"Just A Moment"
Daily Devotional Guide
"Just A Moment" By Rev. Garry H. Fricker
You Have To Let Go
“But my people would not listen to me: Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.” Psalm 81:11, 12
Why didn’t Jesus go after the ‘Rich Young Ruler’ and persuade him to follow Him? The scriptures accurately recorded that, ‘Jesus looked at him and loved him.’ (Mark 10:21) There must have been something that the Lord could have done to change the young mans mind and bring him into his discipleship family. What would you have done? The issues were important. The young man asked Jesus ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He was asking the right questions and obviously he had great potential if he would only commit himself, his talents and possessions to serving the Lord.
Why didn’t the Father of the Prodigal son follow his boy and try to persuade him from going the way he was heading? Why didn’t he send armed guards to protect his son, after all, it appears he was quite a wealthy man?
What is it that possesses a person to walk away from the most important decision of a lifetime? What is it that would cause a person to leave his family and friends just to experience whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence or not? What would you have done about that?
The truth is, that sometimes we just have to let go. As much as we love them and desire only the best for them, some people have made up their minds and need to go where their heart draws them. Their ways are not always right and sometimes there are very severe consequences to their choices but we have to let go. It hurts us to see people make foolish/wrong choices but imagine what God feels like when people choose ways that are not good.
To some, God is allowing them to learn some new lessons that will eventually make them into better believers; more committed to obeying the Lord. The fact that they are out of our sight does not mean they are out of Gods care.
But what, then, should we do? Let me suggest a few things:
1. We need to pray for them. God loves them far more than we ever could. We need to lift them to the Father and entrust them into His care.
2. We need to reach out to them when opportunity presents itself. God may use us as His method of bringing back the wayward one. We should not stop loving them just because they are not doing what is right.
3. We need to be patient and remember that God is in control. One of the mysteries of Gods grace is that with our own free will, we can step out of Gods will any time by our choice. But God will not forget. He is watchful and caring.
4. We need to be confident. ‘God is able to make all things work together for good to those who love God.’ (Romans 8:28) Sometimes it hurts to let go but some people need to discover that hard lessons are not easy to learn.
Going To the House of The Lord
“I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” Psalm 122:1
So sang the Psalmist as he anticipated Gods marvellous blessings as he presented himself to the Lord to listen to His Word and to worship at His holy temple. He had known many of the dark and hurting valley experiences of life. He understood what it was like to be accused of doing evil when he had only good intentions. He knew what it was like to be hounded by an enemy who wanted to harm him physically. He understood what loneliness was all about while on the battlefield, away from his caring family. These experiences were very real to him. I’m sure he even felt spiritual fatigue when anger and frustration filled his heart and it was difficult to pray.
But something happened inside of him when friends came to him to invite him to go to worship; his heart was lifted in rejoicing. It was there that he would meet with his God and humbly acknowledge his dependence upon Him. It was there that he would meet with the people who had meant the most to him. For a time, he could lay aside his disappointments and sorrows to lift his voice with the multitude in praise and adoration because God is faithful. The sights and sounds all spoke of the majesty of God and served as reminders of the Awesomeness of God. Indeed, “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.” He would go away refreshed and renewed. What a joy to be in the presence of the Lord!
There is something about coming into the House of the Lord that deposits rich blessings upon us that we could not possibly gain anywhere else. We are called to Honour the name of the Lord and to serve Him as ‘one body’ although with a variety of gifts and abilities. It is there that we place ourselves into the hands of the Holy Spirit to be worked upon and enriched by the Word of God. It is there that we can identify with the coming together principles of the “called out ones” whose loving care encourages the lonely heart. And it is there that our spiritual batteries can be recharged to face the activities and rigours of another week. “Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.” (Psalm 95:2) What strength there is in the unity and harmony of believers reaching out to God together in the congregation of the righteous!
“Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9) “Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvellous things..” (Psalm 98:1) “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise.” (Psalm 145:3) “I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9:2)
Jesus and John
“I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” John 1:23
They passed like ships in the darkness. Johns public ministry was clear and to the point. He didn’t mince his words. He called people to repentance in preparation for the coming of the Lord. It appears obvious that although he and Jesus were cousins, they were not personally acquainted until they met somewhere down by the river, out near nowhere. I’m sure that they knew about each other but apart from this encounter, they each went their separate ways and carried on their distinct ministries.
Sometime after Johns death, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13) Without hesitation, they replied, “Some say John the Baptist.” I know that there were a lot of people who had worse names for Jesus and accused Him of some pretty bad stuff. But those who heard Jesus teach and to those who observed His miraculous works they were sure that John the Baptist had risen from the dead and was alive with greater powers than ever before.
Look at them with me:
1. they were both prophesied in the Old Testament
2. their service to God was very different from the Temple services.
3. they both held a sense of contempt for the phoney lifestyle of the
4. they had no home nor personal possessions.
5. they ministered in the country side and in desert places.
6. their message was given without compromise (Matt. 3:7 &
7. they both had disciples
8. they both depended upon prayer
9. they were both filled with the Spirit
10. they both died very tragic deaths by command of the leaders of the
But it is the differences that are important to us, today. John was the voice of one crying in the wilderness; prepare the way of the Lord. Jesus, on the other hand, is the Lord who came to be our Saviour.
Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16 Peter was persuaded that Jesus was the promised Messiah. The words and works that He did were a testimony to Who He was. He was not a duplicate John nor an imitation prophet. Jesus is the real thing.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
He was born under a magnificent shining star, but destined to die on an old rugged cross. That’s the story of both sides of His life. He is the Son of God who has taken upon Himself a human frame, just like yours and mine yet He never stopped being God even though He willingly accepted the frailties that, by nature, are a part of our humanity. In the course of it all He was able to demonstrate the personality and will of God through His human form in a way that we could understand. During the time that He lived on earth, we could see what God was like, and the recorded history, in the gospels, reminds us regularly that God lovingly cares for the people that He has made.
He came to this world on a mission to reveal Gods love to a globe of hurting, frustrated and depressed people. Jesus came to be the Saviour, the Healer and the Prince of Peace for all mankind. He is personally acquainted with the limitations and frailties of our bodies. He came to release those who are bound by habits and lifestyles that degrade and destroy them because He understands what consequences sin has had on each of us. The power of darkness had obviously left its mark on creation but Jesus came to halt that invasion into His kingdom and to restore joy and peace to this world. One of the purposes of His coming was to bring us life and that more abundantly. Because He is the same yesterday and today and forever, He can do it again in our time and for those we love.
It is still Jesus who makes the difference in our lives and of course in the whole world. There is no situation that is beyond His control even though it may be beyond our understanding. He is able to make all things to work together for good because He is God. He can take the deepest, darkest valleys of our lives and fill us with His peace, hope and learned lessons that only can be understood in trying times. He is the Great Creator of all things and now He is the Reclaimer of all the things He has made in His creation that have fallen out of His will. He demonstrated that by personally coming to the world and revealing the heart of the Father in such a wonderful way. When we come to Him, He is a faithful, loving Friend who understands our feelings, our hurts and pains and is able to do something about them. That’s the result of the combination of His Divine nature dwelling in a body just like ours. That’s why He invites us to come to Him with confidence and a heart full of assurance. He knows everything about us and He loves us with an everlasting love. He has better plans for us than we could ever comprehend at this moment. He came to live in our ‘houses’ that He might take us to His. That may be soon.
