In the book of Amos, the God declares through the prophet judgements on Israel, Judah, and their neighbors. Among the despicable deeds that Israel committed before the face of God, two are mentioned in chapter two verses eleven and twelve. God had given Israel prophets to declare His word to the people. He had also raised up and called Nazirites, those who vowed a special vow to be holy and set apart for the Lord. The Israelites had despised the word of the Lord, telling the prophets to be silent. Similarly, they had defiled the Nazarites, making them drink wine and forcing them to break their vow to the Lord.
The word of the Lord is precious. Although at times it can stretch us, convict us, and challenge us to change significant portions of our lives, we should never reject it or abandon it. God has spoken to us through His scripture. It should always hold weight in our lives. It should be read with reverence. Similarly, the word of the Lord spoken to us should be judged through the lens of scripture, but should never be taken lightly. To those who have received Jesus, the word of God that comes to us is always a blessing. Even as it prunes things out of our lives, it promotes growth. Those that hunger and thirst for God’s word receive its full blessing.
Similarly, holiness should be viewed with a reverence in both our own lives, and in those around us. God has called us out, to be separate and holy to Him. This can look different for each of us as we walk in relationship with the Lord in different seasons and areas of growth. We should never belittle or ridicule those whose convictions restrain them from an activity or those who believe the Lord has spoken to them to consecrate themselves in a particular way. As we each consecrate ourselves to the Lord, we recognize and revere both the holiness of the Lord, and the righteousness that has been granted to us through Jesus Christ. Today may you soften your heart to the word of the Lord, and consecrate yourself, and your daily life, fully to Him.
The story of Mary and Martha presents a common conflict in perspective. Martha has invited Jesus into her home. While she is engaged, and distracted, in serving the many guests, her sister Mary sits at Jesus’ feet and listens to Him teach. Probably out of frustration, Martha appeals to Jesus to get Mary to help her to serve and host. Instead Jesus uses the moment to instruct Martha, addressing the many things that Martha is anxious and troubled about, and declaring that Mary had chosen ‘the good portion’.
Often we can be so involved in the busyness of life that we can miss out on the times that God is near. Jesus had chosen to enter Mary and Martha’s house, to spend time in their home. To Martha, this meant tasks of hospitality, and the chores that are required to honor a guest. To Mary, this meant spending time close to Jesus.
Life can be a balancing act of relationships and responsibilities. Fulfilling our obligations and providing and taking care of our loved ones must be balanced with spending quality relationship time with those who are close to us. It is no different with the Lord. Although Martha was serving those who had entered her house, and probably in her mind was fulfilling her role, she had missed out on the fact that this was actually an appointed time to sit at Jesus’ feet and spend time close to Him.
Our relationship with God can not only be acts of service. We are not called to serve a God we don’t really know or hear from. Jesus bled and died so that we could be re-united with God in a close and personal way. We must always be sensitive to the times when the Lord is calling us away from the affairs of life, or even the affairs of service to Him, and calling us to be close to Him, to sit at His feet and simply listen to His voice. This is the good portion, and it will not be denied to them who find it precious. Today, may the Lord call you to a closeness with Him, and may He share with you great and mighty things that you do not know!
1 Samuel 17:4
Throughout Israel’s history, they faced adversity and conflict from other nations. In spite of the promises that God had made them, they were not able to take the land without adversity. Once they had conquered ground, they often had to defend it against enemies who would try to take it from them. The Israelites had to be dependent on the Lord in order to succeed, and at times, just to survive. Life for the modern believer should be no different. Jesus told His disciples, ‘in this life you will have trouble’ but he told them not to worry because He had overcome the world.
During the course of life, it can be tempting to try to go through trials, and to fight battles, in our own strength. For those who don’t know Jesus, this is the default behavior. They succeed and fail based on their own effort. They overcome and achieve based on their talent, skill, work ethic, and stability. For the Israelites this would result in complete failure. God had brought them out of Egypt to a new place. Through His power, He had brought them to a place of dependence in Him. They were in a place that they could never have achieved by themselves, and they couldn’t defend it by themselves.
When God raised up David to fight Goliath, He once again clearly showed that it was by His power that victory would be accomplished. David himself declares ‘the battle is the Lord’s.’ Although David had stood up to fight Goliath, he knew that it was by God’s power, not his own strength, that victory would be accomplished.
Throughout the New Testament we are told to stand, and to resist. Our part is to make a decision to stand up in faith in the midst of turmoil. We are to resist the enemy. Once we make the stand, however, we must give the battle to the Lord. That means abandoning our own methods and plans, or trying to control the situation. Often, the mindset of having to deal with the problem ourselves is bringing anxiety and preventing the peace of God in the first place. As we release the battle to the Lord and worship Him, the peace and joy of the Lord return in the midst of all circumstance and we are able to see the deliverance of God. May you release the battle to the Lord, and may you see God rout the enemy!
