Sunday, July 31, 2011

Naomi's Example of Evangelism - July 31st, 2011

“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The LORD do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”
Ruth 1:16-17

History and Context:
The author of the book of Ruth is not identified by the text, but it is traditionally attributed to Samuel the prophet. Ruth is set in the time of the judges before kings ruled over Israel, it was also a time of famine. The famine caused many Israelites to flee Israel to surrounding countries. This was the case for Naomi, her husband and two sons who fled to Moab. It was there that Naomi's sons found wives, Orpah and Ruth, but then all three men died, leaving the women to fend for themselves. After the death of her husband and sons Naomi decides to go to her homeland and she tells her daughter-in-laws to return home. Orpah, after much insistence, leaves, but Ruth refuses and the above is her response. This book, in Jewish tradition, was always read at the feast of Pentecost.

The Text:
Ruth decides in this passage to follow Naomi and in doing that Naomi's God. The interesting thing is that it is not God that she is clinging to, but Naomi. Yet throughout the Bible Ruth is mentioned in important places. She is the great-grandmother of King David, the greatest king in Israel's history, and she is also one of only three women mentioned in the lineage of Jesus in the book of Matthew. She is known in both Jewish and Christian circles as a faithful, godly women. It seems clear through the story of Ruth that God didn't care that she initially followed Naomi, only that it led her to Him. The other thing that is interesting is that Naomi never preaches to Ruth and tells her to follow the one true God. In fact Naomi insists that she return home "to her people and to her gods", but Naomi's relationship with Ruth was enough to cause Ruth to follow Naomi and to follow Naomi's God.

The Challenge:
The focus is always given to Ruth and her faithfulness to Naomi. But to me it is amazing to see Naomi's affect on Ruth. We don't hear much about how Naomi related to Ruth but it was clearly powerful, as it caused Ruth to give up her home, her gods, and her people. It wasn't done through words or persuasion, but through love and relationship. It clearly took a commitment. Even Orpah was ready to follow her but turned back only on Naomi's insistence. We need to take every opportunity we can to build this kind of relationship with people. Especially if someone is getting tired of hearing your preaching, stop preaching and start loving. Care for the person. Naomi is a perfect example of the power that can have.

The Prayer:
Lord, help me to show your love to people in my everyday actions. Help me to build relationships that go deep with people. Relationships that you can also use for your glory. Thank you Lord! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Trust Him and He will Deliver You! - July 30th, 2011

But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
He is their strength in the time of trouble.
And the LORD shall help them and deliver them;
He shall deliver them from the wicked,
And save them,
Because they trust in Him.
Psalm 37:39-40

History and Context:
This is another psalm of King David. David knew what trouble was; he also knew what it meant to trust in the Lord. The most popular story of David shows him running to fight a giant who everyone, including the king, was terrified of, simply because he trusted the Lord. He was a man of war, constantly defending the Israelites from enemies, and would always claim the Lord's protection. This was a man who knew what it meant to trust the Lord and knew what it meant be rescued by Him.

The Text:
The message of the text is simple and encouraging. If you are in trouble, the Lord will give you strength and He will deliver you. This has two conditions according to this text. One is that you are righteous, which the blood of Christ has made all who accept it righteous. The second condition is simply that you trust Him. In fact, according to David, it is because of your trust in Him that He will deliver you and give you strength in the time of trouble. It is interesting that David first says that the Lord will give strength in the time of trouble, before he says that the Lord will deliver. This shows that the deliverance is not always immediate. Sometimes the Lord will give us strength first as we fight for our deliverance. But there is a promise that He will deliver us.

The Challenge:
Trust Him! As I said before, that is the only thing required from us, that we trust Him. No matter what is happening in your life, if you trust Him, there is a promise that the Lord will give you strength, and that He will deliver you.

The Prayer:
Lord, I trust you! I trust you to deliver me from these trials. I thank you fro giving me strength to endure and I trust that you will bring deliverance. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Forsake All To Know Him! - July 29th, 2011

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, (...) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but

I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:7-14

History and Context:
The church in Phillipi was one of the first churches in Europe. This means these are some of the first believers in what we now know as the "Western World". Paul visited them around 49-50 AD and then at least two more times after that in 56 and 57 AD. One of the first Christians in Phillipi was the jailer who was assigned to guard Paul and Silas (and the other prisoners) when they were thrown in prison. God used an earthquake to set them free and to convince this jailer of His reality. (Acts 16:25-34) This letter was written in response to the church sending Epaphroditus to Paul to help him in his time of need.

The Text:
My focus is going to be on the last three verses, I just wanted to include the other verses because they provide important context. Yesterday we took a look at a verse from Paul's final letter before his death. In that verse he noted that "he had "fought the good fight", he had "finished he race", he had "kept the faith". We noted that the goal for all of us should be to be able to say this at the end of our lives. Well this is the attitude which led Paul to be able to say that. "I press on towards the goal..." Once we find our purpose in life we need to be committed towards seeking after it and achieving it. We can not allow past hurts and failures to hold us back from achieving what God has for us in the future. When we look at the context of this verse there is one other important thing to note. Paul's ultimate goal was simply " know Christ..." That is it. That is all He wanted to do. But this desire is what fueled his search after the will of God on his life. He wasn't seeking after credentials, money or fame. In fact if you go even further back in the letter, you see that he had all these things and forsook them. Because all that mattered to Him was knowing Christ. Knowing Him in His suffering and His resurrection

The Challenge:
Any calling that we have on our lives should drive us towards knowing Him more, because that is what our ultimate purpose is. If your calling is pulling you away from God, forsake your calling for a time and seek Him. If your ministry is causing you to spend less time in His presence, take a break from your ministry and seek Him. Sometimes it just takes a commitment to stop everything for an hour or two a day and seek His face, other times our ministry or calling has become god to us and we need to stop it completely for a while and spend some time seeking Him. He will always lead us back to where we need to be if we are genuinely seeking Him. To make it short, the challenge for today is to simply seek Him. Take some time in which you are not seeking your next sermon, or provision for your needs and desires, but you are genuinely seeking Him. Seeking to know Him, seeking to be with Him, seeking to hear what He wants to say.

The Prayer:
Lord, I desire to know you. Bring me into your presence today. Help me to cut out all distractions and simply be with you! I love you Lord! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Are you living with purpose? - July 28th, 2011

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
2 Timothy 4:6-8

History and Context:
Many of you already read a short description on the history of 2 Timothy yesterday. Feel free to glance over it again if you would like. The important thing to recognize for this verse is that this is Paul's last letter written. He knew he was about to die so he wanted to present final instructions to Timothy, his disciple. According to Christian tradition, Paul was beheaded in Rome during the reign of Nero in the mid 60's AD.