Jesus Is Coming Again
“Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” Mark 13:33
Even before He left, He said that He would be coming back again. It must have sounded confusing to the disciples who hadn’t caught the idea, yet, that He was going away. The fact that something very abnormally dramatic was about to happen had not sunk into their hearts. The fact of something supernatural happening at some point in the future was many times more difficult to comprehend. Until the cross! Then suddenly the possibility of His return, as He said He would, became more of a meaningful possibility. But the timing became the issue.
“Lord at this time are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel,” the disciples asked Jesus, just before His ascension. Jesus never gave them a date. He wanted to teach them, and us, that the date is not the important matter. It’s the keeping ourselves in a ready attitude on a daily basis that is one of the greatest witnesses of the gospel to a lost world. The fact is that a lot of Christians live as though He will never come back again. We sit in comfortable and effortless cruise control and let the world do ‘their thing.’ The world may not be aware that all things are coming to a conclusion, but we know that is true, based on Biblical prophecy.
Jesus is coming again. He said He would. His followers were prepared to lay down their lives in the belief that Jesus was coming back again, in power. Each of the writers of the New Testament Epistles makes reference to Jesus coming back again. The early Christians lived in expectation that He would come in their lifetime. That does not alter the fact that although He did not come according to their expectations, He will yet fulfill His promise to return just like He said.
We need to read passages like Matthew 24 for some of the daily reminders that are going on around us in a magnitude never before seen on earth. The fact that the warnings are recorded should be enough to let us know that we ought to be busy in preparation for His return. It’s time we took the admonitions of Jesus in Matthew 25 very seriously and began to examine, “what on earth are we doing for heavens sake.” No, that’s not a verse in the Bible but it does express a need for self examination because the end of all things is at hand and soon we shall stand in His Divine presence to give account of ourselves before God. Some people are going to have a lot to answer for because of their neglect of opportunities to serve God. Watch for the signs. He is coming back again. Let’s be doing the very things that He wants us to do.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
It’s not the one lost sheep that is intended to be the focus of the story. (Luke 15:1 - 7) It’s the principle that Jesus was making that is the important matter. Those that are lost need to be found. Anyone who has been literally lost at some time in your life will remember the confusion and frustration that you felt until some clue suddenly made you aware of your location. If you’ve never been lost, you’ve missed out on a very frightening but enlightening experience that would help you to understand the terror of those who can’t find their way.
The strange thing about being lost is that you can be among crowds of people and still not know where you are unless one of those around is willing to give you clear instructions. But here’s the real life tragedy. If someone doesn’t find their way before life is over, there are some terrible, eternal consequences. Add to that the fact that there are so many that are heading down ‘the broad road’ totally unaware that they are heading in the wrong direction and that an awful disaster awaits them at the end of their journey.
I suppose you could say, “Too bad for them. They made their choices.” It’s easy when we don’t identify someone we know, to just shrug our shoulders and silently continue on our way. There are some, though, who care enough to stop and give directions and make sure that the lost are pointed in the right direction. Jesus would say that, “He came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10) To say that He cared is to put it mildly. He was consumed with a passion to reach the wayward and make sure that every lost person was given a solution to finding his way Home.
When we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour, which to us is such a blessing, we should also be willing to accept the things that are a burden to His heart. To ask Him for our own salvation without any consideration of those around us, that Jesus loves so much, seems to be very self-centred. That can’t be pleasing to God! It’s like the story of the lepers who found a treasure of food, clothing and wealth while the people in the city were dying of starvation and mothers where eating their babies to survive. They ‘ate and drank’ and hid some of the wealth for themselves. Then they said, “We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.” (2 Kings 7:9)
What then should we do? Let me briefly suggest a few things:
1. We need to seriously pray for those that are lost.
2. We need to be prepared to talk to the lost.
3. We need to be willing to give to those who are seeking the lost.
4. We need to prepare to receive the lost.
Walking and Working
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14
For more than three years Jesus walked the paths that coursed across the countryside of Israel as He traveled from community to community to share the message of His Fathers great love. His hands reached out to all kinds of needs. They were placed upon little children and lepers. He laid his hands upon the dead and raised them to new life. He touched the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the mute and gave them back the freedom to be all they were designed to be. All through His earthly ministry He walked and reached out to the hurting, suffering over-burdened of His world.
The day came when those feet and hands were nailed to a cross. The same hands and feet that had brought miraculous relief to so many were now pinned to a stationary cross planted on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
But the true battle was not in what His hands could do. The war was in the spirit realm where demon powers had launched their attacks against Gods creation for too long. The Bible tells us that although His body was crucified, He descended into the headquarters of demon authority and tore away the keys of death and hell. (Revelation 1:18) His powerful voice preached deliverance in the chambers of the departed saints. They heard the news that Gods plan of redemption, announced from the days in the garden of Eden, was fulfilled as planned. (1 Peter 3:19)
Crucified, dead and buried was no way to stop the absolute power of the King of Kings. His earthly authority may be questioned by His critics and unjust judges but there was no way they could hinder the Master from completing the task that He was given to do. Crucifying His body set His Spirit free to work, unrestricted by time and space, to accomplish His Fathers purposes in the greater sense. There is no question but that the healing of our bodies is part of the wonderful plan of Salvation but it was the war in the heavenlies that finally put a stop to the overwhelming power of our enemy. Wounded Himself, Jesus stomped on the devils claim to wisdom and power. The devil is a defeated foe. He must flee from the presence of the most humble saint who lifts their voice in a simple prayer to the Father in Jesus name.
It must be torture for the devil, who has always tried to take the place of God, to find himself helpless and weaponless before those who are made of the dust of the earth. Jesus has won an Awesome victory for us. “Thanks be unto God who always causes us to triumph in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:14) Jesus demonstrated that both through His life and through His death. We are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ.
Attitude of Gratitude
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” Revelation 19:7
Gratitude should be a permanent feature in the faith of people who have seen the hand of God move in their lives. We live more miracles in our time than in any other generation until now. God is at work all around the world and doing marvellous things. It’s true, there are lots of tragedies that make the news but there is so much that God is doing that goes unrecognized. I’m sure that He has done many things for you as He has for me.
Thanksgiving reminds me of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. For timeless eternity past, the angels of heaven had given full expression to the adoration of the One who sits on the throne. But at this time, Angels were not allowed to give free reign to their praises but confined to their invisible position could only observe the reaction of Gods creation. Could the crowd on that first Palm Sunday have had ears to hear the invisible, I’m sure they would have heard the hosts saying, “It’s about time!” There was singing and dancing, laughter and great rejoicing. The crowds did for Jesus, that day, what was usually reserved for the heroes returning from conquering battles. Palm branches and coats were laid on the dusty trails for Jesus to ride over on His borrowed little donkey.
What a day! I’m sure there were many people present who had been touched by the Masters hand and took this opportunity to express their gratitude. Many had heard the wisdom and felt the heart of His messages. For those few moments, on Palm Sunday, Jesus received the recognition He deserved.
But you know the end of the story. It didn’t last. In just a matter of days, the gratitude and sounds of rejoicing wore off and the crowds turned into an angry mob. How soon we forget! It was all for a purpose but it’s a shame that those who had received such wonderful things from the Lord could have continued to live in the victory of their experience.
Let’s purpose to be a joyful people living with a vibrant attitude of gratitude because the next noteworthy events on Gods calendar are for a great move of His presence and then the trumpet call that will summon us homeward. It’s all going to be over soon. We shall be caught up into the glorious presence of our wonderful Lord. The hosts of heaven will observe the expressions of praise and adoration from the multitudes redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. What a time of rejoicing that will be! All the battles that caused us so much concern will be remembered no more. We’ll hear the stories of Gods goodness repeated again and again as we visit with the Saints in glory. We have so much to thank the Lord for even from our personal memories of the past and only a wonderful anticipation for what we will share in the future. God is so good!
