FURTHERING GOD’S KINGDOM

Have you ever experienced intense enthusiasm for something either personally or as seen in the lives of others? The feeling almost defies description. That is one of the many reasons why I enjoy my new grandchild so much. Her willingness to ‘plunge’ into every moment looking forward to the wonders that moment will bring.

Zeal such as this is a gift from God. As a Christian we are to have a zeal or intense enthusiasm directed toward the Messiah (Romans 10:2). The prophets spoke of this as having a correct understanding based on a sound spiritual condition. This condition was two-fold. A self giving love to those who may not have any love to return along with an inner spiritual and outward ethical purity.

The key then is to take this correct understanding and show this enthusiasm first of all for the salvation of others such as we saw in God’s heart for Israel recorded in Romans 10:1. A salvation intended for all of mankind as seen in the message of the cross and the empty tomb. A message that missionaries today carry to many or a message that may transform and reform one person at a time (2 Corinthians 7:11).

No matter how our zeal is manifested, we must live in each moment directing our energy in FURTHERING GOD’S KINGDOM.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Zeal is contagious when carried out for Christ.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Romans 10:2 “zeal directed toward God”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord keep my enthusiasm high to further Your Kingdom.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1.  For what do you have ‘intense enthusiasm’?
  2.  How do some wrongly boast in their zeal?
  3.  Where can you give love where their may be none returned?
  4.  What is inner spiritual and outward ethical purity?

 

WHAT ABOUT WINE?

Wine in Scripture is referenced so often that it is good we take a moment to study its importance. Wine was always treated with a degree of sanctity and was never to be abused. In fact if you were the head of the church you were to not drink it or drink it in excess (1 Timothy 3:3). John the Baptist who set the stage for Christ’s coming took no wine nor did he cut his hair (Luke 1:15) among other things.

For others wine served many purposes. It was used for medicinal purposes (Luke 10:34) as a disinfectant. It was also used as a drug such as offered to Christ before His crucifixion (Mark 15:33) . When mixed with frankincense it would deaden the senses much like what some states who still carry out death sentences call a ‘3 cocktail’ system to end life.

On a positive side wine (which was often heavily diluted with water) was drunk with meals, at special festivals or simply to soften the feeling of pain or grief. Scripture is replete with numerous references in these areas. The Jews would offer a special blessing (brakhah) before consuming such as Christ showed us when first instituting the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:27-29).

Finally, it should be noted that grapes and wine were a metaphor for our  judgment one day. In Revelations 14:14-20 we see how the harvest applies to judgment and how the act of pressing out the juice is like removing the life blood of people. Indeed the story of wine in Scripture has much to tell us. This is only a partial answer to the question WHAT ABOUT WINE?

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Wine is welcome when used wisely.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Isaiah 55:1 “Wine is figurative of the Gospel”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord thank you for Your many blessings.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1.  What are the uses of wine?
  2.  What evil effects can come from wine?
  3.  Who used wine in Scripture and in what circumstances?
  4.  Wine or grape juice and why?

THE MESSAGE OF THE WHIRLWIND

Many of us have perhaps seen small whirlwinds that spring up at a moments notice running across a field or yard. They are a small version of a much larger and more dangerous tornado that some seem to enjoy chasing. Few perhaps know that Elijah’s translation (change from earthly form to eternal) was done by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:1). Somewhat reminiscent of Dorothy’s experience in the movie ‘Wizard of Oz’ but in the case of Elijah an actual event.

The use of these winds or great storms are Biblical. The prophet Isaiah speaks of how God will use them in rebuilding nations (Isaiah 17:13) and as we know from the experience of tornadoes and hurricanes they bring sudden destruction (Proverbs 1:27).

As long as their is evil in the world (until Christ’s return) their will be whirlwinds of one sort or another. They are a method by which God shows His anger (Jeremiah 23:19) and His might (Nahum 1:3). All of creation, including its various weather patterns, is of and from God able to be used in furthering His righteousness and the sanctification of His people. Great storms, I believe, are meant to help us better understand this. That is THE MESSAGE OF THE WHIRLWIND.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Whirlwinds are often God’s way of warning the wicked.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Isaiah 17:13 “whirlwinds show God’s fury”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord protect me from Your fury.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

1. What fascinates people about whirlwinds, tornadoes and hurricanes?

2. Have you experienced any form of a whirlwind?

3. How can a whirlwind correct evil behavior?

4. Why do seemingly good people also experience destruction by whirlwinds?

ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS

Each waking day we are in a battle. The battle is against the world, satan and our own flesh. The great majority of the world fall in defeat dying to a death they do not understand.

One of my favorite hymns is Onward Christian Soldiers. I never truly understood it until I put it together with the verses found in Ephesians 6:10-17. As Christians if we stand strong in our faith we have already won the victory. In WWII it was symbolic of capturing Berlin and papers proclaimed in their headlines ‘Victory in Europe’. For Christians it is our taking captive the knowledge of God and the headline reads ‘Salvation’.