The Text:
Paul starts here by recognizing that his time of "departure" is coming. It seems clear that he means his departure from this earth. He knows that he is about to die, but he also knows that he has accomplished what he needed to do while on this earth. Tuesday I shared how Paul referred to the Christian walk as a race, well here he says he has "finished the race". He also again refers to the crown, which in Corinthians he stated is imperishable. Here he says this crown is of righteousness. Showing that as Christians, we will receive a reward in heaven for what we have done on earth. This statement is one of the most amazing statements anyone could make at the end of their life. How many people actually finish what they are supposed to do in their life? Of course only God truly knows the answer to that question, but how many times have you or I missed opportunities that we know were given to us by God. Yet Paul says he finished it. He fought, he ran, and he kept the faith.

The Challenge:
What is your fight? What is your race? How has your faith manifested in your life? Many Christians never even ask themselves these questions. Or they limit themselves with answers like "I fight against temptation and sin." or "My race is simply to make it to heaven." If we don't live as if we have a purpose, we can never achieve our purpose. If we don't recognize the race, we will never be able to finish it. If you don't know what your personal race, your personal battle, is then you need to seek God for it. It's time for us to live according to our purpose, then we will be able to say with Paul, at the end of our lives, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

The Prayer:
Lord, show me what my battle is, what my race is in life. I know that you have given me a divine purpose here on earth. Show me what that is and help me to fulfill it. I desire to finish this race, but before I can do that, I need to know what race I am running. What is my final goal? Thank you Lord! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Words of Profit! - July 27th, 2011

Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer.
2 Timothy 2:14-17

History and Context:
2 Timothy is the last letter Paul wrote before he died in approximately 67 AD. In the letter he seems to know that he is about to die and wants to make sure that he leaves Timothy prepared to continue his ministry. Throughout the letter Paul admonishes Timothy to "not be ashamed", to stick to the truth no matter what. Timothy was Paul's disciple and now Paul is passing on the mantle. He givess him specific instructions as to how he should run his church and also what to watch out for.

The Text:
The text here is specifically talking about the words which we speak. Paul is showing the importance of watching our tongue. Don't strive after "words to no profit". In other words, make sure there is a purpose to what you are saying, a profit coming from it. Then he talks about the "word of truth" and again says "shun profane an idle babbling". This is one of the scriptures often used to go against the use of 'swear' words, but there is so much more to it than that. According to merriam-webster, profane means "to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt". In other words to not be reverent or respectful of the things of God in our words, is profane babbling. Idle means simply "lacking worth or basis". So speech that has no substance to it. Again it is talking aithout a purpose, sometiems without even realizing what you are saying.

The Challenge:
Paul is telling us to be in control of our mouth. We need to speak with purpose and with profit in mind; not financial profit but spiritual profit. The challenge then is to be conscious of what you are saying today. Be aware of your tendencies. If you tend to speak without thinking, then slow down, think, evaluate what you are going to say, then say what will profit both you and your listeners. The Bible is full of warnings about the words which we speak, because these words can govern not only our lives but can also help to govern the lives of those around us. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" speak life today!

The Prayer:
Lord, I understand the importance of my words, of being careful what I say. Help me to slow down and to consider what I say before I say it. Help me to think before I speak. Help me to speak life and not death. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Are you in it to win it? - July 26th, 2011

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27

History and Context:
In the first two verses of 1 Corinthians we can see the author and reciever of this letter. Paul wrote it, with a 'brother' named Sosthenes, to the church in Corinth who, he says, are "called to be saints". Corinth was a city on the main trade route between Asia and western Europe, and Paul had spent two years there establishing the church. Paul wrote this letter in order to address division and immorality in the church in Corinth.

The Text:
Paul begins the chapter defending himself, he then leads into a description of how "those that preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel". This leads into a description of how he has made himself a servant to all men, and as a servant to all he runs this race in order to win. He of course is referring to life as a race and brings examples which the people of that day would understand. People in that day would compete yearly in games very much like our Olympics. Those who won recieved a crown, named here as a perishable wreath. He mentions the discipline that it took in order to win these races and challenges them to live their life in Christ like that. To live a disciplined life, a life striving to win. But for us, he says, the crown that we recieve will never perish.

The Challenge:
Are you running to win? Are you living a disciplined life? Have you brought your body "into subjection"? In order to run the race to win we need to be disciplined in our daily life. We need to control our flesh and offer it as living sacrifices before God. What habits are you still doing that you have been doing for years? What things have you allowed yourself to get away with by saying "it's just a little thing"? It's the little things which will take us down. We need to live our spiritual life like a disciplined runner, focused on our goal, which is Christ.

The Prayer:
Lord, help me to discipline my life and my actions. Help me to break all habits that are not of you. Help me to keep focused on the goal you have set before me. Thank you Lord! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Power of Grace! - July 25th, 2011

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 6:12-14

History and Context:
As noted before the book of Romans was written by Paul to the church in Rome, probably around 55 - 57 AD. The history and beginnings of the church in Rome is not fully known. Most scholars believe that they established themselves without the help of any Apostle and without seeing any signs or miracles. There was a strong mix of Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome at this time and they seem to have gotten in many arguments. The Jewish Christians wanted the Gentiles to be circumcised and to follow the law to the letter, whereas the Gentile Christians attempted to say that they were better and that the Jews were rejected as God's people. Paul addresses both of these issues in his letter.

The Text:
Since Paul is writing to two different groups of people, with two opposing viewpoints which are both wrong, Paul ends up almost in a discussion with himself. He spends a few chapters discussing law and grace, and how they relate with each other. Here Paul is talking about the power that sin has, or had, over us. He says earlier taht we died and raised with Christ and that for this reason sin no longer has dominion over us. If we died then we died to sin, if we were raised then we were resurrected in His power and grace. His grace then allows us to be freed from sin. It is the grace of God that not only cleanses us from our sin, but also frees us from it's power over us. Paul presents the question, How could we who have been freed from sin return to it?

The Challenge:
Understand your freedom, understand grace! You don't have to sin. You are free from it. Don't listen to the enemy. The enemy wants you to think that you are a fallen human and can therefore not help but sin. You have been freed from your fallen nature and can choose not to sin. Buit also understand that if you do sin, run straight back to God! Don't spend time worrying about whether He would accept you. Know that He will. That's what His grace and mercy are there for. To cleanse you and give you power to not do it again!

