals and goals, we die to self and our life is then hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3).

Sanctification means holiness. God chose us as a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people. He called us out of the darkness of a sin-filled life into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9; 2 Timothy 1:9). We must put off the old nature with its self-centered deeds before we can put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:24). Then, He wants us to live a life worthy of Him, one that pleases Him in every way and bears the fruit of good works as we grow in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:12). God desires for us to live like the Holy One who called us, to be holy in all of our behavior; because God declares, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Lord Jesus, every person we share the gospel with is given a choice to accept or reject You. I know this is important, because You never send judgment without a warning first. Please move by Your Spirit to draw all who hear Your Truth to make a decision to serve You with their lives. Help us not to grow weary in reaching out to those You place in our path. Send those to us who are searching for Your seed of truth. Help us to disciple and faithfully nurture and encourage them, so that this seed of truth produces more fruit in their lives and in the lives of all of those, which they disciple.

Thought for the Day:
A true relationship with God does not develop from a one-time repentance of sin, water baptism or a quick silent prayer. It is a lifetime commitment to grow spiritually into the fullness of the stature of Christ.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Perfect Parent

The Perfect Father

Read: Acts 17:24-28

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.”  – Ephesians 5:1

God is grossly misrepresented by those who do not know Him. He is not distant and angry, but He is the complete expression of pure love. It is His desire to lavish His love on us always and unconditionally, simply because we are His children and He is our Father (John 8:41-4; 1 John 3:1, 4:16). God offers me more than my earthly father ever could, because He is the perfect parent.

From one man, Adam, God made all the nations, which inhabit the whole earth. He marked out the nations’ appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that we would all seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. In fact, once we admit we are a sinner, call on Jesus to save us and surrender our life to God’s will, we live and move and have our being in Him (Acts 17:24-28).

God promises that as we delight in Him, He puts His desires in our heart (Psalm 37:4). He is able to do more for us than we could ever possibly imagine (Deuteronomy 4:29; Philippians 2:13; Ephesians 3:20). God is our greatest encourager. He is also the Father who comforts us in all our troubles. When we are brokenhearted, He is close to us. As a shepherd carries a lamb, He carries us close to His heart (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 40:11).

Every good and perfect gift that we receive comes from His hand. He is our provider and He meets all of our needs (Matthew 7:11, 5:48, James 1:17, Matthew 6:31-33). God will never stop doing good things for us, because we are His treasured possession. He desires with all of His heart and soul to provide for us. If we seek Him with all of our heart, He promises that we will find Him. He wants to show us great and marvelous things, which we cannot even imagine (Jeremiah 32:40; Exodus 19:5; Jeremiah 32:41, 33:3).

Father God, I confess that too often I blame You rather than praise You. You are so different from my earthly parents. You will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and You care about all of our needs (1 Peter 5:7). I forgive my parents for their failings. They are only human, as I am. We all need Your love and forgiveness. I am so thankful, however, that I have You as my perfect Father, because You love me perfectly. You meet all my needs according to Your riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). Forgive me for my sins and draw me ever closer to Your heart.

Thought for the Day:
Our Father God is the only perfect parent; so relax and enjoy your children.

Thank you, Debby Reynolds, for the use of your photo.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Glory of the Lord Will Rise Within Us

Read: 2 Corinthians 3:7-9

“Let him who glories, glory in the Lord.” - 1 Corinthians1:31

The body of every Born Again Believer is the temple of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 6:19). When God moves in and dwells within us, we reflect His glory to the world around us (2 Corinthians 3:18). We were created for His glory and everything we do, even if it is as simple as what we eat and drink, is all done for the glory of God (Isaiah 43:7; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

The good news is that Jesus demolished our need to strive to be good by His death on the cross. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and God’s exact representation (Hebrews 1:3). We actually died with Christ and our life is now hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). Our hope is in the glory of the Lord (Romans 5:2). When Christ, who is our life, appears to set up His Kingdom on the earth, then we also will appear with Him in glory (Colossians 3:4). As we live in unity with Him, and enter into His rest, His glory is manifested in us and through us (Isaiah 60:1; Luke 10:27; Acts 1:8).

Once we surrender our life to God through faith in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God moves in. He guides us and fills us with the fruit of His Spirit. As love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, self-control and faith permeate our personality, the glory of God is manifested through us (Galatians 5:22-23). Daily, we grow more like Christ by the transforming work of His power within us (Romans 8:30). Therefore, God’s glory grows more radiant in us as well.

We can do nothing to create these conditions in our life. If we try, there is a danger that people will label us as a hypocrite, because our flesh and spirit war against one another. Until the sanctifying process does its perfect work in us, we all slip out of the Spirit and into the flesh from time to time, especially if we try to live the Christian life in our own strength. We humans love delusion and we often seek false gods (Psalm 4:2). We veer off the straight and narrow road and join the masses on the wide road to destruction.