Thankful For His Blessings
“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures for ever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34.
Who can count the abundance of blessings that the Lord has given to us out of the storehouse of His love and good pleasure. He is an Awesome God and His kindness is beyond measure. The Psalmist David expresses it like this: “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” (Psalm 40:5)
It would be impossible to list all of Gods wonderful blessings both of His deeds and of His promises but the Psalmist shares a few in Psalm 103.
1. He forgives all your sins ( you name it to Him and He forgives.)
2. He heals all your diseases (His power is sufficient for all our sicknesses)
3. He provides a blessed alternative to the pit (Heaven is the home of the righteous.)
4. He crowns us with love and compassion (He’s in love with you and daily protects, provides and blesses us.)
5. He has a way of satisfying our desires with good things. (maybe not always what we want ... but good things just the same.)
6. He has a way of restoring youthful strength to weary, perplexed and pressured lives. (When we learn to cast all our care upon Him, we find that it is true, He cares for us.)
Every Believer has his or her own story to tell of the wonderful miracles and answers to prayer that the Lord has supplied. It is true that life is not always rosy and comfortable but our joy and the peace we possess does not depend upon our circumstances because we know, beyond the shadow of doubt, that there is so much more, reserved in heaven for us when it’s all over down here. After all He’s done for us, on the cross of Calvary, could we ever question the interest of His wonderful plan for timeless eternity. Listen to the Word of God, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
For that reason, do not become discouraged when the pressure is on. “Lift up your head. Your redemption is drawing near.”
Especially on Thanksgiving day, let’s be obedient to Paul’s exhortation. “In everything give thanks.” Remember, everything means “every thing. “
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is Gods will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
The Lord has been working on building a people with an attitude of gratitude. We haven’t always responded to His benefits with thankfulness. The story of the children of Israel leaving the slavery of Egypt in such a miraculous fashion and following the leading of the Pillar of Fire by night and the cloud of smoke by day is always so dramatically interesting. The fact that their daily provisions were supplied, like clockwork, each morning was a clear witness of the care of their Heavenly benefactor. Add to that the dynamics of Mount Sinai, as God spoke to Moses to reveal His purposes for His people and the evidence of Divine protection against the marauding enemies of the land, the nation of Israel had so many up-to-date witnesses of the blessings through the kindness of God. But the people were complainers. They murmured against the leadership and against God. They became enraged because they couldn’t have a menu to select from to satisfy their own desires. Complain, complain, complain, complain.
But God was patient. God is patient!
We have evidences that God is faithful and caring for us each day. We need to learn from the Old Testament experiences that we need to be a people who appreciate the things that God does for us.
The Psalmist says: “Praise the Lord .... and forget not all his benefits.” (Psalm 103:2)
- He forgives our sins.
- He heals all our diseases.
- He redeems our life and crowns us with love and compassion
- He satisfies our desires with good things.
- He renews us each day.
We may not always like the wrapper that contains His purposes but the fact remains true that God can bring Joy out of Sorrow; Peace out of Pain and Supply out of Need. Add to that the wonderful sense of His presence as we enjoy a personal relationship with Him. Consider the abundance of material blessings that we take for granted. Look at how the major part of the world exists. Truly we are a very blessed people. An attitude of gratitude should not be difficult. Let’s be thankful and express our appreciation to Him in joyful worship. We serve an Awesome God.
If we’re not thankful, we just may have to go around the desert a little while longer. So let’s rejoice for our God is good.
Being Grateful Could Save Your Life
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.” Hebrews 12:28
He was wealthy and had all the comforts that his riches could buy but he was a cranky and bitter man. He thought only of himself and his personal possessions were his treasures. His own wife described him as being a wicked man and that his name should explain all that you needed to know about him. His name is Nabal which means “the Fool” and according to his wife, he lived up to that kind of reputation. (1 Samuel 25:25)
The story comes at a time when David is living in the wilderness with his rag-tag army, fleeing from the anger and jealousy of King Saul. But this was no waste of time for David. He began to train his followers in matters of order, discipline and combat strategies. As a regular exercise, they watched for wandering looters from the nations and tribes who hated the nation of Israel and he dealt with them severely. Many times, they had come to the rescue of Nabals shepherds. David and his men were like a wall of protection to keep the shepherds from the harm and danger of the blood-thirsty thieves and the workers appreciated that security.
But not Nabal. He couldn’t care two hoots about David and his problems. He was careless, thankless and heartless. He was an absolute ingrate. It was his wife who saved his life by her intercession and offering because when David was hungry, Nabal would not give him even a loaf of bread. She was grateful for the watchful care that David and his men had demonstrated to her property and to her family. I think it’s fair to say that being thankful could have saved Nabals life from an untimely death. It appears that he had a stroke or heart failure and became as a stone and died. (1 Samuel 25:37 )
Gratitude is an exercise of the heart. Deny that and there are some very serious consequences. Some of the happiest people on earth are those who are thankful for everything. Whether we’re poor or rich; from Timbuktu or right here in Canada, being thankful is a way to demonstrate a healthy heart. That’s why Paul would advise us to, “.. give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians. 5:18)
God has been so good to us. He has provided a way to have our sins forgiven. He has promised us many wonderful things because we are a part of His heavenly family. He is available as our Healer, Provider and Protector. He does guide, give wisdom, help us in our weaknesses and He’s always available as our friend.
Let us rejoice and give thanks today and be blessed in doing so. Someone has said, “Thanksgiving is good; Thanksliving is better.”
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2
There are lots of things in this world that I just do not appreciate. Things like broccoli, pain, people being late for appointments, sickness, bad weather on a day off and like temptation. All that stuff makes me feel uncomfortable and sometimes moves me to anger. But then, I’m reminded by the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit that I’m to “... give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
I may think that I have good reason to not approve of the ‘circumstances’ that cause me discomfort or distress but I must realize too, that there is a bigger and better plan that is in effect and that God does not miss out on any of the most minute of details. As one who trusts in the purposes of an Awesome God, I need to apply some very basic principles that He outlines, along side of this little challenge to be grateful and each of these principles are intended to be timeless. Listen:
- Be joyful always. Come on now, let’s see some smiles. I’ve seen some Christians that look like they just climbed out of a lemon tree, whose faces are as long as a mules and who’ve lost the excitement of facing new challenges in life. Get a hold of yourself! For the Christian, our choice is to rejoice and, as Paul says, again I say rejoice! Smiles given receive smiles in return.
- Pray continually. You mean to tell me that I am not spiritual enough already? I didn’t say that but come to think of it, we all need the spiritual exercise now more than ever before. That is not to be a once for all experience but rather a day by day, moment by moment relationship with God. It doesn’t require a change in posture nor place. Anywhere and anytime are all a part of Gods schedule.
- Then comes the exhortation to give thanks in all circumstances. That’s the reminder of this day.
These three exhortations are tied together with this fact.... “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” My own translation would be, “This is the way God wants it.” That kind of puts the onus on me to swallow my feelings, to stop defending ‘my rights’ and to learn that God is bigger than all my emotions and situations. He is able to help me through all circumstances to be a happy, peaceful and grateful person.
Now if all ‘us Christians’ would practice these things, what a wonderful world we would be living in. It comes down to a simple expression of confidence. We need to believe that God loves us and that every experience that comes our way is either an opportunity to see Gods provision or a lesson for us to learn some valuable truth.
Lord, teach us to be thankful!
Learning To Pray
“Lord teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples. He said to them, When you pray, say ...”
