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Our DAILY GOSPEL DEVOTIONAL is the story of Jesus from Incarnation to Ascension. This is a chronology and harmony of the gospel accounts in which the ongoing narrative and doctrinal context are carefully considered. In one year we reflect on every passage of every gospel.
May God bless you as we follow the disciples on the journey through the earthly life of Jesus Christ.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Time to Break Out

...I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
(Matthew 16:18 – ESV)

A holy life: that is what people are afraid of, that is the fear of Easter, the wrong kind. “I’m afraid if I trust Jesus I won’t enjoy my life.” Well, if you don’t trust Jesus you are already dead. Christians fear that if they fully surrender to God He’s going to make them miserable. Friends you need to get to know God better than that! Break out of that cage you’re in!

Jesus sets new boundaries for us, not the gates of fear but the guard of grace, the yoke of Christ. His school teaches us to live in Godly fear while losing worldly fear. People think they live without boundaries but they are actually caged in by their own sin and living in fear of the unknown. People think Christians are caged in but they are the ones who are truly free. Free from the power of sin, death, and hell. Yes we still sin and we put up the gates, put the chains back on in a sense but again, when we see Him working to remove unholy fear and working to instill holy fear that is when you know resurrection power is working in your life, when we have a holy fear we will lead holy lives. The resurrection takes away the wrong kind of fear and replaces it with the right kind of fear (Matthew 10:28).

We know how the resurrection affects our eternal destiny, but in the here and now it is about the gates of hell, of fear. 1 John 4:18 – Perfect love casts out fear. This verse is speaking primarily of the fear of death and eternal judgment, and that is the first fear that Jesus drives out with His perfect love. For fear to be cast out means it must have tried to enter in, or that fear can be driven out. It is not that we won’t ever have any fear at all but that fear is overcome by love, and we see His love in the crucifixion and resurrection. Sometimes fear has come in and we need to have it cast out by perfect love. Fear has many manifestations. Let us remember Matthew 27:46 – my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? – We see His compassion but it is undergirded by a real conviction. The more we become convinced about the resurrection the more it can help us to overcome fear in this life. We need to ponder it and preach it to ourselves every day, to preach the gospel to ourselves.

We may not know all the answers but we can know Him is the answer and begins to give us answers as we trust in Him, as to why people suffer, why evil and war plague our planet, and why Christians have lost so much credibility as people who know how to love. When we see our Savior suffer the pains of hell for us, and yet still cry a very certain call out to the Father, we begin to see that He can deliver us from any depth of despair, and that we can trust Him no matter how far we have sunk into sin or sorrow.

Resurrection removes fear. Now fearless faith doesn’t mean reckless in the sense of tempting God it means trusting God. Not, “I have no fear so I am going to spend all my money on some project”, but, “I am without fear so I can withstand any onslaught”. We do need to get these things categorized in our minds correctly. I am not saying that we will live these spotless lives of super triumph in every situation. No I am saying we can have real feelings and still have real hope. We can be like Jesus and feel and be real, hurting in the short term but looking to the long term. Seeing through both the narrow and wider lens.

Proper distinction will lead to proper understanding. Fear is not sadness or depression; we can have sorrow but still have joy. Not having fear doesn’t mean we are foolhardy, and it doesn’t mean not taking care, or a lack of respect or disobeying authority. Freedom from fear is the freedom of faith. The fruits of faith are the fruits of a fearless life (Romans 8:31-39).

He has delivered us from the greatest fear, the fear of the unknown. When we see Him working to remove unholy fear and working to instill holy fear that is when you know resurrection power is working in your life. When we have a holy fear we will lead holy lives. We will not only feel free to die but we will feel free to live. We can bring true compassion because we have true conviction. If you get real with God He will be real to you. If you trust in Jesus Christ and in the resurrection, the gates of hell will not prevail against you. When you fear God you don’t have to fear anything else.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Terror of Temporal Things

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
(Matthew 16:21 – ESV)

When Jesus Christ died and rose again, the power of death was broken. He conquered death itself. Now, as members of His Body, we are also members in His victorious army. We can storm the "gates of hell" and rescue people from the clutches of death, rescuing those who are in fear. The gates of hell will not prevail against the assault of Christ's victorious Church. Our mission is to act on the truth of Christ's statement and snatch the captives as "brands from the fire" (Zechariah 3:2, Jude 23). It is not the picture of the forces of hell attacking Christ’s Church, but of death’s lack of victory over the Church. The Church is built upon the Messiah, and death, the gates of hell, will not prevail against it by keeping Christ imprisoned. Death cannot stop life (1 Corinthians 15:54). Death cannot overpower the Church. The gates of hell shall not prevail. Why? Satan has the gates, but Jesus has the keys (Revelation 1:18).

Now, Christ delivered us from eternal hell and from the fear of a living hell. The resurrection takes away the fear of death, physical, spiritual, and leading to a lack of fear in the emotional as well. The resurrection takes away the wrong kind of fear and replaces it with the right kind of fear (Matthew 10:28). Fear is everywhere, but this is the process and progress of the gospel in our lives, the removal of fear. King Jesus takes over and starts clearing the house, as we trust Him (Mark 4:26-29). When we see Him working to remove unholy fear, the fear of men, the fear of being secure, the fear of being lonely, the fear of being poor, and working to instill holy fear (the fear of God), that is when you know resurrection power is working in your life. When we have a holy fear we will lead holy lives, and we will have holy gladness and holy boldness, and the gates of hell will not prevail against us.

Some Christians don’t often realize this, that Christ is working in us to remove fear from our lives. We may not have a fear of death but we let other fears come in and disturb us. This is why we need the ongoing work of the gospel to penetrate our lives, to release us from the smaller fears. The big gates are down but we are inside the inner gates still.

Gates are the things held up to keep people out. The gates of hell are like the caging of our souls in fear. The world the flesh and the devil all try and box us in but Jesus breaks us out those things that would cause us to fear (economy, health, injustice, conspiracy theories). When we find ourselves in fear of the things the world fears, we are obviously being worldly. Now this needs to be understood correctly, I am not saying we just rush into everything haphazardly, or that we shouldn’t make plans, no, not that at all. But we should, as Christians, never be subject to the terror others have about temporal things.

People think everyone is against them, and it is true, all the forces of the enemy want your destruction, but as a Christian, Jesus has His power in you, and you have a choice. Those things that would like to box us in, to cage us, to surround us with gates, those things, and those boundaries are what Jesus Christ has broken. The power of grace is the power to storm the gates as it were, to crash through with the gospel so as to rescue those that are in fear. When we show them the power of Christ over the greatest fear, and how it has transformed us, then we can begin to allow that power to transform the rest of our lives piece by piece. We may have great difficulties but we see Christ and how He overcame it all for us, and so no matter how far down we sink He has been lower and that cry lifts us up, as we know He has been lifted up out of that pit we too can be lifted. When we see Him working to remove unholy fear and working to instill holy fear that is when you know resurrection power is working in your life. When we have a holy fear we will lead holy lives. That is the right kind of fear, the fear of Easter.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Gates of Hell

…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
(Matthew 16:18 – ESV)

The bible declares that our sin is why Jesus went to the Cross and our salvation is why He arose from the grave (Romans 4:25). We can be justified by faith because the resurrection proves that God the Father accepted the sacrifice of Christ for our sins. The resurrection is a cornerstone of the Christian faith.

Abraham believed in the resurrection power of God (Hebrews 11:17-19). Also, Job 19:25-27 / Isaiah 26:19-21 / Daniel 12:1-3 all speak of resurrection. Jesus resurrected Lazarus, and Jesus is not only resurrected, as He said He IS the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).

Now there is another place where Jesus spoke of His resurrection, and we want to look a little closer today at Matthew 16:18-21 because it contains a fundamental promise that many people have never thought about from this passage. An important area of misunderstanding about the Church has to do with the phrase, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Many use Matthew 16:18 to affirm that the Church will endure no matter what evil might come against it. People say “the gates of hell” as if it is the forces of hell against the Church but that isn’t what this means primarily. What did our Lord mean by this statement? What are "the gates of hell"?

