Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I Vote America UNITED

Nov 9th 2016
Scripture: Mark 3:25 (NIV)

I Vote America UNITED

"If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand."

Jesus was accused by the Pharisees that He was using demonic power to drive out demons from people releasing them from their possession. This seemed a suitable explanation to them as to how Jesus could have the authority, if not from God Himself. Jesus turned to them and pointed out the error in their logic. If a house is divided... 

Divided means to be "separated into parts or pieces" or "conflicting interests" or "disagreeing with one another". If you had a door, a window, four walls, and a roof, you wouldn't have a house, but merely a door, a window, four walls, and a roof. The pieces only become a house when they are unified together becoming something more than just themselves. The "door" is no longer just a slab of wood with a knob on it, but the entree way into a home. Some say, "divide and conquer", but in this case I would say that in your defining moments, "if you divide, you will be conquered."

It was crazy to see how close the 2016 American Presidential Election was on either side. Some states were won or lost by a 2-4% difference. Talk about being split down the middle. And I woke up to videos posted of protests and riots in response to the results. My Fellow Americans, we can't do this! I know everyone doesn't always agree, and that it's alright to express disappointment. But we must not lose the uniting factor that no matter the results "at the end of the day, we are still on the same team." which President Obama just recently said. If we truly want to "make America great again", we have to believe that we really are "stronger together"; not as democrats, or republicans, but as Americans. So let's stop this useless squabbling, and show the rest of the world that we the people can be the UNITED States of America once again.

"Lord Jesus, I pray Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Amen." 


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Power of the Cross

October 20th 2016
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:18-19 (NIV)

Power of the Cross

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.'"

Paul here is writing to the Church of Corinth, and he wants to remind them of something that is hard to understand by means of "worldly wisdom". He talks of how Jews would often look for "signs" from God, and the Greeks would see through the lens of wisdom. But the idea of Jesus crucified must have frustrated both Jew and Greek, for the "sign" of establishing an earthly Kingdom of God was seemingly misplaced, and there was seemingly no wisdom in following a cause that led to such a brutal death.

Yet, the message of the cross is the power of God to those who are being saved!

I have recently read the article online of the 12 Christians who were martyred for their faith by the Islamic State of ISIS outside of Syria in late August this year. It has really burdened me to hear of the horrifying details of the unspeakable acts done to these twelve brave souls. It got me thinking about if I were in the same situation, I would be consumed with nothing but hate for the people of ISIS who have no regard for human life and who feel their actions are justified by their religious law.

But that is not what the eye-witnesses observed about the 12 Christians who were martyred that day. It was said that some of the Christians were praying the Lord's Prayer, while some were commending their spirits to Jesus (similar to the Stoning of Stephen in the Book of Acts). They would not recant their belief in Jesus to their dying breath, and not a hand of violent retaliation was raised. To the world this seems foolish. If you were going to die, wouldn't you want to go out fighting? Wouldn't you want to take revenge on those who brought such suffering to you and your loved ones? 

Yet, the message of the cross is the power of God to those who are being saved!

The blood of the martyrs has not squelched the movement of Christianity in the Middle East as ISIS would hope, but rather has been seed to multiply followers of the same commitment and faith in Jesus. This is not a new story. Think of the Underground Church movement in China, or the Missionary movement among the tribes in Africa, or even way back to the early church when Rome tried to crush Christianity for good. Yet Christ remains to this very day. None can stop Him, and those who try only fan the flame even bigger than it was before. 

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

"Lord Jesus, I thank You for those who went before us bravely taking on the ultimate sacrifice for Your name. I know they did not suffer in vain, for their story lives on, and they are richly rewarded in Heaven. Help me to have the same faith that is willing to give my everything, for You gave Yours for me on the cross. Amen."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

In the Quiver of The Archer

September 22, 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 49:2b (ESV)

In the Quiver of The Archer

"... He made me a polished arrow; in His quiver He hid me away."

Isaiah the prophet talks about the fact that God designed him for a purpose from his mother's womb, and has made it clear to him. He was made with a tongue like a sword to reach the rebellious people of Jacob and Israel and bring them back to the LORD, their first love. He portrays himself as a polished arrow in the quiver of an archer ready to be sent out at a moments notice.

I've recently started watching a TV series called "Arrow" based on Green Arrow, a super hero from DC Comics who uses his archery and combat training to make his city safe and take on the "bad guys". Unlike the primitive version of archery that might be stuck in your head with rocks tied to the ends of sticks, this archer has a hi-tech arsenal of different kinds of arrows: explosive arrows, arrows that record conversations, computer hacking arrows, freezing arrows, grappling-hook arrows, you name it. He keeps all his arrows on his back in a holding container called a quiver, all within an arm's reach, ready for action.

God has made us like a polished arrow, each uniquely designed for a specific purpose. He may not choose to put us into play in every situation, but we must be ready in case he chooses to send us out to hit the bullseye. There are two things that we can do while we wait in the quiver of The Archer.

First, Stay Sharp: just like a knife, or a saw, arrows need to be sharpened if they hope to be effective when sent out. We need to stay sharp, knowing the world's needs, having an answer to the tough questions with biblical knowledge and wisdom. In 1 Peter 3:15 it says, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." Arrows must be sharp.

Second, Stay Near: What good would an arrow be if The Archer reaches back and finds that the arrow He was looking for was not in the quiver? We must stay near to God so we can hear His Spirit's voice calling for us to spring into action. I don't know about you, but if God is reaching to send me out, I want to be found hidden within His quiver, right where He expects me to be. 

"Lord Jesus, I thank You that You designed me for a specific purpose. Help me to stay sharp and stay close so that I will be ready when you pull back the bowstring. Give me wisdom, and give me ears to hear Your voice calling me out of the quiver. Amen."

Friday, August 26, 2016

Surrender Control

August 26th 2016
Scripture Matthew 26:39 (NIV)

Surrender Control

"Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'”

 
I don’t know about you but I like to be in control. I am very happy when things turn out very closely or exactly how I planned. But in the ideal world I have an unlimited amount of energy and strength. This however is not the ideal world… We have hick ups, we make mistakes, we cling towards being self absorbed and when things don’t go our way, we come to the stone hard truth that we aren’t in control.

I really love the superhero Superman. Not only is his character solid, doing good, expecting no reward, but I love that he is SUPER. He has super speed, he has super strength, he has super hearing, he can fly into outer space. He practically has no limits. What can’t he do? Right?