To win this fight in faith each day we put on the Armor of God. Each day we fight not with sword but with: truth, righteousness, the Good News, trust, salvation, the Spirit and prayer. The spiritual forces of evil cannot withstand this weaponry. We see these battles fought daily when truth destroys lies, the Bible continues to be referenced where evil flourishes or when prayer heals. This and so much more.

Paul charged Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:18 to “wage the good war”. Many try to do this using the mind alone. That will have its conquest but overwhelming victory comes when the heart and Spirit are a part of the battle plan. Now it is time for us to go into battle. ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Spiritual weapons are necessary as we wage war against the world, the devil and our own flesh.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: Ephesians 6:10-17 “the armor of God”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord clothe me with Your armor.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What are the smaller battle fronts we face each day that the world, satan and our flesh present us?
  2. How do we see the spiritual forces of evil responding to the weapons of God in today’s world?
  3. How do faith, the Holy Spirit and the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) give us victory?
  4. Do you have a battle plan for life?

THE BATTLE PLAN TO WIN AT SPIRITUAL WARFARE

Each of us are in a personal battle far more deadly than any conflict ever fought in this world. It is the battle for our spirit which has eternal implications. There are four opposing armies that have united against we who claim the cross of Christ beginning with the world around us. James 4:4 tells us clearly that “whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”. The battle begins with our own flesh and its natural (human nature born in sin) desires as explained in 1 Peter 4:1-4. Conquer the flesh and you can conquer the world.

The one to be most vigilant of in these battles is the devil (1 Peter 5:8) who at any moment is ready to attack along with what Ephesians call the spiritual hosts (demonic forces) of wickedness. It is no wonder, knowing this, that so many fall in this spiritual warfare battle. With each breath a new battle confronts us and only through the presence of the Holy Spirit within us are we able to continue to win.

Key in the battle is God’s armor (Ephesians 6:10-17) which we must put on each day and with it carry the only sword that can bring down our enemy which is the Word of God (vs. 17). We can all carry in our pockets the battle plan that will not allow us to be defeated. A promise of victory from and through Christ Who has conquered all (John 16:33).

Until our personal battles are over it is advisable we avoid worldly entanglements (2 Timothy 2:4) which will mean that we must often deny ourselves as Paul experienced (1 Corinthians 9:27). We must be always alert (1 Corinthians 16:13) and continue in prayer (Ephesians 6:18). This is THE BATTLE PLAN TO WIN AT SPIRITUAL WARFARE.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: We must never worry when we do battle on the fronts of spiritual warfare.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: John 16:33 “Christ’s promise of conquest”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord with You at my side I am ready to do battle.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What spiritual warfare battles are you fighting?
  2. Are you in prayer each day?
  3. Do you seek other prayer warriors to fight at your side?
  4. What is your battle plan?

WALK IN THE TRUE SPIRIT

At times I suspect many of us have moved around aimlessly without any purpose. It certainly has no exercise benefit due to how its carried out. If anything it allows the ‘wanderer’ a time to think and organize their thoughts.

Today zombie movies are all the rage. They personify an aimless lifestyle best. In Scripture Cain had this curse placed upon him for having killed his brother Abel. We are told in Genesis 4:12 and 14 that he would be a “fugitive and vagabond on earth”. Truth be told no matter what form it takes all wicked for their unrepentant sin will wander continually (Psalm 109:1-13) and sadly so will often be the fate of their families.

When sin takes over a life it digs in deep. It builds fences around people where it often seems impossible to find even a small gate by which you, through the power of God, can break through. That in fact is the only way to help someone end a futile life. To command the evil spirit leave (Acts 19:13) and by the power of God once again return to a life created in God’s image and WALK IN THE TRUE SPIRIT.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Wanderers are most often in spiritual warfare waiting for someone to show them God’s way.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Genesis 2:14 “an aimless life is a curse”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord give me continual purpose.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

1. Have you ever had ‘wandering’ experiences?

2. Who are the wanderer’s in today’s world and why are they wandering?

3. How can you help someone break out of this vagabond lifestyle?

4. What is it to walk in the Spirit?

 

A HEAVENLY FRAME OF MIND

To be a person of the world for many is an important matter. We strive to be well traveled, well read and well connected. We desire to be linked in as one internet program encourages. To the extent that it adds meaning and purpose to life it is not all bad unless it leads one away from God’s Kingdom and the furtherance of it. Christ said as much telling all to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Here He was speaking of basic things yet I believe the Lord blesses those who call Him Father often in far greater ways as well.

Each of us need to join Paul and say “it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 5:20). In fact how we live in this world takes on a whole new dynamic. We now become “a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1-2) to God not “conformed by this world but transformed”. We now seek a heavenly mind (Colossians 3:1-2) looking for and toward Jesus (Hebrew 12:1-2).