Prayer was always an important part of Jesus’ life. It was His lifeline to a wonderful relationship with His Father. The disciples appreciated His example as well as that of John the Baptist who taught his disciples to pray. They realized that one of their greatest needs in the development of their spiritual lives was to do what these two ‘men’ were doing so effectively. I’m sure that the disciples had been to the Temple many times before and had watched the ‘professional prayers’ doing their thing, but the way Jesus and John prayed was so different. Their prayers were not only satisfying their need to know God but also were followed by results. There must be some lessons to be learned and who better to teach the secrets of prayer than the “Prayer Master.”
Let me share a few things about Jesus pattern for prayer.
1. Jesus did not begin His instruction with the word “if.” The fact of the matter is we must pray. That should become a normal component of our daily Christian life-style. The biggest problem with modern prayers is that they are not prayed. Jesus lays the emphasis upon the fact that praying ought to be a part of our daily agendas. He said, “When you pray..” not “if you pray.”
2. Jesus, in contrast to the priests and the Pharisees, taught that the approach to God should be with the same confidence that a little child has when he comes to his father. Without fear, with a simple faith, with respect and with love, our approach is to our Heavenly Father. That basic principle blew the minds of the religious leaders who for centuries drew near to God out of duty and with fear; going through the process. Jesus wanted to make it clear that God really cares for us as His own children in relationship style as opposed to regulations and structure.
3. The approach to God was not intended to be high-fallooten, (I have never written that word before) but rather in terms of a daily conversation expressing praise and petition to God, without drama nor memorized religious terminology. I think we will be surprised at how God appreciates the simplicity of the average ‘six-pack Joe’ who comes to God to pray with simple and humble faith.
Let’s pray! And let’s do it often, each day, to make Him the centre of our lives.
Repentance and Restitution
“A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” 1 Corinthians 11:28
Jesus had a wonderful way of teaching principles to the people that made them sit up and think. He wasn’t stuck in the old clichés of the religious leaders of His time. Some that came to hear and criticize Him were amazed at the clarity and authority of His message. The leaders were sometimes embarrassed by Him but the common people gladly heard Him. Those leaders had to acknowledge, “Look how the whole world has gone after Him.” (John 12:19)
On one occasion, Jesus attacked the reasoning of the Jewish leaders who underestimated the value of the individual before God. They had insisted that if you offend someone, all you have to do is give a gift to God and your wicked actions will be forgiven. Knowing the heart of Jesus, I’m sure that His concern was toward what was being done to fix up the human side of the problem; after all, “hurt people, hurt.” To Jesus, that was a matter that could not be passed off as easily as that. He so candidly said to the Pharisees, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions.” (Mark 7:9) In other words, ‘What you’re doing is not the way God wants things to be done.’ That put pressure on the ‘comfort zones’ of the religious leaders and it didn’t make them happy.
You see, Jesus was dealing with professional hypocrites who were firstly interested in people looking to them for spiritual advice and then in second place, referring to what God says about the important issues of life according to their interpretation. Before we get too uppitty about that, I guess I need to ask us this question. Does it really matter to anyone, today, what God thinks about our morals and our lifestyles? You will hear all kinds of opinions about homosexuality, abortions, respecting the Lords day and using the Lords name as a swear word in daily conversation. There is nothing wrong with hearing the philosophies and ideas of others, but the standard that really matters is, “What does God say about all this?” That is a principle that we cannot escape.
I think that it is especially important for Christians to examine our stand on some of these issues and repent and change our ways. After all, we are to be an example of the Kingdom of God, not of the kingdom of this world. We need to understand that God has a higher role for us to follow than the one that is accepted in society or even in our personal desires. What would Jesus do? Don’t get stuck in the hard-headed stubbornness of the Pharisees who were not prepared to submit their traditions to the eye of Gods Word.
Take A Look Inside
“What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’.” Matthew 15:11
One of my rose bushes has been holding on to a bud for the last two months. It hasn’t opened up because of the cold and the rain but it is hanging on ‘for better times.’ I love flowers of all kinds but they all fade away in their season. I’ve taken pictures of plants to treasure their beauty knowing well that what I see right now will eventually go the way of all the other flowers and fall to the ground. I’ve noticed that even the beauty of youth goes through a transformation that changes their gentle blush to the mature look and then the wrinkles appear. But that is the reason for makeup, perfume and lotions. We want to hold on to the strong, the beautiful and the glamorous as long as we can. We know there is coming a time when the roses will fade; the glamour will be lost and life goes on in a different way.
Peter wrote of having an unfading beauty of the inner self. (1 Peter 3:4 ) Unfading beauty! We wish that the secret of the mysterious fountain of youth would do that to our bodies while Peter is reminding us that the important ‘stuff’ is on the inside. We pay a lot of attention to the outside but have not taken a lot of care for the inside.
I love watching the children open their gifts on birth dates and Christmas. They don’t care about the wrappings! They aren’t gentle or orderly. As far as they are concerned ‘let’s get to the good stuff’ that is covered with the unnecessary paper. It’s what’s inside that counts. That’s a Bible story, too. It’s what’s on the inside that makes our living so important. As a matter of fact the book of Proverbs reminds us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” ( 4:23 ) Anything that is worth something in our lives has it’s source in our hearts. Our values, our reactions, our attitudes, our self-worth and who we really are comes from the spring in our hearts. These are the really important things in life and somehow we need to beautify ourselves in these areas.
Let me suggest a spiritual beauticians formula to making ourselves attractive on the inner self:
1. Prayer – the more time we spend with the Master, the more we become like Him. It’s His nature in us that will bring us a lasting benefit.
2. Put out of your heart and mind anything that would be negative and bitter. We need to learn to grow on the sweet, pure and loving matters in order to flavour our lives in healthy ways.
3. Choose your friends. Those that have a negative affect should not have a chance to rob us of much of our energy and time. Find friends that are up-beat and joyfully positive.
4. Exercise your mind by reading items that will help you to grow spiritually and will challenge your heart for a deeper walk with the Lord.
In Honour Of Our Seniors
“Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you.” Romans 16:19
Peter was not supposed to be considered “the foundation of the Church” as some might think. He was one of the first leaders and there is no question that his ministry and influence was very important in establishing the Church in the first century. It’s often the beginnings that set an example for us to follow. When we lose sight of the intended focus of those who’ve gone before us, we also lose the primary purpose that the original was designed for. Like a plant that must not forget that it grows out of an unseen root, there are some ‘former’ things that must not change because they are basic to healthy development and growth. From the same illustration, the plant is entirely distinct from the root because it was designed to fulfill a different purpose although still a part of the whole. However, there is a flow of life that comes through the root and into the plant that demonstrates that anything that is going to be on ‘the top’ must come through the bottom. The latter comes from the former.
That’s why it is important to remember that there are others who were a part of the Church long before we came on the scene. They laid a good, enduring foundation that we have inherited from their sacrificial dedication. We may not see all that these first-comers have done but this one thing is sure, the pioneers, founders and builders of our Churches have laboured with love to provide what we enjoy today. They willingly gave their energies, time and tithes through difficult years and sometimes through persecution, in order to establish the facilities and the recognition that we enjoy today. Some, literally, stood on street corners in open-air meetings to sound out the message of the love of God.
Others drove buses and their own cars to round up the kids from the neighbourhood and bring them into the Church Sunday School and Kids clubs. The parents of these children eventually followed them and here we are today. Vibrant places of spiritual influence that continue to send out a message of hope to a lost generation. The roots were faithful to do ‘what they could’ and we reap the benefits. Faithfulness is not a commodity on the market today, but we see the evidences of a past generation and we are the recipients of a wonderful treasure. The rewards of their faithfulness has fallen into our lap.