But there is one problem... I’m not superman, and there are things that no amount of "will power" can overcome… They say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” I don’t necessarily think that is true in every case. In some cases no matter how much you "will" something and try to make it happen, it doesn’t… because some things are simply out of your control.

For me when I face things that I can’t control, I react in one of two ways. I have anxiety and try to hyper-control my surroundings trying to force my will to feel like I have control of something. OR I get discouraged and give up and I invite myself to a party…my pity party. You can come too, but let me tell you, no one ever has fun at a pity party. Neither of these ways are a good way to deal with the things you cannot control.

But Jesus gave us a third option, which is better than the other two, by far: Surrender.

when Jesus is in the garden right before his crucifixion praying his heart out to God. He was so troubled that He sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44). This guy was distressed. He prayed that God would take the cup that He was to bear away, asking for any other way… But then He says a phrase that is remarkable. "Yet, not as I will, but as You will." Jesus let the Father know His human preference, but was still willing to surrender His will for the Lord's will, which are one and the same.

So my question is "Who is really in The Chair of your life?" Does God's will and plan for your life trump your own? I came across this book titled “God’s my co-pilot” You know what I have to say to that? "Buddy, if to you God is really just a co-pilot you need to switch seats. Because there can only be one person in control, it’s either you, or its Jesus."

 God has given me control over one person; Me, Myself, and I. I am in control of my actions and my attitudes. So all I really should do is Try my best, and Trust God with the Rest. Because I can't control those things anyways. 

"Lord Jesus, I know that You have a great plan for my life with a purpose. Help me to let go of the things I cannot change and trust that You will work all things for the good of those who love You. I give it over to You to do as You will. I trust Your judgement over mine. Amen."

Sunday, July 17, 2016

An Unexpected Journey

July 17 2016
Scripture: Romans 8:28 (NIV)

An Unexpected Journey

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind for me. I have moved to a new location, taken on a new Youth Ministry position, started renting my first apartment, and on top of it all I wound up finding myself in the hospital. The doctors discovered that I have a form of epilepsy and I have been having blank-out seizures that make my brain "reboot" so to speak. So for the safety of myself and those around me, my drivers license was revoked, until I have been 6 months seizure-free. I was supposed to drive the teens of my new youth group to Youth Camp, but now am unable to even attend to make sure things will be alright with me. But in the midst of all this there was something I didn't know.

During the hospital visit, I was supposed to preach at my first night of youth group as the new Youth Pastor. I was going to talk about how we need to be found trustworthy with the little given to us, before we can be trusted with more. Little did I know that God wanted me to preach that to myself as I sat in my hospital bed, groaning over the loss of my license. The senior pastor covered me and did a great job leading the teens. 

Meanwhile my father and mother both were prompted by the Holy Spirit with the verse Romans 8:28, and my dad emailed my senior pastor about it. He was also thinking about preaching on this passage, and after opening the email, it was confirmed... "In all things God works for the good of those who love him." ... Even the bad things. Even when I don't see how He may be able to use it. The only thing I can do is trust that God will bring me through this and that somehow He will use it to bring good. God will never leave nor forsake me. 

"Lord Jesus, I know that You can work all things this life throws at me for Your good, and for mine. I trust you and I know that you love me. Help me to see the truth in the midst of the fog. Let Your light shine bright through this situation to help encourage others in their walk as well. Amen."

Friday, June 24, 2016

God's Wash List



June 24, 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 1:16-17 (ESV)

God's Wash List

"Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean. Remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause."

The Lord spoke His message to the people of Israel through His prophet Isaiah. They were still following the practices of the Law given by Moses by offering up sacrifices that God commanded of them, but somewhere along the way they lost the heart behind the practice. It got so bad that God wanted them to quit it because they were offering sacrifices in vain. This goes to show that even good things done with wrong motives can be the wrong things to do. 

So what does God want? His desire for His people is for them to be washed clean inside and out; heart and actions. In this verse God gives a list of what "washed people" look like. 


1. Remove Evil: God doesn't want just an apology after getting caught. He wants compelling action to cease doing evil and remove it out of your life so that it can no longer tempt you. 

2. Learn to do Good: You don't have to teach a child how to be selfish or how to lie, but good character is built. God desires us to live a life of learning how to do good, always improving and trying to make the world a better place because of how we lived. 

3. Seek Justice: God hates injustice and we hate it too. That's why we have the court system, even if it is struggling to do what it was intended to do. Each of us should do our part and seek justice in our world. 

4. Correct Oppression: God doesn't want apathetic blank stares when we see people who are under oppression; correct it, fight it, sign a petition, do something. We can't let it slip by if we are aware. Failing to do the right thing when it's within our power to do something, can be the wrong thing to do.

5. Fight for the Fatherless: Stand for those this world ignores. In that culture the father of the house would be the provider, but without him, the family would be left to fend for themselves, who were essentially invisible to the people of that culture. Who is the world ignoring in your world today?

6. Speak for the Widows: Be the voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. The women sadly in that culture were essentially the property of the men and had no rights to speak out or be independent of her husband. When the husband died, the widow still had no rights, but fell into the cracks of society, voiceless. Many women are still today, in a lot of ways, property of men, through prostitution and drug dependence. Speak up people of God.

These are the things the Lord looks for in His people. 

Looking at this list is convicting. How many more children must go into sex-trafficking before I contribute to the fight against it? How many convicts get to walk free due to the lack of pursuing justice in my life? How many people will fail to see Jesus in me because of the evils I refuse to remove out of my life? 

"Lord Jesus, I thank You that I can be washed clean by Your blood. Help me in my pursuit to live a life free from evil, seeking justice, and defending those who can't defend themselves. Please reveal to me what I can do in my everyday life to do this better. I give You my heart and my actions. Amen."

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Beyond the Sun

June 15 2016
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NIV)

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(All photo rights reserved to Patrick Stanton, author of thenaturalshot.wordpress.com)


Beyond the Sun

"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgement including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."

The book of Ecclesiastes can be very confusing and hard to understand, for the author, many times throughout the book, reflects on the meaninglessness of life under the sun. He ponders the unfairness of how the righteous die early and the wicked live long and prosperous lives, seemingly consequence-free. The key phrase here is "under the sun", which represents this life on earth, the here and now, apart from eternity. If you throw away the idea that there is a life after death, you might as well eat, drink, and enjoy the days you have left, for the righteous and the wicked all meet the same end in death under the sun. But the conclusion of this book is not under the sun, but beyond the sun. "Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind."

