Tuesday, April 30, 2019

April 30 Thought for the day...the cure for boredom

All of us get bored at one time or another. Put on any sporting event on TV, and I am there instantly. The danger is when we get spiritually bored. People go from church to church, teacher to teacher, event to event always wanting more but is that really the problem. James challenges that line of thinking.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22

Spiritual boredom is caused primarily by one thing, knowledge without application is boredom. If all you do is listen to the word, listen to the next teaching without ever living it out you will get bored, always looking for the next great thing when in reality the next great thing is your application of the word the Lord sends you week after week otherwise you will become weak after weak!

The Word of God is living and active, but if we are not active with it, then we slowly begin to die spiritually. Being a doer of the word requires discipline in your prayer life and in your spiritual walk. People who are doers are never bored because the application of God's Word is an adventure.

The phrase use "just listen" is a classical Greek term meaning to "audit a class without getting credit." This is what happens to the "hearers" as the KJV puts it. They simply audit the class, are entertained by it, but never intend to apply it to be useful. Thus the boredom.

Ask yourself...

Am I serious about the Word of God and its application in my life? Or am I simply an “auditor” who has no intention of doing the Word? Am I doing something with the Word I’ve heard preached, or am I among those who hear the Word but do not act on what they have heard? Does God consider me to be a listener or a doer of the Word?

America is full of listeners but changing our nation will only be done by doers. Are you oversaturated with Christian Television, radio, books, magazines, sermons? If so, begin doing the word, change your life, and the world in the process. Those in my church, if you simply begin to apply what I spend hours seeking the Lord for every week, I guarantee you will never be bored but have a grand adventure and in the process change the world.

Monday, April 29, 2019

April 29 Thought for the day....communication can be tricky

Communicating with people is a tricky thing. It has become increasingly difficult because of texting and other forms of written communication where without proper context of "tone," unfortunately, things can be easily misunderstood. Paul didn't have to worry about texting, but he did have to worry about speaking to an audience in a way that they could hear him.

"for as I was walking along, I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about." Acts 17:23

As I mentioned before, Athens was a city of great idolatry (see April 25). Paul could have easily condemned them for this idol worship by pointing out the pagan idolatry and attacking it head-on. Instead, he was concerned about Athenians "hearing" the Gospel so rather than attacking, he used grace. The word interpreted "shrine" here was not a negative connotation but meant more like places of devotion. Paul saw their devotion to so many idols and decided to reach them where they were.

Paul was speaking to some of the most brilliant minds of the ancient world. Like Jesus and the woman at the well, he did not condemn but spoke to them from where they were. They were religious men with many gods, so in God's wisdom, he spoke to them about the idol he had before him, "To an Unknown God." If Paul would have criticized their idols, biblically he would have been correct, but spiritually he would have missed reaching the people. If he attacked their gods, they would have at least stopped listening and at most arrested him.

He didn't need to attack their gods. Instead, He showed them the real God! Can you see this in situations in your life? There are plenty of situations for us to condemn, there is rampant sin in our friends, families, and co-workers. The Lord loves them and desires for them to come to Him and to repent, but we must use wisdom to show them Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to bring conviction on their brokenness or have them come to us after they have come to Christ to help them walk the walk!

Friday, April 26, 2019

April 26 Thought for the day...you can't dream big enough

Are there ever days where you wonder if God has any plans for you? I would bet most of us feel that way at one time or another. Paul tells us that we should be amazed at God's plan.

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him. But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his, Spirit searches out everything and shows us God's deep secrets." 1 Corinthians 2:9,10

How vivid is your imagination? I can imagine pretty expansively. Paul is saying even with a great imagination you can't grasp what God has planned for you. Think about that God loves you and no matter how down you may feel God still has a plan for you that is beyond your wildest imagination!

These verses that could be translated, "The heart of man could never dream, imagine, or conjure up the things God has prepared for them that love Him." The issue is, man is limited in the scope of being able to understand how grand God's view and the plan is for our lives. Even the greatest imaginations can't comprehend the vastness and greatness of God's plan. So why would God tease us with this thought?

Paul is not teasing us, but instead giving us a taste, to encourage us to want to seek God for all He has. Paul goes on to tell us as we press into the Holy Spirit, He will "reveal" all the things of the Spirit. The word, "reveal" means to unveil, pull back the curtain so you may see clearly what has been hidden from you.

The Holy Spirit reveals His plan, purpose, and guides us to our destiny. Our only requirement is to seek Him and allow Him to guide us. I am continually blown away by what the Lord shows me nearly every day, and I am excited to think about what He will show me next.

Think about your hopes and dreams, I am sure they are amazing, but they are limited to what you can think. As you seek Him, the Lord will go beyond your dreams to show you a plan and a destiny that will blow you away. Don't allow the enemy to lie to you and cause you to feel hopeless or dreamless. God's got you!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

April 25 Thought for the day...up for the challenge?

Many books have been written about spiritual warfare and the battles we face. But we are not called simply to battle in warfare but to win. Paul faced an intense war, he recognized it, and he won!

"Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols." Acts 17:16

I know some of the places we work and live can be quite a challenge when it comes to being Jesus to the people there, let me give you some insights into what Paul was facing.

Athens was an idolatrous city. One Greek writer from this time said, "there are more idols in Athens than people." It was a center for art, drama, intellectual pursuits, the idea of democracy was founded there. Many of the world's leading thinkers came from there. Every form of greed, thievery, fornication, and adultery was freely exercised there. Homosexuality was not only practiced but was common and considered fashionable. If there were an ancient city that would bear the mark 666, for humans being sold out to human's selfish desires, Athens would be it. Into this type of spiritual environment, Paul came to bring Jesus. How does this compare to your neighborhood or workplace?

The idea of the city being "given over" to idols meant the city was completely sold out, overrun with their minds, attitudes, personalities, and judgments all being controls by the idolatrous mindset. This would be similar in our region to those given over to heroin.

When Paul was surrounded by all of this Luke (the writer of Acts) tells us that Paul's spirit was "provoked" this word means Paul became incensed at the situation deep in his heart, he became militant. In other words, Paul saw all of the sin, brokenness, blindness of the people and became militant toward the enemy of their souls to march in and bring freedom to the people. The challenge for Paul, like our challenge in our culture, is would he become afraid of the enemy, feel overwhelmed by the enemy or be up for the challenge, take the enemy straight on knowing that greater is He that was in Paul then he that is in the world! Paul was up for the challenge! People were set free, the city was impacted, the world was changed! You are facing much the same, the idols are not made of stone but are just as powerful, but they still need Jesus! Are you up for the challenge?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

April 24 Thought for the day...the value of remembering

Memories are a tricky thing on one hand that can play with us and make use believe something in our past was not that bad. On the other hand, if not maintained, it is easy to forget things that are important. This was the problem for the church in Ephesus.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. Revelation 2:5

The church in Ephesus had been one of the most thriving churches in the world. It was surrounded by idolatry and every kind of perversion, but in the midst of all of this, they had grown to be a powerful family and had changed their world. However, in just a few short years they had "fallen" from their former glory. To outsiders, they might have looked as if they were still strong, but they had fallen on the inside.

When Jesus says "remember" here is saying, constantly continually reflect, think about your past. This is an intentional act Jesus is telling the church to do. He wants them to remember the fire they once had when they first came to the Lord. He wants them to remember how "lost" they once were and how the impact of God's grace made them free. He wants them to remember, how they once desired to share the love, hope, and joy they had been given with others. These were all things they had forgotten and "fallen" from.

The word "fallen," means they had already completely collapsed, not that they were in process. It is most likely that their fallen nature was not an obvious sin, but more likely they had gotten caught up in religion. Rather than having a living relationship with Jesus they had walked away from the intimacy of prayer, being in the Word, sharing that love with others, all the things that keep us fresh. They had become satisfied with going to church rather than being the church. Jesu was part of their life rather than being life. They had gotten caught up in a form of religion rather than remembering that Jesus is Life!

The enemy might not be able to get you to fall into some kind of sin but he is very slick at robbing you of life and the abundant life Christ has called us to. Remember where you came from, what He has set you free from, remember His Word, remember to talk with Him always, remember to be the church not just attend! There is value in remembering!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

April 23 Thought for the day... be a puzzle piece not a cookie cutter

The United States is known for being a strong independent nation and people, and in many ways, it has served us well. However, that would be a misnomer to judge the nation that way. We are strong only when we work together. Which is one of the very reasons I worry about the United States right now? Now more than ever the world and especially America needs the church to function in unity. Paul addresses this need.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12

Each of us is given great strengths, skills, and talents. We can use these gifts to impact our world, but Paul is saying here that we are better and stronger together.

When Paul uses the word "many" here, it means not only high quantities but also means great varieties. There is so much uniqueness in the Body of Christ and God has created this uniqueness because we need it to reach such a unique and diverse world. As believer's when we come together and value each other's gifts and in a complimentary way work with one another the work is so much easier and much more effective! Think of the Body as each piece of a puzzle unique but creating a beautiful scene when put together.

People have a false understanding of unity. Some believe it is a time when we sit and all sing Kum-bai-yah, together. While that is a type of unity that is not what Paul is talking about here. When Christians come together to accomplish a common goal, each one using their unique giftings, skills, and personalities to accomplish this common goal that is real unity. The world is not interested in cookie-cutter Christianity. What they need to see is the uniqueness and diversity of the Body of Christ working together to bring hope to the world.

When we work together using our abilities, as different as they are, to accomplish a common goal, the Holy Spirit empowers it in a great way, and the blessing of the Lord is poured out in greater measure. The things of man, doctrine, culture, and creeds will not bring the powerful unity we need only the Holy Spirit can do it.

In Kyrgyzstan, many years ago, God was able to use me to bring together the Pentecostals, Charismatics, Baptist, and the Orthodox for the first time that anyone had known. A crusade was held in the nation, and over 5000 came to Christ. Unity does not mean we have to agree on everything, but we have do have to use our skills, talents, personalities, and abilities to work together to present Jesus in a way everyone can understand!