We are grateful for the Seniors who continue to give godly examples to us. I’m glad that there hasn’t been any wavering in their commitment to serve God. Our Seniors are worthy of special recognition. We appreciate their labours of love through the years of their committed service. We extend a heartfelt expression of gratitude to them.
At The Cost Of His Firstborn
“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:22
When the walls of Jericho fell, in the days of Joshua, a prophetic proclamation was made that anyone who ever tried to rebuild another city in the same place would do so at great personal cost. In the words of Joshua, “At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations…” (Joshua 6:26) During the reign of King Ahab, a man by the name of Hiel began to rebuild Jericho and true to the prophetic message, all of this mans children died during the construction of the city walls. (1 Kings 16:34)
Prophetic messages often use the principle of a ‘double application.’ For example, Isaiah 7:14 is the announcement, firstly, of the birth of our Saviour Jesus who came to be God with us. Secondly, to Isaiah this was Gods way of telling him that he and his wife would have a child and that before the child would know to choose between the right and wrong, there would be a judgment on the land.
This message of Joshua to Jericho also has a ‘second application.’ Let’s hear the message again. “At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations…”
God’s intentions to choose a people for himself out of all of creation is known as the building of the Church. Peter calls those same people ‘living stones’ who are to be built into a spiritual house. (1 Peter 2:5) That ‘spiritual house’ is being built today as the gospel is preached to nations around the world. It’s construction began at great personal cost to God the Father who gave His One and only Son in the laying of the foundation. Before He entered into the project of building His Church He already knew the end cost. And it’s the cost that lets us know the value that God had in mind before the undertaking of this very special plan began. He is building for eternity and each one of us is a part of His plan. The price that was necessary to commence the project was the death of His Son on the cross of Calvary.
Although the original prophecy of Joshua’s day was totally negative the double application has totally positive benefits for all of us. When Jesus died on the cross, He made it possible for everyone to be included in the miracle of Gods developing plan. The whole idea was Gods and it meant that Jesus would die in my place so that I could move into His place. Everyone of us can say the same thing. It was necessary for Jesus to lay down His life or there would be no foundation for the Church. It’s because He did lay down His live that He is the foundation for Christian homes, Christian lifestyles and the basis of our Faith. There is no other way. It is Jesus or nothing. There are no other options. Our Heavenly Father knew all of that before the earth was formed and yet He willingly allowed His Son to come to earth to die that a firm foundation could be laid for us.
“This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 1 Samuel 17:10
King David was a marvellous mixture of talent and passion. It all seemed to come together most clearly when he heard the challenge of Goliath. Something tweeked in David’s heart. There were the memories of his hand to paw combat with both a lion and a bear. He said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” David was not afraid of a good fight even though it carried some heavy odds. It was his faith in God that was the key to it all. If God would not have been with him he would have been nothing more than another little boy in the neighbourhood. But God was in this matter. He knew that God was the one asset he possessed that the enemy could not overcome and the proof was not in the pudding. It was in the face to face encounter with someone who was a lot bigger than himself. He learned that if he gave what he had, God would do the rest. That describes the heart of David. He wanted Gods will, Gods way, in Gods time. He was prepared to offer his little self if God would use him. He loved what God would do in a life that was sold out to Him. He loved the fact that when God was honoured, he would be blessed and David revelled in the face of impossibility.
But it wasn’t just on the battlefield that David expressed such passion. There were the quiet moments of worship where his longing for more of God broke into songs that we read and sing today. “Oh God, you are my God, earnestly will I seek you; my soul thirsts for you. My body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) He was a great warrior who possessed a passion for the heart of God. Like a magnet to iron he was drawn to seek more and more of God. Marked as one of the greatest warriors in Israel it is sometimes difficult to picture him so tender and hungry in spirit for the presence of God.
He was sidetracked, occasionally, by things that were displeasing to God, but the cry of his repentant heart always displays the sensitivity of a humble, childlike yearning to be restored to the place that would please his heavenly Father. The evidence of his passion for God is more of a lesson in life than all the victories won on the bloody battlefields. What makes a person important in life? What could be the greatest contribution that we could make to the next generation? Let me assure you that if we could leave behind a legacy of touching God and of experiences in His presence, our children would value that more than wealth or education. The curse of our time is that we focus more on the battle for bread and bacon and the comfort and security of things than we do on getting closer to God. Some of those battles are important, but there is absolutely nothing that can take the place of what God can do in our lives when we seek Him.
Some Aren’t Leaving With Us
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour…” Matthew 25:13
One day, our hope will become reality. We live in the expectation of the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made when He said, “I will come again and receive you unto myself.” He is coming back again to receive us to Himself. That will be a day of relief from pain and suffering, from the pressures of our world and from the conflict of temptation. We’ll be ushered into the eternal presence of the King of kings to inherit the pleasures of His eternal love.
But not everyone we know will be there. Jesus said, “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. … Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’” (Mt. 25:32, 34) I like the basic principle of that passage. There is a special place already created for those who trust in Jesus.
But there is another side to the whole story. The other ‘separated ones’ don’t have the kind of hope that we have. They live with us, work with us, shop where we shop but they are not going where we are going.
Listen to me carefully! They are not going where we are going. Jesus warns,
“.. on that night two people will be in one bed, one shall be taken and the other left.” That’s the separation of husband and wife. He also said, “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” ( Mt. 24:40 ) People at the work-place will be separated as one goes to be with the Lord and the other is left behind.
Both sincere “love” and “Missions” have got to begin at home. It is possible that our own loved ones will not know the great blessing of going to be with the Lord. They will be left behind. Their destination is not the same as ours. That must be an agony, for those who love the Lord, to think that the possibility exists that those who are closest to us will miss the coming of the Lord and not make it to heaven.
Let me suggest a few things concerning this matter:
1. Let’s get serious. This is a situation of urgency.
2. Let’s pray, like never before, that God will send the Holy Spirit to work on their hearts and use us to reach our loved ones.
3. Let’s be bold. The subject of eternity needs to be raised to a generation that is caught up in seeking for pleasures and living well for today.
4. Let’s live so that there will be no question of our Loyalty to our Lord. Our spouses and our kids need to know that we believe that Jesus is coming again.
Cross Bearing Servants
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
He was speaking about the cross but the emphasis was on service and commitment. He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
He raises some very critical issues about those who would be His followers. One of those matters was to teach that there may be a very serious price to pay for being one of His disciples. We prefer the other side of the coin. We are all happy to acknowledge that our sins have been forgiven because Jesus went to the cross but we are not so happy when He asks us to be willing to give ourselves in sacrifice. Most of us are content to follow, “..a long way off,” in places that are more comfortable in our society than being near the cross. Perhaps the worldly influences and the comforts we enjoy have made us grow soft in our willingness to stand up for the truth and carry the cross; to lay our lives on the line for His sake.
It is a lot simpler, more comforting to let others do the work and make the sacrifices. We are willing to pay Evangelists and Pastors to do the cross bearing while we, together, reap the benefits of being where God is working. There is a pay day coming. Guess who gets the wages for faithfulness? Those who’ve been found faithful. The truth is that we need an Old Fashioned Pentecostal experience to revive us once again. I don’t mean the kind of Revival that makes us feel happy with the warm fuzzies all over. I mean the kind of Revival that gives power and boldness to do the work that has been set for us to do; like speaking to people about the Gospel claims; like praying for the sick and needy; like believing for extra-ordinary things to happen when we pray.