It is very hard to see all the injustice in the world, and very easy to throw up your hands and shout, "It's all meaningless!" Yet, as believers in Christ, we have a hope in a God who lives beyond the sun, and we have a duty to fear, honor, revere, and respect God with our lives and obey His commandments. God will bring everything to justice, which is an encouragement to those who have faith in Jesus, but a strong warning to those who choose to live in opposition to this reality. The question each one must ask is, "How will I choose to live with the time given to me, under the sun?" 

"Lord Jesus, thank You that in You, life is not meaningless. Help me to fear You and keep Your commandments all the days I have left on this earth. Thank You for eternal life that is beyond the sun through faith and belief in You, the one and only Messiah. Amen."

Monday, June 13, 2016

Not Out of the Woods Yet

June 13 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

Not Out of the Woods Yet

"Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert."

Here Isaiah is speaking the word of the Living God to the people of Israel. This people often remembered the Lord for the things He had done for them in the past. They remembered that God split the red sea, brought their fathers through the wilderness, and delivered them out of the hand of Egypt. But their problem was they believed that God only did stuff back then, and now His might is nowhere to be found. 

This is a hard thing for most believers, because we all face "the wilderness" in our journey of faith. We know that God is real, because He proved Himself in the past, but somehow our vision of Him seems to hide away in the thick of the woods. He doesn't seem to listen to us like He once did. Our perception changes and we believe that God was once real, but now those are just memories. 

But God has something different to say, "Behold I am doing something new." It springs up now whether you perceive it or not. He promises that He will provide a way in the wilderness, not necessarily "out" of the wilderness, and a quenching river in the desert. God isn't trapped in the past, but is on the move today. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). That same water-dividing God is bringing freedom and deliverance today to those who put their trust in Him.

"Lord Jesus, thank You for meeting me in the wilderness and providing a way through it. Thank You that You aren't done working through your people, and are still a miracle-working God today, who is doing a new thing in the 21st century. Amen."

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(All photo rights reserved to Patrick Stanton, author of thenaturalshot.wordpress.com)

Friday, June 10, 2016

He Never Breaks His Promises



June 10 2016
Scripture: Psalm 89:34-35 (ESV)

He Never Breaks His Promises

"I will not violate my covenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips. Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David."

The Psalmist points out a key aspect of God's character. He tells of how God found favor with King David and promised to establish his throne forever. This throne extends beyond the earthly one of the nation of Israel, which has been conquered before. But God's promise is still true in the fact that Jesus, a descendant of David, established His throne, a spiritual throne, which remains now and will continue on forever. 

Through this we know that God is not a lier, and once He has said it, He is faithful to make it happen. It may take years, or even lifetimes. Abraham never actually got to see his children become numerous like the stars or the grains of sand, yet it did happen. 

Knowing this truth gives me confidence that even when all seems lost and when I feel that I cannot go on, "He will never leave me or forsake me" (Deut 31:6). The Lord never breaks His promises. If you "come near to God he will come near to you" (James 4:8). The Lord never breaks His promises. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). The Lord never breaks His promises. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us" (1 John 1:9). The Lord never breaks His promises. 

"Lord Jesus, thank You that You never break Your promises. Help me to cling to Your promises when I face the deepest and darkest pits and trials of my life. Your love endures forever. Amen and amen."


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Culture Snares

June 8 2016
Scripture: Psalm 106:34-36 (ESV)

Culture Snares

"They did not destroy the peoples, as the Lord commanded them, but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. They served their idols, which became a snare to them."

The Psalmist gives an overarching view of the history of Israel, from leaving Egypt to entering the Promised Land. The Lord commanded that they should destroy all the inhabitants of the land, but they failed to do so and mixed cultures. They adopted the idols of Canaan and started to worship as they did with horrible sinful acts. They would sacrifice their children to these idols by throwing their first born into the mouth of a furnace, believing they would somehow be blessed for doing so. The innocent's blood poured out over the land. 

When culture demands me to compromise in areas of my faith, it becomes a snare that limits the freedom I can have in Christ. Maybe culture isn't asking me to sacrifice my children to a statue of a god. Yet, look again, hundreds of thousands of children die by the will of their parents every year due to abortion. If we were abhorred at these ancient people for killing their own children, what about today? It's genocide. 

We must unlearn what culture has deemed acceptable, and free ourselves from the snares we hold onto as normal. God's word gives us true insight and exposes culture's snares. He has mapped out the best way to live in this life and the next.

"Lord Jesus, please free me from any snares that make me stumble. I know true freedom is found in the Name of Jesus. Amen." 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A True Mission for Youth Ministry

May 31 2016
Scripture: Psalm 71:17-18 (NIV)

A True Mission for Youth Ministry

"Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come."

In the Youth Ministry World  a lot of effort can go into cultural relevancy, professional programming, strategic social media usage, and such, all in attempts to get teenagers interested in coming to church. These are all great tools for ministry and I believe it's important to think about and implement such things. For me though I found a great reminder within my Bible when I was reminiscing with King David in the Psalms today. David hits a great point in his reflections to God his Divine Teacher, when he states a purpose, or a lifetime goal of declaring God's power to the next generation, His mighty works to all who are to come. 

Now I know that Kind David was never a Youth Pastor, but I believe his words summarize the true mission for youth ministry, and a personal mission for life as a Christian as well. This was very refreshing for me to be reminded that the most important thing about youth ministry is not the lights sounds, relevancy, or ministry strategies, but to simply "declare God's power and love to the next generation and to all who are to come." The means by which I get the message out can never replace the message itself. 

"Lord Jesus, thank You for the reminder that my goal in life and ministry is more than the temporary things of this earth, but the eternal life that can only be found in You. Let me do all for Your glory and always keep the power of the gospel at the forefront of my efforts in ministry. Amen."

Monday, May 30, 2016

Itching Ears and Honest Lips

May 30 2016
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 18:13 (ESV)


Itching Ears and Honest Lips

"But Micaiah said, 'As the Lord lives, what my God says, that I will speak.'"

