Tuesday, May 31, 2011

John 3:16

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”  —Mother Teresa


Why Do We Love God?

Major Ian Thomas wrote about something he called “The Threefold Interlock.” Sure, it sounds like a wrestling move, but what he was describing is how we live a life of faith:

1. We love God.

2. That love for God leads to dependency on God.

3. Dependency on God results in obedience to God.

That’s good stuff, but it’s not the whole story. Love doesn’t start with us. Our love for God could never originate from our own hearts. And unlike a lot of love we experience on earth, God doesn’t love us because we love Him first… that’s actually backwards. We love God for a very specific reason:

We love him, because he first loved us. —1 John 4:19

Our love for Christ comes in response to His amazing love for us. I don’t think we can actually wrap our minds around how much He loves us. He died on the cross for us. He knows about all of our wicked sin, and yet He still loves us and accepts us.

When you truly recognize that kind of love for what it is, and the Spirit shows it to you, you will find yourself enraptured with love for Him—it’s not something that you have to manufacture on your own. Just give it some thought. Pray it through.

Ask God to make you willing to see, feel, taste, hear His love with all your senses. Close your eyes; vividly imagine you are in the crowd that day the Son of God bled and died.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, Your love for me is deep and powerful, and I really can’t comprehend it. I just embrace it. Help me to see it, Holy Spirit turn my affections toward You. Amen.

Monday, May 30, 2011

God Is Always In Control

God Is Always In Control

Today’s Text is from: Isaiah 45:5-7

I am the Lord; there is no other God.
   I have equipped you for battle, though you don’t even know me, so all the world from east to west will know there is no other God. I am the Lord, and there is no other.
  I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times.
  I, the Lord, am the one who does these things.

Today’s Notes from the Scriptures

I admit that I often don’t understand why bad things happen. Even so, I believe that God has a purpose for everything He does or permits. My faith is rooted in the biblical principle that says the Lord is sovereign (Ps. 22:28). He is in absolute control of this universe, the natural and political climate of this earth, and my life and yours.

When we are in the midst of a trial, it is hard to resist crying out, “God, Why is this happening?” Sometimes we get the answer and sometimes we don’t. What we can be sure of is that nothing happens by accident or coincidence. He has a purpose for even our most painful experiences. Moreover, we have His promise to “cause all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28).

Seeing in advance how the Lord will work evil or hurt for our benefit is very difficult, if not impossible. My limited human perspective doesn’t allow me to grasp His greater plan. However, I can confirm the truth of this biblical promise because the Father’s good handiwork appears all through my pain, hardship, and loss. I have experienced Him turn mourning into gladness and have seen Him reap bountiful blessings and benefits from my darkest hours.

As believers, we must accept that God won’t always make sense to us. Isaiah teaches that His ways and thoughts are higher than our own (Isa. 55:9). He sees the beautifully completed big picture. We can rely on the fact that God is in control, no matter how wildly off-kilter our world seems to spin. 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dependence on God

Dependence on God


“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” —Gilbert K. Chesterton


When our kids were little, they were totally dependent on us for everything; Food, shelter, love, all of it. They could do nothing without are provision.  When we think of dependent people, Jesus probably isn't even on the list. But He was; Big time.

The granddaddy of all the passages that teach that Jesus was dependent on the Father during His time on earth is John 14. It’s a beautiful picture of the dependence of a son on his father… of the Son on the Father, showing the intimacy Jesus and the Father share—an intimacy He invites us into. In verse six, we get a glimpse of something deeper:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7

Christ is our only access to the Father. By knowing Christ, we get to know the Father. Jesus was teaching His disciples that they shouldn't just look to Him to get stuff, because there is no other way, no other path, to the presence of God.  

It’s easy to lose track of why we worship. We tend to want to worship Jesus because of the stuff we think He’ll give us in return. It doesn't work that way. He offers us not only salvation, but the Father. It’s that simple, and it’s enough.

Prayer: God, I praise You that You offer so much more than simple provision. You offer us access to You through humble dependence. That is enough, Father. You are enough for me. Amen.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

If You Neglect God, You Grieve Him

When We Ignore God

Today’s Text is from: James 4:17

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

Today’s Notes from the Scriptures

Have you ever felt ignored? Everyone longs for love, acceptance, and attention, but perhaps a friend or close relative has shown little interest in you or what you have to say. Such treatment is hurtful and can lead to feelings of inadequacy.

Ignoring God is like Ignoring your Check Engine Light”

There’s something even worse, though, than displaying no concern for others: disregarding God. Yet all of us have done this. One way we disregard Him is by failing to obey when we know His instructions. For example, if we are feeling cornered, we can be tempted to justify a white lie, but once falsehood has left our lips, we’ve ignored the Lord. The same principle holds true when we sense His leading but do not follow. And unless we discipline ourselves to spend time with our Father in His Word and in prayer, we are neglecting Him again.

The consequences are painful. For one thing, neglect grieves God because He is our heavenly Father, who desires closeness with each of His children. We also miss out on the best for our lives. Since connection with the Lord is like being “plugged into” the source of life, ignoring Him will mean missing out on His best for us.  And then we shortchange ourselves out of fulfilling the purpose for which He created us—glorifying Him. And remember, we eventually will be held accountable for our actions.