There are great opportunities available for all of us, each day, but we’ve got to be serious about doing what Jesus wants us to do without regard for what others may or may not be doing. It’s Cross Bearers that will make the difference in the Kingdom of God. They’re people who know their God and are sensitive to the leading of the Spirit who is searching for the lost in the world today. They are people who are willing to overcome timidity and fear to speak up when the opportunity arises to speak of the love of God and the gift of His One and only Son. Cross Bearers are gutsy. They don’t mind being ridiculed and mocked on occasion. They remain faithful, because they know Someone who carried the cross for them. He went all the way to Calvary and counted it all joy. So let’s be ready to give ourselves to serve Him.
Returning to Early Church Principles
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judean and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
The Day of Pentecost was the birth of the Church. Many nations were in Jerusalem on that day and many quickly became a part of the move of God over all the earth. The Spirit of God began calling men and women to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It was no longer just the Jews, but now it was all men everywhere who were welcome to become a part of what God was doing.
As the Word went out, through those who had experienced this Wonderful visitation of the Spirit, the hearts of many were deeply touched and God worked Signs and Wonders in their midst. The Christians were bold in their faith and shared their influence where ever they went. They lived with the constant expectation that when they prayed, God would answer. Add to that basic principle, that they had seen the Lord ascend into heaven but that He was going to return again at any moment.
They shared their faith because they really believed that the lost needed to be found before the Lord came back. They realized that they were called to be involved in the matter that was closest to the heart of God, reaching the lost. What a blessing to be able to work with God in such a powerful project as that of sharing the good news that, “God so loved the world.”
The interesting thing about the whole story of the history of the Church of Jesus Christ is the fact that we have the same privileges as the Early Church, in that we, too, can share the same message with others. The Day of Pentecost introduced a new Divine involvement to the whole project. The Holy Spirit would come and dwell inside of the believers to empower them to share the message. Simple words spoken would be endued with Power to bring conviction and demand decision. The Holy Spirit came to help us live like Jesus lived. He came to remind us of things that Jesus said. He came to be a new source of comfort and strength on a daily basis as we wait upon Him. We may learn to hear His gentle promptings to do the things that please the Father and reach out to a very needy world.
The early Church received the Holy Spirit and told the story of Gods love. Within a generation, almost the entire world surrounding Israel, had heard the message. The critics of the Church and the believers said, “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here.” Acts 17:6 There are some in your area of influence who need to hear what you have to say. Please, do not be embarrassed about sharing your experience with the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s set our goals to reaching those around us.
Truth or Consequences
“Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” Psalm 26:2
We teach children that if they play with matches they’ll get burned. If they play with electricity they’ll get a good shock. If they don’t look both ways when they cross the street they may be hurt and they need to know that stop signs are there for a purpose.
The Counsel of parents is designed to protect children from harm and danger because there are consequences to wrong actions and choices. Only a fool would argue that the parents lay down these rules just to spoil the fun of our kids. Those who are uninformed about these kinds of rules will probably learn there lessons by hard experience. Someone has said that ‘experience is a bad teacher because it gives the test before it gives the lesson.’ I heard a man say that the reason his son failed his class was because he had a poor teacher. As much as that may be possible, we need to acknowledge that the learning process is hearing right and doing right by our own choice. Obedience to follow the rules established by parents is the beginning of learning the best way to keep out of trouble and danger. There are consequences to those who think they know better. Many’s the time, during my years of ministry, that I’ve heard young people say, “If only I had listened to my Mom and Dad.!”
That’s what the ten commandments are all about. God has no intentions of spoiling the joy of our lives. He wants to protect us from the very serious dangers that result from breaking those rules. Obedience is the key. Like a true, caring Father, His advice is to give us guidelines to successful living; not only here and now but also then and there. One of the most wonderful blessings we receive when we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour is the gift of the Holy Spirit who moves into our lives. (John 14:7) He represents the wisdom and counsel of God and He comes to prompt us from within. ( John 14:26 ) He is like a vocal unwritten law Who will gently speak to us if we are not doing the right things. (John 16:13) He is there as an Envoy of heaven to keep us on the right track and out of harm and danger. He can become the gentle ‘Nagger’ in the halls of our heart and mind, if we are disobedient. He will not let us go until we make matters right. Even that is a blessing. You see, He wants to live in a clean house where even the garbage cans are cleaned out regularly. The key, of course, is that we need to listen to Him and obey His promptings because there are consequences to offending Him and disobeying His guidelines. This is not intended to be an epistle of accusation but rather a gentle prodding to examine ourselves and do what we know is right before the Lord. We should recognize our privileges as the Children of a loving Heavenly Father who only wants the best for us.
Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus and do what He wants us to do.
A Member Of A Local Church
“They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Acts 1:14
The Church of Jesus Christ is Universal. All around the world, those who confess Jesus Christ is Lord are a part of that Church. That Church is made up of individual congregations in the local community.
Why should I become a member of a local Church?
1. I want to let everyone know that I am in agreement with the teaching and direction of this Congregation and that I am willing to give my support to see Gods will done in the local Church.
2. As a God given privilege I want to be a part of the decision making process that is given to the members of this Congregation at their annual meeting and special business meetings that may determine the direction of the Church programs and outreach.
3. If possible, I want to be able to express my confidence in the leadership of the Church by the nominating and voting process that is offered to the membership.
4. I want to make it known that I am willing to participate in some of the Committees and activities of this Congregation as my talents and abilities will allow. I believe that the Church is the visible expression of the body of Jesus Christ and I want to offer myself to be a part of what He wants to do with my giftings and talents.
5. I believe that it is important to choose to place myself under the leadership, teaching and example of those that God has placed in authority in the Local Church.
6. I believe that it is Gods will that I commit myself to fulfill His purposes for the Universal Church in the setting of the Local Assembly of believers which is our Church.
7. I wish to affirm that my commitment to being a member will be demonstrated in other practical ways with my tithes, gifts and offerings for the support of the purposes and the Mission of this Church.
8. I want to be a visible part of the caring and ministering to the people in the Church and to be able to say that I do it for the Lord and His Church which is our local Assembly.
9. I believe that being a member, by choice, is a witness to the world that I have a loyalty to what God is doing in this world and I wish to demonstrate that by being a part of the Local Assembly.
- I wish to publicly acknowledge that I am joining heart and hands with others of like faith and commitment to honour the Lord through the Ministries of the Local Church.
A Man With A Bad Attitude
“Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.” Psalm 105:3
He was the first baby to be born into this world. As far as his mother was concerned he was ‘the man.’ If you talk about the rights of the first born, this was ‘the man.’ We don’t know a lot about him apart from the fact that he was a gardener by profession and that he was the first person to make the choice to offer a thank offering to the Lord. In the record, it’s the first time we find mention of giving back to God a part of the benefits of living in His world. But there was something missing in the process. Abel followed his brothers example and brought an offering as well. I know that some have said that Abel’s offering was accepted because he offered a lamb while Cain’s offering was rejected because he gave of the fruit of the soil. One surrendered a life while the other gave plant life.
I won’t make this a point of argument but I believe that the Lord was looking at the life and attitude of the giver more than at what was laid on the altar. The Word says, “The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering.” (Genesis 4:4) God looked at the man, first. Jesus conveyed the same idea when He said, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23) The gift/offering was important; but more important was the attitude or condition of the heart. Cain showed what was on the inside because, ‘He was very angry’ following the worship service. God was so concerned about his attitude that He came down and spoke to Cain personally about the matter.