In biblical times, the gates of a city were the key points in the city's defenses. To "possess the gate of your enemies" (Genesis 22:17), meant to conquer your enemy. When the gates of the city were breached, the attacking army had won. The city was conquered; the gates had not prevailed.

So what about the gates of hell? The Greek word used here, translated as "hell," is actually the word "Hades." Hades is not the same as hell, or "the lake of fire," but is a word that is used to describe the "realm of the dead". For example, in Luke 16:23 the word "Hades" is used to describe the place where the unbelieving dead await the final judgment. This distinction is also used in Revelation 20:13-15 where "death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire."

This background reminds us that all unbelievers are held captive behind the gates of Hell. John 3:18 says whoever does not believe is condemned already, but in Hebrews 2:14-15 we learn that by His death Jesus destroyed the power of the devil which is the fear of death.

So what are the gates of hell? The fear of death is what the gates of hell are about. It is the gates of death (cf. Job 38:17, Psalm 9:13, 107:18, Isaiah 38:10). So Matthew 16:18 reads like this – Upon this rock (Jesus as Messiah) I will build my church, and the gates of hell (fear of death) shall not prevail against it. It is not so much about the assault of the powers of darkness but that the Messiah and His Church will never perish, and Jesus will die but not stay dead. This is the main point of the passage, clearly seen by looking at verse 21. He is predicting His own resurrection, and also the resurrection of all believers. The Church will not fail because Jesus will not fail to rise again. This is a prophecy, not just that He will resurrect, but that we will resurrect also (cf. Romans 8:11 / 1 Corinthians 6:14 / 2 Corinthians 4:14).


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Deception Drive

But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.
(Jeremiah 44:17)

Look at the image on the left: do you remember Jim Jones and his cult, with those 900 comitting suicide in Guyana in the late 70's? They started out hailing this man as a miracle worker, but they met their demise as they sank futher and further into apostasy.

We have been looking at the remnant Jews who tried to escape Babylonian captivity by going to Egypt, even after God had told them not to. Protecting yourself by running to “Egypt” won’t work. Running away from God is impossible (Jonah) (Psalm 139:7). It is like those who plan an “out” by waiting until people vanish at the rapture to get saved. They are under a strong delusion, on several fronts.

Deception can be very subtle. If you place a frog in a pan of boiling water, he will jump out immediately. However, if you place him in a pan with cool water, and then slowly turn up the heat, soon you will have frog legs for dinner.

Now let’s look closer and see just how deceived these people were, and how certain things can blindside us. In Jeremiah 44:17 we see the “T’s” of idolatry that the Jews used as justification to Jeremiah as to why they would not heed the word of the Lord. We will compare this with its pragmatic outworking of today, and the “scriptural justification” some might use to keep from being obedient. People feel as if they can begin to obey when they get things set the way they want, but God doesn’t work that way. Partial obedience is disobedience, and delayed obedience is also disobedience. See if you recognize any of these reasons for rebellion.

1) Testimony / “out of our own mouths” – who are you to tell us, we are just as much a Christian as you, we are righteous in this, you are the false teacher, the Lord orders our steps!

2) Togetherness / “we” – we need unity, division is bad, your doctrine causes strife, can’t we just get along, Jesus wants us together no matter what, what about John 17?

3) Tradition / “our fathers” – always done it this way – Jesus never changes

4) Teachers / “our kings and princes” – doing as we were taught, just submitting to authority

5) Totality / “city of Judah” – this is a universal doctrine or practice, everybody’s doing it, why would we be the ones to get punished for it, mouth of two or three, multitude of counselors, all the other prophets are saying peace, three fold cord not easily broken, etc.

6) Treachery / “streets of Jerusalem” – out in the open, we are not doing anything wrong or anything in secret, we aren’t hiding it, everybody knows it, no harm in this we are doing it for good reasons, we are doing it in faith, we see the fruit of the Spirit

7) Treasure / “plenty” – prosperity as the measure, it works, don’t trash what God is blessing

The truth is that we may see blessing, but in spite of, not because of what we are doing. Some churches these days are trying to justify all types of treachery, and promoting things such as yoga, labyrinths, burning incense, contemplative prayer, and the like. They do these things under the guise of finding more ways to be intimate with God. However, their idolatry shows itself in their self-indulgence and licentiousness, with their justification of tattoos, piercing, cussing, etc. They justify trying to be like the culture by saying that it allows them to be more able to identify with those whom they witness to, but we are supposed to be identifying with Jesus, not them. We shouldn’t try to show that Christianity is “cool”. Yes you can have a tattoo and go to heaven, but we don’t need to get a tattoo to show others the way to heaven. Do you see the difference, the subtle deception that can creep in? It is the same for all seven points here.

“Christian coolness” is not evangelical relevance, it may be cultural relevance, but it is worldliness, not Christian maturity. It is irresponsible. It is compromising the integrity of the Christian witness. More often than not, those who would emphasize Christian liberty are actually just exercising the old man. The converts these people make are just converts to their idea of religion, but it is not authentic Christianity, it is a counterfeit. They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof to live a holy life and break away from the world. They are lovers of self and pleasures more than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:4-5).

All true knowledge of God is born out of obedience – John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion. Character determines revelation – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Obedience doesn’t get you a reward for being good, what it does is keep you from getting the wrong perspective, you stay in the bread line and keep getting good food, wholesome and not leavened. You may “get away with” certain sins for a time, but they lead to a bigger problem, the idolatry of self, where you have a hard heart and cannot be broken, and are led into deception and perversion, apostasy and falling away. When you have gone as far as these Jews had, you’ve gone past the point of no return. You won’t stay alive on Deception Drive.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Wrong Turn

And they came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the LORD.
(Jeremiah 43:7 – ESV)

Many try and avoid going to the Cross, believing they can avoid the pain and still be a disciple of Christ. They are like the remnant of Judah after the fall of Jerusalem and the beginning of the Babylonian captivity. The Jewish remnant thought they could escape the trials of Babylon, which was caused by their continued disobedience, by going back to Egypt, the former place of their bondage, and what would now the place of their death. People are deceived into believing there is a shortcut way around the death of the flesh, and it only leads to deception and more flesh, which is idolatry.

People sincerely believe that they can be openly disobedient, unrepentant, and still stay on track with God. They will try and justify themselves rather than just deny themselves. You will hear statements such as, “everyone has sin”, and “it’s no worse than what so and so is doing”, and the like. Of course, there is a complete difference between someone who knows he has sin, admits it is sin, and wants to be cleansed and free of it, and the person who stubbornly, and blindly will not even acknowledge that the thing they commit in front of God and man is even a problem.

Many think they are “getting away with it”, but even though they do not have to deal immediately with the problems posed by their lack of obedience (Jeremiah 42:14 / 44:17), it leads to an even greater problem, and greater suffering. Galatians 6:7-8 – Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

God breaks us down to purify us but we won’t comply, we struggle to try and find an “alternate route”. We understand that Jesus went to the Cross for us, and we feel that we have no need to follow Him, we don’t have to go through the pain, we can avoid it, there is another way, etc. We only want to submit to God halfway, and it leads to deception and idolatry.

Think about Exodus 20:3 – no other gods before me needs to be realized for what it means, because so many today think that it has no context, no relevance for today, being that no one is making idols out of wood, etc., at least in the West. However, an idol is anything that takes precedence over God, and most often it is self, and the self-ish, self-indulgent, fleshly desire of our nature to want to be able to hang on to our old life while claiming to be regenerated to new life.

“Before” in Hebrew is paniym (paw-neem), meaning in front of, in the presence of, in the face of. Remember the Israelites in the wilderness – they weren’t calling the golden calves Baal. God is omnipresent, and so everything is in His presence, or before Him, and so we may have no other gods, period, not that God is to be placed first, He is to be the ONLY God we serve, and that includes self.

