Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Luke 17:8 What's for Dinner? - A Devotional for Perfectionists

Wednesday 2/29/12   What’s for Dinner? – A Devotional for Perfectionists

Luke 17:8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’?

     Okay, maybe it’s just me, but does it bother anyone else that we don’t know what’s being eaten here. Right, I get Jesus is just giving an example and there’s no need to get all nit-picky on the details. But I’ve heard it said from others, I’ve said it myself, and I’m sure you have to – it’s that question asked by a starving person who’s quite interested in food at the moment – it’s the question of “What’s for dinner?” It’s a basic question; people just want to know what they’ll be eating.
     Yet here, it doesn’t seem like that’s the case. The master is just telling the servant to prepare something for his supper. Why? What happens if the servant wants to please his master, but he prepares the wrong meal? What if he burns the food? Will the master get mad? Will he stand up and yell at his servant and say how the servant didn’t prepare what he wanted, did it wrong, or didn’t do what he had asked? Well, technically, even if the servant messed up by making a meal the master didn’t like and he burnt it in the process, at least the master can’t get upset with him for not doing what he had asked – after all, all the master asked for was something.
     I see Jesus as the master and us as the servant. Jesus asks us to do something, but He’s not always into the details like we think He might be. While we are worried that we might be preparing the wrong meal or we might be messing it up greatly, Jesus isn’t worried about that so much as our heart attitude. In 1 Samuel 16:7 God tells Samuel, “For the Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
     I know for me personally, I want to prepare God a meal that He will enjoy – after all, it’s the chief end of man to glorify God. When God asks me to do something, I want to be able to present Him with the best result; but many times, although I might try, I know I’ve failed somehow and my offering to God isn’t as great as I hoped it to be. Yet I need to remember that God still sees my heart, and that’s what He’s concerned about rather than “What’s for dinner?” God’s not a starving God who’s concerned about what’s on the menu. Rather, He’s a God who loves His servants and is concerned about what’s on our hearts.

Application: When I am doing something to serve Him, I will remind myself that God is not so much concerned about the end results and details of the actual service as He is with my heart’s focus on wanting to please Him.

Luke 17:7 - I'm Done Doing Things For God!

Tuesday 2/28/12 – I’m Done Doing Things For God!

Luke 17:7 And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’?

     So picture this verse. There are two settings: one is in the field and the other is inside the house. First the servant is working in the fields and then he comes into the house where there’s food. Can you think of another time Jesus gives a parable with someone working in the field and someone eating in a house? Give up? Well, if you said the parable of the prodigal son from Luke 15, that was the same one I was thinking of. In that parable, the younger brother comes home to his father and was planning on asking him to take him back as a servant. The father, however, doesn’t even listen to him but welcomes his lost son home and throws a party. So while the party is going on and they are eating inside the house, the older son comes back home from working in the field and gets mad that his dad is throwing a party for his brother inside the house. He complains how he has been serving his father all these years and hasn’t once even gotten a little goat to party with his friends. Obviously, from the older son’s reply, it’s plain to see which son loves his father and which one just works for him.
     So the question we must ask ourselves is “Which servant are we?” Are we servants serving for God, or are we servants serving God? I’ll say it again in case you missed that little word in there – are we servants serving for God, or are we servants serving God? Are we doing things for God, or are we doing God things? What’s the difference you might wonder. Well, the way this verse reads, it sure sounds as though the master is inside the house. When the servant is in the field, he is just doing tasks for his master. Likewise, in the story of the prodigal son, the older son is just working for his father. However, when the servant comes into the house, he changes from doing work and doing things for his master to serving his master. In both cases he is serving, but it’s when the servant is inside the house that he can realize that his master is there with him while he serves.
     For me personally coming from a tendency to be legalistic about obeying God and doing the right thing, I can relate. So often, I’ll do something because God says to and so I do it for Him. I do what I’m supposed to just like the older son in the parable of the prodigal son. However, I find that this is not the best way to be a servant. Don’t get me wrong, doing things for God is great; serving others for God is great, too. But my point is, it’s not until we realize that we as Christians don’t just work in the field all day doing things for God, but we come into the house with Him and serve Him personally, that our viewpoint and attitude on serving God will change drastically. When you do something He tells you to, picture yourself serving Him while He’s there with you. When you help someone else, picture yourself serving Him personally. I don’t know about you, but I for one want to be done working in the field; it’s hard work out there. I think it’s time for me to come inside and start serving my master personally.