The Prayer:
Lord, I don't want to sin again. Help me to understand the power that you have given me in your grace. Help me to understand your desire to free me from sin's dominion. I love you Lord! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

An Easier Way! - July 24th, 2011

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

History and Context:
This is of course is Jesus speaking in the Gospel according to Matthew. The Gospel of Matthew doesn't actually identify it's author in the text, but various early church writings have referred to "Matthew's Gospel" leading us to believe that this was written by Matthew the tax collector and disciple of Jesus. What is clear is that Matthew was written by a Jew to the Jews. One of the main points of Matthew's Gospel was to show how Jesus fulfilled the various Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament.

The Text:
Jesus uses the example of a yoke. A yoke is a long wooden beam which is used to connect oxen to a load which they have to pull. It usually would also connect two or more oxen together in order to help them share the load. Jesus is inviting everyone who is carrying a heavy load to come to Him and let Him take it for them. He then says that His load is easy and light. This invitation comes directly after a statement that the only people who can 'know the Father' are the ones who the 'Son' wills to do so. Jesus said that He is the only one that can decide who gets to know the Father and directly after He gives an open invitation to all who are "weary and heavy laden". I believe He is making a point that He wills all to know the Father, all to be free of their heavy loads.

The Challenge:
Are you tired? Do you feel like you have a large load on your shoulders? Whether you have accepted Christ or not, if this describes you, you are not living the way Christ wants you to live. He wants us to be free of our own loads and our own baggage. In fact He wants to be free so much that He has already taken it on Himself, we just need to let go. So come to Jesus! Let go of your baggage! It's your choice to do so or not. It's your choice to live tired and weary, or to live with strength and excitement.

The Prayer:
Lord, take this load from me. I don't want to carry it anymore. Free me from my baggage and give me new strength, new energy. Give me your burden which I know is easy and your yoke which I know is light. Fill me with your spirit and help me to let go of this burden that I have held so long. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Preach and Disciple! - July 23rd, 2011

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Matthew 28:18-20

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Mark 16:15-18

History and Context:
These are two different accounts of the same event, the last words of Jesus to His disciples. Matthew was, of course, one of the twelve himself and Mark, or John Mark, was a companion of Peter who was one of Jesus' inner three. Therefore these are both trusted sources as to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. This is the last command, or commission, from Jesus to His disciples, before He ascended into heaven.

The Text:
The beginning word in both of these commands is the same: "Go"! This means that in order to fulfill what Jesus has told us to do, we have to go out to the people. We can not sit in our churches and expect them to come. After this word we have two different steps of the process being portrayed by the two points of view. Mark quotes Jesus as telling us to "preach the Gospel", whereas Matthew quotes Him as saying "make disciples". Together the two authors are showing that there is a process which Jesus is commanding us to go through with people. First we must preach and share the good news, but then next we must stay with them and grow them as disciples. After this Mark begins to share the signs that will "follow those who believe". Reading further in Matthew we also see the signs "confirming the Word". In other words, the signs come when the Word is preached and shared.

The Challenge:
When is the last time you shared the Gospel with someone? Who is currently your disciple? The challenge is to seek opportunities to preach and to disciple. This doesn't mean you have to be in full-time ministry. It also doesn't mean you have to get out in the street and start preaching to those who walk by. To preach is simply to proclaim. We can proclaim the Gospel to our friends, our co-workers, our family, or whoever God sends in our path. Just remember to share in love and if they are not ready to hear, back off and pray for them. Beyond just preaching we are also called to disciple. I believe we should have at least one person who we are discipling and one person who is discipling us at all times. Think about the relationships which God has sent you. Is there anyone that you should be taking the opportunity to speak into their lives and help them grow? Take the initiative, make the time, this is important!

The Prayer:
Lord, help me to not miss an opportunity to speak into people's lives. Help me to not miss an opportunity to preach your Gospel. I want to be someone who spreads your Word. Thank you Lord! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Three Baptisms - July 22nd, 2011

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Matthew 3:11-12
History and Context:
The speaker here is John the Babptist, who is preaching in the wilderness before Jesus begins His ministry. John declares himself as "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.'” This is quoted from the prophecies in Isaiah (40:3) of the coming Messiah. John preached repentance in order to prepare the way for Jesus.

The Text:
John speaks of three baptisms:

1) Baptism of Water
2) Baptism of the Holy Spirit
3) Baptism of Fire

In reading the text we can already see an explanation for the baptisms of water and fire. The baptism of water is simply a sign of repentance. A sign of turning from our old ways and turning towards a new way in Christ. In Matthew 28 Jesus commands us to continue baptizing people in this way. The text shows the baptism of fire as being a way in which Jesus gathers His wheat, the good stuff, and burns up the chaff, the bad stuff. In other words the baptism of fire is a way in which Jesus purifies us. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is best explained in Acts 1:8 "and you shall recieve power". It is a baptism in the power of God. Continue reading Acts 1:8 and you will see that it is a power that enables us to be His witnesses. All three of these baptisms are still important today.

The Challenge:
Have you been baptized? Have you been baptized into all three of these things? If there is anyone of these baptisms that you have not recieved I challenge you to do it today. For the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the baptism of fire all you have to do is ask. Ask God to baptize you in both. Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit and with His power. Ask God to baptize you in fire and to burn out all the 'chaff' in your life. Of course only ask for it if you really want it, because He will give it to you. If you haven't been baptized in water I challenge you to find a minister who you respect and trust and have him baptize you. Make it a proclamation of your repentance and your decision to become a new man. If you have any more questions on any of these baptisms find someone to ask your questions to, or just send me an email at

The Prayer:
Lord, baptize me in your Holy Spirit. Fill me again with your power Holy Spirit. Baptize me in your fire, purify me. Let me be pure and holy as you are pure and holy. Let me be one with you. Help me to be your witness to those around me. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

For God so loved! - July 21st, 2011

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved
John 3:16-17

History and Context:
Everyone knows this verse, but few have paid attention to the context in which it was said. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews as the Bible states, comes to Jesus at night and declares that He is a teacher come from God. Jesus responds by claiming that in order to see God's kingdom one has to be "born again". A discussion then follows on what it means to be born again, leading to this powerful verse which we all know and is the first verse which we memorize.

The Text:
This is the most popular scripture in the Bible. It is the first one we all memorize and because of that it has, tragically, become common to us. We hear it and forget what it means; we forget it's power. "God so loved the world..." There are two, equally wrong, interpretations of the Bible which this scripture alone goes against. The first is that God hates sinners. We continually see 'christians' on the news holding up signs saying things like "God hates homosexuals" or other hateful sayings. This is directly refuted in this one simple phrase "God so loved the world...". If God loves the world, why are His followers spewing hate? The second view is that God loves the world so everyone is going to heaven no matter what their religion is. This is dispelled in the second part of this scripture "...whoever believes in Him..." Again it is very clear that people must believe in Him in order to have everlasting life. God loves the world, but they must believe and accept the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross in order to have everlasting life.