You must follow Christ to the Cross by faith. There is no side road to salvation. If you don’t go down Repentance Road, and make sure you stop at Submission Street, believe me, you will have made a wrong turn.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Apostasy Avenue

The LORD has said to you, O remnant of Judah, 'Do not go to Egypt.'
(Jeremiah 42:19 – ESV)

In Jeremiah 41, Jerusalem had fallen, and the governor that king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had appointed over it was murdered by one of the remnant Jews. They feared for their lives (vs.18), and also believed that they were right in wanting to have a prince of the house of David, and Ishmael was of the royal family (vs. 1). How often do we think our position protects us from having to go through judgment, or trials, and how often are we deceived into believing we are actually fighting for a just and holy cause when we are really just blinded by our own esteem for ourselves?

In Jeremiah 42, the people wanted to hear God’s Word from God’s prophet, but not so as to actually obey, but rather, that God might sanction what they had already determined to do. Of course, something like that has never happened to us, we would never think of such a thing, would we? Jeremiah didn’t receive the Word for 10 days (vs. 7). The delay was designed to test the sincerity of their professed willingness to obey (vs. 5-6), and that they should have time to commit their wills to obedience. God told them through Jeremiah that He would protect, preserve, and eventually promote them through the trial (vs.10-12). God made it perfectly clear that they were not to go to Egypt (vs.14-19), but He knew that their hearts were hypocritical (vs.20-21) and declared their doomed destiny (vs.22).

In Jeremiah 43, the people were falling fast into apostasy. They turned on the Word of God through the prophet (vs. 2). They didn’t obey and went into Egypt (vs.7), and took Jeremiah with them. It reminds us of how they probably thought that having God’s prophet with them would be like having God’s blessing with them. This is using God’s tools like a magic weapon of sorts, like the Israelites did with the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 4).

In Jeremiah 44, what happened to these people that went into Egypt is that they fell into total apostasy, they began blatant idolatry, and became deceived in so many ways that they were completely blinded to the truth of God’s Word (vs.17-19). The people were so blind and hardhearted that they actually believed that serving other gods was their ticket to prosperity, and that disobedience was the way to safety and security. Jeremiah let them know that God in His longsuffering had let them go until their iniquity was fully ripe, and that it was their disobedience that lead to their lack, not leaving off the service to other gods (vs.21-23).

This is what happens when we fail to go to the Cross. We fail to suffer the death of the flesh, and our worship becomes as it did for these that went to Egypt, it becomes vain and idolatrous, without our even realizing it. This is what happened to others whose pride eventually lead to their downfall, those who thought that they could worship God “any old way they felt like”. Results and relationships cloud their judgment and discernment.

Adam saw Eve eat the apple, but he still had a choice. He could have chosen not to eat of the apple himself. Instead, he chose his relationship with his wife over his relationship with God and His Word. This is why Jesus told us that if someone wouldn’t hate their family compared to Him, they couldn’t be His disciple (Luke 14:26).

Think about Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10. They relied on their relationship to their father Aaron and as priests to protect them from having to worship in the way God intended for the “others”.

How about Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:31 / 12:20, 25-33 / 13:34)? God gave him the 10 northern tribes, yet he thought that he could establish a different place and different methods of worship. They didn’t start out thinking those idols were other gods, they worshipped them as Jehovah, just as Aaron and the Israelites did while Moses was on Sinai.

King Uzziah was a great and godly king, but his results lifted up his heart, and he thought his relationship with the Lord meant that he could act as priest as well as king (2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 15-16). He paid dearly.

A lesson is this: we must stay in a repentant attitude, and if God says that we are to do something in a certain way, then we are unwise, unrepentant, and rebellious to do otherwise. It will lead to deception and idolatry, where we will think we are doing right but we are sincerely wrong. Sincerity is no substitute for truth, and without truth, we are headed straight down Apostasy Avenue.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Torment and Triumph

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
(Matthew 27:46 – ESV)

Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 that Jesus was crucified and resurrected in accordance with what the Old Testament had prophesied of. In Romans 1:1-4 Paul tells us that God used the prophets of old to show that the promise of the gospel was not a new thing. Jesus Himself stated in John 5:39 that the scriptures were about Him, and after His resurrection Jesus told the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that all the Old Testament essentially pointed to Him (Luke 24:25-27). And so it is no wonder then, to discover that this quote from Jesus, which seems such a mystery, is actually the fulfillment of a great Old Testament prophecy written by the hand of David. Part of the mystery of this verse, Matthew 27:46, is revealed by looking back at Old Testament scripture of Psalm 22.

Jesus, in quoting this first verse of Psalm 22, He was revealing that it prophesied of Him and how He would atone for the sins of man against a holy God. These words make manifest the agony and suffering that Christ was under as He is intimately and personally identified with the judgment of God upon man for sin. To suppose that He was merely complaining, or that He was unaware of the meaning of the words of that Psalm, is to completely ignore all His teachings on these subjects (Matthew 20:18-19). Christ knew He had to die for our sins, He knew the cup was handed to Him of God.

Forsaken, He was literally suffering the pangs of hell for us, an atonement that is beyond our comprehension. We cannot comprehend it but we can adore Him for it. I have often said that when we can see the heights of His holiness compared to the depths of our depravity, then we will know the measure of His love to us.

Jesus did not cry out over mere human suffering or despair. It wasn’t the physical pain that hurt so much, but the mental anguish, and the torment of His soul, that was the real suffering. That was what Jesus called the “cup” when He was agonizing in the garden of Gethsemane the night before. Many had been and would be tortured and placed on a cross to die, perhaps even other innocent men. But no other man would suffer for the sins of the world, the spiritual wrath of God upon mankind, placed upon Jesus at the cross of Calvary.

Christ spoke these words of seeming abandonment not because of His humanity as many suppose, but because God is illustrating that in essence, we were in the body of Christ (Romans 6:6-11). It was "we" who deserved to be forsaken of God, and to suffer. Our Savior was speaking on our behalf, taking that suffering as a substitute for us.

Act one of the great atonement drama, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ had been completed. In quoting Psalm 22, Jesus knew that He would rise again, and that His resurrection would bring our justification (Romans 4:25). Jesus was going through torment but declaring the triumph of the gospel. This wasn’t an uncertain cry but a very certain call.



“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Depression and Destiny

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
(Matthew 27:46 – ESV)

Because Christ suffered the penalty of sin for us, we can be assured that we will never be forsaken (Hebrews 13:5). God has not forsaken you no matter how far down in the pit you have sunk. His arm is not so short it can’t save; He can bring you out of the miry clay and stand you on the Solid Rock. He can do for you as He did for the imprisoned prophet Jeremiah and bring someone to pad the ropes as He pulls you up from despair (Jeremiah 38:6-14).

We may know this truth in our heads, but we need to have it in our hearts. We may have the conception, but we need to make the connection. The bridge from conception to connection is compassion. This is the way for His reality to become our reality. Jesus really suffered and He knows that we suffer, and we can call to Him in faith. Our cry to Him is not in vain; it is a very certain call.

For those of you have already called to God to save you, but you are living in a daily despair, let me make this connection even more real to you today. In this life we will have tears on our face and tears in our armor. It is no disgrace to cry out to God when bearing the cross and feeling the pain. God knows we live in an imperfect world. He understands our difficulties. He realizes that we will have complaints, but we have a right way and a wrong way to complain. We need to be honest with ourselves that we may be honest before God, and we need to learn to bring our case before Him in the right way. We should make our complaints with honesty, trust, and hope.

It is good to feel emotion. Sometimes it is good to feel bad; look at the Psalms, depressed feelings are often a legitimate part of our relationship with God, as strange as that may sound. We often think of Psalms as a book of praise (which it certainly is), but laments and grievances to the Lord make up more than 60 of the 150 psalms. God can interact with us through the context of our depression. He has wise and loving motives although we may not see them.

Christians can and do get depressed, to varying degrees, and for varying durations. This is not always about a lack of faith or a direct result of personal sin or some symptom of a problem with the spiritual life. Depression is not a punishment from God; it may be instructive to you and certainly for others. The truth is that it is in some sense compatible with Christianity.