There is no question that giving is an important part of our worship service to the Lord. But more important is thanksgiving; that is, the sincere expression of gratitude that comes from the heart. That’s what no one else can see but what God is looking for. The gospels tell the story of Jesus observing as many gave their offerings at the temple and it was reported that some put in ‘much.’ But a widow lady came along and humbly threw in 2 mites ( two brass coins worth about a 1/5 th of a cent.) Jesus saw it all and drew the attention of his disciples to the fact that the woman put in more than all the others. He saw her heart. She put in all that she had. (Luke 21:4)
You see, the amount isn’t the important thing. Someone has said, “The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart.” That’s what thanksgiving and worship are all about. We can say all kinds of words, do all kinds of things but God looks at the motives, attitude and condition of the heart and that is the key to His acceptance or rejection of the gifts we bring. I’ve never heard of God discarding the gifts; He just won’t receive them until the heart is right. When that is all fixed up, we can return to the altar to a personal encounter with the living God.
Getting Cleaned Up
“Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” Psalm 51:2
There’s a complete aisle of shelves filled with cleaning agents at the store where we shop. The containers come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colours. You can buy them in bar shapes, in boxes of powder or in liquid form. The soaps come in a variety of fragrances from roses to ammonia. There are specialty cleansers for spots and stains; for different types of materials; for paint and grease and for getting out the things that shouldn’t be there. You can choose from generic products or your favourite brand names. It seems there’s no end to your choices.
But there’s no detergent on the shelves that can take away the stain and blemish of sin. It’s been a serious problem since the Garden of Eden. People have been looking for an answer to that difficulty through the generations. Some have tried alcohol but that only hides the stain for a little while and then it re-appears. The same with drugs and that kind of stuff. Some have tried to change their lifestyle to rid themselves of their past but that was like a vacation from reality and soon all the problems returned because not even that can wash away the guilt of sin. Some people try to live their lives by ignoring the promptings within but that’s one of the reasons that our world is in such a mess today. In case you think that I’m selectively picking on a group of individuals, I want you to know that we all have to deal with the same problem and get serious about it. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” ( 1 John 1:8 )
Here’s the deal. There is only one thing that will ever get us out of the guilt and the bad feelings that our sin has created. The Bible says, “The blood of Jesus, … purifies us from all sin.” ( 1 John 1:7 ) When Jesus died on the cross, He provided a way that we could be made clean and restored to a right relationship with God. There’s no other way in all of creation that can deal with that problem. Although He died almost 2000 years ago, the moment I decide to believe and trust that His sacrifice was sufficient for the stains of all mankind until the end of time, I automatically receive the kind of cleansing that makes me a brand new creation. I can experience true freedom from guilt and the despair that always accompanies it. I can come before the Lord as a child comes to his father. I become the recipient of an eternal inheritance because, by faith, I’m washed in the blood of the Lamb and all my sins are buried where they will never be remembered again. It sounds so simple that it’s difficult to believe. That’s what the love of God has provided for every man, woman and child. The simplicity of the process makes it available to all.
The Captain is In The Boat
“He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” Job 5:9
It was during one of those ‘furious squalls’ that sometimes swept across the sea of Galilee when the experienced fishermen seriously feared for their lives. They awakened Jesus from His slumber. He stood up at the back of the bouncing boat, looked the wind in the face and said, “Quiet! Be still!” Immediately, the wind stopped and there was a great calm. The story in Mark tells us that His disciples were terrified to think that their friend had such power. You would have believed that it was a wake up call for the disciples to realize that Jesus was not just a good teacher; he was not a mysterious magician who knew some pretty good tricks. The passenger in their boat was the Captain of all of creation. He had authority to re-create the damage in human bodies that sin had inflicted upon humanity through the centuries. He could command healing and forgiveness for those who came to Him. He was unique. His words were not the memorized speeches and prayers of others. His were words fresh from the heart of God and launched into the hearts of those that the Father had loved from before the foundation of the world. In a matter of moments they would see His power over a super-strong man, possessed by evil spirits, who lived among the tombs of Gadara. He had obviously caused many problems in the neighbourhood. People had tried to chain him into inactivity but time and again he had broken loose and returned to his angry ways. Jesus spoke freedom into his captive heart and set him loose from the demonic tormentors who had used him to destroy and cause fear to those who came near his stomping grounds. Peace suddenly filled his heart. And what a change. Can you imagine him returning ‘home’ that night for the first time in a long time? That was a story that needed to be told to his family and friends. Jesus set him free!
Jesus has a way of changing the unchangeable. Someone has said that he is able to unscrew the inscrutable. There are powers beyond our control that the Master can command into obedience and order. We see many of those kind of situations in our world and also in the lives of believers, today. Jesus wants us to possess a quietness in the midst of the storms of life. He wants us to have Peace when the pressures seem to overwhelm us. He has the authority to make the changes that are necessary. It may surprise us to see how willing and able He is for the things that trouble our lives. We need to remind ourselves that there is no situation that is beyond the control of the Creator of the universe; the Lover of our souls. Let’s learn to come to Him with confidence when the need arises. Meanwhile, rest assured, He is in the boat with you and although the way does get quite bumpy at times He has the power to speak into every one of our lives and makes a difference. We’re not going under. We’re going to the other side. Trust Him! He’s in control.
My Sins Are Gone!
“I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.” 1 John 2:12
He’s forgotten everything. It wasn’t amnesia. It was a choice. He just declared that He would never remember my sins ever again. I confessed them to Him and He cast them into the sea (Micah 7:19) of His forgetfulness and, if I understand the interpretation of scripture, He doesn’t know where they are today. As far as He is concerned they never existed. The matter of the degree of sin in the past is not important because He takes all our confessed sins and deals with them in the same manner. We could list them as individual transgressions that displease God and call them all by name. However, He has only one name for them all. Sin! But I can come to Him with a forgiven, clean heart freed from condemnation because that’s what Calvary does for each of us. Jesus died on the cross to cancel out the debt that I owed to God because of my transgressions. I am declared righteous through the Son. That is not a privilege that I can say was of my own making. It’s Gods gracious gift to me because I simply believed that Jesus died in my place and paid the price for my sin and, at the same time, made a way that I could stand before my heavenly Father in Himself as an heir of God and joint-heir with Jesus Christ.
But here’s a problem. Just as Gods memory is far, far better than mine, His ‘forgettory’ is too. As far as God is concerned, all confessed sins are gone but the enemy of our souls, the one called ‘the accuser of the brethren,’ tries to resurrect the memory of things of the past. He is the one who plants condemnation and guilt. He tries to tear down the peace we possess and the joy of our relationship with the Father. He reminds us of our past; the past that God has forgotten and will not hold against us. Many struggle with the battle of living in Gods forgiveness when the memories of our failures are often brought before us. Let’s make the enemy understand that we know, “the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all (every) sin.” (1 John 1:7) That’s a fact that does not change with our feelings. It is a principle that every believer needs to exercise on a regular basis so that the enemy will not be able to rob us of our joy. Our sins are forgiven!
We will not accept any of the condemnation the old enemy tries to put back on us. When Jesus died on the cross He set us all free. That is the reason He could promise, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) Life with a bag full of burdens as baggage from the past is not the way to enjoy life. We’ve been designed for better things so don’t let the enemy rob you of your gift of new life in Jesus. That’s His promise to us for today and infinitely greater for our future when we finally stand in the Fathers presence to enjoy His holiness to the full.
Did You Understand The Lesson?