The remedy for this is to enter into God’s rest. In this place of peace, we cease from our striving (Hebrews 4:10-11). We focus instead on ministering from the perspective of our rest in Christ (Hebrews 4:3). We enter His rest simply by surrendering to the Holy Spirit within us. Then, God takes our negative thoughts and transforms them into the mind of Christ. Our behavior is influenced by our thoughts, so it too is renewed. We end up with a calm confidence in the power and position we have with Christ living within us, which is actually our hope of living in glory for eternity (Colossians 1:27).
When we live to the praise of our Father, everyone recognizes that His glory is manifested in and through us (Philippians 1:11). All of us, who had that veil of sin removed from our eyes through faith in Christ, can now see and reflect the glory of the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord makes us more and more like Jesus each day, and we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18). As we surrender our will to God’s, draw near to Him and obey his calling on our life, we abound in and are filled with the fruits of our right standing with God. Now He can do more through us than we could ever manage on our own.

Lord Jesus, You are the Word of God, and yet you became a human being and made Your home among us. You are full of unfailing love and faithfulness. We see Your glory revealed in our lives as the Spirit does His sanctifying work within us. May we always reflect Your glory as we fulfill Your purpose for us during our lifetime.

Thought for the Day:
“So if the old way of the law, which has been replaced by the Spirit, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new life through the Holy Spirit, which remains forever!” – 2 Corinthians 3:8

Thank you, Jean Frank, for the use of your photo.



Thursday, September 27, 2012

Grasping or Receiving

Read: Ephesians 3:20-21

“To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” – Philippians 4:20

I used to grasp at God's gifts, jumping into the air to grab them out of His hands! I never could reach them, however. The more I demanded the further back God stepped. His face grew solemn and His pleasure in me diminished. He wanted to give me the gift. He already had it wrapped and prepared just for me, but my attitude grieved His heart. He had to withhold his blessings from me and to try again another day to interact with me.

I lived in frustration. I saw the gifts…peace, joy, honor, stability, kindness, financial security and cherishing love. They rested in God’s hands just a few short feet from my reach. I wanted them so much. I yearned for them. I clutched at them repeatedly, but I never quite attained them. They stood aloof, just a bit further than my arms could reach.

Then, I learned what God yearned for from me all along. He did not want me to grasp, but to receive His gifts. He wanted me to sit quietly with expectancy, my hands open, but waiting patiently in my lap. He desired for me to want Him more than His gifts, to light up in His presence, not simply because of His presents. He taught me to live in the moment as He gave it to me, rather than living in regret over the past or hungry for abundance in the future.

The result of learning this lesson is that my Heavenly Father now spoils me rotten. I receive priceless gifts from His hands many times throughout the day. The first was serenity, which I originally looked for in all the wrong places with all the wrong people. Achievement, which I once took for granted, took on a precious new aura now, because I actually felt the power of God’s Spirit using me. Financial security came as I learned to give cheerfully and spend frugally. The Body of Christ became my family and took on the role of my parents, children and siblings. Close relationships came from the most unlikely places.

Then, there were the many smaller gifts, which took on a whole new meaning for me because I actually took the time to notice them. The moon shimmering on the lake, the tinkling giggle of a child, the effortless flight of birds across the sky, meaningful shapes in the clouds, a phrase from a song that spoke to my heart, a lonely flower growing from a crack in the sidewalk, a warm hug from a friend, a cheerful email or phone call, a request to pray for a friend, a question to answer from a new Believer, the perfection of a rose, a smile from a stranger, a sale at the retail store, the purr of my cat and the wag of my dog’s tail. All of these and so much more are special gifts from my Heavenly Father who loves me more than He loves Himself.

God went on to give me contentment in the circumstances in which I found myself living. He trained me to adapt, to compromise my desires, to adjust to changing situations and to survive devastation. He instructed me to freely give His love to others as He gave it to me. He guided me to walk in His footsteps of peace and fulfillment. He gave me a vision of eternity and caused me to trade my finite thinking for eternal values. He taught me to focus on each moment as if it was the last one I would have.

He loves you just as much as He loves me. He keeps us as the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8). He makes us more than conquerors (Romans 8:37-39). He rejoices over us with gladness and exults over us with singing. He quiets us with His love (Zephaniah 3:17), and He takes away all of our anxiety and fears, because He cares about us so much (1 Peter 5:7). He has plans to bless us and He gives us a future filled with hope (Jeremiah 19:11).

Father God, we humans are so ungrateful. We cry and complain that we do not have what we think we need. We grasp at Your promises and claim them for our own, rather than sitting back and receiving from You our daily bread. We rarely even thank You for sending Jesus to save us from hell and to make us a part of Your eternal family. Lord God, we thank You from the bottom of our heart. We receive all that You desire to bless us with and we thank You for providing it in Your timing and in Your own way.

Thought for the Day:
Patience and gratitude open the way for receiving.
Thank you, Susan Holsinger, for the use of your photo.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why Christians Suffer

Read: Romans 8:31-39

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” - Psalm 73:26

When I surrendered my life to Christ, I had the misguided notion that my life would forever float free of any negative circumstances. I pictured myself tiptoeing through the tulips without a care in the world. Boy was I wrong! The few initial trials I experienced threw me off course. I stomped and squalled in disgust over the fact that a child of God should be subjected to such inconvenient conditions (Psalm 73:13-14).