We seem to sell the Christian life in America today with too much triumphalism and denial of feelings, but look at the Psalms, look at our text today and Psalm 22, and see that we as Christians need to embrace and realize a more fully orbed biblical dealing with feelings. This is not to excuse and embrace wrong thinking, but to deal with depression and emotion in the way we see demonstrated as correct in scripture. Not all of this in scripture is correct; we see both the right and the wrong way. The Jews in the wilderness complained in the wrong way (cf. Psalm 78:41) but also in the Psalms we see that you can complain to Him in a way that indicates you are trusting Him, instead of grumbling in a way that amounts to an unbelieving accusation. Take a close look a Psalms 42-43 to get a feel for what I am talking about. Remember, Jesus cried out to God, not against God.

Christ was forsaken that we might never be. His wasn’t an uncertain cry but a very certain call. Jesus cried this out so that we will never have to. He cried this out to show that even in the darkest moments we could have utter assurance of our final victory in God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39). We can have real pain and suffering, and real tears as we cry out in seeming despair, but we can also know God in the midst of it all, and through it all, and through to the other side of despair to declare His victory.

We are not forsaken. Let us adore the One who endured for us. Amen.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In the Palm of His Hand

by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.
(Colossians 2:14 – ESV)

There was a real record of our sin debt. There was a real record of transgressions made by you, sins against God. They are real, and God the Father took those out and said, “Who’s going to pay this bill?” God the Father told Christ it must be paid. If that sin debt weren’t paid then no one would be allowed to enter into heaven.

Our Savior told His Father that He would pay, and God handed His Son the record with its legal demands. Jesus Christ accepted His role as redeemer; He agreed to pay the sin debt of humanity with His own life, given for His own people who would call to Him in faith. Jesus wrote the check that paid for our sins with His own blood signature. God put the record of our sins in the palm of Christ’s hand and then He put a nail through it! Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands (Isaiah 49:16).

Now being pronounced spiritually pure doesn't remove all the temporal consequences. God forgives us for the sin, but we might still have the broken heart, the addicted body, and we still have to care for the child out of wedlock. We still have repentance to do, restitution to seek, restoration to build upon. However, we act from forgiveness, we don’t act for it.

Often we want forgiveness to be a magic pill that does away with all the consequences of our actions. We often fall into this trap especially with "personal" sins that no one else knows about. We need the integrity to deal with the consequences of the sin that no one sees. But remember, we act from forgiveness, we don’t act for it. We are truly guilty, but we have been declared righteous, and God brings us to Him after we see both sides. Remember that when you feel like you are in the devil’s grip. Satan has no power to control you, he only fools you into thinking you are his instrument, but instead yield yourself to be an instrument of Christ’s righteousness. Jesus has got you in the palm of His hand.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Darkroom Development?

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
(Ephesians 5:8b-11 – ESV)

What are you filling your time and your mind with? Plants cannot bear fruit in the absence of light. We are not to associate with those who make a habit of dwelling in darkness, or those who would have you to dwell in darkness if they had their way with you. To fellowship with them is to partake in some measure of their darkness. Instead of exposing yourself to them you should expose them for what they are, what they do to your spiritual life. They sap its strength, and they bring spiritual rot and death. They bring unfruitfulness with them. If you continue to walk in the light the dark things in your life will become exposed. If you continue to walk among the darkened you will become a darkened soul.

This doesn’t mean we cannot have unbelievers as friends, or that we must never hang out with unbelievers or vile offenders. It means we cannot do so in ways that defile us. You can talk to a drug user about Christ; you cannot do drugs with them. You are either having a positive effect on them, or it is having a negative effect on you. They may never listen, and you can keep going back time and again, but the key to discernment here is this: When they are affecting you more than you are affecting them it is time to pull away. We are supposed to be like a light in a dark place, not turning the light down so we can all relax a bit.

This also isn’t about being a tattletale or holier than thou finger pointer, it is more about exposing the lies in your own life. Put everything you do up to the light of Christ. You expose what is dark by walking toward the light, away from the darkness and those whom dwell in it. Your very presence ought to cause people to be convicted of their darkness, and unless God is turning the light on for them, they won’t want you around for very long.

This also has to do with our brothers and sisters in Christ who won’t stop hanging around with people who say they know God but who won’t step out from the shadows. Certainly we need to try and restore the repentant, and to be patient with those who are working their way back to walking in the light. Eventually, however, we must separate from those who aren’t separating from the darkness. Some are in need of church discipline not church indulgence. If a person who thinks they are trying to minister won’t stop going to a self proclaimed believer who is obviously unrepentant, it may mean we must stay away from that minister, as they are now drawing close to dwelling in darkness themselves, and we must expose their false notions to the light. If this is you, ask yourself a question: Are you hanging around hoping they will see the light, or are you thinking they, or you, can develop your Christian life in the darkroom?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

For Only Me?



“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Friday, May 16, 2008

A Very Certain Call

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
(Matthew 27:46 – ESV)

This cry from Jesus illustrates the depth of His suffering as He felt Himself regarded as sin though He was sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are reminded of John 3:16, Isaiah 53, and 1 Peter 2:24 as we see the Son of God bearing the sin of the world. This cry of desolation comes at the close of the three hours of darkness. However, it was not only a seeming cry of desolation but also a declaration. Jesus was not simply playing a role, not only acting out a part. No, His pain and suffering were very real, but even amidst this agony He knew what the conclusion would be.

Still, Jesus suffered the ultimate loneliness. Some of the people that had shouted “hosanna” were now shouting, “crucify Him”. Some of the disciples who had stayed with Him had now denied, deserted, and betrayed Him. But much worse than all of this, as bad as it was, much worse, more worse than we can possibly imagine, was the forsaking by the Father of His Son. The Father had spoken words such as, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” but now was silent. The Father had let the Son be beaten, spit upon, mocked and mangled at the hands of men, finally to be hung on a cross, a tree, a curse to a Jew, which Jesus was.

But He was more than a Jew, He was the Son of God, and all this other pain and suffering was nothing compared to the absence of that sweet communion Christ had always known. Jesus’ faith did not fail. He cried out “My God, My God”, and He cried out to God, not against God, but the Father did not answer Him in tenderness, but with wrath (Isaiah 53:10). Even when Jesus had poured out His own blood in the prayers at Gethsemane, God the Father was still with Him, and He had the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, as He had always known. But He had known nothing of the pain of desertion and the suffering of damnation He endured on the cross.

Yet this wasn’t an uncertain cry but a very certain call. When Christ called out to God in this manner, clearly He was consciously quoting this part of Psalm 22 as an illustration of the fact that He was fulfilling all of this Old Testament prophecy. Jesus drew the attention of the Jews to this scripture while He was hanging on the cross. Psalm 22 was a Messianic Psalm, and the second half is hymn of victory (v.22-31).

Certainly Jesus was in a real sense “forsaken”, yet He also knew the final outcome of all this, and so therefore endured the greatest suffering of all time. Jesus’ cry was about suffering the world’s penalty due to sin, but it was signifying more than just that. It was the voice of the eternal victor who proclaimed the eternal victory of the Messiah to His people who were the victims of their own sin. He was supremely confident of the Father's ultimate deliverance of Him through the resurrection of His body before it had even seen decay (Psalm 16 – Acts 2:24-31).

Every person who has ever been born has felt alone and forsaken and wonders if God is real and if He cares, even Christians go through these sorts of things. But only Christians, those born again to a living hope can also cry, “it is finished” (John 19:30), and thereby know that God will never leave nor forsake them (Hebrews 13:5), on account of Christ. When you do that it is not an uncertain cry but a very certain call.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Don’t Have to Go to Know

So, about that Florida Revival, which is about an hour or so from my town. Well…

I watched it live on the Internet last night (5/13/08, from about 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm). It was a lot of talk of angels, no preaching, nothing more than a lot of hype. No healings that I saw, but to be fair, Todd Bentley did say this night was different, that prophetic words were being released, that we could “declare a thing and it be established”, “God is turning a page”, “it is going worldwide and will never die”, etc. Some of it was vague posturing, some of it was more specific, but with misuse of scripture over and over. However, this wasn’t the worst of it, because the rest of the night we were treated to old-fashioned word of faith heresy.