     Anything that I do today, whether it be serving someone else or obeying God by doing something I believe He is calling me to do, I will remind myself that I am serving God personally and not just doing a work for Him.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Luke 17:6

Monday 2/27/12

Luke 17:6 So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

     In the verse before this, the apostles ask Jesus to “Increase our faith.” From this sentence, it sounds as though they already had some amount of faith. So what did Jesus do? He didn’t say, “Okay, I’ll increase it – Poof! – It’s increased.” No, instead, He meets them where they were at with their faith. He shows them what He could do through them if they only came to Him in belief. In fact, in Matthew 17:20, Jesus tells His disciples that they could not only move mulberry trees, but move mountains and do greater things than that if they just had the tiny bit of faith as a mustard seed. You want to know why? Because, really, you don’t need any more faith than that to come to God. And the God of the universe can do amazing things in and through you. It’s never about what we’ve done, how great we are, or even how much faith we have (for even faith is from God according to Eph. 2:8-9); instead, it’s always about Him. That’s the whole Christian life! God is always able and willing to meet us where we are and do great things in us regardless of how weak we are or how little faith we have. So the only question that remains is this: “If God is willing to meet us where we are, do we have enough faith to simply come and meet with Him?”

     Because any faith, power, and anything good in my life is from God, I will take an extra twenty minutes today to meet with God in prayer.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Proverbs 31:8

Friday 2/24/12

Proverbs 31:8 Open your mouth for the speechless, In the cause of all who are appointed to die.

     It has been said that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body – not because of its physical strength, but because in it are held the words of life and death. Speaking of the tongue, James 3:9 says “With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.” I personally want to be one who does the former action of blessing God with the tongue that He has given me.
     So often, I’m content to sit alone and either just listen to other people talk or if I do talk, I’ll usually just talk “surface talk” with them. However, the problem with surface talk is that it doesn’t reach deep down in a person’s life. There may be something that remains unspoken, perhaps something they are struggling with or something that God can use me to minister to them. However, ministry and having an impact will never happen if I’m not willing to open my mouth and invest my time and speech into a person’s life. Only God knows the heart, but if we let Him, He can use our mouths to reach the areas of a person’s life that are speechless. He can use our tongues to help the cause of those who are hurting inside and feel like they are appointed to die.
     I will tell God that I am available to be used by Him if He wants me to step out of my comfort zone and speak to someone.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Proverbs 31:7

Thursday 2/23/12

Proverbs 31:7 Let him drink and forget his poverty, And remember his misery no more.

     I believe it was when I was twelve (if not younger) that I always had a heart to work with orphans, especially in Latin or South America. As I got older, God gave me a desire to work with street kids as well. I remember learning how some street kids would sniff glue to prevent hunger pains. If it was cold where they lived, sniffing glue would also help deaden their senses so that they would not feel the cold. It’s not even like they’re necessarily doing it just to get high – it’s more like a survival technique to avoid the pain. Many times, I’ve prayed for these kids who don’t have enough to eat and have asked God to use me to minister to them. I knew He would because He’s put that desire in my heart, and as Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
     It’s so neat now to look back and know that I’ve had the desire to help these orphans and street kids for a while, and now here I am about to go to El Salvador in a month and a half to do just that – work with kids and orphans. God is so good! And I can’t wait to go to El Salvador. But although I’m not on the mission field yet, what I can do now is lift up these kids in these other countries who are abandoned and living on the streets with no possessions and no hope. I can pray that God not only provides for their physical needs but that He also gives them the spiritual hope that comes only from His Son Jesus.

     I will lift up the street kids and orphans who are abandoned. I will pray for their spiritual as well as physical welfare. In addition, I will ask God to continually burden my heart for such kids that I might become a prayer warrior for the helpless and orphaned.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Proverbs 31:6

Wednesday 2/22/12

Proverbs 31:6 Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to those who are bitter of heart.

     In the previous verses, Lemuel’s mother told him that wine is not for him and why he shouldn’t have it. In this verse, though, she is telling him who then should be drinking the wine and strong drink – the perishing and bitter of heart. But now here’s my question: where does a king go when he’s down? As Christians and children of the King, where should we be going when we feel so bad that our heart hurts and we even feel like we’re perishing? As John 17:16 states, we are not of this world; therefore, we don’t flee to the unstable joy that the world has to offer. In Psalm 30:6-11, David gives us the answer:

Now in my prosperity I said,
“I shall never be moved.”
Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;
You hid Your face, and I was troubled.
I cried out to You, O Lord;
And to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my blood,
When I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
Will it declare Your truth?
10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me;
Lord, be my helper!”
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness…

     As Christians, we may get down at times, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5b). We need only to seek God with all our hearts.

     Today, I will carve out at least an extra half hour (not including my regular devotion time) to seek God, spend time in His Word, and pray.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Proverbs 31:5

Tuesday 2/21/12

Proverbs 31:5 Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted.