As I checked around with my new friends, I found out that every one of them went through appalling situations as well (Matthew 5:45). We all conjectured, postulated, hypothesized and speculated about God’s reason for allowing this. We wondered why He did not destroy our enemies who mocked us, did not prevent the infliction of emotional wounds by calloused individuals and did not maintaining the security of our jobs and our financial stability. The inequality of the world weighed heavily on us and some injustices even inflicted pain in our own lives. It appeared that the unrighteous people we knew enjoyed more blessings than the righteous ones did (Psalm 73:1-12).

Our Pastor explained to us that God is able to make everything work out wonderfully for us, but He teaches us so much more through the negative times than the positive ones. In good times, we ride along almost oblivious to the need for prayer and fellowship with Our Father. As soon as something terrible happens, however, we run for cover under the shadow of His wings. We remind Him that we are the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8) and we misguidedly accuse Him of not taking proper care of us.

Over the years, I learned that we suffer negative circumstances for several reasons. One comes from the curse on the earth, caused by Adam and Eve’s rebellion. Sinful behavior by others is the basis of most of our problems. We suffer harmful consequences imposed on us by wicked people. On top of this our own sins, our poor judgment and/or our faulty decisions are also a catalyst for our negative experiences. The good news is that God’s grace sees us through all of these painful times and teaches us lessons that we would otherwise miss.

God lives in eternity, and His concern is with the infinite issues of life. He sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). God views 1000 years as if they were only one day (2 Peter 3:8). We, on the other hand, rarely focus on eternal issues. Our mind is consumed with the earthly realm and what we experience with our senses. We view life with a finite mind.

In His unlimited wisdom God knows that our concerns are only momentary and fleeting, and that He has ultimate plans for our good, as well as for the eternal punishment of the wicked (Psalm 73:17). God teaches us to trust Him through the hard times, because He knows that the blessings are just around the corner. We grow deeper, wider and stronger roots and every trial strengthens our faith. God uses these exasperating situations to conform us to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29).

Just look at the stars in the heavens. God created every pin-point and He calls each one by name. He does great things that cannot be fathomed and wonderful works that cannot be counted (Job 9:9-10). His power and incomparable strength holds each one in its place, and not one burns out without His knowledge (Isaiah 40:26; Psalm 147:4). God also spread out the earth and everything and everyone in it. He gives breath to the living and life to every creature that walks on the earth (Isaiah 43:5). His greatness is incomprehensible. He made the heavens and earth by His great power and outstretched arm. Absolutely nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17).

Even with the provision of all of this for us, God went one step further to connect to humanity and to provide for our needs. He sent His only Son to pay the penalty of our sin and to give us His righteousness in exchange (Psalm 8:3-5). This proves that He cares about every anxiety, distress, perplexity and difficulty we experience. He promises to work them all out for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

Lord Jesus, we are more than conquerors because You love us. I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present or the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from Our Father’s love, which is in You, Our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).

Thought for the Day:
God esteems the person who is humble and contrite in spirit, the person who heeds His Words. - Isaiah 66:2 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What Happened to My Joy?

Read: Philippians 3

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” - John 17:3

The Biblical book of Philippians teaches us so much about joy. Paul even exhorts us to rejoice in our tribulation; however, how can any human be expected to express happiness over negative events in our life? It is contrary to our nature. It is much more natural to complain. Well, I have come to understand one principle about this subject, which I believe Paul learned as well. The circumstances will be there whether we rejoice or not. Therefore, a spoonful of joy makes the medicine go down so much easier!

There are many joy-robbers in our lives. Legalism is one of them. Legalism is the practice of substituting rules and regulations for our relationship to Christ. It switches our focus from God’s work in us to our work for God. In Philippians 3, Paul rebuked the Judaizers. These people practiced legalism and tried to steal the joy from Believers by keeping their focus on external holiness rather than internal holiness. God wants us to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24), not by striving to please him by man-made standards. The Bible is our standard for faith and practice.

We also lose our joy if we do not keep our priorities in perspective. We allow issues that really do not matter to take our focus off the things that mean the most. We let the good things become the enemy of the best things in life. We make mountains out of molehills. The number one reason people lose their joy is that they get too involved in activities that are really not that important. They confuse their priorities. Then the stress in their life robs them of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.

Shame from Satan over the sin in our life is another feature that derails the train of our life. He gets us bound up in condemnation over our thoughts, words and actions. The cure for this murderer of our joy is to confess our sins to God and to repentant of the behavior that caused them. Repent means to stop sinning by surrendering our will to God’s will. Repentance gives us a clear conscience, which helps to restore our joy. The battle against the flesh is very intense at times, but God is sanctifying our soul and the desires of our flesh daily as we submit to Him.

Worry is another major thief of our joy. If Satan can bind us with worry, he keeps us from trusting in the Lord. The remedy for this sin is to cast all our cares upon God, because He truly cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Once worry is gone, faith restores our joy. The Serenity Prayer is a wonderful guide to get rid of worry. If you can do something about the situation, do it. If you cannot change it, allow God to change your focus and attitude about it to one of acceptance with joy (James 1:12). Acceptance allows us to move forward with our life and to trust God to work everything out for our good (Romans 8:28).