The rest of the evening had previously discredited “prophet” Bob Jones (of the notorious KC prophets) talking much about things that are not in the Bible, and prophecies he had made some years back, and talking to the crowd of how they were going to be some super generation of super apostles, etc. He had them reach into the air to “pull down” the anointing he was releasing. Really, actually, physically reaching upward and grasping at air. He said all it takes is faith to make this all happen. My question is that of all it takes is faith why isn’t Jones doing these things right now? By the way, Jones describes “faith” as not faith in God, no he absolutely denies that and says, not faith in God but the faith of God, as if faith is a force greater than God! Listen up, God has power, He doesn’t need faith.

To those that say the extra biblical pronouncements are not of God they tell us “don’t put God in a box”, but they do just that by saying you have to go to the revival physically to know if it is true or not, in other words, they are boxing God into a test of feelings. As a matter of fact, this “warning” also holds no water for the Florida phenomenon because Todd Bentley keeps talking about the anointing being transferable and for us watching by TV or Internet to touch the screen and get it. He says we don’t have to be there to catch the fire, so we certainly can discern without having to be there physically, even on his own terms.

I watched a second time for one hour (5/14/08 from about 10:00 pm – 11:00 pm). This time it was mostly healings, no preaching, perhaps there was some before this time, not sure, but now, mostly healings and Bentley cries of “bam” before he touched and/or kneed people who fell to the floor. So we saw “healings”, but they were tumors, cysts, arthritis, inward things and unverifiable things. Lupus and other things were mentioned, like growing a new womb, but no proof yet. No blind people seeing. No salvations reported either, not that I saw anyway, perhaps earlier. Lots of excitement, some “wheelchair bound” people made it to the stage and walked around, but no crippled people with new legs. Todd had one lady with him and had her stop with him behind the podium “because that is where the angel is”.

Anyway, we had Bob Jones doing his thing again, telling people to get ready for the fire to fall. There was a lot of talk of healing past wounds with the Indian people’s (called by Jones and Bentley, “First nation” people). In a way it seemed good, but a little on the pandering side. Jones talked about how they are spiritual people and if they get saved they will be dynamite because they already have experience with the spiritual realm. Wow! So it was all right for them to be held by demonic spirits? So the woman from Acts 16 whom Paul rebuked the spirit out of would be a more “powerful” Christian because she had been possessed by demons before?

Bad doctrine, no preaching, lots of hype, “new wine”, “latter rain”, “manifest sons of God”, church is changing, religious spirits are in trouble, false prophets and prophecies, flimsy healings, not much talk of sin, atonement, Bible, the gospel, sanctification, or salvation.

I don’t have to touch a fire to know it is hot.
I don’t have to go to the zoo to know there are animals there.
I don’t have to go to the top of a mountain to know that it’s above ground.
I don’t have to know the song to know someone is singing.
I don’t have to jump in the lake to know the water is wet.
I don’t have to go to a mosque to know Muslims aren’t worshiping Jesus.
I don’t have to know every person to know that some who say they know Jesus actually don’t.
I don’t have to go to heaven to know I will like it.
I don’t have to go to hell to know I don’t want to be there.
I don’t have to go to the revival to know it isn’t of God.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Connection

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.
(2 Corinthians 12:15)

When someone is talking with you and you are really listening intently they usually can tell and are eager to share more about themselves. When you show interest others become interested, and in a sense, in obeying God, it works a lot like that. If we are interested in His way, He shows us more of it more clearly. He is the only One who won’t ever ignore you when you truly seek Him. When you pour out to God He will always pour back on you.

Paul was defending his ways before the Corinthians, who had approved of false apostles and turned away from him. He says, “I’ll tell you about great and marvelous things I have seen and done, things those “super apostles” can’t even dream of let alone demonstrate. Now God hasn’t rid me of this thorn and you all run after the false apostles and despise me, and yet I still will be spent for you. That is what is going on that is what it is all about. They care about themselves, I care about you, and the poor among you, that is why I collect funds, for them, not me.”

Here we see Paul poured out and even doing so if it meant they loved him less. He will keep spending even if they don’t spend, he will keep pouring in even if it seems unfruitful to him. We can give, and give in any number of ways. But do we resent it when we give or serve? A good way to measure this is to see our reaction when our service is unappreciated. Do we resent it? If Paul’s service was unappreciated by the Corinthian Christians, he did not resent it. We need to learn to give where we can get nothing back, to lay up treasures in heaven, to trust God that He is watching our labor. Paul cared about God firstly and was poured out to Him and that is how he stayed connected even through the trials of the thorn and the anguish of being turned away.

What is worse, feeling the pain of the physical or suffering the anguish when you try and help someone and they despise you for it? For example, when your children turn from you, or think of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, or Paul understanding what the sovereignty of God meant in dealing with the Jews. Would you do it then? Would you serve God anyway, even if it meant He didn’t rescue you, didn’t revive you, didn’t restore you, and didn’t reconcile you to your loved ones? Well, that is the place where God works. That is part of the fellowship of His sufferings. Is He worth it? Yes He surely is, and when you can get to that place you will see God work like no other way you’ve known.

Pleading prayer is a start. Paul pleaded for the thorn to go away but it wouldn’t and he still was willing to sacrifice for the Corinthians. Even through God did not help him in the way he wanted, and those he was called to minister to even turned on him, still he served. That is consecration. That is powerful. That is like Christ, and that is the Holy Spirit living through you; that is connecting to God’s heart.

That is how Jesus was, how Paul was, how I hope to be, and what I am encouraging you to be like. Poured out; this is the example I am exhorting you to follow. Now I am no Apostle Paul, and Paul was only a shadow of Jesus Christ, it is Him we look to as our ultimate example, and it is only Him that can empower us to live this way. He will do it if we will get connected.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Seeker Friendly

…And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you…
(2 Corinthians 12:14 – ESV)

Surely as Christians we want to connect with people, but the best way to do that is to make sure we are connected to God first. That may bring an “of course” thought in your mind, but hear me out. It is true that showing special interest makes people feel special and gets special results. Most often, if you give it your best it will bring out their best. However, you have to remember to be looking to give not get, otherwise you will be disappointed. We often get angry because we feel we have given extras but it went unrecognized. We need to heed the lesson God is teaching us through the Apostle Paul. Pour yourself out to people, but go further than the world would and pour out your expectations as well, that is learning of Christ as Paul had done. It is when we can be poured out, spent, and not appreciated that we connect with God in a very real way.

I seek not yours but you – this is the testimony of every godly minister. They do not serve for what they can get from God’s people, but for what they can give to God’s people. Now some think they are seeking to give but they are still seeking to get, not money but recognition, approval, validation from men. Faithfulness is more important than friendliness. We do this by seeking to be connected to God, to be faithful to His Word, before we seek connection with men. A minister should be able to say that he is not seeking your approval but seeking your improvement.

This will lead to the right kind of burden, a burden to build, in the right way. Some can build the number of members, but God wants to build the members in our numbers. Some focus on church growth but God wants to focus on people growth, not numbers but godliness, not the quantity but the quality. Numbers can be wonderful if more are truly getting connected with God in a deeper way. However, chasing numbers just for the sake of more may mean more are connected overall but not percentage wise, and not very deep either. It is a mile wide and an inch deep, and leads to being led astray by chasing and feeding the monster of ministry. Before God is interested in any Christian’s ministry, He is interested in the minister.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Meat On The Bones

To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
(Philippians 3:1 – ESV)

Let me tell you something about church life, and people who claim they are not being fed. If a church pastor is using expositional preaching to teach the scriptures in a faithful manner, then it is not that people aren’t getting fed it is that they are choosing not to eat. It may seem as if all our teachers are always hitting the same note because we just don’t seem to get it right away and repetition helps in renewing our mind. Out in the world we get so many signals from other sources and it is easy to have sensory overload. That is why we need to hear “that certain sound” (1 Corinthians 14:8) once again, and again, and again. Just because you have heard it all before doesn’t mean you’ve done any of it, ever.