     This verse reminds me of Joshua 1:8 where God tells Joshua, "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” There are many things in this world that will tempt us to forget the words that God gave us in the Bible. And if we forget it, it’s to our own misfortune. But on the other hand, if we do what God told Joshua and make sure that we don’t forget what God tells us, then we will definitely be blessed.

     I will take time today to choose a few verses from the Bible and work on memorizing those verses.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Proverbs 31:4 - The Wine of a Higher Calling

Monday 2/20/12 – The Wine of a Higher Calling

Proverbs 31:4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, It is not for kings to drink wine, Nor for princes intoxicating drink,

     In this verse, Lemuel’s mother is telling him that it’s not for him to be drinking wine. Why? Because he’s a king. Let the other people drink their wine and intoxicating drinks, but he has a higher calling.
     You see, in the Bible, wine can symbolize joy. Once we’re saved, we become heirs with Christ and are kings and princes with Him. We no longer need to seek out the joy that the world has to offer. Before we were saved, maybe we found joy in money, fame, relationships, sports, or whatever else you can think of. But now, we are partakers of a heavenly calling (Hebrews 3:1) and called to a holy calling (2 Timothy 1:9). However, it doesn’t stop there, but there is also a hope in this calling. In Ephesians 1, Paul writes to the Ephesians about how we were chosen for this calling before the foundation of the world, (Eph. 1:4-5), how God is working all things together according to the purpose of His calling (Eph. 1::11), and then in Ephesians 1:17 – 19, Paul says how he wishes that we would know the hope of His calling: “…the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints…” (Eph. 1:18)
     So now that we have this hope of a holy and heavenly calling, we should have such a joy that we no longer need to drink of the “wine” of this world. We’re kings; we don’t need to find joy and fulfillment in the things and circumstances of this world. That’s what unbelievers who have no hope look to for their joy. Our hope and joy can be found when we focus ourselves on the heavenly perspective. If life’s got you down, look up. Don’t seek the wine of this world to get you through, but instead let Jesus turn the plain water of your life into the wine that only He can give you. Then, like the master of the wedding feast in John chapter 2, you too will say, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” (John 2:10)

     I will read Ephesians 1.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

1 Corinthians 13:8

Friday 2/17/12

1 Corinthians 13:8 Love never fails.  But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

     Prophecies – the Holy Spirit’s voice spoke truth into my life. Tongues – I once knew the things to say to others to build them up in the Lord and others did the same for me. Knowledge – I have countless verses memorized and know what the Bible says about so many topics. But now I’m troubled; now Satan’s attacking. I grasped for the prophecies, words of wisdom, and Biblical knowledge that seemed so relevant for my situation; but it’s not there; it’s gone; it’s not working. No, it’s technically there. I know; it’s still in my head, and I can tell you what it is. But it might as well be gone. It’s not helping; I don’t feel much better; I still feel attacked, down, and defeated. What now?
     Look to love. Love never fails. Look to the One who loves you perfectly. Everything else has failed. I can’t make heads or tails. It doesn’t even feel like God’s there. But I know that He loves me. I can’t feel it, but I don’t need to. Even when you can’t feel love, love can’t fail. Jesus already showed love on the cross. It conquered all. I just need to have the faith and hope to hold onto Him and His love for me, and all the troubles will eventually, one day, vanish away along with the prophecies, tongues, and knowledge. And finally, all that will remain is the love of the One that had never stopped loving me and holding me up through the worst storms that conquered everything else. “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

     Many times, I get built up and know that the Lord loves me especially when He reveals something to me, speaks to me personally or through others, or when the right verse pops into my mind and just seems to touch my heart. Today, though, I will ask God to help me to look not at these or any other outward circumstances to remember that He loves me, but to remember that He loves me regardless of whether or not I can feel it. Even when I don’t hear His voice, feel His presence, or know what’s going on, I will still trust that He loves me and will not fail me.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

1 Corinthians 13:7

Thursday 2/16/12

1 Corinthians 13:7 [Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

     If you love someone, you’ll stick with them through thick and thin. You won’t leave them no matter how tough it gets, no matter how bad they’re doing, and no matter how grim the circumstances. This is exactly what God is like. He sees us at our worst, and yet, He is always there to bear our burdens as we cast our cares on Him. We might want to give up on ourselves, but God never does; we can believe and hope that all things will work together for good because that’s exactly what God promises for those who are called according to His purpose. God will always be with us and endure with us no matter what. How great to know that!
     On the flip side, if God does that for us, and we are to be like Him, we are to do this for others. We are to bear their burdens with them whether it be talking with them or lifting them up through prayer. Along with that, we are to believe God will work in them and hope the best for them. Finally, we are also to endure with one another. Even when we want to give up on them, God never gives up on us and we shouldn’t mark someone off as someone who is beyond all hope.