You are unique, especially gifted to reach a people that others may not be able. Your personality is one that certain people will see as a gift and others may not appreciate, but it was given to you to touch your world in a way that brings hope and freedom. It will fit like a puzzle piece not a cookie cutter with others so the whole picture can be seen by the world.

Monday, April 22, 2019

April 22 Thought for the day...how to not have God fight with you!

I have had many talk to me about the attacks of the enemy. Yes, he does attack, but as children of God, he has no authority to win. What the enemy does do well, is deceive, if he can get a Christian to allow their pride, arrogance, selfishness, or other things to rise up, then God has no choice but to stand against us (many people blame the devil, but it is we who have to accept blame)

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

James was running into a problem. Some in the church had decided they wanted to do things their own way rather than submitting to their leadership and God. They did it in such a way as to appear holy and righteous but were deceived, they were Christian but still deceived. Because of James love for the people, the Lord gave him this directive.

The word for "opposes" is not simply the idea of one person standing against another. The Greek word here is a military term referring to an entire company standing against an opposition, preparing to crush them. When we allow pride to enter our lives, especially as Christians, God loves us enough to arrange events that will return us to a humble heart.

Speaking of "humble" the meaning behind this word is that someone was once prideful, realized the error of their ways and has fully repented and is walking in a way that allows God to make them a recipient of grace. They are now able to avoid the discipline of the Lord because of their submission to Him. While we are talking about submission, in context, it generally means a purposeful willingness to surrender as an act of your will (to God).

The discipline of the Lord is as real today as it was 2000 years ago. Many think they can dismiss it because we are in an age of grace. For a Christian to willingly choose to arrogantly stand against God, His Word or the authority that God has placed in their lives is to place yourself in a direct battle with God. Ask the Lord if you are doing this in any area of your life. If you are, choose to humble yourself and rest in God's grace. A person who has no authority over their life will have no authority in their life. God has called us all to function in power and authority, but if we find ourselves in a fight with God, He loves us enough to make us lose every time and come back to Him!

Friday, April 19, 2019

April 19 Thought for the day....ready for God to promote you

Paul told Timothy to entrust the things of the Kingdom to faithful men. Faithfulness is very important to God, He only promotes those whom He trusts. Jesus said there is a way that the Father finds if He can promote us.

"Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" Luke 16:11

One of the most significant issues people face is in the financial realm. How you handle finances is a very spiritual thing. How we manage and respect them is a test God uses to assess if we are ready for higher levels of blessing, prosperity, responsibility, and authority. In this verse, Jesus is saying God is watching how we manage our money to determine if we are ready for promotion.

The word "faithful" means responsible, conscientious, and trustworthy. To not be faithful means to be irresponsible, thoughtless, rash, and untrustworthy with "unrighteous mammon.""Unrighteous" meaning unspiritual, common, worldly, something that belongs to the world. "Mammon," an ancient Greek word meaning "money." So unrighteous mammon is the common currency of this world and the buying power that goes along with it.

"True riches" means authentic, genuine, real. Money which seems so real and so powerful in our world is nothing compared to the power of God. Heavenly power and heavenly riches far surpass the authority and power of money. For those who have been faithful and reliable, God will upgrade their level of spiritual power and authority operating through them. According to this verse God watches how we manage our money before He decides if he can upgrade our level of authority and power.

How you handle and manage your money is far more important than you may realize. If you learn faithfulness with the lowest form of power in this world, money, God knows you can be trusted with real spiritual riches that are unequaled in power. If your spending is out of control, you can't control your debt, you are not tithing or able to give to other works the Lord speaks to you about, then you are failing the test.

God's plan is for your financial freedom and for you to move in power. Our job is to pass the test, be faithful with our finances, debt, tithe, and giving. God wants us to have freedom and wants the world to see His people flow in greater authority and power. We must make the choice to be faithful for the Lord to trust us enough to promote.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

April 18 Thought for the day...no missed opportunities

Have you noticed there are some opportunities, (jobs, investments, purchases)  that we must take advantage quickly? There are things that happen, and we have to know that now is the time and this is the opportunity! The natural opportunities are something we have to use wisdom and intelligent decision-making techniques to make them work for us, but there is one opportunity that we simply need our Father's heart not to miss out!

"I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work." John 9:4

Jesus is giving us an example of opportunities all around us. First, He is saying here that every "day" because of the Father's heart for people, we have opportunities to share the good news of the powerful love of Christ to people in our lives.

Jesus is saying it is something in all of us that should be a driving force. When He says "I must," He is saying,  I am compelled, I have no choice, there is no option, it is essential to do "the works" of Him. "The works" means it is something that completely occupies our thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

The idea of "sent" gives the picture of a specific assignment, task, or mission of which we will be held accountable. It could be said this way, "I was given a very specific mission, I will answer to the one who sent me for how I carry out this assignment.

Jesus alerts us that there are limitations to our opportunities (day). The Father will give them to us, but we only have the time He specifically gives us. There will be a time, where if we do not take advantage of the opportunity, it will be lost to us.