The Challenge:
First study this scripture and this chapter. Truly understand what it is saying, because it is powerful. Now understand this, God has chosen us to spread the Gospel. "God so loved the world", do you? Do you truly love those out in the world? When did you last show that love? As true followers of Christ we must love the world. John, in his first letter, makes it clear that love of God and love of people is one in the same. We cannot truly love God unless we love people. Be conscious today about showing the love of God to those around you.

The Prayer:
Lord, I pray that you would help me to love those around me. Give me creative ways to show your love to everyone I come in contact with today. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Talk of all His wondrous works! - July 20th, 2011

Oh, give thanks to the LORD!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!
Psalm 105:1-3

History and Context:
The author of Psalm 105 is unknown; therefore there is little known as to the history of the psalm. The Psalm goes through the history of Israel, specifically Genesis with a mention of Exodus, and praises God for all the miracles which He did to free the Israelites.

The Text:
This text is possibly the best description of what it means to truly praise the Lord. It is not just about singing or playing music, it is simply declaring what God has done. This can be done by singing psalms, but can also be doen through talking. On top of that, this is also a great description of what evangelism should be. In Acts, Jesus told His disciples to be His witnesses. A witness is simply someone who tells his experience; therefore Jesus was telling them that they were to share their experiences with those around them. That is true evangelism, talk of His wondrous works! Share with others what God has done in your life! Rejoice in who He is!

The Challenge:
There are two steps to today's challenge. First you must look into your life and reflect on all the things He has done for you. Maybe it was a new job or a financial miracle, maybe He brought you the love of your life, or maybe He comforted you in a difficult time, possibly He freed you from a fear or addiction. Think through all the things He has done for you and find the biggest, most amazing one. The second step is to find somebody, at least one person, and share it. Be led by the Spirit and find someone who doesn't know the story yet. Then share it with them and be sure to give God the praise. Then if you want, comment on this blog with the results of what God did when you shared.

The Prayer:
Lord, remind me of all the wonderful things you have done in my life. I praise you and thank you for them all. You are an amazing God! I praise you for your wonderful works and I ask that you would send me the right person to share what you have done for me with. Thank you Lord! In Jesus name, Amen!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Meaning of Life - July 19th, 2011

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher,
All is vanity.”
Ecclesiastes 12:8

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing
Whether good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

History and Context:
According to the first verse of Ecclesiastes the book is written by, "the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem". This of course points towards King Solomon as the author. Traditionally it is believed that Solomon wrote Song of Solomon in his youth, Proverbs in his middle age, and Ecclesiastes shortly before his death. The Bible describes Solomon as the wisest and the richest man who ever lived. He was a man who began his rule by following God, but he then began making treaties with the surrounding nations, through marriages, and began following strange gods. Later in his life, as we see in Ecclesiastes, he seemed to repent of his ways and return to God. But this repentance came too late as God had already begun to split the kingdom.

The Text:
The book of Ecclesiastes discusses the age old discussion of the meaning of life. Who better to hold this discussion then Solomon? In all earthly pursuits Solomon was as succesful as anyone in history. Money? He was the richest man who ever lived. The Bible says that the kingdom became so rich that even silver was "as common as stones"! (1 Kings 10:27) Success? He was king of one of the greatest nations in the world at the time. Knowledge? The Bible names him as the wisest man who ever lived, and people came from all over just to hear from his wisdom. Women? Just read the Song of Solomon.
So the point is, in everything that we as humans find ourselves pursuing, he had it all! Yet at the end of his life he claims, "All is vanity", all is meaningless. In fact he comes down to one thing in which he found meaning, God. "Fear God and keep His commandments". This is everything a man needs to do. This is all that brings meaning in man's life.

The Challenge:
How much time do you spend on meaningful things? How much time do you waste with other things? When you come to the end of your day can you look back and say "not all was vanity"? The challenge today is to be more conscious about where you are sending your time. Have you don'e something today to make a difference in the world? Have you obeyed the commandments of our Lord? Do you fear God, in respect or awe of Him? Even if all your days in the past have been meaningless, give this day meaning! Do something that will truly make a difference! Keep the commandments of the Lord!

The Prayer:
Lord, I do fear you, I do respect you. I want to follow you and keep your commandments. Help me to make my life worth something. Help me to make a difference today! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Monday, July 18, 2011

How can a young man cleanse his way? - July 18th, 2011

How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
Blessed are You, O LORD!
Teach me Your statutes.
Psalm 119:9-12

History and Context:
Psalm 119 is by far the longest chapter in the Bible. It is seperated into 22 parts, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The author of the psalm is unknown but there are multiple themes throughout the poem. Most prevalent is the aspect of delighting in the Word of God.

The Text:
The Psalmist hear begins with a question; "How can a young man cleanse his way?" English Standard Version says; "How can a young man keep his way pure?" The psalmist is asking how we can walk in purity and then he answers his own question; by walking according to the Word. He shows us that there is a direct correlation between knowing and walking according to the Word and walking in purity. There is a direct correlation between knowing the Word of God and not sinning. How do I keep from sinning? By hiding the Word of God in my heart! Later in this passage the psalmist writes that he will declare the Word with his mouth and that he will meditate on God's laws. These are the keys to staying pure, to not sinning.

The Challenge:
Again, to stop sinning, we have to stop focusing on the sin. Shift your focus to the Word of God. So many Christians are struggling and fighting not to sin, yet they never read the Word of God. It is no wonder that there fight seems never ending. Focus on studying and meditating on the Word of God and your mind won't even think to sin. Speak out His Word until you believe it, then when you do believe it keep speaking it out so you never stop believing! Take a passage of scripture today and truly meditate on it. If it helps, write it on a notecard or a piece of paper and stick it in your pocket. If you have a hard time picking a passage take the one above, but meditate on something from the Word. Think about it, ponder it, pray about it, study it, then tomorrow take another passage.

The Prayer:
Lord, teach me your statutes. Help me to understand and to walk according to your Word. Help me to truly delight in your Word as the psalmist does. Help me to continually declare your Word, and to meditate on your precepts. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Path to Godliness and True Love - July 17th, 2011

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:5-8

History and Context:
The second epistle of Peter was probably one of the last letters written in the new testament. It is the first of the new testament books that seems to refer to other new testament books as scripture. There are references to Jude as well as to some of the Pauline epistles. 2 Peter identifies the deity of Jesus Christ and addresses heresy that had risen in the church at that time. The letter was written towards the end of Peter's life, probably just a few years before his eventual martyrdom circa 65-67 AD.

