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?

 

GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN

 

Jesus was a plain speaking person and on one occasion in doing so he upset his disciples. He had brought their training along gradually with lesser miracles and then healings and raising individuals from death but now it was time to let them know that soon they would be on their own on this earth. In Matthew 16:21-24 he shares the events that were soon to take place. There would be the entry into Jerusalem, His rejection by the church leaders and people followed by their condemnation and then the government putting him to death and God resurrecting Him. Peter despite his good intentions could not see this happening and called Christ out for His words. Here is where this life event of Christ gets interesting.

Peter’s actions and words were not submissive to God’s plan and Christ resented it saying it was as if satan were speaking the words from his mouth. Today we also as disciples of Christ in this world and our  lifetime need to be brought along slowly. As if nurturing a child we need to first become familiar with Christ and then fully submit to the plan of God which is that we and others who repent and are baptized will see the glory of Heaven. For us to challenge God and His Word makes us no different than Peter drawing the anger of Christ.

Peter did not want to see Christ suffer yet that is part and parcel of being a Christian. It is satan who does not want us to suffer for our Lord and Savior for suffering helps us to identify with Him. I believe you can’t gain the crown without the cross and so there is no resurrection without our death to this life. Today it is important that we dwell not on the things of this world with its pomp and pageantry that favors our human nature but rather we are to measure our lives by divine not human standards. When doing so we loudly proclaim each time GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Carrying the cross for Christ is crucial for a Christian.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: Matthew 16:21-24 “What Christ resents in humankind who follow Him”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord may I always follow the plan You  have laid out for my life.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1.  Have you ever challenged the message of Christ?
  2.  How far along in the nurturing process as a disciple of Christ are you?
  3.  How did Peter show that good intentions do not justify wrongful action?
  4.  What crosses are you bearing for Jesus?

A RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST

Those of us growing up in a church that had Christian training in the form of a confirmation class will likely remember a great deal from that experience. On occasion I still refer back to the ‘catechism’ I was given and had to memorize for insight. At one time this confirmation ceremony, which in a very real sense could be considered a Christian graduation, offered a nice diploma as the ornate designed ones that my grandfather had framed and which I have. Today it is just another day in the life of the church and another after school activity in many cases. Confirmation itself is a simple peace of paper granting you certain privileges as a member of a church and for the most part is topped off by a family gathering of some sort. Far from what it once meant.

Christ felt a need to train his Disciples as well. He knew the time was growing short for His time on earth and these individuals, like we in our church today, were going to be responsible for carrying His message forward. He did this at Caesarea Philippi as recorded in Matthew 16:13-20. It was here that He wanted to make absolutely certain that the Disciples knew and understood who He was. They were about (as are we today) to become not just followers but witnesses to the faith.

It was important for those who would witness to Him to confess that He truly was the one and only Son of the Living God and that it would require they, as well as we today, give all even if it meant there life. Indeed then, as now, Jesus is our meaning in life. If you do not want to live out your life in vain then it is important that you have A RIGHT UNDERSTANDING OF WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Confirming who Christ is is critical to any confirmation instruction.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: Matthew 16:13-20 “the Disciples confirmation service”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord You are my one and only instructor in matters of living out my faith filled life.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. Do you remember your confirmation service and how it affected you?
  2. Is your confirmation diploma displayed with the same importance as your other degrees of learning?
  3. Why does the faith of Christians and the strength of the church go hand in hand?
  4. Do you know who you are in Christ?

THERE IS A NATURAL EXPLANATION FOR EVERYTHING!

I am a person who appreciates what is real or innate more so than what is man made or artificial. This, I believe, is the way God intended life to be and to which one day life will be restored (Romans 8:21-23). A foretaste of that time was when Christ journeyed on this earth and the rest we await as it will be revealed to us one day in Heaven.

During this time there is one thing we need to be aware of and that is that the natural way can only be overcome by a supernatural God. An example of this is Sarah’s giving birth at a late age in life.

The question then might be what is natural? If one is blessed with a special gift we say “they have a natural talent”. The shame being when that talent is not used for God’s purpose or developed into its full potential.

All have a natural talent for prayer the four steps of which are shown in Luke 11:1-13. Prayer simply is communicating with God not totally unlike you would when visiting with an acquaintance.

In all things there is a natural explanation. It is time we turn our thoughts back to God’s natural plan whether in how we care for ourselves or all which is around us. This can only come through understanding what is revealed in Scripture. Indeed THERE IS A NATURAL EXPLANATION FOR EVERYTHING.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Nearness to God comes from understanding the beauty of what is natural.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 15:44-46 “God’s plan for us”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I seek Your natural plan for my life.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How is society returning back to its natural ways?
  2. Is the process of returning to our natural ways allow room for God?
  3. What is the essence of the meaning behind 1 Corinthians 15:46?
  4. How does God reveal Himself supernaturally?