     I will thank God that He is with me through all my bad times and trials. In addition, I will spend time today bearing the burdens of others through prayer as I lift up specific staff members and other interns here at Potter’s Field Ranch.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

1 Corinthians 13:6

Wednesday 2/15/12

1 Corinthians 13:6 [Love] does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;

           Why can love rejoice in the truth? The truth is not always easy to hear, but regardless, the truth is good and therefore love can rejoice. At times, we all need God’s truth to show us something in our lives that we otherwise might not have seen. It can be painful at times, but if we let God do the work, it will all turn out well and we will eventually have reason for rejoicing.
     So before going any further, let’s determine where to find the best source of truth. Any ideas? Well, it comes directly from the mouth of God. (Profound, huh?) In John 17:17 Jesus says to His father “Your Word is truth.” God’s Word, though, is not only truth, but it will bring us joy as we meditate on it; for  Psalm 119:162 says “I rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure.” In John 15 Jesus is telling the disciples about abiding in His love and keeping His Father’s commandments. In verse 11 He goes on and says “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Okay, so stay with me. In these verses, we have God’s Word (which is truth) as a source of joy. Jesus Himself said in John 15 that He wants our joy to be full and that’s why He told us about His commandments and abiding in His love (which we can easily find in His Word). Knowing this and how much joy we will get as we abide in Jesus’ love and His Word, is there any question why Psalm 119, which happens to be the longest chapter in the Bible, is all about God’s Word?
     Hebrews 4:12 talks about how God’s word is sharper than a two-edged sword and can pierce to the division of the soul and spirit. Yes, piercing does sound painful, and as mentioned before, it might originally be unpleasant; but it will be worth it. Not only should we meditate on God’s Word, however, but we should also memorize it. Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.” When we hide God’s truth from His Word in our hearts, we can more easily wield the sword of the Spirit to fight off the enemy when he attacks as we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. End result – like love, when truth abounds in our lives, we can rejoice.

     I will ask God to shine His truth anywhere in my life where His truth is needed, even if it’s difficult for me to accept. I will memorize Psalm 119:9-16

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

1 Corinthians 13:5

Tuesday 2/14/12

1 Corinthians 13:5 [Love] does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;

     Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Psalm 139: 17-18 says, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.”
     God is love, and here in this verse we read that love does not seek its own. God does not sit in Heaven obsessed about Himself. So what is He obsessed about; what does He focus His thoughts on? You and me. He’s thinking constantly about us. How awesome it is to know that His countless thoughts toward us are all good! There are a number of verses in the Bible that talk about how God’s desire is for us. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
     More than once, I find myself thinking about some sort of care or problem in my life and my eyes turn from focusing on God’s love for me. I then become tired, worried, depressed, or anxious as I become narrow-minded on my situation (even though the problem may have a spiritual emphasis). What I need to do is keep my mind open to what really matters – and that is, “I am my beloved’s, And his desire is toward me.” (Song of Solomon 7:10)

     Today, when I find myself getting depressed or anxious, I’ll stop and meditate on God’s love for me.

Monday, February 13, 2012

1 Corinthians 13:4

Monday 2/13/12

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;

     Love does not parade itself. I’d like to think I love the Lord, but how many times do I do something or think a thought that promotes myself. Self-promotion is a very dangerous area in a Christian’s life. A few different things can happen when we promote ourselves or our flesh instead of Jesus. First, we can get puffed up, get prideful, and then as Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.” Second, we are doomed to eventually fail in the flesh and probably even get depressed since we had so much confidence in the flesh to begin with. Third, as we focus on ourselves, we start walking in the flesh instead of the spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” If we forsake the Spirit to parade ourselves and walk in our flesh, these are all the good fruits we will be forfeiting.
     Parading yourself is not just outward actions that are visible by others. It can be as simple as thinking you have something good in your flesh. You can parade yourself by being proud of something you did and giving yourself the credit instead of God. God wants us to love Him and not parade ourselves not because He’s an egocentric God, but because He knows that when we focus on ourselves, disastrous consequences are inevitable.

     I will ask God to help me realize throughout the day whenever I start to focus on myself that I might turn my focus back on meditating on God’s goodness and loving Him.

Friday, February 10, 2012

John 8:35

Friday 2/10/12

John 8:35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever; but a son abides forever.