Frustration and discouragement come from a lack of proper focus on life and they quickly quench our joy. We humans take life too seriously. There is only one thing necessary for us each day: to seek God’s will, which will give us an eternal mindset rather than a worldly, temporal outlook. If you keep the Kingdom of God and eternity in Heaven as your focus, then everything else in life takes a back seat and loses its importance. As we follow the leading of God’s Spirit moment by moment throughout the day, we have His peace and joy, which combat the disappointments of life and the distress that accompanies them. When God answers our prayers, our joy is then complete (John 16:24).

Lasting joy comes from increasingly knowing Christ better (Philippians 3:10). All relationships are built on trust. God wants us to learn to trust Him. He will allow many types of problems in our life, in order to teach us that He is reliable all of the time. We lose our joy the moment we stop growing and trusting. Once we start living in continual obedience to His commandments, we have confidence that we truly know God (1 John 2:3).

In the Old Testament, “Yada” is a Hebrew word meaning "to know intimately by experience", as in the relationship between a husband and wife (Genesis 4:1, 17, 25). This concept is equally as true in the New Testament. The Greek word “gnosis” is the linguistic counterpart of the Hebrew word “Yada”. We only feel true and lasting joy as we intimately and experientially know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He sent (John 17:3). When God answers our prayers, our joy is complete (John 16:24). Never stop trusting God, growing spiritually and developing your relationship with Christ, so that your joy will remain full (John 15:11).

Lord Jesus, spending time with You in prayer, reading Your Word and worshipping and fellowshipping with other Christians helps us to get to know You better. However, we have to spend time alone with You to attain the intimacy You desire with us. Remind us to take time to not only talk, but also to listen to You as You speak to us. Through our intimate relationship with You, You remove all the negative thoughts and emotions from our lives. As we keep our focus on Your proper perspective, our joy is full of Your glory, and it actually defies description (1 Peter 1:8). 

Thought for the Day:
When we attempt to live life in our own power, rather than by relying on God, we immediately lose our joy.

Thank you, David Bowman, for the use of your picture.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Clay Jars

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." - 2 Corinthians 4:7

When Paul wrote this verse about jars of clay, he referred to the common jars of his day. They were everyday vessels, usually chipped, sometimes cracked or possibly broken around the rim. Many were even flawed from the beginning due to an error in their construction. Paul refers to Christians as common clay jars, but then he reminds us that we are filled with a priceless treasure, which is the all-surpassing power of God.

The significance of Paul referring to us as jars of clay is that it illustrates the fact that we are ordinary and defective and have no power or strength of our own (2 Corinthians 4:8). In spite of our shortcomings, however, God chooses us as His vessels of honor anyway. He fills us with His power to accomplish the ministry He calls us to perform. This power also enables us to influence a change in other people, as we share His gospel with the lost and dying world around us.

When we surrender to God, He makes all things new. We are not perfect, but we are forgiven (2 Corinthians 5:17). Paul’s life is a good example. He was less than perfect. He started out opposing the Kingdom of God. He even had an infirmity, which He begged God to remove. He had the faith for a healing, but God chose to use Paul’s life as an example of His grace. Through God’s refusal to cure him, Paul learned the lesson that God’s power is made strong in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). God uses our weaknesses more than our strengths, because when we are weak in our own abilities, then we are strong in Him and His abilities (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

When we are frail, we are more likely to depend upon God rather than our own gifts and talents. This forces us to center our focus on God instead of our capabilities. This also takes our focus off the flaws in the people around us. When we see our own glaring imperfections, we have more patience with the defects in others. We have more grace with their shortcomings, because God has grace with ours. Then we are more apt to allow the fruit of God’s Spirit to flow through us to the world around us.

Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need; and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. - Matthew 6:9-13 (NLT)

Thought for the Day:
Through a lifetime of loss and tragedy, our search for peace with God only comes by faith in our reconciliation with God through Jesus on the cross.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Daily Renewal

Read: Philippians 4:6-7

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” - John 8:32

As you know, “What we believe, determines how we act.” When we believe Satan's lies, we exhibit negative attitudes. We get "stinkin' thinkin'." Satan knows that if he captivates our mind, then he can control our actions also. Kay Arthur said, "Either you must learn to take your thoughts captive – or Satan will take you captive with your thoughts!”

Paul reminds us, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, we have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and WE TAKE CAPTIVE EVERY THOUGHT TO MAKE IT OBEDIENT TO CHRIST" (2 Corinthians 10: 3-5).

As we focus on God, He points out all of our negative attitudes and thoughts. These are the concepts, which we were taught in our youth or which we taught our self as we got away from home. We erroneously accepted these theories as truth. One issue at a time, the Spirit replaces these satanic lies with His absolute truth. God’s truth sets us free (John 8:32). Our only hope of mental stability in this life is to bring our thoughts into obedience to Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:4-5.). As we do this, we put on the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

We also discover the mind of Christ by reading the Word of God and meditating on it daily. If you have the Spirit of God living in you, you will have a hunger to read the Word. Jesus lived an example for us of a life built upon meditation and prayer. While others slept, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and spent time alone with God. Then in the morning, He went to the temple and sat down to teach those who would listen. He went to His quiet place first and received His power from God through His time of daily renewal; then He was ready to minister.