GOD’S NUMBERS

Numbers have always fascinated me although I was never very good at mathematics. They are especially fascinating when it comes to God’s Word. Within each number and the multiple ways they can be shown are meaning and purpose. For example the number one is symbolic of unity whether in marriage (Matthew 19:6) or the Triune nature of God (3 in 1).

Two is symbolic of division (Matthew 7:13-14). It involves choices that we likely make hundreds of times each day. In most cases they are black and white in what is put before us. The number three is not only the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) but also the days between Christ’s death and resurrection (Luke 13:32).

An additional number is 6 which is symbolic of testing and that number is given satan 666 (Revelations 13:18) for satan above all others tests us every moment. Seven is the number of completion (Exodus 20:10-11) and perfection. It is to be the day we rest and look back upon a week of God’s blessing and give time to praise and worship Him.

The number 8 is that of new beginning as seen in 8 souls who were saved through water after the great flood (1 Peter 3:20). For this and all else we look to ten or tenth which is at the very least the part we return to God for His many blessings to us in our life (Genesis 14:20). This we do now in our life on earth and should not be done reluctantly.

Other numbers exist such as 40 which is symbolic of testing and judgment and 70 which is a devotion unto its own symbolizing God’s completed purpose. Those numbers and more effect us each day and are put before us in God’s Word to guide us. Indeed all numbers are GOD’S NUMBERS.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Numbers nourish when they bring us to the Name of God.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Matthew 19:6 “one, the number of unity”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord continue to guide my life through Your Word.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How can Scriptural numerology benefit your life?
  2. How is satan testing you?
  3. What is necessary to make your life complete?
  4. Do you need a new beginning?

GLORIFYING GOD AT ALL TIMES!

Society seems to have a fascination for greatness. We increase beyond reality people, their efforts and even their problems. Job experienced this when his ‘friends’ magnified his difficulties beyond what they really were. Only humility in all these various situations puts matters back into proper perspective.

Scripture tells us what we should make or declare great and the center of it is God. We begin with David’s words in 2 Samuel 7:26 who understood that God’s name is to be magnified. Sadly many instead use it improperly in their daily speech. Next we must declare great the Word of God (Psalm 138:2) for it alone is ultimate truth able to guide our lives. Rather than remove it from society as those who seek ‘freedom from religion’ would have us do we need to get it in the hands of more people as their primary life’s Book of Instruction and laws by which to live (Isaiah 42:21). The Book, of course, that I speak of is the one that points us to Christ and the empty tomb that Christians around the world call THE BIBLE.

Our duty in all this is, as the Psalm of David declares (Psalm 34:1-3), to declare the Name of our Lord and Savior great before others and not just occasionally but continually as vs. 1 tells us. We should be doing this with thanksgiving 24/7 and 365 days a year (Psalm 69:30). That requires we do it in our body now and even in our death GLORIFYING GOD AT ALL TIMES.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Mankind is meant to magnify the majesty of our Master.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Psalm 138:2 “concerning God we are to magnify His Word”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I desire to make great Your Name in all the world.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How do we abuse the concept of greatness?
  2. Do you declare God and Christ Jesus as great to others?
  3. How can you further God’s Word?
  4. How can we glorify God in our death?

WHAT GOD HAS MADE PERFECTLY CLEAR!

There are a great many things in life that aren’t explained very well. For a Christian that is not the case. I believe God makes all things clear if only we use our senses, heart and mind as God intended. For example, within each of us and all around us we can see the nature of God (Romans 1:19). This revelation is ours when we by faith through grace have Christ within us (Colossions 1:26-27). It now becomes our responsibility to take this knowledge and share it with the world (2 Corinthians 2:14). As believers we must make manifest or perfectly clear God and His truths irregardless of the political climate around us or risk to our very being. What makes our task easier is that the one and only true God we follow is a God of love (1 John 4:9) and we share Him in love with others.

What makes this easier is we have Christ Who is “God manifested in flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). The presence of Christ on earth some 2000 years ago made all things clear (1 John 1:2) and He declared to us the eternal life we will have one day as 1 John 1:2 tells us. For all who believe that should be clearly evident.

Also clear to believers are the “works of the flesh” as noted in Galatians 5:19-21. Those who are caught up in any of these without the presence of the Holy Spirit will not see the dangers within each. That is where our world is today. Sadly we legitimize or overlook that which one day God will judge.