Nearly all the prophets were prophesying that the wicked Ahab, king of Israel, should go up to fight his enemies, for God would surely bless his conquest. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, must have had an uneasy feeling, for he asked if there were any other prophets left. Ahab crossed his arms and replied, "There is one, but I hate him, because he always prophesies bad things for me, never good."

Nonetheless, a messenger was sent to Micaiah, who told him to just cave in and agree with the other prophets, whether it was true or not. Micaiah boldly said that he would only speak what God says, nothing else. Yet as he approached the king of Israel, in a moment of weakness, he muttered what the king wanted to hear. But God gave Micaiah a second chance, as Ahab did not believe him and urged him to tell the truth. He did and the king did not like it and had him thrown into prison until he supposedly would return from his conquest. 

In this world today, people are not as interested in hearing the truth, as they are listening to what they want to hear. I am, along with all the other Christians, Christ's ambassador. But just like Micaiah, sooner or later, I am going to have to make a choice: Do I stand speaking God's word, even when it's not popular, or am I going to say whatever this generation is itching to hear (2 Tim 4:3)? 

When that day comes, I pray that my response will be like Micaiah's; "What my God says, that I will speak." It may cost me, it did for Micaiah, who was struck in the face and thrown into prison for relaying God's message to Ahab. But I can cling to the truth that Jesus spoke, "So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven" (Matt 10:32).

"Lord Jesus, I thank You for the bold example I see in Your servant Micaiah. As the world drifts from You, let me speak Your words, even when it costs me. Amen."

Friday, May 27, 2016

Limitless God

May 27 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 39:28 (ESV)

Limitless God

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, His understanding is unsearchable."

Isaiah must have been sick of hearing the Israelites, who were God's chosen people, saying that their life was hidden from God. They must have felt like they slipped through the cracks and fallen out of God's graces. 

"God disregards us, He's too busy, He doesn't care for me anymore, He's abandoned us."

"Have you not known?"

"Of course we have."

"Have you not heard?"

"Of course we have heard."

"Then why do you forget that God is larger than life, a limitless God? He's never left you, for He is everlasting; He created all the little details that make you who you are, along with the furthest ends of all that has ever been created; He is not too weak to notice you, for He never tires; His understanding is so much bigger and fuller than we could ever comprehend. And the best part is, those who wait on the Lord shall be renewed and soar like eagles." (Isaiah 40:31)

I am convinced that what I believe about God determines how I view Him. Sometimes, I feel a lot like the Israelites. I get so wrapped up in me and my world that I begin to have tunnel vision, and my belief about who God is changed to be more like a genii in a bottle, than Almighty God. When I don't get what I want, then I become sour toward my view of God, and begin to buy the lie that He has let me fall through the cracks. 

But when I step back and observe who God really is, I see myself in light of His glory, and realize that He is worth waiting for. We were created not to be sour, but to soar with Him. But I must be willing to take the time to wait on God, and ask Him to renew my strength.

"Lord Jesus, You are truly amazing. No god is like You. Help me to view You as You really are. Please renew my strength each day, and let me soar with You forever. Amen."

Monday, May 23, 2016

Coming to God's Rescue

May 23 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 37:14-15 (ESV)

Coming to God's Rescue

"Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it, and Hezekiah went up to the House of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord."

The King of Assyria had already conquered many nations along with their idols and man-made "gods", and were foolish enough to think that the city of Judah and the Lord would be as easily conquered. King Hezekiah received their letter of intimidation questioning, "We have you surrounded. Where is your God now?" In desperation Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, asking that they would be saved, and all the nations would know that the Lord is the one true God. 

Hezekiah knew that God could do it, or else he would not have asked, and fallen victim to believing that God was powerless to help His people. God granted the request because of Hezekiah's prayer and struck 185,000 soldiers of Assyria dead overnight, and they left. Hezekiah didn't even need to lift a sword.

There are times in my life when people question God's existence saying, "Where is your God now?" I immediately feel as though I have to somehow come to God's rescue, mustering all the answers I can think of that prove His existence. The truth is God doesn't need my help to prove that He is real. God is the true God whether "the King of Assyria" or anybody else believes it or not. 

Then my mind goes to the question, "Why doesn't He reveal Himself the way I ask Him to, like Hezekiah?" This reminds me of when the religious leaders mocked Jesus on the cross, demanding that He come down from the cross if He was truly God. His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). Perhaps, just like why Jesus had to stay on the cross, there is a reason why God would not say "yes" to every request. God doesn't depend on my apologetics to reveal Himself to the world, yet when I pray, not a single word escapes God's ears.

"Lord Jesus, You are the one true God. Help me not to lose sight when the world rejects the truth of who You are. You have a plan; help me to trust it. Amen."

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Walk In It

May 17 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 30:21 (ESV)

Walk In It

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'"

Personally for me this verse stuck out like stepping on a sharp jagged Lego piece barefoot in the middle of the night. I know the fact that I cannot change anything about my future by worrying and I'm better off trusting God with it, but it's still a struggle to practice daily. I am genuinely excited about the possibilities the future holds, but at the same time I am paralyzed by the unknown. 

As I was sitting down to breakfast this morning I continued my conversation with Isaiah, God's prophet, by reading his account written in the Old Testament. Normally in my Devotional Time, I like to preference the context of the passage, so that I don't take Scripture and form it into what I want it to say. Yet I do believe that this verse spoke to me about what is true when it comes to the future. 

Though Isaiah was speaking to those who lived in Zion, I believe that Christians today have an everlasting guide in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is "the voice behind you" who guides us in the way to go. This was so encouraging to me, for I sometimes fear that I may mess up and take a wrong turn, but if I seek the Holy Spirit's leading, he will confirm the way and encourage me to "walk in it". 

"Lord Jesus, thank You for the comfort of Your Word that reminds me not to worry so much and to believe that You have counted all my days. Help me to listen carefully for Your Spirit's voice directing me. Give me ears to hear and eyes to see. Amen."

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Mighty Men of Courage

May 14 2016
Scripture: 1 Chronicles 19:13 (ESV)

Mighty Men of Courage

"Be strong, and let us use our strength for our people and the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to Him."