     Jesus says in John 15 “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends.” It’s amazing to think that Jesus loved us enough to save us. But He didn’t even stop there. He could have saved us and we could have just gone to Heaven as His servants. Instead, however, He adopts us into His family to live with Him for all of eternity. Angels will be in Heaven for all of eternity too, but they were created as God’s messengers and servants. We human beings, however, were created to have fellowship with God and to be loved by Him and be His kids. Think about all the awesome and mighty creatures God made – lions, meteors, stars, and angels. They’re quite powerful creations; but they have nothing on us human beings who were created to be the children of God and not just servants.
     Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son. In that parable, one of the man’s sons runs away from His father and leaves Him. At the end of the story, he comes back and was going to tell his father that he didn’t deserve to be called his son and would just be glad to be his dad’s servant. The father however, receives him back as a son and throws a party. Meanwhile, if you look at the man’s other son who never left, he was the one who was acting more like a servant and refused to go into his father’s house with his dad. This brings up an important question for us Christians, who are we acting like – God’s sons that were created to spend time with Him or just His servants?

     Today, I will take some time just thanking God and meditating on how awesome it is that He considers me His son.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

John 8:34 - The Tricky Little Slave Master

Thursday 2/9/12 – The Tricky Little Slave Master

John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.

     What if I told you, you were a slave and you had an evil slave master ruling your life? Would you look around for the slave master? What if you did and you couldn’t find it – then what would you do? Shrug it off? Well, this situation happens in many people’s lives – especially Christians. People will look for this slave master in their life, not find it, and think they’re all set and free. All the while, though, they are helpless slaves obeying the every whim and command of what can be named “The Tricky Little Slave Master.”
     “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin,” Jesus said. Notice that Jesus says “sin.” He doesn’t just say “big sins,” or “obvious sins.” No, He doesn’t make a distinction. Sin is sin and the one who sins – whether it is a big or small sin – becomes a slave to the sin. It’s so easy to look at this verse and automatically think of big sins that could have a hold on your life – drugs, alcohol, pornography, lust, etc. Maybe you’ll even look for the “medium” sins – lying, pride, disobedience, covetousness, etc. But what about the little sins? As bad as the “big” sins are, and as annoying as the medium sins become, what if there is a small sin in our lives that we don’t realize or won’t let go because it’s “not hurting anyone” or is barely even there. Are we any less of a slave because it’s a “small” sin that we hardly notice in our lives (if we even notice it at all)?
     Matthew 6:24a says “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.” Even if it’s a “small” sin that is in our lives, we still become slaves to it, and it therefore hinders us from serving God with all our heart. In a way, a small sin could be more dangerous than a big sin because you can go much longer with a smaller sin in your life.
     For instance, take the example of drug abuse as the “big” sin, pride as a “medium” sin, and a lack of faith as the “small” sin. The drug abuse becomes a harder task master bringing many of its victims to a point of realizing that they are addicted and a slave. “You need more drugs! I won’t let you sleep or even function properly until you obey my command,” he screams at his victim. The “medium” sin of pride becomes an annoying task master, eventually bringing its victims to a point of weariness and burden.
     However, now we talk about the third slave master. He might not be as dangerous or annoying as the other two masters, but he’s a tricky little master that doesn’t intrude as harshly in all areas of a person’s life. He sneaks in, barely noticed, and instead becomes a part of the person’s life. He’s not that demanding and he’s not the traditional sins you would think of when you hear the word “sin.” While we are using a lack of faith for our example, there are other Tricky Little Slave Masters – lack of love, selfishness, fear, false humility, good desires that take the place of God in a person’s heart, bitterness, perfectionism, and the list goes on. However, know that these small sins aren’t the same for everyone. While pride might be my medium sin, it could be your small sin. These sins’ victims can go years or even a lifetime of being a slave to this sin without even realizing it or without getting to the point where they seek God with all their hearts to free them. “It’s just a little sin; it’s not that bad,” some will say as they try to reason it away and ignore it. Or worse yet – what if they never realize they have one of these sins because they’re keeping their eyes open for “big” sins.

     I will ask God to reveal any small sins that have become a part of my life and ask Him to free me from them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

John 8:33

Wednesday 2/8/12

John 8:33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?”