We too need time alone with God to renew our peace and to ascertain His wisdom and direction for our lives. We need a physical, quiet place that will minister to our soul, in which we can spend time connecting our spirit with the Spirit of God. When we enter this "inner closet," we strip away all outer clutter. We empty ourselves of our “self” and focus solely on the voice of our Beloved (Isaiah 54:5). We bask in the rays of His comfort and direction and then we rise up to do His Will. We remain in this inner, spiritual place of connection all day long as we go about doing His will for our life.

Jesus did not leave us alone on this earth to accomplish His will.  As He ascended into Heaven to take back His rightful place at the Father’s right hand, He told His disciples to go and wait in the upper room for the Holy Spirit to come to them. God is the Father and the first person of our triune Deity. Jesus is the Son and the second personality. The Holy Spirit is the third person. He is our Comforter and our Guide. He changed the lives of those disciples in the upper room (Acts 2:4), and He has been changing willing lives ever since.

When worldly hostility bombards us, our hearts are tempted to faint within us. We do have the option of sharing our pain, frustration, and sorrow on a human level with friends and family. They, however, will only sympathize with us or sermonize about our feelings. It is only in the quiet place within our spirit, that we experience a profound sense of love, joy, and peace, which surpasses the comfort we can receive from any earthly entity.

Only in the still, small place within our spirit can we find true empathy and solace from the God who loves us more than He loves Himself. His love took Him to the cross to pay the penalty of our sin for us; and His love will bring Him back to earth for His Bride at the fullness of this age.

Lord Jesus, when we spend time with You in the sanctity of our spirit, we have renewed power to meet the needs within our own life, as well as in the lives of those You sends our way. Due to Your love in our lives, we can forgive, nurture, empathize and minister to ourselves and others by the strength of Your grace, compassion and mercy, as well as through the direction of Your Holy Spirit. Our life in You is fulfilling indeed!

Thought for the Day:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” - Psalm 51:10



Saturday, September 22, 2012

Dead to Sin

Read: Matthew 20: 1-15

“God gives us a heart and mind that is new and no longer feels satisfied with a sinful lifestyle.” - Philippians 2: 12-13

If a person can sin without any remorse, then he/she is not truly born again and the Spirit of God does not reside within them (Romans 6:2-4). If we are not willing to crucify all sinful passions and desires, we do not really belong to Christ (Galatians 5:24). If the Spirit of God does reside in us, however, then we are dead to any attraction to sin and to the world (Galatians 6:14). Sin does not appeal to us any longer, because we are not enticed by it. We are even grieved by sin now, because of the Holy Spirit within us. We died to sinful desires and we do not want to live in sin a moment longer. We are baptized into Christ’s death and raised in the power of the Holy Spirit to live a new life.

Once a person does choose to follow Christ, Jesus’ saving work on Calvary is appropriated to his/her spirit. If this same person dies physically the very next day, they are saved and will live for eternity in heaven, even though they never started the sanctification process. Think of the thief on the cross. He believed in Christ as he hung there next to Jesus. Our Savior assured him, "Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). This person is justified and still gets "paid" a day’s wage...they still go to heaven; but they will have very few rewards in heaven and they lived a very sorrowful life here on earth (Matthew 20:1-15).

Once the Spirit of God moves in, our base nature no longer has any claim on us. We are not drawn to partake in the lower level of human behavior. Through Christ’s death, we put to death all the sinful longings of our body, so that we can live now in the resurrection power of Christ (Romans 8:12-13). We are like a seed of wheat. We have been buried with Christ in baptism and now we produce a fruitful life.

People who claim to be Christians, but who still continue in worldly fellowship with carnal friends and who continue to partake in a lifestyle of sinful behavior, risk the wrath of God falling on them because of this disobedience (Colossians 3:3-7). If we love the old way of living, we will lose our life forever; however, if we hate the sin-filled life we once lived, we will remain alive in Christ for eternity (John 12:24).

Due to God’s forgiveness of our sins, our eyes are wide open to His mercy. We give Him our body as a living sacrifice, consecrated to Him and accepted by Him. We no longer allow the world to squeeze us into its mold, but we submit to God as he remodels our actions and improves our attitude (Romans 12:1-2). We lay down the old nature, which has a propensity to sin, and we destroy any deceitful, indecent desires that linger in us. We can do this only because God gives us a heart and mind that is new and the power to stand against temptation (Philippians 2: 12-13). We no longer feel satisfied with a sinful lifestyle.

The tyranny of sin over us is broken and we are free from sin from now on, because we died with Christ (Romans 6:5-7). Since Jesus died for our sins, we are now alive in Him (Romans 6:8-11; 2 Timothy 2:11). He erased every record of sin against us by nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:12,14,20). He died for us so that we no longer live for our self, but we now live for Him. Our past is dead and buried, and God gives us a fresh, new life (2 Corinthians 5:15,17).

Lord God, Your grace appears to every person who is born on this earth. You call us to refuse the draw of sin and worldly passions and to live a decent, self-controlled, godly life instead (Titus 2:11). Your Spirit works right along with us, replacing our old habits with the His fruit. He weaves into the fibers of our personality the works of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, meekness self-control and faith (Galatians 5:22). We live upright and holy lives in honor of Christ who sacrificed Himself for us all (Ephesians 4:22-25; Galatians 2:19-20).