Things of this world play a much smaller role in our life. The ways of the world discussed in the media and elsewhere now fall into a different perspective. You see life in a new and more vibrant way. You now have A HEAVENLY FRAME OF MIND.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: To be unworldly requires we understand the importance of being united with Christ.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Galatians 2:20 “Live for Jesus”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I look to You in all matters.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

1. Should a Christian believer mix in worldly affairs?

2. How do worldly affairs have an evil influence?

3. What does it mean to seek God’s Kingdom first?

4. Describe a Heavenly mind?

OATH OF ALLEGIANCE

Every day most of us make a vow of one sort or another. A vow is a voluntary pledge to fulfill an agreement. It is often done in holding to traditions and is no more or less than what Christ tells us in Matthew 5:37. Today we would say our word is our bond or our handshake is our agreement. Those who hold to this understanding are those who are constrained by the Holy Spirit to act accordingly.

Jewish tradition generally held that vows were short term lasting 1-3 months and could only be broken if done in exaggeration (see Jephthah’s vow in Judges 11:1-12:7), made in error or made under duress.

Oaths, especially done in the name of God, on the other hand were forbidden (Matthew 5:33-36). Oaths have a more solemn and eternal aspect. They are held in abeyance to God’s Word, his command to love and to live in righteousness. The key is when we use the name of God we need to be careful how we do so.

Returning to vows there are numerous examples such as what one gives to the church (Psalm 76:11) especially in tithing (Genesis 28:22), or perhaps pledges made when becoming a part of a tradition (Numbers 6:1-21). The key whatever the pledge is it must be voluntary , spoken and binding save for the earlier explanation. All this being said may we pledge our thoughts, words and deeds to God in fulfilling His Word in our lives and all those we touch in His Kingdom and may our OATH OF ALLEGIANCE be to God first and foremost.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Vows should never be spoken in vain.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: Matthew 5:33-37 “oaths and vows”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord You are all I need.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1.  How is the pledge of allegiance a vow and not an oath?
  2.  How have vows changed especially in recent years?
  3.  Is it right to say ‘so help me God’ in a court of law or elsewhere?
  4.  What oaths and/or vows have you made?

REMEMBER TO STAY IN THE WORD

Life is not complicated. Each of us can choose one of two paths. A way of righteousness (acceptable in the eyes of God) or unrighteousness (wickedness). The paths are so far apart you cannot bound back and forth. At the end of the righteousness path is reward and the Kingdom of Heaven. At the end of the unrighteous path of life is a burning fire of punishment (Isaiah 66:24). Harsh words that you can choose to believe or not but if you accept the Bible as God’s Word it is reality.

The good news is we have a righteous Messiah who died for all including the unrighteous (Romans 5:6-8). That death gives us opportunity to change. We can remain in wickedness or turn in obedience to God. Either way know that one day ALL will be raised from the dead (Daniel 12:2). Some to everlasting life and others to everlasting death.

In this world we need to be aware of who the unrighteous are. First they are all who would suppress the truth (Romans 1:18). As God’s Word is truth they would want to remove it whenever possible and at the very least argue against it. Examples of unrighteous behavior can be found in Romans 1:29-32. Not only do they act in such wicked manner but they take great pleasure in their unrighteous lifestyle. For their doing so we know the outcome.

For the righteous our response to this behavior is guided by God’s Word. In the Word we are told not to fellowship with the unrighteous (2 Corinthians 6:14). For indeed light is incompatible with darkness. Always remain humble in God’s Word but also REMEMBER TO STAY IN THE WORD.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: The unrighteous are unworthy of union with Christ.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 6:14 “the righteous must not fellowship with the unrighteous”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord keep me in the truth.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

1. What is your attitude toward the unrighteous?

2. Where is unrighteousness most evident?

3. How does understanding the end result affect you?

4. How did Christ relate to the unrighteous?

 

THROWN INTO THE FIRE

It is hard to imagine anyone wanting to go through this life and not wanting to or being fruitful. Not just fruitful or productive in an ordinary way but in a God pleasing way. The cause is easily noticed when you look around. One such cause is from unfaithfulness to the Word of God. An example in Isaiah 5:1-7 points out those are individuals who would seek oppression rather than justice and live a life of unrighteousness.

A second cause is desiring to be friends of the world or being worldly more than being of God. James 4:4 tells us that “whoever wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”. Caution is well advised when the ways of the world that go contrary to Scripture seem inviting.

These causes as well as pleading negligence (Luke 19:20-27) will one day be no defense when standing before the Lord. In addition Christ assures us that punishment begins by His rejection of the unfruitful in this life (John 15:6). Worse is the punishment yet to come. One that is described in Matthew 3:10 as being THROWN INTO THE FIRE.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Being unfruitful makes one unworthy of being rewarded along with the upright.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: James 4:4 “Unfruitfulness is caused by worldliness.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I desire to be fruitful until my last breath.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What makes people negligent before God?
  2. How is punishment for unfruitfulness begun in this life?
  3. Explain ‘thrown into  the fire’?
  4. Is your life one that is bearing fruit?