     It says in the Bible that God is not a respecter of persons. This means that He’s not impressed nor does He grant certain rights or privileges just because of your background, race, gender, knowledge, degrees, etc. However, these Jews knew that they were Abraham’s descendants and were quite proud of it. And yet, they were in the same boat as everyone else as far as Jesus was concerned. In fact, I would argue that they might have even been at a disadvantage since they thought they were something when they were not. Galatians 6:3 says, “For if anyone thinks himself to be something when he is nothing he deceives himself.” These Jews thought they had it in with God because of special rights or privileges. But in reality, they didn’t. And by looking at what they had to offer Jesus (i.e. their heritage), they risked missing out on humbling themselves and seeing the truth about their need so that they might be made free.
     God has blessed me a lot in my walk with Him: I’ve grown up in a Christian home, I know a lot about the Bible, I have many talents, etc. Logically, I will have no problem telling you that everything good in me is from God. But what happens way more often than I’d like to admit is that I’ll start thinking that my Biblical knowledge, natural talents, or any of God’s other blessings on my life make me better than the next person. Pride so easily sneaks into my heart; and although I can easily suppress it on the outside so no one suspects anything, I still struggle on the inside with thinking that I’m pretty great and that God should be impressed with me because of my Biblical knowledge and talents.
     This, however, is such a dangerous place to be. For like Romans 12:3a says, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” If I’m thinking of myself more highly than I ought to think, I can easily fall into the trap that the Jews fell into, thinking that I’m something special and risk missing seeing the truth that all my gifts and talents are from God and that He can work in me and use me with or without them. The other thing I need to remember, too, though, is that God can set me off to the side or take away my gifts if He thinks it best because I’m getting prideful or thinking too much of myself.
     I don’t want to be deceived and believe the lie that I’m better than the next person because of something about myself; rather, I pray that, whenever needed, God would open my eyes and remind me of the truth of how He sees me and is not impressed with what I think should impress Him. I pray that I might accept this truth that I would be made free once and for all from this deceptive pride that regularly seems to make its way back into my heart.

     I need to stop believing the lie that my knowledge of the Bible or my natural gifts make me more special in God’s sight. I need to ask God for forgiveness whenever the pride swells up in my heart and then ask God to break me and give me humility as He gently reminds me that He is not impressed and that I’m nothing without Him.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

John 8:32

Tuesday 2/7/12

John 8:32 “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

     Often, either I myself refer to this verse or I hear it referred to in the case of telling the truth when dealing with a lie. While this verse may be excellent advice for dealing with freeing yourself from a tangled web of lies you made, I notice two things that suggest that Jesus wasn’t just talking about keeping the ninth commandment of not bearing false witness. First, Jesus says “know the truth,” not “tell the truth.” Usually, when someone is lying, they already know the truth but they’re still not free. Second, when looking at what Jesus said just before this verse, we can see that He was talking about abiding in His Word. In John 17:17, Jesus tells His Father “Your word is truth.” So both, the word “knowing” and the fact that Jesus was talking about abiding in His Word, shows that Jesus was talking about something more than just not lying. He’s talking about knowing what His Word says about anything and everything.
     I realize that in the past, I often had wrong ideas about God and His thoughts about me. Satan would get me condemned when I did something wrong; I would feel so guilty because I could have been praying more; I would try to help the work God was doing in my life by trying harder; and on it went. The lies that I believed about God and my Christian walk would put me in bondage, get me depressed, and make me confused and aggravated. But thinking back through these struggles I had, I still remember the specific verses God would give me to encourage me. He would show me through the verses in the Bible that the condemnation, fear, frustration, discouragement, or whatever else was going on in my heart, was unnecessary and was many times a result of believing a lie about God or His character. I thank God for the work He has done in my life, the verses He gave me and continues to bring back to my mind when I struggle with believing lies, and the fact that I will always have His Word and truth to go back to when I need it.

     I will thank God for showing me the truth about His character and my Christian walk. I will thank Him for giving me the Bible and showing me who He is through the verses in His Word. In addition, I will pray for others (Christians and non-Christians alike) who are struggling with believing lies about who God really is and pray that God would comfort them through His Word and open their eyes to the truth so that they may be free.

Monday, February 6, 2012

John 8:31

Monday 2/6/12

John 8:31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.

     Prior to this verse, Jesus was explaining who He was and where He had come from. Many of the people believed in Him. Now, Jesus is telling those people who believed Him how to become his disciple. He didn’t tell them they had to do miracles, go to seminary for a year or two, fast for a week, sin no more than twice a day, or any of that stuff. All He told them is that if they abide in His Word, they are His disciples. It’s just like Jesus to make it so simple! The word “abiding” gives the idea of residing or staying in. Many Christians, however, barely read the Bible. They open it at church and maybe once or twice throughout the week, but they don’t abide in it.
     In Hebrews 4:12 it says “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The Bible is the very words of God. He wants to communicate with us, love us, guide us, comfort us, and help us. He wants to speak to us. Jesus also said that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of His mouth. So God’s Word is not just necessary for being Jesus’ disciple. Spending time speaking and listening to God is the very essentials of the Christian life.