Thought for the Day:
Born Again Believers focus on spiritual desires and set our hearts on pleasing the Lord. - Colossians 3:1



Friday, September 21, 2012

If You Really Knew Me

Read: Psalm 139

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous - how well I know it.” – Psalm 139:14

I have a question for my friends. If you really knew my true, inner self, would you still be my friend? Would you have compassion on my idiosyncrasies, tolerance with my shortcomings and patience with my failings? Do I have to wear a mask for you to like me? Do I need to play games in order for you to spend time with me? If this is the case, then I am above all people, most miserable! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? (Romans 7:24).

Thanks be to God, I am already accepted through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Jesus came to earth to demonstrate that He is for me and not against me. He came to let me know that He is not counting my sins against me, because He died for them, so that He could reconcile me to Our Father. His death was the ultimate expression of God’s love for me (Romans 7:25; Ephesians 1:6; Romans 8:31; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; 1 John 4:10).

Jesus gave up everything He loved in Heaven, so that He might show me how much He loves me. If I receive His gift, I also receive God’s Spirit living within my spirit, because Jesus and the Father are one. Now, nothing will ever separate me from His love again. He looks forward to my homecoming, so He can throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen (Romans 8:31-32; 1 John 2:23; Romans 8:38-39; Luke 15:7; Ephesians 3:14-15).

I am not a mistake, because God planned for my life. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. He knit me together in my mother's womb. He brought me forth on the exact day I was born (Psalm 139:13-14, 71:6). God chose me and planned a life for me before He even created the world in which I would live (Ephesians 1:11-12). The Father, Son and Spirit made me in their image – a triune being with a body, soul and spirit (Genesis 1:27; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

God called me to be His child, because He knew me even before I was ever conceived (Jeremiah 1:4-5). He even knows the number of hairs on my head (Matthew 10:29-31). God determined the exact time of my birth and even where I would live (Acts 17:26). Jesus transforms my soul and makes me a suitable member of God’s beloved family (Ephesians 1:6). God knows everything about me, but He still loves me and makes a difference in my life. He knows when I sit down and when I rise up. He is familiar with all of my ways (Psalm 139:1-3).

God’s plan for my future is completely filled with hope, because He loves me with His everlasting love. His thoughts toward me are as countless as the sand of the sea. He even rejoices over me with singing, because I am the apple of His eye. One day God will wipe away every tear from my eyes. He will take away the memory of all the pain I suffered during my lifetime (Jeremiah 29:11, 31:3; Psalms 139:17-18; Zephaniah 3:17; Psalm 17:8; Revelation 21:3-4).

Because all of this is true, the next question I have for my friends is this, “Now that you know who I really am, will you join me in allowing God to deliver you from a life that is dominated by sin and death, will you choose to accept Jesus sacrifice for your life and will you join me in enjoying all of these benefits as His child?” (Romans 7:24; James 4:8; Luke 15:11-32).

Father God, You love me even as You love Your only begotten Son. You revealed Your love for me through Jesus. He is the exact representation of You. You made the world and everything in it. You made Jesus the Lord of heaven and earth. You do not live in temples built by human hands, but in the spirit of every Born Again Believer. You are not served by human hands, as if You need anything. Rather, You give me life and breath and everything I need. (John 17:23, 17:26; Hebrews 1:3; Acts 7:48, 17:25; Psalm 23:1).  

Thought for the Day:
Every one of our days is written in His book. - Psalm 139:15-16

Thursday, September 20, 2012

For Such a Time As This

Read: Esther 4:1-17

“And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” - Esther 4:14

I love this phrase in Esther where Mordecai tells Esther to view her life as being part of God's wonderful plan for her and His people. “You have come to this royal position for such a time as this.” Do you realize that God created your life with a built-in purpose as well?

In Ephesians 2:10, Paul says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That is so exciting to me. As the Master Potter, God uniquely designed us and placed each of us in the world at this exact time in order to carry out His will (Jeremiah 18:1-6; Isaiah 45:9, 64:8; Psalm 100:3; Romans 9:20). What happens if we live according to our own will and neglect the works God created us to perform?

Queen Vashti gives us a perfect example. She is the Queen of Persia, a woman with immense influence. She shapes her world by her words and example and everyone in the kingdom, including her husband, knows it (Esther 1:17-18). I think she must have been the first recorded Women’s Liberation Movement leader! In the Biblical account of her life, Vashti is in the middle of a party, which she threw for all the women of the palace.

Her husband, King Xerxes, commanded seven of the chamberlains who waited on him to bring Queen Vashti to display her beauty to the people and nobles. He knew better than to ask her himself, or to send even one or two of his chamberlains. So he sent seven emissaries to do his bidding! The Queen could not be bothered, however, and refused the King’s wishes. Of course, this act of rebellion and disrespect came at a high price to her. She lost her throne in the palace, her position in the court and her authority in the kingdom.

There are three different types of people in the world. Some, like Queen Vashti, live for themselves, caring little about anyone else. They focus their entire being on climbing the corporate ladder of success or amassing exorbitant financial gains or serving their own family. They build their own kingdom rather than furthering the Kingdom of God. They have no eternal focus and little to no spiritual desire. They disobey and deny King Jesus with their life, and give Him no alternative but to deny them before His Father (Matthew 10:33).