Another way of saying this verse is, "We are compelled by the Father to complete the task the He will provide for us. He gives us opportunities, very specific to who we are and where we are, and we must accept that we only have limited time to fulfill what He has called us to do and we are accountable to Him for these opportunities."

Each of us is unique in our gifts, talents, personalities, God created us that way to bless us and to impact our world. You will change your world if you take the opportunities God provides for you. It may be totally different than the opportunities someone else is given, but it is just as important. Don't miss out! No missed opportunities

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

April 17 Thought for the day....can you make it right?

Have you ever been offended? Have you ever had your feelings hurt? Have you ever been jerked around? If you are human of course, you have. Jesus gives us some wisdom to handle these situations.

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23,24

So many times in our lives, little things flare up between friends. They often are quick emotional responses that don't need to become anything more but if we dwell on them, allow an offense to set into our lives, then they become bigger than they should be. Soon there is a major offense and a breach in the relationship.

Jesus is saying, if you come to meet with the Lord with your giving, your time, your service and all of a sudden the Holy Spirit alerts you to something, stop what you are doing and deal with it. The word used for something quite literally means "anything." In other words, if the Holy Spirit alerts you to anything, that means He considers it important. It is most likely something which will hinder who you are or your walk. So pay attention, if the Lord brings something to mind! Even if it's not your fault!

The word "reconciled" means mutual concession after mutual hostility. It is the idea of choosing to let something go and refusing to let it be an issue. Jesus is calling us to make things right between us. Most of the problems between brothers and sisters in Christ are often insignificant and if let go, will be something that you can laugh about later. It is often our pride that gets in the way and allows an offense to take hold. We need to ask, is this a legitimate and serious or is it something that we have let get out of hand. Jesus is saying, the Holy Spirit doesn't just bring things up for fun. He brings them up for us to handle. We can even still disagree, but we will agree to not allow the difference of opinion hurt our relationship anymore.

Unfortunately, there are people who will not reconcile with us. For whatever reason, they would rather allow something to control them rather than let it go. If you have done what the Holy Spirit has asked you to do, then you need to let it go and allow the Holy Spirit to keep working on the other person. However, you can feel free to come back and allow the Holy Spirit to work through you in all of your gifts, giving, and ministry.

All of our relationships can be complicated, but the Lord wants them all to be blessed. Allow Him to bless you!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

April 16 Thought for the day...now or later but everyone will!

The first time Jesus came, it was in a humble manger. Some shepherds saw him there beside his parents as the only witnesses to that lowly entrance into this world (the wise men came two years later). The next time it is going to be different!

"Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord..." Philippians 2:9-11

There is a time coming when Jesus will return. It could be tomorrow. It could be one hundred years from now. Regardless, we have a job to do until then. However, when He returns it will not be as a lowly babe in a manger. This time He will return as King and Lord over all! Because He came the first time and was obedient to destroy the works of the enemy and ransom you and me, He has been given the right of highest honor. "At that name, every knee will bow!"

When Paul is making this statement about "bowing," he is saying all authority, power, and dominion is in Christ. Every person living and dead will humbly bow with honor and respect to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Hell will stop for a moment, and every person in torment will bow. In the second heaven, every demon and Satan himself will stop and bow. On earth, every human will stop and bow. In heaven, all the saints and angels will stop and bow.

We need to help people understand they will either bow now in this life or bow to Him in hell. Christ is Lord and King. We need to do our best to help people recognize that before it is too late. People in hell will bow, but their opportunity for redemption has passed.

"Every tongue shall declare" means that everyone everywhere, heaven, hell, or earth will all shout at the top of their lungs that Jesus Christ is Lord. If we confess Jesus to be Lord right now, we are assured heaven, but if we wait until this date, it will be to admit they we wrong and our penalty will feel even more severe.

Please encourage your friends that Jesus return is real. We may not know when the only true sign we have is "the Gospel of the Kingdom being preached throughout the whole earth." Something like this could happen tomorrow or one hundred years from now, but it will happen. A life fully surrendered to Jesus is an exciting full life, filled with freedom, hope, love, and joy. Help your friends to know that know because whether they want to or not, they will make a confession someday! 

Monday, April 15, 2019

April 15 Thought for the day...trusting God

Have you ever found yourself being unjustly accused and then on top of that needing to just keep your mouth shut? For most Christians fighting to be like Jesus, we find ourselves in that position. Every Pastor I know finds themselves in that position regularly. We are all in good company!

"And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled." Matthew 26:57

We know from other "thoughts" that Jesus was powerful enough to knock the soldiers down with a word, at the same word, raised the dead, and also healed. We know he could have called, at a minimum, enough angels to outnumber the humans in the world at that time over 44,000:1. We also know His love for mankind overwhelmed Him.

With that in mind, as Matthew writes this scenario, he is telling us a few very important things. The phrase "laid hold of" means to forcibly and strongly grab and hold. Jesus had just done everything I mentioned, yet now allows himself to be manhandled by these soldiers. However, the phrase "led away" is the word picture of a sheep with a rope around his neck being guided by a shepherd. Jesus wasn't being bound and gagged, dragged, to the high priest, He was willingly going without a commotion or fight (fulfilling Isaiah 53:7).