How are you choosing to live—do you heed what the Almighty says, or are you living with your own set of standards? Your conscious choices affect your walk with Jesus. If you tune your spirit to listen and discipline yourself to obey, you will enjoy great intimacy with the Lord. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Swinging An Ax for God

“I have to admit that I'm one of those people that thinks the dishwasher is a miracle.” —Clarence Thomas


Amazing Power in Christ

There is two ways to split logs for a fire. One is the “character building” way (as countless fathers have told their sons), which is swinging an ax over your head until your arms fall off, slowly accumulating a small pile. It’s exhausting and back-breaking. The other is by using a motorized log splitter. You can do it four or five times faster and save yourself a lot of effort.

We forget that we have access to an amazing power in Christ through the Holy Spirit. It is miraculous, I dare say… easily the difference between an ax and a log splitter:

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” —John 14:12

Think about this! This is not the time to try to explain away the clear meaning of His words. Jesus promises us that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to do anything and everything that the Father wants to accomplish through us. It’s not up to us to gird our loins to “git ’er done.” The key is to allow the power of the Spirit to do it through us.

If you are tired of swinging an ax for God, working you hardest for Him (and if you think you’ve already built enough character this way!), it’s time to give up. Quite frankly, He doesn’t need your help anyway. God’s design is a walk of faith, not works. Faith in Jesus opens up a new way of living, where we are empowered by His Spirit in us, as we allow Him to work through us. 

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I believe that I have access to amazing power through Your Spirit within me. I’m tired of trying to do this in my own strength for You. I want to be used for Your glory, but I want to do so in Your strength through me alone. Thanks.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jesus is fully God

“A Christian is a perpetual miracle.” —Charles Spurgeon

Miracles are, without question, cool. But the fact that Jesus performed miracles was not reason enough to believe that He was God. Elijah performed many miracles, but he never once laid claim to his own deity.

Christ Himself was adamant that His miracles were not just evidence of His deity, but of His dependence on the Father:

Words from the Scriptures: “But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”John 10:38

He never downplayed the miracles He performed. He just wanted to make sure the people understood how and why He was doing them. Miracles do point to the fact that the Father was in Him, He was in the Father, and He was dependent on the Father. Jesus didn’t need to come to earth as a man just to do things in His own divine power. God had already been dealing with man in that matter.

 (Things like giant pillars of fire and floods covering the earth come to mind!)

Jesus is fully God, but on earth He wanted to demonstrate physically to the people what it was like to so totally depend on the Father for everything that all else would fade.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, the miracles You performed were amazing. I believe. I know that they weren’t just cheap magic tricks to dupe me into believing in You, but instead tangible manifestations of Your power when we depend on You completely. Strip away my independence, Lord. Thank You for showing me Your might and what life can look like in dependence on the Father  Amen.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Prayer is too important to neglect!!

The Impact of Prayer

Today’s Text is from: 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Today’s Notes from the Scriptures

Prayer is the lifeblood of an intimate relationship with the Father. But believers often have questions about its power and effectiveness. Don’t hesitate to take your queries to the Lord, dig into Scripture for answers, and seek the counsel of a trusted spiritual mentor. Prayer is too important to neglect.

Will God’s plans fail if I don’t pray? God is not subservient to believers or dependent upon their prayers. The time we invest in speaking with Him involves us in the work that He is doing in our lives and in the world, but He will carry on without us. Laboring alongside the Lord is our privilege.

Does my prayer (or lack thereof) impact God’s work? I believe that Scripture indicates the answer to this question is both yes and no, depending upon the situation. There are times when God’s purpose is set. He is in control and has determined the best course. In the Old Testament, the Lord often prophesied what He would do and then brought those events to pass.

In other cases, “you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). There are some good things that He holds back until we put out prayerful hands to receive them. But because God is a loving Father, He also pours our blessings that we wouldn’t even think to request.

Believer’s prayers have tremendous impact, particularly on their own faith and life. Do you understand what an awesome privilege it is to kneel before the all-powerful Father and know that He listens and will respond? God loves to be good to His children and answer their prayers.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

“I think Superman should go on the Larry King show and announce that he would come back to life if people in all 50 states wanted him to.” —random quote by Dave Barry

The definitive comic book character is Superman.  He has all of the amazing powers, but what makes him so intriguing to me is his disguise as Clark Kent. He would behave as Clark Kent as he went about normal human living, but when the need arose, he’d tear off the suit and fly off in his blue spandex to save the day.

We tend to think of Jesus in the same way. I mean, He walked around in His little human suit, and whenever He had to do human things, like some carpentry, He was human Jesus, but then when the supernatural was necessary, the buttons of His human suit popped off revealing the big “G” (for God) on His chest. The Super Jesus God would do all this amazing stuff  and then when that was all taken care of, He went back into His carpenter clothes—just like Superman putting on his tie and suit to become Clark Kent again.