     I will make sure that I start my day off in God’s Word speaking with Him and listening to His voice.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Acts 3:10 - A Gate Called Beautiful

Friday 2/3/12

Acts 3:10 Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

     This man had sat every day at a gate known as Beautiful. Hmm, ironic. Here at the gate Beautiful could be found a poor, lame beggar. This gate had probably become very familiar to him, for it was here that he went to work to get money; it was here he interacted with people; it was here that he spent his life; and it was here where his weakness and need was so evident to everyone including himself. Perhaps the lame man had resigned himself to facing the fact that every day for the rest of his life he would be coming to this gate called Beautiful. But what was so beautiful about it to this man? There probably wasn’t anything beautiful about it to him. On the contrary, perhaps this gate was a cursed symbol of another hopeless day of begging for money due to his inabilities and weakness.
     But one day, that all changed. In the name of Jesus Christ he would get strength in his ankles and feet and be able to walk for the first time in his life. All the people would see him, know he was the lame man they had seen all the time begging at the gate, and everyone would be “filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”
     Now think about the next day. When that man walked by the gate called Beautiful, what do you think he remembered? Perhaps he remembered all the years he spent begging hopelessly there and how now, with the power of Jesus, he was healed. He was now a beautiful, living, joyful testimony of God’s grace. Now, perhaps for the first time in his life, this gate no longer remained a cursed memory of all the days he had spent begging at the gate; it no longer remained just a memory of all his weaknesses and inabilities, but now, those memories were overpowered by the amazing day when he was healed there. Truly, the Beautiful Gate had indeed become beautiful to him as it would serve as a constant reminder of Christ’s strength overcoming his weakness.
     So many times in our lives, we are that beggar. Whether it be a dead-end job, a broken marriage, cancer, our weaknesses and inabilities, or whatever else one can imagine, we find ourselves spending a good portion of our lives trapped and hopeless. But in Romans 8:28 it says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” For in time, God is willing to make all things beautiful if we let Him. About two weeks ago, we had visited a church for the first time. As we were in the parking lot leaving, a lady from the congregation who knew that we were from Potter’s Field Ranch, came over to us to say hi. She was so happy for us and wished she had time to hear all of our personal stories. However, even though time was short, she left us with this wisdom: “Whatever it is in your life where you struggle and feel the weakest, know that with God, He can turn that around in your life and that that is the area that may one day be your testimony.” So you see, as we go through these times of weaknesses and inabilities, we need to keep our eyes focused on the one who has all the strength and let Him do what He wills with our trials. Yes, our lives may be a hopeless, miserable mess now; but look around and know this – you are still sitting by a gate called Beautiful.

     I will make a list of my weaknesses and struggles and thank God for them. I will ask Him to work in my life to turn my weaknesses into something beautiful as His strength is made perfect in me.

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
  – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Acts 3:9

Thursday 2/2/12

Acts 3:9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God.

     All the people saw this once-lame man walking and praising God. Man, what a witness to God’s glory that must have been. Many times, we think of witnessing as talking about the Bible and God. While there is a place for that, just think of how greatly God used this man to bring glory to Himself and reveal Himself to everyone around the man. This man was a witness for God without even saying anything. The people around him could just see the joy and praise flowing from his life as he was simply walking in the new life God had given him.
     Too often, I become analytical of my relationship with God and turn my Christian walk into a religion. I need to stop focusing on trying to understand or analyze everything in my Christian walk and just realize that the Christian walk God had intended for us was meant to be spent simply enjoying Him. I need to simply praise God and enjoy Him and my relationship with Him as He takes care of giving me the strength to walk my Christian life daily.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Acts 3:8

Wednesday 2/1/12

Acts 3:8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them – walking, leaping, and praising God.