Jesus did nothing illegal, he had broken no laws of man but still angered the religious leaders. The high priest and his father-in-law were both Sadducees, this meant they believed all the miraculous stories were mere myths and that miracles did not happen. The raising of Lazarus from the dead was particularly troublesome because so many near Jerusalem knew the story and could verify the miracle. It was so troublesome that were determined even to kill Lazarus, again! Jesus was a threat to their way of life, their power and money. This is where the idea of the love of money being the root of all evil, really fits.

Peter tells us that in this situation Jesus chose to draw closer to the Father. 1 Peter 2:23 "who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;." 

Jesus is once again leading by example. When we are unjustly accused. When we are treated poorly. Choose to draw closer to the Lord. Don't blame! Don't fear! For people who are Christ followers, it is a matter of trust. I know this is very hard, but if we believe God is everywhere (omnipresent), God knows everything (omniscient) and is all-powerful (omnipotent) then we can choose to understand He is there, He knows, and He will deal with whatever we need if we choose to trust Him!

Friday, April 12, 2019

April 12 Thought for the day...an unexpected result

We have heard that God can and will do exceeding and abundantly beyond all we could hope or ask. The question is, do we expect it? Something really unexpected happened in the garden that night.

"Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, 52 and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked." Mark 14:51,52

Is it the fact that a man was naked in Gethsemane unexpected? Well yes, but in an unexpected way. I have heard it preached that this young man was "John Mark" the scribe of this Gospel. I have heard a few other theories of who this young man may have been as well. I think Jesus' power and might, make this young man very special...stay with me, probably something you may have never thought of!

Linen was used for two types of clothing in the New Testament period. It was used for priestly garments and burial clothes. John Mark would not have been wearing a linen garb. When Jesus was buried, he was buried in linen. When a person was buried during this time they were naked, covered with spices and wrapped in linen.

Gethsemane, as I mentioned in a previous "thought for the day," was covered with olive trees, rocks, and graves. When Jesus said, "I am He" the power from the Lord knocked the soldiers down, and I believe that same power raised a young man, wrapped in a linen cloth, from the dead. Jesus displayed His amazing power in such a way as to remind people that no one had the power to take His life. He healed Malchus' ear, and I believe that same power caused a young man to rise from the dead and go looking for who had raised him.

This young man "followed" Him. The word means to continuously follow Him, In other words, even though others fled with the guards, he proceeded to pursue Jesus until he was revealed and they tried to capture him. As anyone who had been buried, he had no undergarments but was naked when his linen cloth, (not cloak, not tunic), was taken from him.

Think about how much power Jesus possessed and still possesses to perform such an "accidental" miracle. Just imagine what can happen in our lives when we begin to trust Him completely. What kind of unexpected results can happen for us? What things of exceeding abundance can the Lord do for us? One of our most significant struggles as members of the Body of Christ is the limitations we have placed on God. Ask Him what limitations you have placed on Him, repent and then look for unexpected results!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

April 11 Thought for the day...an example of real spiritual warfare!

There are so many times when I am threatened with some kind of battle or warfare (mostly spiritual), and I have to decide how am I going to fight this thing. Too often my first response is fleshly but when we compare to what God can do it does seem pitiful. I know this might not make sense but let's look at something Jesus said.

"Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?" Matthew 26:53

Peter in his attempt to defend and protect Jesus pulled a sword on Malchus and an army of 300-600 trained soldiers. How ridiculous was such an attempt in light of Jesus words, let me explain.

Jesus said the Father would send more than twelve legions of angels if He wanted. Jesus used "legions" because he knew everyone would understand. A legion was 6000 men. At a minimum, Jesus was saying God was willing to send at least 72,000 angels to Jesus' aid. Alone that was a significant force against any opposing army and would easily defeat 300-600 soldiers in the garden or anywhere.

Angels are much more powerful than mankind. We are told in Isaiah 37:36 that one lone angel defeated 185,000 soldiers. So if one angel could easily defeat 185,000 men 12 legions (at a minimum) would be able to defeat nearly twice the human population on the earth today (13B+).

Two things are vital for us to realize. First: No one forced Jesus to go to the cross. He had potentially a 44,400:1 ratio angels to humans, He chose to be ridiculed, tortured, and die for us. Two: Peter's attempt with the sword was an excellent example of the way we move in the flesh versus the power we have at our disposal by moving in the Spirit.

It is so pitiful for us to try to win our battles in our own strength. The devil is not an equal with God, he is merely a fallen angel who desires worship. We waste so must time struggling, by trying to accomplish our things through our own strength, when all power and all authority are in Christ.

When you are in a battle the next time, remember this verse. Remember who you are in Christ and whose you are! It is time that we showed the world who Jesus really is and exposes the devil for who he is. Be the overcomer you have been called to be. Don't fight according to the flesh but war according to the Spirit!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

April 10 Thought for the day.....being there for others in their messes

Have you ever had a friend or family member get into such a mess that if you didn't help them, they were never going to make it? The night Jesus was betrayed that happened to Peter.