But that’s not what we get from Scripture at all:

So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”
 John 8:28

Jesus is fully God, yet He chose to live a life of complete dependency on the Father. He could have chosen to assume His God powers at any time, but He chose instead to remain wholly dependent on the Father. He was modeling complete faith dependence on God. We are not called to live super-human lives through our own hidden powers. We are designed to live in dependence on God. When we are weak, He is strong. When we are foolish, He is wise. When we don’t know what to say, He gives us the words. We are the students and He is the teacher, telling us—if we are willing to listen—which way to go.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank You for showing me what it looks like to completely depend on the power of God. Reveal to me the ways that I try to be independent of You. Thank You for forgiving me of that. Lead me into a more intimate and dependent relationship. I want to have a heart like Yours was while you were on earth, one that is completely dependent on a completely dependable Father Amen.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Talking with almighty God is a privilege

Why Believers Pray

Today’s Text Comes from: Psalm 103:19-22

The Lord has made the heavens his throne; from there he rules over everything. Praise the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who carry out his plans, listening for each of his commands. Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels who serve him and do his will! Praise the Lord, everything he has created, everything in all his kingdom. Let all that I am praise the Lord.

Today’s Notes from the Scriptures

Recognizing that God is sovereign prompts some questions about the nature of prayer. Specifically, many people have asked me, “If the Lord is in control, why does He expect us to pray?”

Prayer brings us into cooperation with what God has purposed to accomplish. He desires to involve believers in the work that He is doing in the world and in their lives. We aren’t to sit around when there is kingdom building going on—there isn’t a single scripture to support the idea that we relax while the Lord works all things to His good pleasure. In fact, the opposite is true.

In John 17:11, Jesus asked God to protect the disciples by the power of His name. Did He think they might lose their salvation or drift from their commitment? Absolutely not, Jesus was God in human flesh. He knew exactly what was going to happen—how these men would spread the gospel and remain faithful even unto death. Jesus was taking part in the Father’s plan for His followers by interceding for them.

God certainly can build His kingdom without believers’ input or help. But a relationship develops depth and intimacy when the Lover and His beloved share an interest. Praying and working alongside our Lord grows our faith and strengthens our trust in His power.

Talking with almighty God is a privilege. The Lord created you to love Him and be loved by Him. Prayer is how that connection gets nurtured and developed. Our Father calls us to communicate with Him so He can draw us close to His heart and involve us in building the kingdom.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Servant is not Greater than his Master, Nor....

Amen Isn't the Password

Today’s Text Comes from: Romans 2:13

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

Today’s Notes from the Scriptures

Hearing and agreeing with Biblical truth has become an evangelical hobby. This is a dangerous place to live. When “truth” and “being right” become a hobby a natural pride will begin, much like a weed, to sprout, grow, and multiply around our skill at each of these.

The pride one feels in being good at something, that certain satisfaction that comes along with doing something well, will crop up in our spirituality. But this pride becomes more insidious because of its context: its exclusivity. Jesus Christ is indeed “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6),  the only path to the Father. But tragically, this beautiful truth can be used perversely in our minds!

It can become as much about the ability to win an argument as about an eternal soul being saved. Or about the “puffing up” of ever increasing knowledge, and the superiority that allows one to feel. It can foster an “us versus them” mentality, where we begin to look at all the evil “out there” and forget about our own shortcomings.

In short, it can create in us a false righteousness. When we become mere “hearers” of the gospel, we act as those Jews did, who were nothing but “hearers of the law”. We simply are substituting the atoning work of Jesus as our justification before a holy God for our knowledge of and agreement with the “truth”. “Amen”, isn’t the password into heaven, but let us “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving [ourselves]” 
(James 1:22)
Remember Jesus’ instruction,

You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:13-17)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Love Our Enemies and Forgive Our Persecutors

Choosing Love over Rights

Today’s Text is from: Matthew 5:38-48

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow. “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Today’s Notes from the Scriptures

We talk a lot about rights these days. Yet the attention given to human entitlements hasn’t brought about corporate or personal freedom. Instead, most people are prisoners of jealousy (you have greater rights than I do!), greed (I deserve more!), or bitterness (my rights have been violated!).

Instead of focusing on the privileges due us, we should take the biblical perspective of loving enemies and forgiving persecutors (Matt. 5:44). Believers lay down their rights so they can take up the cause of a holy kingdom. That doesn’t mean that we let people trample on us. Rather, we offer a proper response according to biblical principles. In short, believers should be more concerned about showing God’s love to those who do wrong than about demanding their rights.

Maybe you’re thinking, But he doesn’t know how I’ve been mistreated .Indeed I do not. But what I do know is how Jesus Christ, our example, reacted to terrible abuse. He was betrayed by His friends, persecuted by His people, condemned by His peers, and crucified for our sins. 
Yet He said, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).

Before assuming that Jesus’ capacity for forgiveness and love is out of reach for mere human beings, remember: His Spirit dwells in believers. We can choose to give away our rights and let God’s love work through us. 
Luke 6:29 says to turn the other cheek and give up more than is asked because expressing love outweighs exerting our rights. 

You can’t lose when you show others the boundless care of the Lord. 
You gain His blessing, and, hopefully, someone will be saved because of your example.