Situations and seemingly tough circumstances have a way of getting our eyes off the Lord. It is good to be continually brought back to focus; indeed we should always be keeping our focus in check. Those that always want a new thing haven’t as yet discovered the treasures of the old thing. We feel like we have our free pass now we want to travel the highway, but the free pass IS the highway. You do not graduate from this path; you only discover the richness of it.

Now Paul says the same things over and over, many times throughout his epistles, and especially the greetings. However, it is just like preaching which may seem boring to you, because you think you have heard it all before. It is because you do not enter in that you want to tune out. Just because someone else hits a note you’ve heard before doesn’t mean you know the whole song. You may even know the melody, but get yourself some ears so you can hear the harmony. I love to tell the story for those who know it best seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.

It is like some child who says, “yeah, yeah, I know”, but doesn’t do what you asked. God might make you have to hear it again and again until you get it – hasn’t it worked that way before with certain verses or passages for you? You read them a thousand times, but one day they jump out at you, and I sure hope this is your experience with the Word, I think it ought to be. Be ready to obey and you will be ready to hear.

You know if there were nothing new for us to learn while studying “the same old scriptures”, then our study of them would have been complete long ago. It isn’t, there is more to mine, and more applications, because there are always new situations, for us and for others. We have more trials and more to learn because of them (Psalm 119:71), and we should ask God to open up the Scriptures to us (Psalm 119:18), and He will, as we are opened up to them, ready to receive. If you feel like you are not being fed look again, there is still meat on those old bones.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother’s Day Gift

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
(3 John 4 – ESV)

We treat Mother’s Day as special and it is but it only becomes personally special when we put our person into it. A mother can know it is Mother’s Day and know her children love her but she can only feel their appreciation if they make the effort to let her know about it. Their mother may be special to them but on Mother’s Day they let her know that they think she is worthy of special recognition. People set aside special things for that special day. Mother’s Day is for us to remember that the relationship with our mother, although different now if we are married, older, and have children of our own, the relationship is still valuable and precious.

In a sense, Mother’s Day is actually a celebration of children; that is what makes a mother a mother, after all. You are her Mothers Day gift. Give her you; she gave birth to your life and/or life to your years, now bring your life back to her. Mothers want their children to be safe, to be happy, to be healthy, and these are all good things to want for our children. But to be holy, to know God, this is the greatest true safety, the greatest true satisfaction, the greatest true rest that any mother could ever wish for her children. If your mother is a Christian then the greatest Mother’s Day gift you can give to your mother is to let her see that you are walking with God. To see you saved would provide her the greatest comfort, the greatest joy, and the greatest peace.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Little Things are Big Things

Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.
(Song of Solomon 2:15 – ESV)

The little foxes spoil the vine – taking care of those little things means the vine is helped not hindered. Doing those things that seem little foster connection. Just a little extra goes a long way. How many relationships have we gone though the motions because we weren’t actually connected, or that we lost touch because we were losing touch, losing that connectedness? How many marriages has this happened to?

Being poured out is how you are connected. Now when I speak of being poured out I don’t mean you unload on everybody but you give of yourself, you don’t just go through the motions. The little extras show you care. Treating people like a number only makes them number.

Let me give an example where the men mess up, when they could really learn something from the ladies. There is a reason your wife takes so long to get a card for someone, because she wants it to be personal, not just generic. It is because it means something to her, and guys, if you think about it, give her something personal. She would rather have something you made that didn’t look or work all that good than something you just picked up at the last minute, as if it didn’t really matter. Anyone could do that, but only you can put you into a gift. They don’t want the card they want you, the effort not the resultant piece of paper. Not just a signature but also a sign, that the relationship means more than just a passive gesture.

They want passionate and genuine, that is what ignites the fires of fellowship in people, and with God. Just tithing, going to church, daily prayer, and all those otherwise good things can be done without a real heartfelt spirit. It can be done just to get it done, passive, not passionate, and your relationship grows stale. Think about it; you recognize when someone else is just going through the motions with you, why wouldn’t they, why wouldn’t God?

It would be like grandpa signing a card for the grandkids when grandma bought the card, got the gift, made the note and signed her name and all you do is sign too. If you really want to make an impact you should put something personal on the card, not just your signature. If not you are not giving something of your person, you are literally just signing off to her idea, you thought it good but you only added to it as a nod and not as she did. Oh, well that’s just grandma’s job, you might say. Oh really. It’s just a job, I see. Do better than that, give them something extra, because every little bit of sincerity counts. It is the same way with God; the little things are big things (Luke 16:10-12).


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Following Day

Then all the disciples left him and fled.
(Matthew 26:56 – ESV)

Some were coming to seize Him; some were as good as a mile away, and some were near but falling asleep. Three had been with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration and were now closest to Him in the hour of supreme crisis. But we don’t know what happened to James that night, he seems to have disappeared. Peter followed along, but betrayed His Lord when the tempting came. Only one, John, made it to the cross the following day. When the persecution happens, will you keep following Jesus? Will you make it to the cross on the “following” day?

The road to the cross leads through Gethsemane. In the silence of that night the greatest temptation and spiritual battle of all time took place. In the morning hours as Christ was about to be taken away to stand trial and to die on the cross, there were several scenarios playing out among His followers. The crowds had already gone away (John 6). The twelve were separated, the three were sleeping, and the One was suffering.

They had been told what would happen but didn’t grasp its significance. They believed in their Master but could not follow Him where He was going. They trusted in Him but didn’t realize what was happening in those moments. He was about to be taken but they weren’t anticipating it to be right then.

If you are compelled to write out a reflection or meditation you had while pondering scripture, or you are convicted about something, and that is why you talk of it to people, but no one shares in this, or they seem unresponsive, does that mean you were wrong to write or speak it? If God is leading you towards Him, but no one follows, will you turn back?

God must bring you to "feel" the silence so as to foster your sense of His being with you no matter what, when all else fails, when everyone else leaves, and when nothing else can help. Will you call on Him in the calm before the storm, or by your wandering, stopping short, or sleeping will you simply deny that a storm is coming? You’ve been with Him to Gethsemane; will you follow Him all the way to the cross?

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Flame On!

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
(Mathew 5:14 – ESV)

The Roman Emperor Nero (54-68 AD) was a madman and murderer, who arbitrarily and mercilessly crucified believers. During events at the Coliseum, he would feed Christians to lions, and he often lit his parties with the burning carcasses of Christians used as human torches. Certainly he was demonically inspired, and probably possessed, and is regarded by some as the Antichrist himself. He eventually committed suicide, and he is known more for his atrocities than his achievements. His influence didn’t last beyond his life, but those Christians whom he killed have lived on in the spirit of believers ever since.

Those martyrs may have seemed little more than fuel for the crazed monarch, but they did not die in vain. Indeed, they shined the light of Christ and stoked the fires of a movement that had just started, but that will have no end. No matter how many bodies Nero put to death, the spiritual life of Christians could not be put out. Their bodies may have burned away but their flame has never died out and it has been giving Christians fuel for faith down through the centuries. Nero and countless others have tried to snuff it out but the fire keeps on burning.

I remember watching the movie "The Perfect Storm" and I noticed how, when the waves were crashing and the wind was blowing and all the terror happening, the captain went out to fix the radio antennae using a blowtorch. My wife remarked, "How come that thing doesn't go out with all that wind and water hitting it?" It was because a blowtorch is made to withstand the elements; there is simply too much power in that firelight for it to go out. The torch has its own oxygen and fuel supply. It has enough heat and gas pressure to be immune to problems that could put it out.

I pray that God might make us like blowtorches in the midst of the dark storms ahead. The enemy and his minions cannot hide true lights from shining, so they try and silence them, but even in death, sometimes especially in death, the light burns brighter than ever.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Gospel or Gossip?

Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
(Matthew 5:15 – ESV)

It is easy to see in a well-lit place, and when there are many lights on individual lights aren’t the focus. But when there is only one light in a dark place it becomes more the focus, as it is not like the rest of the place. When something or someone is the only source of light in a dark place, it illuminates more clearly the fact that it is different. It draws more attention to itself naturally.

In a church service or conference or event, it is to be expected that everyone will act in a Christ like manner, speak of Christ, and be open to listen about Christ. All the lights are shining into a well-lit place. However, outside of the church, the conference, or the event, outside the magnified light of Christ, out in the dark world of deceit, it is a different matter. The shining light is actually more needed out there. The question becomes, does your light shine as bright when you are the only light present, when all else is darkness? Or do you turn the dimmer switch on when it is convenient for you?

You could be going to all sorts of events, concerts, conferences, and meetings with other professed believers, but if that doesn’t translate into action, not just within your own life, but spread out to other lives, it is not the true gospel you are into. It doesn’t make good biblical sense to attend meetings where you just bash the contemporary scene of worldliness, and then go out and not try and be a light in the midst of it. How is that helping? Isn’t that hypocritical?

If all you do is go to meetings and talk about how so and so is wicked or such and such thing is evil or howl and moan about the state of the church, and yet when you go back out into the everyday world you don’t live to try and bring the truth in love and light to the dark person or situation, what you are doing is not gospel but gossip. You are only proclaiming other peoples’ sin but not the good news of Jesus Christ. All you are doing is spreading the bad news to those inside the camp but not spreading the good news to those outside it.

The truth is that it is wicked out there in the world, and that is why we cannot just bemoan it but do nothing about it. We need to share the good news of Jesus Christ and His marvelous light, not only in word, but also in deed and in truth. Don’t be a dim bulb. Speaking of the problems without speaking of the Solution is gossip, not gospel. If you don’t share you don’t care.


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Monday, May 05, 2008

60 Seconds (3)

CHARACTER

During his days as a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln was approached by a stranger to secure his services. After reading a history of the man’s case, Lincoln astonished him by saying, “I cannot serve you, for you are wrong, and the other party is right.” The man replied, “That is none of your business, if I hire and pay you for taking my case.” “Not my business!” exclaimed Lincoln. “My business is never to defend wrong. I never take a case that is manifestly wrong.” “Not for any amount of pay?” said the stranger. “Not for all you are worth,” replied Lincoln.

Years ago, William Hersey Davis wrote a comparison between reputation and character:

“The circumstances amid which you live determine your reputation; the truth you believe determines your character.
Reputation is what you are supposed to be; character is what you are.
Reputation is the photograph; character is the face.
Reputation comes over one from without; character grows from within.
Reputation is what you have when you come to a new community; character is what you have when you go away.
Your reputation is learned in an hour; your character does not come to light for a year.
Reputation is made in a moment; character is built in a lifetime.
Reputation grows like a mushroom; character grows like an oak.
A single newspaper report gives you your reputation; a life of toil gives you your character.
Reputation makes you rich or makes you poor; character makes you happy or makes you miserable.
Reputation is what men say about you on your tombstone; character is what the angels say about you before the throne of God.”

We should all remember that we inherit personality, but we build character.

Dave Arnold, Pastor, Gulf Coast Worship Center, New Port Richey, Fl


“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Saturday Sermon: God's Toothpick

Reading: Judges 2:7-19 / 3:12-15, 29-31 / 4:1

Judges were deliverers who were raised up when the people cried out from oppression (2:18). Shamgar followed Ehud, a great deliverer, who brought 80 years of overall peace, but from Judges 4:1 it appears that Shamgar was a regional deliverer during the time of Ehud. This is the first mention of the Philistines as troublesome neighbors of the Israelites, and they were in the Southwest region of Canaan, and this is about 1290 BC.

The people’s disobedience was the cause of the oppression of their enemies. Sin against God led to their defeat and the decline of their way of life. Because the oppression became so great, the people groaned under the weight of it, they cried out, and God raised up judges to deliver them once again. This was a cycle of defeat and deliverance throughout the times of the judges, after Joshua, and before the kings. They were defeated, it was as if their way of life was dead, and they needed a deliverer to bring revival and victory and restore their way of life again.

He used an oxgoad – This instrument is eight feet long and about six inches in circumference, with a sharp point at the end. Not really a weapon at all, but a device used to drive working animals. God used it through Shamgar to drive back the Philistines.

Judges 5:6-8 – No weapons (1 Samuel 13:19-23, this is Philistine way) and the people were in fear traveling on back roads. Shamgar is described as having been one of the prior rulers, in whose days roads were abandoned, with travelers taking undeveloped paths, with the village life in distress. That part of the country next to the Philistines was so infested with plunderers that people could not travel the open roads in safety. They were ripe for plunder; they had no defense. The people were being oppressed and their land was being possessed.

The people were impoverished; there were no swords, no defenses, no power, no way out of their oppression. The enemy was so entrenched and fortified and bold that the people hid in the shadows for fear. Sin does that to us as Christians. We are either actively possessing the land of our souls for Christ, or the enemy is making inroads, setting up outposts which turn into strongholds. We will either drive the enemy out, or we will be driven back. The Puritan John Owen said, “be killing sin, or it will be killing you”. When we, through our disobedience and unbelief, allow the enemy to start invading our lives, our families, our churches, and our communities, then the people of God will be driven to hide in shame and helplessness. Their way of life seems dead, there is no power, they had lost their ability to resist the inroads of the enemy, and they need a revival. That is when God raises a deliverer.

Shamgar used the only resource he had but God made it enough. The only weapon He had was the instrument of his daily work. How often do we forget that our homes and our workplaces are a battleground and plowing field? Now we don’t attack people but we must be doing our work God’s way, shining as lights, being bold to live out the gospel, not mouthing off to people, but being excellent in our duties, faithful to be honest, helping others.

We need to be like Shamgar, working as unto the Lord, doing what we are supposed to be doing, not sinking back into the shadows because of our own disobedience, and letting the enemy of our souls make inroads into our way of life, dimming our shining light before the world. The rest of the world is defeated; as Christians we can’t afford to let the only light they may have be drowned out by our own disobedience. When the world is darkest and there is no hope that is when God’s people can shine brightest, and when deliverers are raised up, to show God’s people that they are still free and others that God is still setting men free.

A huge problem today is that we often think that we are not hiding in the shadows of sin because we are not “sinning” as bad as we used to. But I am talking about more than that. We cannot think that we aren’t hiding away when all we do is live our Christian life isolated from the non-Christian world. We cannot be so content to occupy the back roads that the enemy has made inroads to our main roads. They may leave us alone for now, but they will advance if we don’t stand for Christ. I am talking about spiritually, of course. We cannot sit back and retreat into a Christian ghetto, isolating ourselves into our little Christian caves, because the enemy will eventually make its way into any place we retreat to. No, we must live boldly as martyrs out there in the real world, proclaiming the gospel even if it means, and especially if it means, persecution. We must be living the light of Christ, out in the open, out where people can see us, can see the light, and can experience Christ through our lives and our witness.

Shamgar was plowing, occupying his own piece of land despite everyone else fleeing and fearing and leaving off normal business. This is probably why he was challenged. When the rest of the people are falling into sin or simply compromising, their bold witness is lost. That is when we need modern day deliverers to stand as a standard of the Lord, to give hope to the helpless. This is why we need judges today, to show the people just how far they have fallen into sin and away from the power of God to shine as lights in this dark world. The judges’ example judges the sin, it says no, we as Christians do not have to live in fear, we do not have to hide in the shadows, we do not have to act like the rest of the world, we will stand up when the world is beating us down, even if we are put down into the grave for it.

Their example judges the sin, but it also points to Him, to Christ, who has judged sin, and who empowers us all to be delivered out of the hands of the enemy, from out of the shadows, out from the fear, and back into the highways of holiness, shining again as bright lights to the way of God. We need a revival of true religion today. The answer is not simply “come to our cave” unless it is also “go out and be brave”.