Our actions can go one of two directions. We can live contrary to God’s will and the folly of our actions will be manifest to all one day (2 Timothy 3:9) or we can hear the Words of Christ recorded in John 3:21 and show the truth through our deeds that which GOD HAS MADE PERFECTLY CLEAR.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: God desires to manifest to mankind his majesty.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: John 3:21 “mans deeds are to show God’s truth”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord may I always see what you are making clear.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How clear is God to you?
  2. How do you see our Lord and Savior?
  3. In what ways are the evils of Galatians 5:19-21 self destructive?
  4. What is truth?

 

A TOTAL LIFE

As I write this millions of people are gathering for an event some call ‘totality’. A total eclipse of the sun hidden behind the moon. As interesting as an eclipse is for me especially from a Scriptural point of view (Amos 8:9), I am more amazed by mankind’s reaction.

Expressing something as a ‘total’ event misses the real essence of the word which is what life is really all about. For me life in its ‘totality’ is a triumphant life. Not 2 minutes where planetary movement hides the sun.

A triumphant life hides or better yet overcomes sorrow, the world, sin, difficult circumstances and even death. This for a Christian is ‘totality’ and it can be ours now and forever. The key is we must be born of God AND believe that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:4-5).

Once we have made this discovery then our goal must be to demonstrate God’s grace as Paul understood in Ephesians 3:7-10. We must share the “unsearchable riches of Christ” with the world. We must glorify Christ even as He has glorified us (Romans 8:16-18).

All this comes through the presence of the Holy Spirit invited into our life (Romans 8:1-2). We are no longer our own. We belong in true totality to our Lord and Savior. This is A TOTAL LIFE.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: A triumphant Christian life is lived in the Lord.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: 1 John 5:4-5 “How we find triumphant life”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord You are my totality.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. What is a total experience?
  2. What does it mean to be a total Christian?
  3. How do you demonstrate God’s grace in your life?
  4. Have you been born of God?

FINDING PURPOSE

Our purpose on this earth is actually quite simple. God sent Jesus to us, Jesus first send the Apostles and then Jesus through Scripture directs each of us in Luke 9:2  to “preach the Gospel and heal the sick”. No matter the number of years we are given in this life unless that is our focus and our legacy then we have fallen short of the expectations I believe God has of us.

The best illustration of this is recorded in Luke 9:1-6 and I believe from it there are many lessons we can take with us. First I believe our call to ministry can only come from and through God for in Him is our source of power. We can see that in ministries across our nations where when that is the conviction those ministries are successful sometimes beyond imagination but when someone is sharing the Gospel only to make a living then they as much are guilty of sacrilege.

I believe God’s plan is for us to bring ruin to the kingdom of darkness and we do that by effective preaching and witnessing. This requires that we share the Gospel of faith, hope and love. A faith that helps us to know that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. A hope that can only be found in a relationship with our Lord and Savior and finally showing love to all those around us so that they might come to this understanding. When we conduct ourselves in this manner and preach these words then we can say we have FOUND PURPOSE.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: A purposeful plan has preaching about our Triune God as its primary purpose.

DEVOTIONAL VERSES FOR TODAY: Luke 9:1-6 “finding purpose in life”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord help me to fulfill Your purpose for my life.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. Have you found your purpose?
  2. How are you fulfilling your purpose?
  3. Do you share your faith, hope and love with others?
  4. How should one handle those who do not want to hear?

NOTHING MORE THAN SPIRITUALLY DEAD!

Through most of life I find decisions fairly easy to make. If you have a foundation of God’s truth and a well understood priority  list (faith, family, freedom, friends, finances and fun) then life is easier and more fulfilling. The inability to decide between vital issues is not new. Elijah confronted people in the time of 1 Kings 18:21  between the ultimate choice of truth or idolatry. That decision is one we each still make today. God’s truth revealed in the Bible or all else. There can be no compromise of God’s Word and Will.

If we allow indecision most especially in our journey of faith then we are spiritually unfit as Christ clearly pointed out to those who would follow Him in Luke 9:59-62. James added in chapter 1 verse 6 “for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind”. Our Lord seeks and deserves no less than stability from we who say we follow Him.

When we start compromising our faith (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) then we open ourselves to defeat (Romans 6:15-22). Once defeated then our time in this life is as if we were NOTHING MORE THAN SPIRITUALLY DEAD (Revelations 3:16).

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Indecision increases opportunity for instability and indifference toward God.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Revelations 3:16 “indecision results in spiritual deadness”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I have firmly decided for You.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How decisive are you?
  2. What decisions have you made regarding your faith?
  3. In what way  is truth versus idolatry still a battle for you?
  4. Could you pass a spiritual fitness test?