In Galatians, Paul describes the “Fruit” of the Spirit of God. In Context, Paul lists these characteristics as a description of walking in the Spirit. These traits, or fruit, are produced in the believer. Fruit is produced by trees, vines and plants. It is a result of a plant that is mature and healthy. Earlier in the passage, Paul characterizes the “works” of the flesh. Here, the words “works” and “fruit” can be interchanged. Paul is speaking not just of what the Spirit of God is like, but also what the result of walking IN the Spirit of God produces in our life, particularly in our character. As we spend time with the Spirit of God, and daily walk through our lives acting out of the Spirit of God, His fruit, or works, or characteristics, are produced.
Although we can work and focus on producing these character traits in our lives, it is a difficult journey to change our own character. The phrase “pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps” has an air of the tongue-in-cheek, because pulling yourself up by something that is attached to you is a futile effort. Changing your own character through force of will is a similar feat. The Spirit of God, particularly our relationship with the Spirit of God, changes our character. In the way that we pick up phrases and mannerisms from those that are close to us, so we are able to pick up the mannerisms of God. By spending a large amount of time listening and being around someone, someone we look up to and trust, attitudes and character traits can be transferred. As we spend time with the Spirit of God, in His presence in prayer and worship, we are transformed more into His nature, and the fruit of the Spirit is produced in our life and in our character.
John the Baptist had a powerful ministry. People were coming from all around Judea to hear him speak and to be baptized by him for the repentance of sins. When Jesus comes to him to be baptized, John recognizes that He is the messiah, the savior of the world. John’s baptism of Jesus would mark the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
After this Jesus began to grow in popularity. People began flocking to Him, even those who had once followed John. In John 3, John’s disciples come to him and exclaim to him that all are going after Jesus. John’s reply speaks volumes. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
In the midst of life, it is easy to feel threatened by someone else’s popularity or success. John was and is known as “the Baptist”, yet here we see Jesus baptizing people. John does not let his ego oppose what God is doing, even in the midst of his disciple’s dismay. John saw and understood the purposes and plans of the Lord. He knew Jesus was the messiah, and that his purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. As Jesus’ ministry started, John’s had to wind down. John accepted this with great humility. During our life, and our life’s work and ministry, we should always strive to see and understand what the Lord is doing. Sometimes it is necessary to take our eyes and concerns off of what we are doing, and recognize the blessing of the Lord on someone else; even if that means we must step into the background. God does not set people against each other, or send people to compete with each other, but He sends workers to complement the work of the Lord, and to carry it forward. John had to defer to Jesus, the Messiah; a minister with a greater authority and a greater responsibility. A true servant is able to humble himself before the Lord and help those around him or her to achieve the call of God on their life, and to defer to leaders and those in authority. God has not called us to our own success and glory, but to fulfill His will, and bring glory to His son, Jesus Christ. Today, may ego, pride, and any focus on our own success and popularity decrease, and may it be overwhelmed by a joy to see the will of God achieved by all those around you.
Galatians 6:14, 1 John 2:16-17
Throughout the New Testament, the word ‘world’ is used in more than just a literal way. The Greek word used is ‘kosmos’ directly related to the English word cosmos. The literal translation is ‘something ordered’ or ‘ordered system’. We see this idea of the ‘ordered system’ of the world used in the epistles. John instructs us to not love the world or anything in it, and that if anyone loves the world, the Father’s love isn’t in him. This can seem confusing. God sent Jesus to die for the world. However, John clarifies his statement. ‘For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not from the Father but from the world.’ Here the ordered system of ‘the world’ becomes clear. John is speaking about the system of values and desires that the world naturally follows. People naturally following the urges of their flesh, what their eyes see as appealing, and struggling to attain status and ranking, vainly comparing themselves to others by the systems of fame, wealth, and beauty. These values can be seen as they are exploited in advertisements, displayed over social media, lionized in film and television, and celebrated in sports and entertainment. John instructs us to not love these values or this system. Although we are living in the world, we are not to be of it, or from it. Paul furthers this thought. He declares that he is crucified to the world, and that the world is crucified to him. It is a startling passage. The idea of crucifixion comes with it pain and humiliation, resulting in death. With it comes the stigma of the worst criminal. By declaring this, Paul is stating that he is dead to the ordered system of the world, and that the world’s ordered system sees him as shameful and humiliated. Likewise, he views the world’s system as shameful and humiliating, and ultimately, dead.
As Christians, we live in a system that elevates and celebrates things that God views as shameful, criminal, and humiliating. Likewise, we should not be surprised when others view our values, and even our relationship with Jesus as weird or crazy, and even with disdain. A relationship with Jesus does not integrate with worldly culture; it stands in stark contrast. Ultimately, it is this contrast, this light in darkness that leads people to the Savior. As the systems of the world lead people into suffering, pain, and spiritual torment, the light of Jesus Christ shines bright as a beacon of hope, love, and life. Today, as you go out into the world, may you shine as an example of Jesus Christ, confident as a new creation, and may the appetites of the world lose all their appeal in the radiance and love found in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 9:35-36, Mark 11:
Matthew 9 is a great display of the heart of Jesus. In the middle of His ministry, He looks out at the crowd and has compassion. He sees the crowds that are coming to Him in their true state. They are helpless and harassed. The people are plagued by illness, distressed by poverty, overwhelmed by anxiety and depression, and burdened by oppression. Worse, they are unable to improve their situation. They have no answers. Like sheep without a shepherd, they are helpless against predators and the natural hazards of this world. Since the fall of man in the garden, this has become the natural state of humanity. They are beset by worries and cares, and trapped in the snares of the enemy.