When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered and said, “Permit even this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. Luke 22:49-51

Let's set the scene, John tells us that 300-600 soldiers just came to arrest Jesus. Judas had just kissed Him. They asked if He was Jesus and when He said, "I am He!" All of the soldiers got knocked on their backsides. Right after that is when trouble starts.

Peter decided that even though Jesus, just by speaking, knocked the soldiers over like dominos, he still needed to defend Jesus with a sword. Malchus was the servant of the high priest, and as such, he would have been very well known in the community. Peter, by an utter act of ignorance and stupidity, allowed his emotions to get the better of him and slices off the ear of Malchus. For Peter, this meant certain jail time and worse that he would not be able to use for the Kingdom.

Jesus had just been sweating blood in prayer, was being betrayed, and arrested, regardless of this He stops everyone saying, "Permit even this," in other words, give me a moment. He stops everything and everyone, knowing He is on His way to ridicule, torture, the cross, and three days in the tomb, to help a friend in a mess.

Jesus "touches" Malchus. This word means not to lightly touch but he, more or less, grabbed him by the head, got his attention and "healed" (to completely restore) his ear. He saved Peter from jail time and not being able to fulfill the ministry God had planned for him.

Often, friends and family will get into trouble, much of the time it is their own fault, it is easy to allow them to wallow in their self- imposed pain. Jesus gave us the example that if we have the ability to do good for all people even if it was their own stupidity or ignorance, we should. We have no idea how many times the Lord has done the same for us. His grace is sufficient for us, let us have grace enough to help others out of their self-imposed messes.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

April 9 Thought for the day...who is Jesus part 3

I tried getting away from these verses, but I think I need just one more week. These are the true verses of Easter and Christmas. They are critical for every Christian to understand who Jesus is.

"but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."  Philippians 2:7,8

When Paul writes "being found in the appearance as a man" he is giving us a description. The description is this, it is as if a King took off his royal robes to put on the clothing of a beggar. Paul did not have the words to describe what he saw of heaven, and it is this majesty that Jesus willingly left, the glory of heaven in order to put on flesh, which limited His glory. If he didn't, no man would have been able to survive in His presence. 

When talking about Jesus "humbled Himself" it means he would lower himself to any measure. Jesus being fully God chose to do whatever it took to make a way for you and me to have a relationship with the Father.

Jesus was "obedient." Think about that for a moment, this meant Jesus had a choice. He could have said, "No!" Instead, the creator of the universe was obedient to His Father. It means to be under someone's authority, listen to what they have to say, then carry out those orders. Jesus saw the cross before him but also saw past the cross to you and me coming into real relationship with Him.

Jesus saw you and me from the very beginning. He knew it would cost Him living in and surrounded by glory, for a season. He knew it would cost him physical, mental, and emotional anguish. He would feel every human emotion, be tempted by every human temptation and overcome it all, so he knows how to empathize with us and then show us how to overcome too!

Monday, April 8, 2019

April 8 Thought for the day...submission or betrayl?

I have been taught early in my life that you can only grow as deep in the Lord as you have learned to submit to those He has placed in authority over you and the amount of love you may walk in. This was confirmed to me by some very frank conversations that I had with David Wilkerson and Myles Munroe many years ago. This was the root of Judas' problem and a Judas spirit in Christianity and America. (Some of you are not going to like this devotional)

"The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” 45 As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus. “Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss. Mark 14:44,45

There is a clue in here as to why Judas was able to betray Jesus. I hadn't noticed this in all the time I have spent studying the scripture until someone else pointed it out to me. What do you think it is?

Relationships are often determined by titles. Now I am not a "title" kind of guy, but in studying this verse, I guess I have to adjust my thinking a bit. "Mom and Dad" are titles of affection, security, and love. "Boss" is a title of authority and respect and distance. "Doctor" is a title of respect, honor, and trust. "Pastor" is a title of respect, honor, trust, and love. These titles don't necessarily define the person who carries them as much as they define our relationship to them. We are in charge of giving these titles out of our understanding of the relationship.

When Judas greeted Jesus, he told us all about the relationship he had with Him. He used the word that can be translated either Teacher or Rabbi. While this is a sign of respect, Judas was a man who had walked and talked with Jesus. Because he was in charge of the treasury, Jesus may have spent more intimate time with Judas than any other disciple defining who would receive help and what expenses to cover for the married disciples, where to buy food and so on. Jesus was so much more than simply a teacher to the other 11. To each of the other's, Jesus was Lord.

The respect Judas had for Jesus was only surface. It was easy to betray Him because love relationship, submission to His authority, and most importantly submission to the authority God had placed over his life was little to nonexistent. Too many times when things get tough people find out they are not submitted to their Boss, their parents, their Pastor and rather than fulfilling the destiny God has planned for them they run away under the Judas spirit. While their end may not be as dramatic, it is just as unfulfilling. Judas had an opportunity. Jesus knew all along, Judas would betray Him. However, Jesus still poured out love, grace, wisdom, and understanding with hope.