Other people exhibit a bit more spiritual desire and they give God a fraction of their time and money. Some of them worship with other Believers one or two hours a week on Sunday morning. They may even pray when they are in need, but they rarely spend time praising God or reading their Bible. I saw a church sign during our travels that relates to this group of people, “God does not want just weekend visits with you; He wants full custody of your life.”

Lastly, we have people like Esther, who risk their whole life for God and His people. Prior to the King choosing her to take Vashti’s place, Esther cherished her own dreams for her life. However, she gave up her individual aspirations and stepped out with faith and courage for the Lord’s purpose. God used her to save His chosen people, the Jews. God created Esther for only one defining moment in her entire life; but, in return, God granted that Esther live the rest of her days in luxury as the Queen. Faithful people like Esther seek God’s purpose. They live their life fulfilling His will for them and reaping His benefits (Psalm 103:2, 116:12).

God’s purposes shall come to pass and His plans will unfold throughout the ages, just as He decreed them before time ever existed (2 Timothy 1:9). However, He only uses willing vessels to fulfill His intentions in the earth. You and I may never have a noteworthy role in history like Queen Esther did, but God needs us to serve Him in the place where He created us to live. Our little microcosm in the world is our mission field. This is where God anoints us to serve Him with our whole body, soul and spirit. We may have a lifelong calling, or just one important moment in time like Esther; but if we respond to His direction, He will bless us abundantly in every way.

Lord Jesus, as we listen to the direction of Your Spirit moment by moment throughout the day, You put us in the right place at the right time to fulfill Your purposes and to further Your Kingdom in the earth. If we fail to pay attention, and focus instead on our own dreams and pursuits, we may miss Your calling. Then You will choose someone else to bless in our place. Help us to follow Your Spirit and to hear Your direction for each of moment of time.

Thought for the Day:
God birthed each of us in our current life station “for such a time as this”.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spiritual Growth

Read: Matthew 20:1-15

“And he personally bore our sins in his own body on the cross, so that we might be dead to sin and be alive to all that is good.” - 1 Peter 2:24

There comes a time in everyone’s life when we come to a crisis point. We are at a crossroads and we have a decision to make. We can either remain with the crowd traversing the wide road, or proceed along the narrow road instead. We have a choice to lay down our life and to take up the life of Christ, or to reject the Son of God and to continue on in our sin and misery. The tragedy is that if we choose to maintain control over our own life rather than surrendering it to Jesus, we will eventually lose our life for eternity.

Salvation includes two steps: 1.) Believing that Jesus is God who came in the flesh. 2.) Repenting of our sins, which means surrendering our life to Christ. Surrender is the part of salvation that most people ignore. You see, at the moment of salvation, your spirit, which was once dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) is now alive in Christ. It is no longer us, but Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20). Our true life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Once we are saved from sin and eternity separated from God, the process of sanctification begins. God’s Spirit rids our soul of carnality and replaces it with holiness. This takes a lifetime, but it is a daily process. We are rewarded in heaven for our holiness here on earth; plus, we are so much healthier and happier in this life, without the consequences of those sins ruining our life.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus die daily to our carnal, fleshly nature with all of its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24)  As far as God is concerned, our old life is already dead. Now, Christ is the center of our new life. We live each day without participating in our former behavior with our old, carnal friends; and we have nothing to do with any moral perversion or sin of any kind. We take off the old nature and put on the new Christ-like nature just like we change our clothes at the start of each new day.

We now consider ourselves dead to sin of any type and alive in God through Christ (Romans 6:11). As we grow in Christ, sinful behavior no longer appeals to us. Sin and its lust have no power to deceive us any longer. We have no desire to allow our body to be used for sinful purposes. Instead, we put our lives in God’s hands for Him to use for His purpose (Romans 6:11-14). We now live productive lives for God. We are not bound to the letter of the traditions of the law, but we are free to serve God in the Spirit of truth and righteousness (Romans 7:4-6). God has no desire for us to be just good enough. If we cooperate with Him, He will make it perfect.

Lord Jesus, help us to take up our cross daily and to crucify the flesh, even though this is the hardest thing we ever have to do with our life (Matthew 16: 24-26). To die to self, when everything in us is crying out to live life in our own way, is impossible to do in our own strength. We know You do not want to torment us, but to kill us…and our old, sinful nature. You are not happy with half-hearted devotion from us. You want all of us and You give us all of You in its place.

Thought for the Day:
God is not just interested in rewiring us or replacing our plumbing, but in making us into a completely new temple in which He can dwell.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Split Rails

Read: 2 Corinthians 10: 5-6

“A double minded person is unstable in all of his ways.” – James 1:8

As I watched a movie, a teenage boy walked with his feet straddling the width of the railroad tracks with one foot on each of the metal rails. He almost lost his balance more than once. He could have walked on the ties between the rails and had an easier time of it. His stuttering gait appeared uncomfortable. His progress was slow and his whole body jarred with each strained step. He looked very uncomfortable; yet, he would not abandon his chosen way of walking.