The Text:
The text shows a progression of our faith. At the beginning all we need is faith; faith in God and His ability to save us, faith in His grace. Then as we grow in our faith we are to add virtue; an inner morality, the moral principles which we hold on to and live by. That virtue leads to a greater knowledge of how to live by these principles; which then leads us to self-control, the ability to control our actions and what we do. As we learn to control our actions we develop perseverance, and are able to push through the trial and difficult times which form us to godliness. Finally we begin learning what it truly means to be kind to our brothers, which leads us to truly love them like God loves them. This is the same path which Paul was talking about in Philippians when he said "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). We are "saved by grace through faith" but that is only the beginning.

The Challenge:
Again the scripture has given us steps, so the challenge for each of us depends on which step we are on. Have you noticed that it is difficult for you to love like Christ loved? Have you found yourself not truly acting in godliness, or having a difficult time going through trials with joy? Maybe you realize that you don't have the self-control that you wish you had. Often we tend to focus on the outward actions and forget that the beginning is inside. If we do not start with faith and virtue, we will never truly achieve self-control and godliness, and in procession we will never truly find ourselves in a position to love those around us. If it seems that I am describing you then forget, for a while, about the outward actions and start seeking God to change you on the inside. Once God changes you on the inside, the outside will become almost automatic.

The Prayer:
Lord, change my heart, change me on the inside. Build my virtue, my moral beliefs, to be like yours. Build my faith in your grace. Build my understanding of who you are and what you want for me. I trust you to change me from the inside out. Even if I may continue to sin, to make mistakes, I know that you are changing me and you will not leave this work unfinished. Thank you Lord! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Do All Things For Him! - July 16th, 2011

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Colossians 3:12-17

History and Context:
Colossians was written by Paul to the church in Colosse, a town in Asia Minor about 100 miles from Ephesus. The church in Colosse had begun to follow various pagan practices, including the worship of elemnetal spirits. For this reason, Paul declares Christ's supremacy over all spirits and the entire created universe. He also spends a lot of time denouncing false teachers. The first part of the book is simply establishing correct doctrine whereas the second part is discussing more practical application in correct conduct.

The Text:
In this chapter we see Paul begin by listing various forms of evil behavior. He says we need to put off the evil behaviors and put on the behaviors listed above. We need to put on mercy, kindness, patience, humilty, and meekness. But he says the most important thing to put on is love. This importance put on love echoes 1 Corinthians 13 when Paul writes that love is the 'greatest of these' over faith and hope. When we put these things on, he says we can then allow the peace of God to rule in our hearts, and the Word of Christ to dwell in us. To sum it all up he writes; "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

The Challenge:
Today's challenge comes from the final verse. "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Whatever we do, we should do it in His name. We should look to glorify Him in all our actions, in all our words. The challenge today is to be conscious about this. Go through your day today with the idea that everything you do you will do it as if you are doing it for Jesus Himself. This might be especially challengeing for those of you who have to work today. It is easy to think that the job is just for money and to do just enough to slip by, but Paul writes here that we should act as if we are working for Jesus in our job. Do it to the best of your ability, with the best attitude!

The Prayer:
Lord, help me to perform every action as if I am doing it for you, and to speak every word as if I am speaking in your name. Direct my actions and my words today. Help my attitude in all that I am doing. Let me bring glory to you! In Jesus' Name, Amen!

Friday, July 15, 2011

We're Coming Out Stronger! - July 15th, 2011

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:1-5

History and Context:
Romans is sometimes called 'the Gospel according to Paul'. It is a letter written to the church in Rome, but it contains the most complete Gospel message out of all the Epistles. In fact, one of the most taught methods of evangelism contains what is known as the 'Romans Road'; a series of scriptures from Romans which lead one down the path of salvation. Bible historians believe that the church in Rome was self established, without the help of one of the apostles. They were a mixture of Jews and Gentiles and often quarrelled on what the requirements fr salvation were and which rules from the Torah needed to be followed.Paul's letter is attempting to answer those questions while also presenting a thorough overview of the Gospel message. For a little bit more on Romans see my post here.

The Text:
The first big issue that Paul tackles in his letter to the Romans is the issue of law vs. grace. This is a huge issue for his audience as the Jews in Rome kept insisting that the Greeks do something for their salvation; namely circumcision. Paul contends that we are justified simply through our faith. Our faith brings us peace and access to the grace of God which then allows us to glory, not only in God, but also in our trials and tribulations. Paul then lists the sequence of benefits from the hardships that we go through; perseverence, character, and hope. And that hope has already been fulfilled in the fact that we already have God's love through the Holy Spirit. In short, our faith allows us to recieve the grace of God which not only gives us forgiveness, but also gives us the ability to achieve perseverence, character, and hope by rejoicing in our hard times.

The Challenge:
Are you going through a difficult time? Maybe you are short on your finances this month, or you're stuck in a job you hate. Maybe a family member just passed, or you had to move from all your friends and family. It could be something small or something big, the principle is always the same. Paul shows us that through our faith in God and in His grace, we recieve the ability to rejoice in these trials. So wherever you are, Rejoice! Glory in these trials! Because you know that God is not only bringing you out on the other side, but He is bringing you out stronger! He is bringing you out perseverence, character, and finally hope. Hope in the salvation and blessings of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Prayer:
Lord, thank you for the trials you have put in my life. I understand now how they are benefiting me and helping me in my growth. Thank you that you are bringing me out of them, and bringing me out stronger, ready for your work! I pray Lord, that you would help me to understand and recognize what it is you are doing in me in this time.Give me your thoughts, give me your understanding, help me to see the world as you see it. Thank you Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Do you love knowledge or are you stupid? - July 14th, 2011

Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge,
But he who hates correction is stupid.
Proverbs 12:1

History and Context:
Yesterday I already discussed the history of the book of Proverbs. It was written by King Solomon, the son of King David. King Solomon was believed to be the wisest man who has ever lived. Proverbs is multiple, stand alone, nuggets of wisdom.

The Text:
The text here is quite straight forward. If you love knowledge then you love to be instructed, to be taught. If you do not like to be corrected then Proverbs is very straight in telling you that you are stupid. It is correction that allows us to learn and to grow. We must embrace this correction and surround ourselves with people who are not afraid to correct us when we are wrong. If you want more knowledge than find a teacher. Sometimes that teacher can be in the form of a book, but it is also important to find a mentor, someone who can teach and instruct you in real life. Someone you can ask questions to and get answers.