The application of this passage is not about a physical battle but a spiritual battle (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 / Ephesians 6:10-18). We may feel that we are not equipped, but look at what Shamgar had to use, we may not as yet have our minds renewed as they ought to be, and we may have let our sword go dull, but our spiritual weapons are available and we need to avail ourselves of them. We need to fast, we need to pray, we need to read our Bibles, we need to work as unto God, we need to witness, and we need to live with holy boldness and holy gladness. It is our duty to keep our minds sober and our sword sharp. We need the word of God, we are in danger of losing our sword, we are living the words of Amos 8:11-12. We will either use it or lose it.

It is not about political victory or physical power but standing in the power of the Lord and the strength of His might. When we are doing what we are supposed to be doing and wearing the armor of God then that is when we will stand out from the cowering crowd and be attacked. However, instead of this making us cowards it is testing us so that we may see just how strong this armor actually is. 600 Philistines said, oh yeah, you little farmer, we’ll show you what happens when someone defies us by taking a stand, but God showed them what happens when one man stands in the power of the Lord! We need a revival of the Word of God, we need to stop sin from stealing our sword, and keep the enemy from running us over and ruining our witness.

Now this wasn’t a foolhardy man who just got his dander up and went out in a rash manner. No this was a man with true conviction whom God raised up. He didn’t go out looking for the fight it came to him, and he was made ready to defend, to deliver, to declare the power of God. Believe me God will raise up His lights to shine in the darkness even in small corners where no one else may recognize it right away but the powers of darkness will be driven back all the same.

Shamgar was a man of character, a man God raised up, a man who made a stand. He was willing to be harassed, to suffer for being out in the open, to fight and he was intentional. You might have to go at it alone, like Shamgar, and like another farmer, the prophet Amos. During the darkest times the brightest lights will come forth shining as a flaming fire. During the time of Ahab and Jezebel we see God raising up Elijah and Elisha. During the time of the dark ages and the apostasy of the church we see God raising up the reformers like Martin Luther. In the darkest periods of humanity is when the church should shine brightest.

What does that say about us today, considering the condition of our world and the condition of the American church? Who will God raise up to be a Shamgar to this generation? Many, in God’s providence, this is my prayer, that many will fight the battle on their own little battlefield. They may be unnoticed but they will still be empowered by God to wage war in their own place, not worried about gaining recognition as some big time super saint, but willing to lay down their lives for the cause of Christ in the place where they are. We may never know their names this side of heaven, but God sees them as we see Shamgar, a mighty deliverer, a declarer of God’s righteousness and His faithfulness to His people.

Hearing this message, it may cause you to think or you may have heard people say things like, “I wish I had those gifts, I wish could get to do that, I wish I had that big ministry, I wish I could get a break”. Christian, not every one is called to be an Ehud, a John the Baptist, a Martin Luther, a John Wesley, or an Apostle Paul, but everyone has the chance to be a Shamgar. If you are ready and willing God will make you able.

Still, how can you say that you are ready and willing to do the big things when you aren’t ready and willing and doing the little things? Believe me God shows us here that Shamgar was important, and even if no one else notices God does, and it is important to Him. He is the one passing out the rewards anyway, so don’t worry about the size or recognition, concern yourself with being found faithful to use what you have been given.

Christians are too often acting helpless, being terrorized by the enemy, seemingly without weapons, unable to resist the enemy, and in fear. Will God use you as a deliverer? You may be outnumbered, perhaps even alone, but this would inspire others. This gives people hope to see someone overcome the enemy when conditions are bad. Think of David – Psalm 3:6-7 – (sing).

Ehud seems to be the main, national deliverer during this time, and Shamgar had a smaller role, but it is a big lesson for us. Some might not seem to be victorious in their particular scenarios, but their place is part of the overall victory, not all battles are won in a war, but all are important pieces of the puzzle.

He also” or even he – even Shamgar, the man of no big reputation, God used even him, and he can use even you. Scripture is filled with ordinary men and women who did extraordinary things. Shamgar is an example of a man who was willing to be used by God for the purpose God designed for him. Shamgar was ready when God needed him, for the place and time God had for him. Even his name is of uncertain meaning; he was of no status but to God. But it isn’t your background, but your backbone that matters to God.

No Christian should think their role is insignificant in God’s sight. Challenges will come our way, and all Christians will suffer persecution of some sort, no matter how entrenched in an isolated cave they get. Still, all Christians can be a Shamgar in those tough times if they act with faith and courage, if they confront the local enemy that terrorizes God’s people.

When we don’t stand up for God and live holy lives, we as a rule slide back and out of sight. Instead of us being bold the enemy grows bold and begins to oppress us, to keep us down and invade and terrorize and take territory. Spiritually our churches suffer, our families suffer, and our lives suffer. The witness of God is clouded over and all that the people do is worry about their own sins and how they cannot get free. That is when a deliverer is raised up to shine the light again, and evangelism and discipleship happen, the word of God is magnified, the name of God is glorified, the people of God are edified, and the kingdom of God is multiplied.

So what do we need to do? We need to rise up like Shamgar. But how are we to do that, how can we battle back the massive tidal wave of sin and godlessness in our society, what can we do as one church, as one person, in one community? How can we raise up a revival when we cannot get up ourselves? It would seem as if there is no hope for a Shamgar today.

No, we cannot be like Shamgar, actually, not until we see that we need to be delivered and that Jesus is our ultimate deliverer. When He came on the scene there was spiritual darkness greater than at any time in Israel’s history. True believers were living in fear, taking the back roads, unable to overcome. Until John the Baptist the Jews had been without a prophet for 400 years. They were under Roman rule and religion had apostatized under the Pharisees. Now here comes Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, a lowly carpenter, no weapons in His hand, nailed to a cross, seemingly defeated and yet ultimately victorious. In this insignificant first century little old Israel, this most massive event of consequence took place.

Jesus is our righteous judge, He is the One who has delivered us from sin, death, and hell, and only He can cause us to rise up to declare His righteousness, in the place we are at, the place of grace. The Savior has won the war, and He causes us to be spiritual Shamgar’s to deliver His people in battles all over His world.

Friend, Jesus delivered you and His people while the rest of the world was mocking and laughing, and His disciples were in fear. The world can laugh at you and your insignificant little life, and your Christian friends can be living in fear, but if you trust Jesus and give glory to God, He will raise you up like Shamgar to show the light of Christ like a flaming fire to a dark and desperate world, and He will use you to help your brothers and sisters in Christ to also rise up again, and He will use you to help deliver souls from hell. You don’t have to be some ministry big shot. Christ has been raised up and He wants to raise you up to show forth His unconquerable deliverance. You can start a revival, you can be raised up, cry out to God today, and be used whenever, wherever, and however He sees fit.

The truth is that the Philistines remained a thorn in Israel’s side for many years later. Shamgar wasn’t the only or the final deliverer. The Philistines were still around, waiting to give Israel much trouble, but Shamgar did what God raised him up to do. He was raised up for a revival in that part of the land for that time. Believe me, those people he delivered were just as joyful at what the Lord did thorough him as with anything else. To them he was the deliverer.

You may not drive back the enemy fully, but you can fight fully in the power of the Lord and His might, and set those free whom God has called you to, in your own life, in your home, your work, your school, your church, your community, your world. No, Shamgar didn’t stop the Philistines from advancing forever, but he did have the satisfaction of a life lived for the Lord. He was willing to die that the power of God might live through him, and for that one moment, at least, God used him to do something supernatural. God made his life count.

That is the essence of revival, that God would allow us to arise from the dead and be the instrument of His grace, to make a difference, and there is great satisfaction in that. Let us not be satisfied until we see a revival in our own lives, in our church, and in our world. Oh Father, that you would empower us with your Spirit so that we may shine the light of Christ for your glory. Raise us up, send a revival, let us live out your Word, and drive back the enemy, amen.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

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