“A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.” Matthew 10:24
He hung the used towel near the open window where the gentle evening breeze would dry it. He put on His cloak and returned to the place at the table reserved for Him. There were many nervous glances from the embarrassed disciples in the silence of the upper room. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. (John 13:12) He was their Teacher. He was their Master, yet He was the one who took up the towel and stooped to wash their feet. Did they understand? The Apostle Paul was not in the picture when all this happened but he captured the full message of Jesus teaching. Jesus, Paul said, “made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…” (Philippians 2:7) The message is ‘being a servant.’ There are none so important that he can’t become a servant. There are none that are too insignificant that they can’t become servants. We must become as our Master and learn the valuable lessons that serving others is being like Jesus. Pity the person who believes that there are tasks that are too degrading for the hands of Gods children.
You may have heard of Father Damien who dedicated his life and ministry to the service of lepers on the Island of Molokai in Hawaii. He had seen the ravages of that dreaded infection and had noticed that no one had taken the time nor expressed a concern for the personal and spiritual needs of those who had that disease. He cared. He became a servant to do what he could to help those rejects of society, with the full intent of leading each one of them to know the Lord as their Saviour. After years of service, he felt that he was not accepted by the lepers and that his message had fallen on deaf ears. He decided that it was time to leave the Island and pick up a new ministry somewhere else. As he waited for the boat to pick him up he noticed some white spots on his hand that he had not seen before. He soon discovered that he too, had been infected with leprosy. He returned to his pulpit, but now the Church was full of people who wanted to hear the message from a man who was willing to be like them in order to tell the story of the love of God. Father Damien died at 49 years of age but his message reached a generation of neglected lepers who would have finished their lives as the castoffs of humanity. He understood the message that Jesus gave to His disciples that day many centuries before.
Becoming a servant can be a life changing process. First of all, it should change our perspective of what God sees as being very important in our world today. Then it should change our attitude towards others around us because there is no higher calling than to be like our Master in service of the needs of those God loves. Then we need to understand that the enemy would prompt us to think that we should be served because we are important too. But we’re not going to let that happen, are we?.
Seeing in The Darkness
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
It seemed like a normal routine until the lights went out. Our host had put us in a small bedroom and we were tired after a days activities of doing what people usually do on holidays. To our amazement the ceiling came alive in the dark with a surprising glow of crescent moon and dozens of stars. The room had been decorated with invisible stars that only became observable when the lights were off. What was there all the time only came into view in the darkness. When we were prepared to surrender to the darkness we realized that there were hidden blessings that could only be released when the lights went out. God does that often. There are hidden gems of beauty and blessing that become ours only when we go through the dark valleys. It’s then that He comes near in new ways to comfort and strengthen when we least expect it. No wonder He says, “My grace is sufficient for you.” And again, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) There is a simple principle that we should learn early in our Christian walk. We are encouraged to “carry each other’s burden” because that ought to be the concern of every believer who sees another facing issues that are difficult to understand. (Galatians 6:2) That is a reflection of the compassion that Jesus showed to so many when He ministered among the hurting and the weary of His generation. We need lots of that kind of love in our world, today.
But just a couple of verses farther along in Galatians 6:5 the message focuses on us as individuals who ought to learn to trust God in the darkness. The Word says, “each one should carry his own load.” In brief, the mature, who have come to understand and trust in a living God, who never fails, should show our confidence and faith by believing each dark and gloomy path is a new opportunity to see what God can do. It’s not a time to throw up our hands and lament our poor condition. It’s not a time to doubt whether the love of God is still there when we feel so down and alone. Those are moments when we need to lift up our eyes and look for the gems that God wants to reveal to us that are only visible when we cannot see our way.
Sure those can still be painful times and they wouldn’t come to us, naturally by our own choice. But God knows what we need and He will not lead us into experiences that would cause us to fall. No matter what the degree of discomfort we may experience He is there. He knows and understands. It is reported that someone asked Billy Grahams daughter, ‘Where was God on September 11th at the World Trade Centre?’ Her response was, ‘He was there…. and He was crying.’ There is no question that God understands the stresses and struggles that come to each of us and His compassion will never leave us alone. It’s in those kinds of moments that we need to trust and not be afraid because He is still able to ‘work all things for the good of those who love Him.’
“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job 23:10
They brought out the gold and silver instruments and vessels that were used in the Temple worship in Jerusalem and filled the goblets with their wine to toast the anniversary of their conquest of the holy city. It was then that a hand appeared and began to write on the plaster of the wall. The message was difficult to understand but Daniel was able to give the interpretation. It was a simple but clear communication of the impending judgment of God. God knew what He was about to do. Israel had gone through their testing time and God was about to make a change to restore His people back to their nation. Israel had been led into captivity many years before because of their unfaithfulness to the covenant of God. Now God was beginning to prepare for the restoration of the kingdom of His chosen ones. A new page of history was about to begin. God would return His people to their home land, to the land of promise, and give them another opportunity to serve Him.
Let me tell you a couple of things that relate to this story and to the practical moments of our lives.
1. God is mindful of the misuse of His vessels. Don’t think that any who ignore His guidelines will be able to avoid the eyes of God as He views what we do with the things that are designed for His service. How we use the things of God is important to Him and He will not stand idle forever. His patience has been demonstrated throughout history but should never be mistaken as indifference. Because He cares, His love and mercy will give us opportunity to return to Him and submit to His plan.
2. God is faithful to His promises. He can move the nations of the world to fulfill His plans. There is nothing in the world that can hinder His plan and purposes. That is very significant to the daily routine of our lives. He is always ready to hear the cry of His people when we seek His face with all our hearts. He loves with an everlasting love and is committed by His faithfulness to follow through on His promises. Find one and claim it.
3. God longs for the worship of His people. The re-building of the Temple was one of the first projects that the returning captives focused upon when they arrived back ‘home.’ There is nothing that brings more joy to the heart of God than a people who know the value of worship and practice it. Worship is still an important feature of our gatherings as a body of believers. But worship is a life-style not just a “Sunday, going’ to meeting’” activity. He is worthy of the praises of His people, all the time. Come ‘home’ to worship.
Walking in Dark Places
“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2
There is an agony in waiting while Faith does its work. You’ve been there many times in your life, as well as many saints throughout history, when you express your confidence in God and believe that He’s going to do something but Mr. Doubt throws arguments at you and the inner struggle begins. It feels like a battle where the inner voices grind away at each other. I know that God understands the turmoil that goes on inside the Believer in those situations. It may appear that He is not very caring, at the time, but His promise is to reward those who stand strong in their trust. “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6, 7) There is a purpose in these kinds of experiences.
I haven’t met the person, yet, who likes trials. To tell you the truth I am very grateful when the trials are over because there is a reward at the end. How we deal with the matters that cause us discomfort and concern is very important. It’s interesting that when God sees the conflicts that are going on in the Believer He would use such phrases as, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) ; “..do not worry” (Matthew 6:25, 31, 34) and “..cast all your anxiety on Him..” (1 Peter 5:7) These are not expressions of exasperation ; they are invitations to continue our trust in Him in spite of the situations. As much as we struggle with the process He wants us to learn to possess peace in our hearts when we go through the trials. That is the mark of a person of strong faith.
Do you remember the experience of Job. He was a righteous man of integrity and beloved of God. When everyone else despaired for his condition, he maintained his confidence that God was still right in what He did. He demonstrated his inner, personal struggles when he questioned the value of his life and he even cursed the day that he was born. His faith and confidence did not remove his pain. He continued to suffer, but his unwillingness to blame God eventually brought a great personal reward and he was able to bring a blessing to his ‘friends.’
Let me set the record straight! Trials may be an attack of the enemy or they may come as a result of some bad choices that we have made. But they will always come to us as tools that we can use to demonstrate our faith in God. It is possible that our struggles will be viewed by unbelievers and our reaction will be the determining factor of whether they will decide to serve the Lord or not. “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again.” (Philippians 3:1)
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