Joab was the commander of King David's "Mighty Men". These were the elite warriors, which only consisted of the top 300 who proved their valor. When Joab saw the two enemy armies, the Ammonites and the Syrians, closing in around his troops, he made a decision. He told Abishai, his brother, to face the one army, while he would face the other. Even when death was staring these men in the face, they displayed great courage, not letting the desperation of avoiding defeat and death sway their battle plan. They trusted God's will completely, even with their lives. Joab was not certain he would survive this day, but his response to "be strong", and trust that God would do what seemed good to Him, is amazing!

If I want to be one of God's "Mighty Men", I must model my idea of courage after such  men of faith. When I'm surrounded by many things, like my future, or stressful situations, or the constant demands of this life, there is a part of me that wants to go hide in a corner and weep. I bet there was a similar part in Joab as well. But the difference is that Joab's courage out-weighed his fears. He used his strength for others and for God, and he abandoned himself, "For God and country!" This man faced way more than I have ever faced in my life, but what if I were captured by terrorists? Would I have the courage to trust God, even if I didn't get to escape with my life?

"Lord Jesus, thank you for Joab and his model of courage to stay strong and keep fighting. Help me to become a mighty man of courage no matter the cost. Amen."

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Why Revenge Doesn't Work

May 11 2016
Scripture: 2 Samuel 19:23 (ESV)

Why Revenge Doesn't Work

"And the king said to Shimei, 'You shall not die.' And the king gave him his oath."

After King David's mourning for the death of his son in the rebellion, he marched back to the "King's City" of Jerusalem. On the road he sees the familiar face of Shimei, who cursed him as a man of blood, throwing rocks at him and his men when they fled from the rebellion. This time, Shimei comes to the empowered king begging for mercy. David's men wanted to have this man killed for the disgrace he had shown the king. But David took the opportunity to prove Shimei wrong and spared his life. 

There always seems to be that one person that makes your blood curdle. That person that seems to hate you for no good reason. They may attack your character, or weaknesses, or leadership, and even kick you when you're down. Everything within you wants to show that person up, and let them feel the wrath of your vengeance. But "getting back at" or "getting even" with someone is nothing more than responding hatred with more hatred. The problem with revenge is that you become what that person was accusing you of being. If David killed Shimei would he have gotten what was coming to him? Yes, but then David would have become the man of blood, and proven Shimei to be right about him. 

But if you respond to hatred with love, you can change the way they think about you, and maybe they might even begin to like you. If you are a Christian, the world is going to hate you, Jesus promises that (Matt 10:22). But when you respond, not as the world does, with love, then the reason for hate disappears, and opinions change. So when you feel like taking revenge on someone, remember NOT to give them a reason to hate you, and they may change upon seeing what the real you looks like.

"Lord Jesus, thank You for the truth of Your word. Please help me to not respond with anger or vengeance, but with love and mercy. Let the way I live my life change the way people respond to me, and bring them closer to You. Amen."

Thursday, May 5, 2016

He Hurts Like We Hurt

April 6 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 16:11 (ESV)

He Hurts Like We Hurt

"Therefore my inner parts moan like a lyre for Moab, and my inmost self for Kir-hareseth"

In the middle of a series of prophecies to the reigning cities of the day, the Lord decrees righteous consequences to each one. He pours out correcting punishments telling the people to weep over their cities. But something here seems a little different about the "Righteous Judge" than the cold unsympathetic attitude one might expect from the "Old Testament God". Here He says He weeps and moans in the inmost parts of His being for these people, and what they have to go through. In verse 9 it says, "I drench you with My tears." It's not that God doesn't care when He disciplines us. In fact, He weeps for His children. He hurts like we hurt. 

When a father must punish his child and he sees the tear-filled eyes look back at him, he cannot help but feel compassion for his child. Does this mean that the father should boycott the consequence that the child needs to learn the lesson? You could, but that is not truly helping the child in the long run, because throughout life there are choices and consequences. If the father let his child do anything consequence-free, it is setting up that child for failure in the real world. 

Yet even when God disciplines us, His children, He feels our pain very deeply. Jesus wept bitterly for Jerusalem, over their unbelief. He didn't shake His fist at them shouting, "You'll get what's coming to you!" No, God cares; He comforts you at the hospital, He mourns with you at the graveside, He hurts at the sight of evil done to you. God cares.

"Lord Jesus, thank You that You truly care about me and the struggles I face everyday. Your comfort is soothing and I know that Your arms are wrapped around me tightest when I hurt the most. Amen."

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Heart of the Problem

May 4 2016
Scripture: Matthew 15:17-18 (ESV)

The Heart of the Problem

"Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person." 

The Pharisees had their priorities all mixed up. They made their faith into a checklist of tasks you have to do to be saved. One of those tasks was to ceremonially wash their hands... a lot. They had clean hands, 99.5% germ free, no doubt about it, but their hearts were a different story. They ridiculed Jesus for not making his disciples wash up before dinner one evening. He shocked them by his answer that the problem here wasn't in the rituals and procedures, but the condition of the heart. Its not about doing the right things, but becoming the right person. 

One can master the art of putting on a good front, completely hiding whatever heart issues lie inside. But there is no fooling God, for He sees right into the deepest depths of the heart and knows what true washing needs to take place. So it doesn't really matter how clean and neat your life looks on the outside, if your heart's not in it, it will show by how you react and treat other people.

The only ones who know if the heart is sick or not is yourself and God. Sometimes God uses others to point out growth areas that you are unaware of. But this is more than if you are dressing up for church on Sunday, or occasionally forgetting to pray before you start eating your meal. This is about if your heart is aching to be more like Jesus everyday. For when your heart is in the right place, your actions will follow suit. 

"Lord Jesus, thank You that You care more about my heart than how many time I wash my hands. Wash the deepest desires of my heart to become more like you. Don't let me become legalistic, but change my ways to reflect You more and more. Amen."

Monday, May 2, 2016

Peace of Mind

May 2 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 26:3-4 (ESV)

Peace of Mind

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is an everlasting rock."

Peace of mind must have been harder to come by back then, than it is today. Big intimidating nations like the ruthless Moab were always before the Israelites. Isaiah prophesies of the great day when God will make all things right, and the Song of Judah would be one of peace. Perfect peace will come to the one whose mind is fixed on God rather than the present circumstances. God is an everlasting rock who is trust-worthy forever. All people will pass away and will eventually be forgotten by the living, but God is everlasting, the Beginning and the End (Rev 22:13). When trust is placed in this amazing God, He promises a peace beyond all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

I remember a giant rock at my summer youth camp that we called the "Rock of Ages", because it was so large and unmovable that it must have been there for ages. Every year I returned to camp, I would sit on, stand on, jump off of, the Rock of Ages. I depended on it being there, because it was a great spot for spending quiet time with God. I remember spending tranquil moments of peace with God, surrounded by the beauty of nature, sitting on the Rock of Ages.  