Jesus stood in stark contrast. He came to destroy all the works of the devil. He came healing the sick, raising the dead, opening blind eyes, and declaring the way of the Lord. He was immediately recognized by the hurting masses. His fame spread far and wide. People would travel long distances to see Jesus. They knew they needed something or someone. He was and is the answer. As Jesus travels back to Jerusalem before His crucifixion and death, the people worship Him and cry ‘Hosanna’. Hosanna is a cry that means ‘Lord, Save Us!’
Although the world is often deluded and deceived, it is still crying out for a savior. The heart of all of humanity is longing for communion with God, for relief from torment, and for a peace that only God can bring. The answer is Jesus. He is called ‘Emmanuel’ – God with us. No longer alone and afraid, forced to brave the dangers of the world without guidance, Jesus has come to save us from sin, cleanse us from unrighteousness and to be a true shepherd. It is through Jesus that we are free from the harassment of the devil, secure in the arms of our savior. It is this freedom and security that we have to offer others. The same Jesus that rescued us is available to all those around us. To those who are caught in sin, bound by mental illness, harassed and helpless, crying out ‘Hosanna’ – Lord save me!, we must be a light on a hill, pointing the way to their help and salvation. Today may you receive the comfort of the savior in every situation, and spread this comfort and saving grace to all those around you!
The book of Habakkuk begins with a dialogue between Habakkuk and God. After Habakkuk’s second outcry, Habakkuk declares that he will station himself on the tower, stand on the watch, and look for God’s answer. In the place of prayer, Habakkuk has brought a complaint of injustice to God the Father, the judge and ruler of all.
Prayer is not only making our requests known to God. Part of prayer is receiving God’s answer. There is a place in prayer of active stillness, waiting for God to speak through His word, the Bible, and through the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The watch of the prayer warrior takes place in the security of God’s presence. The shelter of His wings is the refuge, the fortress that the sentry stands in watch. Like a soldier on watch at the top of the battlements, there is a place in prayer of stillness, scanning the horizon, expecting and waiting on God’s reply.
Just as Elijah prayed for rain, and then sent his servant to look at the sky, so all who pray should press on in prayer and watchfulness, until expectation turns to faith. The seventh time the servant looked, he saw a small white cloud. Elijah’s faith became sight. God had answered. When the evidence of God’s answer appeared, Elijah ran with supernatural power granted by the Spirit of God. As you go to God in prayer, may you watch with expectation in the secret place of God’s presence, and may the evidence of God’s answer release you to run in the power of the Holy Ghost!
It is human nature to look back fondly on portions of our past. We remember simpler times with family and friends. It is hindsight that allows us to look back on these days with fondness. The clarity that comes with time and a knowledge of what was to come helps shape our view of happy times without trouble.
Often, the times we look back on as carefree were not so in the moment. The issues of life that we now realize as inconsequential or the stress we now see as false fears were often just as present in the past. In light of the present, we look back on the past and see so many of the problems and worries of the past as insignificant.
In Matthew chapter six, Jesus instructs us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. It is when we correctly align our focus on Jesus that all of our basic needs are met. When we focus on God, His goodness, and His Kingdom, it releases us from the prison of worry. Then, we are able to let go of the unnecessary cares and worries about tomorrow.
As we trust God, and focus on the righteousness of Jesus, it allows us to enjoy the moment. We are able to live in God’s present goodness, and to enjoy the new life that Jesus has given us, a new life free from sin and shame, and a life filled with the blessing of the Lord. It is in this mindset that we are able to live our “halcyon days” in the present, no longer only finding joy in the past, but eagerly looking forward to the mercy, grace and goodness that God has planned for us each morning. Today, may the stresses and worries about tomorrow roll away, and may the blessing of God bring you an expectation for good things!
Joining the choir of Heaven should be met with eager expectation for every believer. As a people who have accepted Jesus into our heart, heaven is now our natural home. Christians are no longer children of this world, but of the world to come. Revelation 4:6-8 gives an awesome picture of just one aspect of heaven. It is a picture of continual worship, honor and praise to God the father, and Jesus, His son, they declare, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
It truly is an awesome display of worship to God. Our worship here on earth shouldn’t look different. In our time with God, whether that is our personal time, our time in church, or with our family, we should be worshipping God like the creatures and elders do in heaven. Their words are entirely focused on God, not themselves. They declare how holy God is, how worthy He is to receive honor and power, and declare how He created the world. Along with that comes a physical demonstration. The elders bow and cast their crowns before the throne of God. Today, let’s spend some time in worship to God, and let’s focus are worship not on ourselves, but just on the character and majesty of God, His nature as our Creator, King, and Savior, and let’s worship Him not just in words, but in physical demonstration. Let’s look like we are participating in heaven!