Watching his struggle, I realized that we too try to walk in two parallel worlds that never intersect. We attempt to place one foot in the secular world and the other in God’s. We struggle to keep our balance in this precarious, awkward toddle and often we lose our footing and fall. The Bible describes three types of minds: the naturally-minded, the single-minded and the double-minded. We all exhibit one or more of these during our lifetime with the Lord.

The natural mind is totally focused on life’s issues. We attempt to control our environment in order to maintain a certain level of safety and equilibrium. We fail miserably most of the time, but we continue in this futile attempt nonetheless. The cure for the natural mind is salvation. Once we come to Christ, we have a whole new vocabulary, mindset and method of behavior. We walk with singleness of purpose and seek the Lord with our whole heart. Single-minded people have a life centered on God. We consult God for every decision and action we take. We give all the glory and honor to God when we succeed.

A double-minded person is divided in his/her interests and devotion. We exhibit indecisiveness, hesitancy, hypocrisy and indifference in their mindset, actions and devotion toward God. According to scholars, another description for this way of life is “twice-souled”. Our mind, will and emotions are divided. We pay lip service to God, but walk contrary to His ways. We give God one hour a week on Sunday morning and feel like we are living a righteous life.

As a double minded person we soon find instability creeping into every area of our life. We cannot serve two masters at the same time (Matthew 6:24). The resulting pressure and confusion keep us in stress, unhappiness and discontentment. Our thoughts control our passions, which influence our choices. Then our lives become the product of our choices

If we allow Satan, the world or the flesh to control our thoughts, then our passion and our loyalty to God will vacillate, because the devotion of our heart is divided. The satanic battle for our soul is waged in the mind. He tries every trick in his book to discourage us from following hard after the Lord (Psalm 63:8). When we follow our carnal thoughts and feelings instead of the Spirit direction, then we stray from the straight and narrow path. Everyone who is drawn away by his/her own passionate desires is enticed and then captured by sin (James 1:14-15).

Most human beings also tend to develop doubts when God does not respond to our prayers as we imagine that He will. Uncertainty and indecision creep into our communication with God, which affect our relationship with Him. This leads to confusion and we allow our thoughts to control our emotions and eventually our emotions drive our actions. When we say different things to different people about the same thing, we live in constant confusion. Sin separates us from God (Romans 3:23) by digging a deep chasm between our Savior and us.

2 Corinthians 10: 5-6 tells us how to remedy this situation. If we take our wayward thoughts captive, we can prevent doubts and inconsistencies from taking over our soul. If we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight, whatever we ask according to His will, we shall receive from Him (1 John 3:22). When we finally choose to seek God’s business first, He adds everything to our life that we will ever need (Matthew 6:33). This singular focus brings a deep peace and a lasting joy that insures us a steady and even walk throughout life.

Lord Jesus, allow Your Spirit and life to flow through my soul. Inspire and direct my thoughts, emotions and choices. Keep my heart from double-mindedness, which blocks the flow of Your Spirit and encourages me to seek first my own desires rather than Your Kingdom. Draw me close to You and make me spiritually hungry and thirsty, so that I follow hard after You throughout all the days of my life.

Thought for the Day:
Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth at the same time…you might trip over your own words.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Growing in Faith

Do you ever question God’s reasons for the events in your life? Do you ever wonder if God is angry with you, or if you quenched the Spirit in your life? The accounts in the book of Psalms are full of men crying out to God in times of distress.

"I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help. You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray” (Psalm 77: 1-4, NLV).

Their words allow us to see that we are not alone, but that others over the ages felt as we do now. They also show us how other people question God’s reasoning for the agony in their lives, and that God always responds to them with kindness and love. Their poetic words often express our exact sentiments and give us hope.

“I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now (Psalm 77: 1-4, NLV). The writer thinks of times in the past, much as we do, when we compare our present affliction with the glory of yesteryears. We wonder what happened for God to turn His back on us.

The author even questions God’s motives for his current situation. "Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?" (Psalm 77:7-9 NLV)

Questions such as these are on our lips as well. Cries of despair such as these come from someone who truly knows the ways of the Lord, because they always turn to exclamations of praise to God for His faithfulness. “But then I recall all you have done, O Lord! I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations. By your strong arm, you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph” (Psalm 77:11-15 NLV).

All of the psalmists intimately knew the faithfulness of God in their lives. Our Heavenly Father saw them through every moment of trial and blessing alike. They had no doubt that God would hear their prayers for help, and that He would also faithfully answer their questions. The psalmists all showed their willingness to learn from their suffering and to move toward faith in God’s wisdom and purpose for everything He allowed in their lives. We can draw comfort from their grief and learn from their faith. We also join them in rejoicing as we grow in faith.

Lord Jesus, I often have times where I do not understand the trials and grief that shroud my life. I call out to You during these times with honest questions and a grieving heart. You always answer me and show me how these situations are working out for my good, according to Your will. You also teach me how to use each condition for my benefit. You teach me things I otherwise would never learn. You give me the strength to endure suffering and to look to You for grace to rejoice in them as Paul did. You flood my soul with Your peace, which goes beyond my human understanding.

Thought for the Day:
In our darkest hour, God works the greatest miracle.