God is my Rock of Ages, never moving or changing in character (Malachi 3:6). He is perfectly dependable, and when I focus on Him, I have peace. But sometimes I lose that peace because my mind wanders from my Rock of Ages and forgets His dependability. It's up to me to keep my mind fixed on the Rock, and God will grant the peace.

"Lord Jesus, thank You that You are my Rock that is everlasting. Help me to keep focused on You instead of my circumstances. You have perfect peace, let me find it in You. Amen."

(Rock of Ages - Riverside Bible Camp)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Take5

April 29 2016
Scripture: 1 Samuel 30:6 (ESV)

Take5

"And David was greatly distressed for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God."

I can only imagine what the pain and confusion these men must have felt. For while they were away their home was raided and burnt, and their wives and children were taken captive by the Amalekites. Amidst the smoking ruins that was their home, David and his men wept bitterly until they could cry no more tears. In heated anger the men rashly talked of stoning David to death, because they needed someone to punish. But David under pressure chose to "take 5" and strengthen himself in the Lord. He inquired for wisdom from God, and he was encouraged to go on a rescue mission, for God promised that he would succeed. 

In my life, I must let God make my decisions clear, not reacting in clouded emotions like David's men. Unchecked emotions can cause us to make reactions instead of making decisions. The best way to combat this is to take time to inquire of God about how to respond next. Take time to pray, He may show you something you never would have thought of doing on your own. 

"Lord Jesus, thank You for the wisdom You grant to those who seek You. Please help me in my decision making to first pray and ask You what to do. Clear any irrational thinking that I might react in, and show me Your ways. Amen."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Striking & Healing

April 27 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 19:22 (ESV)

Striking & Healing

"And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the Lord, and He will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them."

Egypt was a "green isle" amongst a sea of sand. They had a lot to put their hope in. The Nile River provided a fishing economy, while the ground was fertile giving vegetation, flax, and cotton. Egypt had it made, and they were secure or so they thought. Here Isaiah prophesies how the Lord will strike Egypt; drying up The Nile, and knocking their flimsy pillars from under their feet. All they hoped in was gone. But some would return to the Lord, and He would listen and bring them to a much better place than they were. 

In my life, there are plenty of things I could set up as a pillar in which I could place my hope. I could hope in my career, or my bank account, or my friends and family, which are not bad things to have. But what if they all fell away? I would have nothing, no where to go. Maybe I would blame God for allowing them to be taken away. Or would I realize that He can be my hope when all else fails? I should not place my hope in anything less than God Himself, for all the other pillars are as sturdy as a Teeter-totter. 

So maybe you feel God is striking you, but what he really wants to do is heal you. If you lost a relationship, maybe you put too much dependency in a person. If you are experiencing financial difficulty, maybe God wants you to trust in His provision alone. I don't know the circumstances that each person faces, but I do know this for sure. If I trust in God, He won't be shaken, like all the other flimsy pillars, and He will bring healing in my life. 

"Lord Jesus, please help me to place my hope in You alone, and to step down from these unstable pillars in my life. Thank You that You are a rock in hard times, and for the healing that You give. Amen."

Monday, April 25, 2016

Radioactive Influence

April 25 2016
Scripture: Psalm 16:7-8 (ESV)

Radioactive Influence

"I bless the Lord who gives me counsel in the night, also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken."

Growing up can be very intimidating, not knowing where to go next, or what to do in new situations. It's like moving around in the dark, bumping into things until your bearings make sense. But David in his early days found his counsel in the Lord, for he grants wisdom generously to those who ask (James 1:5). He gives us the Holy Spirit as a guide that prompts our heart in the dark, guiding us into all truth (John 16:13). But God doesn't just give wisdom like a cashier gives back your change at the grocery market. No, the wisdom God grants is from constant exposure in relationship with Him. David set the Lord ever before him, at his right hand, and that is why he was not shaken. 

I read in an article lately that we ultimately become like the top five people we spend the most time with. Influence radiates off a person and can change who I am. But like David, I want to keep the Lord ever before me, letting His influence be the number one influence that radiates in my life. The way to do this is through constant exposure in the Bible, and in prayer, keeping me close to God. Then I will have the wisdom of the ages. 

"Lord Jesus, thank You for the wisdom You have given, and are going to give as I spend more and more time with You. Help me to keep You ever before me, and not let poor influences take me away from You. Teach me and change me to become the man You want me to be. Amen."


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Gear-works

April 21 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 12:3-4 (ESV)

Gear-works


"With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day, 'Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the peoples, proclaim that His name is exalted."

Amazingly, Isaiah had many prophecies of Jesus hundreds of years before He ever walked the earth. Here in chapter 12 is a clear picture of the Gospel at work. In verses one and two we see God's anger against sin is turned to comfort, and God Himself has become salvation, which means we need not fear, but trust in Him. In our joy, we can drink freely the Living Water of salvation metaphorically, much like Jesus said to the woman at the well in the gospel of John (4:14). Being thankful to God, we can call out His name at any time. We must tell others the things that God has done for us and proclaim His name exalted. We are then able to join the angels in singing the forever song, making God known throughout the earth.

For me, I can easily become numb to the impact of the Gospel. Sometimes my gears get jammed and the whole process within me becomes stuck because one of the parts are not active in my life. I've attached the rest of Isaiah chapter 12 and I would seriously recommend to read it and answer these questions to check each gear to see if it is an active part of your life. 

Isaiah 12

1 You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
    for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
    that you might comfort me.
2 “Behold, God is my salvation;
    I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
    and he has become my salvation.”
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
    proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
    let this be made known in all the earth.
6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
    for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Questions to Answer for Yourself

1. Do I need to experience the comfort of the Lord, believing fully that he has turned away his anger completely?
2. Am I afraid to trust God with everything?
3. Am I depending on my strength instead of letting God be my strength?
4. Do I need to drink again from the well of salvation to quench my thirst for joy?
5. Am I giving thanks constantly to God?
6. Do I feel alone and need to call out His name?
7. Am I sharing what God has done for me with others?
8. Do I exalt Jesus name as holy?
9. Am I singing praise to God in all the earth?