The Challenge:
Take some time to be instructed with an open mind. As mentioned before, this can come in the form of a book or a blog, but it is much better when you have a mentor who can speak into your current situation. If you simply do not have a mentor who can instruct you, then take time today to pray that God sends you one. It is important for us to be always learning and growing, and this can only happen through continued instruction and wisdom.

The Prayer:
Lord, I pray that you send me people who will instruct me and also be willing to correct me. Help me to grow in knowledge and wisdom. Help me to cherish correction and recognize it as the only way I will grow. Thank you Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fear, Trust, and Acknowledge! - July 13th, 2011

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.  
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the LORD and depart from evil.
Proverbs 3:5-7

History and Context:
Proverbs is believed to be written by King Solomon, the son of King David. Solomon had a dream in which God told him to ask for anything and Solomon asked for Wisdom. As a result the Bible says that he became the wisest man who ever lived. Proverbs is the culmination of his wisdom written down. Throughout the book Solomon adresses his son, but it is not necessarily directed to any of his actual sons. He is probably just using it in the sense that an older man addresses a younger man 'son'.

The Text:
The first two verses are some of the most popular verses in the Bible. We must trust in the Lord and not in our own thinking or what we think we 'understand'. If we recognize the fact that He is always with us, the nHe will direct us and guide us in the way that we should go. But then we have verse seven. "Do not be wise in your own eyes..." Again we should not trust what we think we understand, what we think is wise, "because the foolishness of God is wiser than men..." (1 Corinthians 1:25). But then he tells that we should "fear the Lord". What does it mean to fear the Lord? Should we be afraid of Him? In the Hebrew there are two words for fear: pachad and yirah. Pachad means to be terrified, but yirah means to be in awe of,or to revere. This commandment uses the word yirah. He is saying be in awe of the Lord, revere Him, recognize how great He is! Part of doing this is to "depart from evil".

The Challenge:
Today we have a three part challenge. Each of us are in different places in our walk with God, and we therefore may need to focus on a different part of todays challenge. But in the end we should take on each part together because they are related. So here is the challenge:
  1. Fear the Lord - Acknowledge how great He is. Sometimes we focus so much on the aspect of God that He is our father, our friend, that we forget how great He truly is. acknowledge His greatness today.
  2. Trust in the Lord - Truly trust in Him. We always say we trust Him but when it comes down to it, we trust more in our jobs, our friends and family, or our own ability. What if God told you to quit your job and move somewhere where you don't know anyone? Would you trust in Him enough to do that? If not, don't feel guilty (most of us would have a difficult time with that), but it shows us that we still need to build more trust in Him.  
  3. Acknowledge the Lord - This sounds like the easiest ofthe challenges, but when we look at the text it is not. The text says "In ALL your ways acknowledge Him". This means in everything you are doing throughout the day, acknowledge His presence. Recognize that He is there with you at work, when your with your friends, when you're at home, when you're at the grocery store, when you're at the gym, when you're at school, etc. Everywhere you go and everything you do, do it with the awareness of His presence. When you do this, the Bible says, He will begin to direct your path.
The Prayer:
Lord, you are awesome, you are amazing, you are truly great. Your creation is wonderfully made and I am in awe at the works of your hands. I am in awe at who you are and how great you are, the creator of the heavens and the earth. It is amazing that you, being so great, care about me being so little in your sight. I trust you Lord! I trust you with my finances, with my family, with my friends, with all that is around me. I trust you to direct my path and I acknowledge your presence everywhere I go. Thank you that you are truly always with me, and always directing me. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How to Conquer Fear! - July 12th, 2011

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
1 Timothy 1:7

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
James 4:7

History and Context:
Today I have taken a passage from two different books. Since we talked about James yesterday, I will focus on Timothy today. Timothy is first mentioned in Acts during Paul's second visit to Lystra (Acts 16:1) where he joins Paul and Silas on there journeys. The text says that his mother was Jewish but his father was Greek. Timothy travels with them but eventually is left in the city of Ephesus as the head of the church there. Paul writes this letter encouraging him and admonishing him to keep preaching the truth. History tells us that somewhere between 80 AD and 97 AD, after fifteen years of ministry in Ephesus, Timothy stood up against a pagan procession of idols and was beaten and stoned to death. 2 Timothy is considered to be Paul's last letter written before his own death around 65 AD

The Text:
Again we talked about James 4 yesterday. In James 4 there are many nuggets of wisdom all culminatine in yesterday's scripture which told us that sin is knowing good and not acting on it. The first chapter of 2 Timothy is the introduction of the letter, but in this letter Paul seems to jump right into things, quicker than some of his other letters. He immediately begins reminding Timothy of where he came from, of his mother's and grandmother's faith. He then mentions this scripture about fear and continues to say that he, Paul, is not ashamed of the Gospel. Paul's last words begin by admonishing Timothy to never give into fear against all odds, because that fear is of the enemy. Fear is never from God, but it is a spirit from the enemy. This brings us to our scripture from James. If we submit to God and resist the devil, if we resist fear, that spirit will flee from us.

The Challenge:
Fear comes to us in so many forms. Sometimes it comes in striaght out paranoia, but more commonly it comes under the disguise of shyness. We might name it nervousness. But it is all fear, and it is all a spirit that God has not given us. In Timothy we see the things that God did give us which will overcome that fear; power, love, and a sound mind. Then in James we see the general formula for going against the enemy in any area; submit to God, resist the enemy.  We need to first submit to God's power, love and sound thinking and then we simply need to resist fear. The challenge today is to look at whatever it is that causes you to fear and find a way to confront it. One fear in my life that I confronted and conquered through this method was the fear of public speaking. I was terrified of it and I often tried to hide it under the name of shyness, but finally I joined speech team, forcing myself in a position in which I had to confront, and resist, my fear. Now teaching is one of the greatest strengths in my life which I have seen God use often! So what is your fear and how can you confront it and resist it?