Have you been betrayed by someone with a Judas spirit? We don't have a choice but to follow Jesus' example and continue to love, be patient, and pour into them with hope, that they will submit to God's call rather than destroying their future. Keep praying!

Think about it, do you have a Judas spirit? Do you have authority in your life God has called you to submit to but are merely surface submitting? I can't answer that for you. The relationship is not based on anything I or any other authority in your life can define, you will define it. Pray, if you don't have it, keep submitting and watch God bless. If you do have it, ask the Lord to teach you to submit so your future can be fulfilled as God planned!

Friday, April 5, 2019

April 5 Thought for the day...misconceptions about you

Have you ever had someone talk about you and what they were saying startled you that someone could think about you that way? Don't feel too bad, it happens to everyone sooner or later, and it happened to Jesus often.

"The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove." John 18:3

I know you are saying, "didn't we just read this verse last week?" The answer to that would be, "yes." There is too much here to have it in just one day's devotional.

Judas led the contingent we talked about yesterday the 300-600 trained soldiers plus the temple secret service. What was Judas' perception of who Jesus really was and how could he misunderstand Him having traveled with Him for three years?

To begin to understand how much Judas misunderstood we need to look at what the soldiers brought by understanding, "torches, lanterns, and weapons." Lanterns in this region were very bright lights, fast burning but very bright, the modern equivalent to a flashlight. Torches were long burning oil-based lamps meant to brighten larger areas.

If you have ever been to Gethsemane, you would see it is a fairly steep hillside covered with olive trees and rocks. During Jesus' day, there were also many large boulders and tombstones, places where Jesus and the disciples could hide. This is what Judas thought Jesus would do if He found they were coming after Him. How quickly he must have forgotten how Jesus was able, time after time to allude the crowds that attempted to kill Him or make Him King. Despite all of the time Judas still didn't know who Jesus was.

The weapons listed here and the swords and staves mentioned in Mark's account are all of the weaponry I have shared from Ephesians 6. The sword for close hand to hand combat, the full body armaments plus the "staves" were long club type implements. Had Jesus ever engaged in combat? Was he violent by nature? Had he ever shown fear and the need to run away? No, but this is the way Judas saw Him! The stories Judas must have spread about Jesus must have been fantastical for all of this preparation.

The next time you hear someone having a wrong perception about you do not get too upset, think about how many times you have done the same thing to others. If you have thought wrongly of others at times, don't be surprised that on occasion others will do the same of you.  Jesus did not say, "How dare you think so poorly of me to bring all of these men fully regaled in battle gear to come after me!" Instead, He went with them, knowing that He was going to be victorious because of who He was and His absolute trust in His Father.

People will at times have misconceptions about you. This is part of the reason God hates gossips because it tears people down without a cause. When people say things about you, pray for them, love them, forgive them, and then approach them. If needed after the first approach, if correction is not made take an elder with you. Always keep a heart of forgiveness and prayer. It is a humble heart that God lifts up, protects and defends. I have learned it is far better to trust His defense then my own every time.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

April 4 Thought for the day...a serious threat to the devil

One of the things that anger me the most is the influence Satan has had over the church. He has convinced many of his great power and that he is to be feared. Jesus so created fear in the enemy in an overwhelming way.

"Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons." John 18:3

It is easy to quickly zip through this verse and not realize the impact. John uses the word that means a military cohort. Matthew, Mark, and Luke use the word meaning a great multitude of soldiers. The Pharisees knowing the stories of Jesus were afraid of the power He might use against them as they came to arrest Him. The military cohort sent after Jesus was an elite trained unit from the tower of Antonia, they were the Army Rangers, Navy Seals of their day, 300-600 of them were sent to arrest Jesus. Add to that the elite guards, the equivalent of the Secret Service of the temple were also sent. The religious leaders were trying to contain God! They were truly afraid. They had been riled up by Satan through their jealousy, envy, pride, and fear that they actually believed with enough force they could contain God.

We know no one put Jesus on the cross or forced Him to endure all the torture leading to it, He chose to go there for you and I. Jesus' going there was not just for our redemption but was also so that we would have the power to enable others to hear the story. We might have the power to defeat the enemy so that others could hear about God's great love for them. He destroyed the works of the enemy, and we must begin to believe it and live it and continue that work in the lives of others.

That is the key, when you see the enemy rising against you, remind him of who you are but more importantly whose you are. Please take a moment to look up and read 1 John 4:4 and 5:4,5. You are not called to be defeated but to be an overcomer. You are called to be a serious threat to the devil.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

April 3 Thought for the day...always given strength

Have you ever had a time in your life where you just didn't have the strength? It may have been to accomplish a task given, to handle dealing with problems at home or simply to get out of bed in the morning. Jesus found himself in that place and here is what happened.

Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. Luke 22:43

I remember the first time my life was threatened. I was in Sudan and a soldier who had been fighting in hand to hand combat for 20 years came to me with fear in his eyes and urgency in his tone telling me we were surrounded by the enemy and were going to be killed. It was 4 soldiers, 3 pastors and 300 children under the age of 10 verses 150 terrorist whose goal was to murder us all. When a soldier who is used to battle and has killed many men himself is afraid, that creates a certain amount of intense feelings for a novice in warfare, like me. I went to prayer, and in prayer, I could relate exactly to this verse. Everything natural in me said I should be overwhelmed, but I needed the Lord to strengthen me, and He did. All fear was gone, so much so with the enemy about to attack, I went to sleep and had one of the most restful night's sleep I can remember ever having.

The angel appeared to strengthen Jesus as He was facing the greatest trial of His life and His friends could not even be trusted to stand with Him. The word Luke uses here for "strengthen," refers to muscular strength like a bodybuilder but with the prefix that is added to the Greek word, it means that kind of strength plus it being poured into someone as a renewed vitality and vigor. It is an imparted strength, being instantly recharged, in the best modern terms it means "supercharged."  At that moment, Jesus was filled with the strength and vitality that He would need to face his betrayal and torment.

There will be times when you can't depend upon those around you, even those closest to you. If you are in a battle, it is nice to have friends to support and strengthen you. We all need to understand that God will gladly and wonderfully strengthen and encourage you! You are never alone, God wants to amaze you with His strength, wisdom, and power. He will always protect and strengthen you if you allow Him.

In case you were curious, God placed fear in those who were coming to kill us. They saw an army filling the camp that scared them away even though there was no visible army there. (see 2 Kings 6:16,17 for a similar miracle)

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

April 2 Thought for the day...Jesus part 2

Who we think Jesus is, determines our view of heaven, earth, eternity, and our lives. Last week, (review the thought for the day from March 26) we discovered that He always existed and the He is not just God's Son but is exactly like Him, identical in every way. Today we go a little deeper into this verse.

Philippians 2:6,7

"who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men."

When Paul wrote the word we interpret "form" in both cases, it means an exact, identical in every way. In the first instance, he is referring to Jesus as identical to God, because He is God. In the second, so we can grasp that He understands us and can empathize with all of our struggles, He came in every way as a human being.  He laid down all of the glory to live on earth for you and me but not just as a human but servant or slave, contrasting the glory and radiance He had in heaven with putting on humanity.

As Paul continues to write about who Jesus is, he tells us He came in the "likeness of men." Paul is emphasizing Jesus' complete humanity. He is the God who understands our nature, strengths, weaknesses, temptations, pains, likes and dislikes. Paul's wording is telling us, Jesus surrendered a place in glory to live totally in human form so that He could understand everything that you and I could ever face. If not, Satan's temptations, the attacks by the religious leaders, the sorrow at Lazurus tomb and so much more, would have only been surface and not real. The writer of Hebrews emphasizes this for us in 4:15...

"This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin." 

This was not written to scoff at our humanity but so that we might understand that Jesus knows everything that we can and will go through. He will not judge us but instead, stand beside us and lift us out of it to overcome, if we will allow Him.

He lived in heaven, in glory for eternity! He stepped out of it for a season to show us that He understands, hunger, pain, rejection, and all of the things we walk through. He did do this not to judge us but instead to stand in the gap, lift us up, show us the way of escape, and bring us to perfect freedom and love every time.

Monday, April 1, 2019

April 1 Thought for the day...wait for it, wait for it

Chess, backgammon, and Tetris to name a few, are games about waiting. If you are in too much of a hurry you are guaranteed to lose every time. As Americans, raised with a fast food mentality, we do not like to wait. God is not of our culture or of our day and age. He is timeless and uses tried and true methods to guarantee our blessing and success. It certainly is not comfortable and does not always seem fair, but it is the way God works best for our good. Paul stresses that in 1Thessalonians 2:4

"But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so, we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts."

We like everything done right now, however, we can only see what we can see, and God can see the heart and the future. The word translated "approved" by God is a rather intense word. It doesn't mean someone is simply given a stamp of approval but instead it means that the person is tested and tried, they are put through the fire, and all of the impurities are burned out. It means someone has been examined, inspected, and scrutinized to determine the quality and sincerity.

To the amateur or the naked eye, a piece of metal may seem strong and without flaws but once it is super-heated to glowing, then a blacksmith can see all of the impurities burning off. It is then and only then that the metal is truly useful for its intended purpose. The more the blacksmith has to fire the metal the greater its purpose will be.

Some of you have been in the "heat" for a long time. Paul spent three years in the desert burning off his impurities being made into the "metal" God needed him to be (that is his reference here). He was one of the most knowledgable theologians of his day but for him to be used of God and to stand the pressure, trials, temptations, and struggles he would face and to be able to handle the blessings and power he would be given, he had to know more than theology. Paul had to fully understand; God is good, circumstances don't matter, and God is faithful. He had to also understand what happens does not determine God's will, and that God will fulfill Paul's destiny and purpose and that not even death could stop that (Paul was stoned to death once and beaten nearly to death several times). Pretty intense stuff...ready to be used like Paul? All you have to do is wait for it...just wait for it! God needs men and women that are willing to be "approved" and not be afraid or give up. Instead, to remain focused on the call and the destiny God has planned!