I hope this was refreshing to you as it was to me.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Humble Your Hatchet

April 18th 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 10:15 (ESV)

Humble Your Hatchet

"Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as a staff should lift him who is not wood."

The Lord decided to use the king of Assyria to bring about desperation and humility among the people of Israel. But this king was not exempt from God's justice; for his pride was his downfall. The Lord knew that the king of Assyria would take all the credit for himself, claiming that it was his wisdom and his strength that brought him victory. Silly little hatchet...

This is what happens when the creation tries to play as the creator. It seems silly to us to think an axe could boast over the person who wields it, or a saw over the carpenter, or the car over a driver, or a book over it's author. So too is it silly to think that a human is greater than Creator God. Every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17). If we receive a seed, we can till the soil, and water the ground, but only God can make it grow. 

We were created on purpose for a purpose. Until I come to grips with who I am and who God is, I will never see that purpose come to its full light. Imagine if the king of Assyria had humbled himself before God; he might have led his people and the people of Israel into a great revival back to the Lord, because of his earthly power and status as king. But "the haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day" (Isaiah 2:11). 

"Lord Jesus, thank You for creating me with a purpose. Help me to be full of praise rather than full of myself. Let me be humble in all I do, because without You I can do nothing. Take me and use me to do Your will. Amen."

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Shear-jashub

April 16 2016
Scripture: Isaiah 8:17-18 (ESV)

Shear-jashub

"I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in Him. Behold, I and my children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion."

Isaiah and his sons must have felt very alone in their faith, for Israel had turned from the Lord and God Himself hid His face from those people. But what does Isaiah do? He holds on to his faith, "I will wait, I will hope." One of Isaiah's sons he named Shear-jashub, which means, "A remnant shall return." Many names given in the Old Testament were tied to a characteristic or purpose that person would display in his or her lifetime. Jacob means, "the deceiver", thus he later deceived his father, brother, and others in his life. Adam means, "Man", because he was the first of mankind. 

God planned to give Israel what they desired, independence from God, and in result they would be conquered and brought low, scattered, and only a remnant would remain. Isaiah used the word picture of a great oak tree, cut down and only a stump remaining. So will it be for the great nation of Israel, for they exchanged the true God for false ones, knowing full well the consequences. 

My grandfather, very much must have felt like Isaiah, within his family. The Wilson family just three generations ago had a reputation, but not a good one. They were bootleggers in the time of The Prohibition, and would use alcohol to enter into drunken rages, beating each other. During that time my grandfather when he was a boy found Jesus and dedicated his life to preach The Word. As a result, no alcohol was allowed in my grandfather's home, and my father never had to deal with the evils drunkenness brings to a family growing up. My dad became a preacher, like his dad, and I followed both their footsteps and am myself in the ministry all because "a remnant returned to the Lord."

Maybe you are the only Christian in your home. Or maybe you feel that you are the only one around who takes their faith seriously. Do not give up hoping and waiting in the Lord. Just like Isaiah and my grandfather, you can be the remnant generation that turns the tide and whole course of the generations to come after you. I'm living proof of my grandfather's legacy. God can take a dead stump and bring new life into it again, and He can in your life as well.

"Lord Jesus, thank You for the faith of my grandfather who changed the reputation of the Wilson family. I pray that You will use his story to encourage others to never give up. Thank You for new life out of a dead stump; let me be a remnant in this generation that returns to You."



Thursday, April 14, 2016

Praising in the Midst of "gods"

April 13 2016
Scripture: Psalm 138:1 (ESV)

Praising in the Midst of "gods"

"I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise."

King David was a man who committed his whole heart to God, which is seen in a lot of ways. Many of the larger more powerful nations around him constructed large temples and statues of man-made "gods". These monuments were everywhere and even God's people had struggles with worshiping these idols because the culture around them made it look so good. David could not simply tear down every temple that stood in the other nations beyond his boarders. Yet, he chose to sing God's praise before all the other "gods".

In our world today there are still many "gods" that plague us. If you go looking, you won't find many great stone temples of worship, but "gods" take many forms. How many people find themselves returning again and again to addictive substances, controlling their actions and stealing their time, money, and personality? How many secretly visit the "Red Lights Temple" and desecrate their bodies in lustful passion, like that of the ancient Babylonian goddess, Aphrodite. 

As a Christian in a world full of "gods", how difficult is it to shamelessly worship the One True God? We can try to combat these other idols, and we should. But what if our job was to sing praise to God before the "gods", like King David? When our God is revealed, the others pale in comparison, just like a picture of a sunset pales to looking at the real thing. 

"Lord Jesus, You are the true God, and I praise You. Help me to give You praise before the other "gods" and let Your light shine upon this earth. Amen."

(photo rights reserved by Hannah Wilson)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Joint Custody

April 11 2016
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 7:4 (ESV)

Joint Custody

"For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does."

Being married now for over a year and a half, I begin to understand the meaning of this verse. I never thought my patterns of life would need to change once I got married. Yet, my bacheloristic lifestyle was far from the perfect way a family should live. So what if I fling my socks across the room after a long day, or fold my laundry a certain way I like, or play a video game to relax my mind?  

The truth is, I didn't really know how selfish I could be until I had to share my bathroom, my free time, and my bed etc. But even so, I don't consider any of this a loss, because by the power of Christ, I love my wife more than I love myself. Though I had to change and give up some things along the way, I would gladly surrender my rights for her, because my love for her conquers my selfishness for me. 

From the moment I said, "I Do", I no longer possess full custody over Luke Wilson. As a loving husband, I must learn to live by the principle that I am not my own. This doesn't mean that I must never have things to myself, like hobbies, goals, or dreams, for God made me an individual person apart from my wife. But what this does mean is that I must be willing to put myself and my agenda down on the line for the love of my marriage. When she needs me, I must not deny her physically, or deny her my service, or deny her my attention, or my affection. Likewise she does the same for me because true love conquers selfishness. 

"Lord Jesus, thank You for blessing me with an amazing godly wife. I pray that I will continually become less selfish as I love her the rest of my life. Let me be reminded that I am not my own, but Yours and her's. Help me to always be ready to show my love to her when she needs me, even when I don't feel like it. Amen."


Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Weak, The Called, and The Qualified

April 9th 2016
Scripture 1 Corinthians 1:28-29 (ESV)

The Weak, The Called, & The Qualified

"God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God."

When I was called to serve as a pastor in ministry, I didn't have a lot going for me. I wasn't the most popular charismatic person among my peers. I struggled with some form of social anxiety in front of groups in all situations, except playing my guitar on the worship team at church. In fact, in high school I worked in the kitchen at Pizza Hut, where I was glad I didn't have to deal with people. And trust me, in ministry you have to deal with people a lot! 

All this to say, I didn't seem very qualified for the ministry. When I felt called to be a Youth Pastor, I am pretty sure a few members at my Dad's church scratched their heads, wondering how that would work out. I would have too. I wasn't qualified, or so I thought. The truth of the matter is that I wasn't qualified because of my great skills, but just maybe because of my lack of skills. God, more often then not, chose the weak to work though rather than the strongest or the wisest. As Henry Blackaby said once, "The Lord never calls the qualified, He qualifies the called." This way we humans don't get a fat head. I cannot boast about me, because it's not about me, but God who works through me. He deserves the glory, because He helped me do things I didn't believe I could do. 

So next time I view myself as weak and unqualified, I can claim the promise that "His power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). When I am weak, He is strong. 

"Lord Jesus, thank You that You take my weakness and turn it into Your strength. Help me to give all the glory back to You, so that I do not boast in myself. Let Your power be made perfect in my weakness. Amen."

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Eye Covenant

April 7th 2016
Scripture: Job 31:1-2 (ESV)

The Eye Covenant

"I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? What would be my portion from God above and my heritage from the Almighty on high?"

I always respected Job for his great character of integrity. Even though he suffered so much, losing his health, possessions, and family, he still remained under conviction to be a godly man. Out of a list of things Job was intentionally avoiding, the very first thing is lust. Job decided to make a covenant with his eyes to not look at women lustfully. Even all those year ago, men struggled with lust. Sure, they may not have had Playboy or X-Rated movies, but the temptation was real. So why did Job make a covenant with his eyes? What did they have to do with anything? I think he knew the same truth that Jesus would proclaim hundreds of years later: "Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt 5:28). 

As men and women of God, we are called to live blameless lives without even a hint of sexual immorality (Eph. 5:3), and the first thing this kind of purity starts with is our eyes. Job made a conscious choice that he would make a change. I have modeled my fight for purity after this principle by continuing Job's covenant with my own eyes. Job also kept in mind the Heavenly heritage that God will grant to those who are righteous. I've got amazing things coming, so why waste my efforts on temporary gratification that will rob me of the true richness of a close relationship with God? It's not even a comparison. 

"Lord Jesus, thank You for Your servant Job, who modeled what it looks like to live a blameless life of purity. Help me, as I keep a covenant with my eyes, to always focus on You. Thank You for my beautiful wife who has challenged me to grow in so many ways. Continue to guide and direct us. Amen."


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Hated in Jesus Name

April 6th 2016
Scripture: Luke 21:17-19 (ESV)

Hated in Jesus Name

"You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives."

This is a hard teaching. Jesus here is talking about the events leading up to the Last Days. Not only will there be earthly devastation like earthquakes, famines, and war, but all will hate you for the sake of being a Christian. This is a warning, but also a comfort from Jesus. These events will serve as an opportunity to witness. Jesus gave the promise that when we stand before judges and rulers, that He will give us a mouth of wisdom that no one could contradict (Luke 21:15). As for our hair not perishing, this means that our eternal dwelling in Heaven will not die. The key to this passage is that our endurance will gain our lives, our true lives

As Jesus has said before, we will not know the hour of His return, but He encourages us that when we endure the trials, we will be able to witness the power and love of Christ. The Holy Spirit will guide our words, and our Father has prepared our eternal home. So what can man do to me that would shake my hope? It should be considered great joy if I suffer for Jesus' sake, despite the feelings that I have been abandoned to endure more than I can bear. I must endure the storm. It's worth it every time. 

Lord Jesus, thank You that You will never leave me. I have not suffered much, but I know the storm is coming. Prepare me even now so that I may have a strong endurance, gaining my true life through my faith in You. You are worth losing my earthly life so I can sit at Your table in the life to come. Amen"


Monday, April 4, 2016

Don't Let Caesar Seize Your Soul

April 4th 2016
Scripture: Luke 20:25 (ESV)

Don't Let Caesar Seize Your Soul

"Then He said to them, 'Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.'"

The religious leaders sent spies to Jesus, attempting to catch Him saying something against the Roman government so they could arrest Him as a rebel. They asked if it was lawful to give taxes to Caesar. It would be equivalent today as asking, "Do I have to pay taxes to the President and the government, since we are part of God's kingdom?" Jesus ingeniously asks for a coin, saying to those around Him, "Who's face is on the side? Caesar's? Then if they made it, give them what's theirs, and God, what belongs to God. The truth is God really doesn't care much for little green pieces of paper. He would much rather have your soul than your salary. If taxes got extremely high and you had to pay the government to the point you couldn't give God more than your last two pennies, would He value those any less than the ten percent most churches expect now?

As long as it doesn't require us to break our allegiance to God, we must live in the world and its systems and rules, but not of it's passions and desires. Now there are times when the world will try to demand our worship, loyalty, and heart, to other things apart from God. There are many stories in The Bible when God's people had to stand up against culture and give God what belonged to Him. Just ask Danial, or Esther, or Moses. I must ask myself, "Am I giving the right things to the right owners?" I need not complain about my government, but rather pray for them. 

"Lord Jesus, thank You that I have freedom to give You my heart and soul. Help those in authority of this country to fear and respect You. As I live in this world help me to reserve all that is Yours, while I am still subject to the worldly authorities. I pledge my allegiance to You. Amen."


Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Empowered Witness

March 31 2016
Scripture: Luke 24:48-49 (ESV)

The Empowered Witness

"You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."

After Jesus' death on the cross, He rose again and appeared to many of His disciples. This encounter He appeared to the twelve apostles and He gave them a mission: that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to the whole world. He wanted the disciples to grasp two co-existing truths. 

The first, that we are witnesses, to testify to the truth. We get to share a part in the great mission of Jesus' Gospel. God loves to and wants to use us to fulfill His mission.

The second, that He will help us. The promise of the power from on high is the promise of the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit who clothes Jesus' followers.