The Prayer:
Lord, I know that fear is not from you. I also understand that shyness or nervousness are often just words which we use to cover up that fear. I ask you Lord to help me to resist this fear that is over my life. I submit to you Lord. I submit to your power, and your love, and your sound thinking in my life. I resist the enemy right now and I command him to flee! I command this fear to flee in the name of Jesus! In Jesus's name, Amen!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Do you know what good is? - July 11th, 2011

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
James 4:17

History and Context:
The epistle of James over history, has been one of the most controversial books in the Bible. Martin Luther, who led the reformation against the Catholic church, wanted to throw the book out. He had a strong revelation of salvation "by grace trhough faith and not by works", and he felt that James taught salvation by works. But to understand why James is not contradicting, but supporting Paul, one must understand the audience to which they wrote. When reading James you can understand that James wrote to a group of people who felt they could do anything they wanted because of grace. They said that because they had faith they didn't need works. James response was that the faith will eventually affect the works. This is why he writes, "show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by my deeds." James 2:18

The Text:
James chapter four covers a lot of ground. He talks about wars, asking God for things, not asking out of greed, resisting the devil, drawing near to God, not judging others, and staying humble. The final topic, before this verse, is that we don't know what is happening tomorrow and should not boast about it. Then he writes, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." This is one of the clearest definitions of sin in the Bible. If you know something is good to do, and you don't do that, it is sin. This is also the opposite of what we normally think about when we think about sin. We normally think that not sinning means to make sure we don't do bad things. That's not what James wrote here. Not sinning requires a positive action. If you know it is good to give an encouraging word to your coworker, and don't that is sin. If you know it is good to give in the offering and you don't do it, then it is sin. If you know it is good to preach the Gospel to your neighbor and you don't do it, then it is sin. If you know it is good to read your Bible and do not do it, then it is sin. How often do we sin throughout the day?

The Challenge:
The challenge is to take this definition and not to sin today. Don't focus on those actions that you have been struggling with that you know aren't good. Focus on what good opportunities show up for you today. Where is there an opportunity to do good? Be determined today to never miss those opportunities. Then look back over your day and see how much you accomplished for God!

The Prayer:
Lord, help me to do good today. Help me to not miss an opportunity to do good.I want to go through this day focused on what I can o for you, not focused on what I am not supposed to do. Give me strength to do so! Thank you Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Prayed For Your City Lately? - July 10th, 2011

 “Thus I prostrated myself before the LORD; forty days and forty nights I kept prostrating myself, because the LORD had said He would destroy you. Therefore I prayed to the LORD, and said: ‘O Lord GOD, do not destroy Your people and Your inheritance whom You have redeemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
Deuteronomy 9:25-26

History and Context:
Deuteronomy is the last words of Moses to Israel. He retells their history together and reminds them of all the words that God spoke to them, through him. He then admonishes them to not turn away from God. But if they do end up turning away from God and find themselves in tragedy, Moses reminds them to always turn back to the Lord and the Lord will rescue them.

The Text:
In this chapter Moses is reminding them of the time in the wilderness which they made a golden calf as an idol. He reminds them of how angry God became and how he interceded for them. Moses says that he spent 40 days on his face praying for the people of Israel. The very people which continued to frustrate him, and continued to complain about everything. Moses stood in the gap for them, interceded for them, and prayed for their salvation from the destruction which they deserved. There are many arguments about whether Moses actually had to change God's mind or not, but the point I want to focus on here is that Moses put in the time of intercession for the very people that made his life difficult.

The Challenge:
Today there seems to be a lot of judgement thrown around at sinners. Everyone is a judge calling down God's vengeance on those around us, but who is there interceding like Moses? Shouldn't we be praying for the homosexuals, the politicians, even the murderers? Shouldn't we be interceding that these people would also be saved from coming destruction? This is the challenge to us: Stop judging and start praying! Next time you hear a news story about another criminal, trial, immoral act; pray for that person. Take some time to intercede for the people in your city, state, country. Stop complaining about the immorality around us and start doing something about it! Maybe you need to spend some time on your face before God for your city.

The Prayer:
Lord, I pray for my city of [Portland]! I pray that you would spare these people from destruction, from punishment. I pray Lord that you would bring them into your love, into your joy, into your peace. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Let the Rivers Flow! - July 9th, 2011

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
John 7:37-38

History and Context:
The Gospel of John is the last and the most unique of the four gospels. He focuses more on the Words and teachings of Jesus and not always as much on the actions. John also is known for the "I am" statements of Christ. There are seven statements in which Jesus declares who He is. Through these seven statements, John paints a powerful picture of who Jesus is. In this chapter, Jesus was avoiding the Pharisees because they were attempting to kill Him. He then sneaks into the feast and begins preaching with authority. The people are amazed because they see Him as one who has "never studied", but Jesus says that He gets His doctrine from the one who sent Him.

The Text:
This particular text Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit. We find out from the following scripture that the Holy Spirit was not yet known because He would only come after Jesus was glorified. So Jesus is telling His followers, ahead of time, that if they continued to believe in Him after He was gone, they would receive the Holy Spirit and rivers of living water would flow out of them. What are these rivers? They are the Spirit of God. He told them that they would not only be filled with the Spirit, but the Spirit would flow out of them to those around them. Already He is sharing the purpose of the Holy Spirit. He is here so that we can help others receive this living water. So that we can help change the lives of those around us.

The Challenge:
First of all, you can't have someone flow out of you who has not flowed into you. If you have not recieved the Holy Spirit into your life, that has to be your first step. Jesus shared with us how easy that is: "(...)how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" All you need to do is ask and the Father will send you the Holy Spirit! Now that you have the Holy Spirit we have the real challenge. So many Christians focus on the filling of the Holy Spirit. They focus on what the Holy Spirit can do for them, which is important, but not the most important thing. The main purpose for this power that is inside you is for you to let it out on those around you. Seek opportunities to allow that river to flow out on those around you.

The Prayer:
Lord, fill me again with your Spirit. Let those rivers flow out of me into the hearts of those around me. Help me to see the opportunities that you give me throughout the day, to reach out. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's Time to Fly! - July 8th, 2011

He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.  
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall
But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:29-31

History and Context:
For a brief history on Isaiah you can refer to my post Fear of Man. The book of Isaiah is believed to have been written in multiple sections. This particular chapter was written while the people of Judah were in Babylonian captivity. God used Isaiah to preach a message of hope and to prophesy the coming redemption, they must only trust in the Lord and wait on Him.

The Text:
The people of Israel were tired of being in captivity. They felt weak, and often felt there was no hope to get out; Isaiah then comes with this message. Throughout the chapter Isaiah is reminding the Israelites of who there God is. He reminds them that "the grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.”
He then ends it with this promise. He tells the Israelites that God is the one that will give them power when they feel weak, He will increase their strength. All they have to do is wait on the Lord. It is so simple yet sometimes so difficult. But the promise is that if they wait on the Lord than he will give them the strength to soar above their problems, to continue running, and to walk against all obstacles. All they have to do is wait on the Lord.