     In this verse, there is one word that jumps off the page at me – or perhaps I should say it “leaps” off the page. In the previous verses, Peter had called on the name of the Lord for this man and reached down to lift him up. Now in verse eight, the focus shifts from what Peter did, to the man’s reply. The man didn’t pull back and stay down; he didn’t lean on Peter for support; he didn’t tremble as he got up; he didn’t even just stand up. No, this guy leaped up. He had such confidence and such joy that his ankles and feet were going to hold his weight. Now the question becomes, why did he have such full confidence in his feet and ankles – they never held his weight before?  What would make him think that he could just leap up on them instead of gradually and slowly letting them heal? As was the case with so many people that were healed by Jesus, this man had faith. As he heard Peter call on the name of the Lord, lift him up, and felt the strength returning, he believed that God completely healed him and he would be able to stand. And with that belief, his actions (leaping and praising God) followed. You see, if he had just walked away, he could have been thinking that the healing process was still happening in his feet and God didn’t completely heal him yet. But since he leaped – well, let’s just say you shouldn’t be leaping on a foot that is not completely healed yet.
     I’m ashamed to say that I’m not always like this man. God tells me to come to Him in prayer, I do, I ask Him to do a particular work in my heart, and then after I say “Amen,” I leave wondering how much God really did in answer to my prayer. I figure that maybe I should give it a day or two and maybe He’ll answer my prayer and change my heart down the road. Now I understand that sometimes what I ask in prayer might be a process or just not God’s timing, but here’s my point: many times, as a default after I pray, I naturally assume that God is going to have me wait a certain amount of time before He answers any particular prayer instead of realizing that maybe, with some prayers, He has given me the answer to my prayer and changed my heart right then and there. I leave my spot of prayer stumbling away, limping, or just walking as if the healing process is still occurring when at times, God has already answered my prayer immediately and given me the complete strength in my feet and ankles and I could be leaping away and praising God. How I wish I was like this lame man and would have the joy to leap away from my times of prayer believing that God – not would eventually – but has met my need at that very moment I prayed. There is no doubt in my mind that the lame beggar didn’t wonder if he would be able to stand then and there. He knew he would, and his leaping away showed he had the confidence that comes with believing that God had completely answered his lifelong prayer in a single moment.

     When I go to God in prayer, I know that the things I pray for might not be of God’s will or His timing. However, I need to believe that God is waiting and willing to hear me and give me every good thing I ask for. I will ask God that He will help me have faith when I pray so that I would believe that He hears me and will answer my prayers.

Acts 3:7

Tuesday 1/31/12

Acts 3:7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.

     In the previous verse, Peter told the man to walk in the name of Jesus. But what I find interesting, is that this verse doesn’t just say “And immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.” No, there’s another phrase in there between Jesus’ name and the man receiving strength. You see, even though Jesus can do anything and could heal the man right at the end of verse 6, we don’t read about the strength returning to the man until after we first read how Peter lifted the lame man up.
     There are times when others around us (specifically other Christians) need us to come around them and lift them up. In Exodus 17, Joshua and the Israelites are fighting against the Amalekites while Moses lifts his hands up to heaven. As long as he was doing that, the Israelites were winning the war. The problem, however, is that he started to get tired. It was then that two other guys, Aaron and Hur, lifted up Moses’ hands for him. It was with the help of his friends that Moses was able to lift his hands up to the Lord and receive the victory for Israel.
     So how are we supposed to lift up our friends? Do we literally hold their hands up to the sky? Of course not! However, in James 5:13-15 it says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.” Interestingly enough, the words “shall raise” in James 5:15 is the same Greek word as “lifted him up” in this verse here. While God can heal and work without us, He still many times desires and chooses to work through us and our prayers. Prayer is perhaps the most powerful way we can lift up our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. So in Acts 3, we see Peter calling on the name of the Lord and lifting up the lame man; in James, we see Christians praying in faith and lifting up those who are sick and see the Lord raising the sick. Don’t be mistaken; we might not go around healing and helping people exactly like Peter and John did, but we still do it the same way – by calling on the name of the Lord and lifting up those around us. We have the same Lord as the apostles did, and He’s waiting for his people to pray for others. As James 5:16b says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

     For the past couple of days, Megan has not been feeling well. I will pray at least three times (and whenever the Lord puts it on my heart) for Megan as well as anybody else who is not feeling well or just needs me to lift them up before the Lord today.

Acts 3:6

Monday 1/30/12
Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

     In verse 2, the Bible tells us that this man was lame from birth and that he was carried. So imagine yourself as this guy. Your whole life, you’ve never had the strength to walk. You see everyone else doing it – even small children; but you yourself can’t. No matter how hard you try, you just don’t have the strength in you. Did this guy try going to a doctor to see if the doctor could give him the strength? Did he resign himself to just begging and collecting money from kind people like the culture expected him to? Did he ever think that he would rise up and walk again? Unfortunately, this side of Heaven we can only guess what was going through this guy’s mind. We can only ponder what he must have thought about his situation and his lack of strength to walk. However, this one day, which started out just like any other day, one name was about to change his life forever. Through the name of Jesus, this man was about to get the strength he never had before to experience a whole new life.
     We are this lame man. No, we might not be lame physically; but in and of ourselves, we all lack strength at least at one time or another. We all lack strength in times to walk the Christian life God has called us to. But that can all change in our lives as it changed in this man’s life. And again, the way it changes is by one simple name – the name of Jesus.

     Today, I am going to ask God to give me the strength to walk my Christian life through Him. I’m going to ask Him to help me through any trial, temptation, or hardship I might face today because without Him, I can do nothing.