The Challenge:
Take time today to wait on God. Stop everything you are doing, turn off all the electronics, silence your phone if you have to! Cut out all distractions and simply be in God's presence. For at least ten minutes, don't even pray! Too often our times with God consist only of us spouting our prayers, take time to wait on Him without even saying anything. Maybe He will say something to you, if so write it down, but maybe He won't. But I guarantee whether you hear from Him or not, you will come out of that time refreshed and strengthened from being in the presence of God!

The Prayer:
Lord, let your will be done in this time of silence before you.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

What Do You Choose? - July 7th, 2011

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Matthew 16:24-26

History and Context:
These are the words of Jesus to His disciples. In order to understand the impact this saying would've made on the disciples, we must put ourselves in their shoes. For us the cross has become a nice Christian symbol, but for them it was a symbol of death. Not only that, but it was a symbol of the worst death possible. To "take up your cross", to them meant to walk a road of humiliation, leading to torture, leading to death. This was the context in which Jesus said,  "let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."

The Text:
The amazing thing about Jesus's statement is that He gives us a choice. When one looks at the horrible circumstances of he cross, one would think, "Who would choose this?" But Jesus asks us to choose it. He says, "if you want to follow me, this is where I am going." What is the cross? The biggest part of the cross is self-denial. That's what Jesus Himself said. We must deny ourselves, our own desires, even our own needs. Secondly, the cross is a loss of life for the sake of Christ. This is the paradox that Jesus brings us; if we try to save our life we will lose it, but if we lose our life we will find it. It is our choice to give up our life for the sake of Christ that allows us to find true life in Christ. The summar of the message of this verse is the following: Give up your own desires, and the worldly desires, and begin following after God's desires and you will find true life!

The Challenge:
This is given to us as a choice. As A.W. Tozer points out in his devotional Renewed Day by Day: Volume 1: Daily Devotional Readings, "No Roman officer ever pointed to a cross and said, 'If any man will, let him!' Only Christ said that, and by so saying He placed the whole matter in the hands of the believer." So now the question is, What are you going to do with your choice? Are you going to look to find life your own way? Or will you choose to sacrifice your life in order to find the true life which Christ offers. Yesterday we talked about how God wants to turn our mourning into dancing, but sometimes it is our choice to hold on to what we think life is, and our unwillingness to sacrifice our own desires, that cause us to stay in our state of mourning. Let go and let God!

The Prayer:
Lord, I want to follow you, whatever it takes. Help me to take up my cross. Help me to understand what that means for me personally. Help me to see the things I need to sacrifice in order to truly follow you. I choose to take up my cross today! In Jesus' name, Amen!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mourning Into Dancing! - July 6th, 2011

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
Psalm 30:11-12

History and Context:
This is another psalm of David. According to the text it is a "song at the dedication of the House of David". It is not known when, in his life, David wrote this psalm, but it is possible that it coincides with the events of 2 Samuel 24. There was a plague on the people of Israel and God delivered them in response to David's sacrifice.

The Text:
Though we do not know exactly when the psalm was written, it seems very clear that there was some sort of sickness which David was healed from. He is constantly referring to his sadness which God turned to joy. In this particular passage, he refers to his mourning and his sackcloth. Sackcloth was clothing worn when mourning and fasting. But he says that this mourning and sackcloth was turned to dancing and gladness. This is something that God does in all of our lives. God never promised that nothing bad would happen after we come to Him, but we have numerous examples of how He turned the bad things into good. I have seen many bad things in my life, but looking back I can see how God turned them all to good. David is claiming the same thing. God has turned our mourning into dancing, our sackcloth into gladness. And, according to David, He did it all so that our end glory could sing praise to Him!

The Challenge:
Trust God! As mentioned above, God never promised that we would be completely seperate from hard times. In fact, Jesus said that the world would hate us, and that we would go through trials and tribulations for His name's sake. So if you are going through one of those trials right now, know that you are not alone, but even more so, trust God that He will do for you what He did for David. He will turn your mourning into dancing, He will turn your sackcloth into gladness. This is true, of course, if you allow Him to. Allow Him into your situation and watch it change. Or at least watch your attitude about it change.

The Prayer:
Lord, thank you for your promise to always be with me in my hard times. Thank you that you turn my mourning into dancing. Helpo me to focus on you and not the difficulties. Help me to see you through it all. Glorify yourself in this situation. Deliver me and bring glory to yourself. In Jesus' name, Amen!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Choose mercy! - July 5th, 2011

But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”
Jonah 4:10-11

History and Context:
Most of us know the basic story of Jonah. He was called by God, didn't want to obey so he ran, then God sent a storm, he had the ship crew throw him overboard, he was swallowed by a fish, he then repented, was spit up on land, and he went and did what God told him to do. That's usually where we stop in telling the story of Jonah, but we miss the entire point. Historians and theologians don't even know if the book of Jonah was meant to be literal or not, but what they do know is that there was an important message that the original writer was attempting to get across. To truly understand this message we must understand where Nineveh is. Nineveh was not a Israelite city, it was the Assyrian capital. The Assyrians had conquered and decimated the entire northern kingdom of Israel. As far as the Israelites were concerned, they were public enemy number one, and God tells Jonah to go and preach repentance.

The Text:
This text is the very end of the book of Jonah. It is the final message, the entire point, and as I mentioned earlier, we miss it most of the time. After much reluctance, Jonah finally went and preached repentance to the people of Assyria, his enemies, and they repented. Often we share the story of Jonah as if the reason he didn't want to go was because he was afraid of their persecution. Actually the Bible makes it clear that he didn't want to go because he knew they would repent, and he knew that God would have mercy on them. Even after God has mercy on them Jonah says,

“Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!” Jonah 4:2-3

Jonah was bitter against his enemies and desired to see their destruction. Then as he was sitting on the mountain, God caused a plant to grow and give him shade. The very next day, however, God took that plant away. Jonah was upset that the plant was gone and God responded with the verses above. Jonah was only upset about what affected him, he didn't care about the thousands of people in Nineveh.

The Challenge:
The lesson to be learned here is that people are always important, no matter how bad they have been. Think about the person that has acted the worst against you? Would you truly be happy for them if they got saved and repented? Or would you prefer revenge? The natural human response seems to prefer revenge, but the Godly response prefers mercy. So the challenge is choose mercy. Even when it seems to go against everything in you, choose mercy. See people the way God sees them. This is how we will reach the world!

The Prayer:
Lord, I want to see people like you see them, but it is sometimes difficult. Help me to see them with your eyes. Help me to think your thoughts. Help me to love like you love. In Jesus' name, Amen!