The Bible is a book of the promises of God. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, He unleashes a powerful promise. The promise to be filled with righteousness. In Ephesians Paul prays on behalf of the church in a similar vein, “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” There is a fullness to our walk with Jesus Christ. There is a degree, an amount, to our walk in the Spirit of the Lord. That’s good news, because it means with the realization that no one is perfect, we can achieve a greater level of Jesus, a greater level of the Fruit of The Holy Spirit. We can achieve a greater level of perfect Love! Jesus says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst…” Are you hungry? Are you thirsty for more of God in your life?
Physically we get hungry and thirsty when we diet, or fast. However, junk food can prevent us from getting hungry, even though we aren’t receiving the nutrients we need to be healthy. In a similar way, filling our spiritual lives with thing other than the things of God can slowly kill our hunger for the presence of God. The Bible says “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” God is so good that the more we taste of His goodness, the more we want! Even better, we have a promise from God that if we seek God with all of our heart, we will find Him. He wants to be found. Are you seeking the Lord with all your heart? Are you hungry for the things of God, or have you filled your spirit with cheap substitutes? The world has built many cheap tricks to fill the void that only God can satisfy. Without Jesus, they have to use entertainment and distractions in order to ignore the spiritual emptiness of a human experience without the Creator, who formed them in the womb.
Today, let’s pray the prayer of Paul in his letter to the Ephesian Church, may we be filled with ALL the fullness of God. May we have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and know the love of Christ, that surpasses knowledge. Let’s get spiritually hungry, spiritually thirsty. Let’s seek the Lord with all our heart, holding on to the promise that we shall be filled. Amen!
In an authoritative conclusion to what is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives an illustration contrasting two men, each building a house. The difference, is the foundation on which each house is set. In this case, the foundation represents our core beliefs, the basic statements and teachings that represent our most firmly held principles. The house is a representation of who we are in totality. The house that is built represents our character. Who we are as a person is shaped by the beliefs and principles that we live out. It also represents our life on this earth, including our professional and familial roles. Finally, it represents the state of our eternal soul. The rains, wind, and flood represent adversity. These could be trials of character, disappointments, or suffering. They could represent circumstances, ideas or philosophies that shake our core beliefs, or unexpected chaos that threatens the order of life we have established. We will all experience the storms of life. Various trials, some painful, will come. It is our foundation that will determine whether who we are as a person, and what our life contains, will withstand this tribulation.
Only the teachings of Jesus provide a firm foundation. When ideas threaten to shake our faith, the words of Jesus shed light on our eternity. When circumstances threaten our security, health, or provision, it is the teachings of Jesus that we have implemented in our lives that provide firm support. When chaos threatens to shatter our world, it is the things we have done according to the Word of God that will remain in order. Throughout life’s various trials, the things that are unstable are stripped away, and only those things that are anchored in Christ will remain. And in the end, only those souls that have been converted will receive everlasting life. Today, whether in calm or stormy weather, may you build your character, your thoughts, your whole life on the Logos, The Word of God, and may you be empowered by the Holy Spirit to stand and remain blameless before God the Father at the end of the age.
Matthew 9 is a remarkable passage. Jesus is right in the midst of His powerful three year ministry. People are getting healed, delivered from demonic oppression, and physically fed. The Word of the Lord is going forth with authority. In the midst of all of this, Jesus looks out into the crowd, and has, or feels, compassion for them, because He sees they are harassed and helpless. He then tells his disciples “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Receiving a call to service happens in a similar manner. The Lord often grants sight into a lost, helpless, and hurting portion of our world. It can be as far as away as India or Africa, as close as our own neighborhood. Along with this vision comes a well-spring of compassion and zeal inspired by the Holy Spirit to spur action. At times, it may feel overwhelming, but we are not called to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. We are called to labor in the harvest that the Lord has revealed to us.
In the mid-1800s, an Englishman named William Booth began to answer the call of the Lord in the mission field of the darkest parts of England and London. He set up a mission to help the poor and starving, those captured by alcoholism and prostitution. In a letter, he dictated to a colleague ‘We are a volunteer army’. When his son, Bramwell, read it, he declared “Volunteer, I’m no volunteer, I’m a regular!” The word volunteer was crossed out and in its place was written ‘Salvation.’ By the power of God, General William Booth and the Salvation Army pulled England out of the horrible by-products of the industrial revolution that were made infamous by Charles Dickens and other writers of the time. They saved millions from death, and brought many to the eternal life given by Jesus Christ. The Salvation Army still has a large humanitarian imprint throughout the world, and the call to the harvest that the young William Booth answered has changed the course of human history. May you pray for laborers to be called into the harvest, and may you answer the full call of Jesus Christ in your life and be a part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to your neighborhood, town, state, country, and the utter most parts of the earth!
Matthew 13:47-50, Mark 4:18-20
Similar to other parables, Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven as a great sorting. He uses the imagery of a great fishing net that is used to gather every kind of fish. The net is then dragged to shore and the fish are sorted, the good are kept, and the bad are thrown out. It is a parable of the end of the age. The world will be judged, each person according to their works. The righteous will go on to everlasting life, but the unrighteousness to weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Ultimately, all have fallen short of the glory of God; it is only through the forgiveness that was purchased by Jesus Christ on Calvary that can wash away every sin and blemish, and present us as spotless before the throne of God. It is for this reason that Jesus came, and for this reason that he called His disciples. Two of them, Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew, were fishermen. Jesus called to them, saying “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They, along with the rest of the disciples, would begin the ministry of the church of Jesus Christ, each one a link in the great net. They would be a witness of Jesus, and as Paul states, “we persuade men.” The goal of the church remains: declaring the life-granting message of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
As individuals, we are all members of the body of Christ. Although we all have different talents and personalities, the Christ-follower is part of fulfilling the great commission. As we mature in Jesus Christ, our talents and resources, and the light of Jesus Christ more and more are effective in shining the glorious message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. May you be intentional and effective in fulfilling the Great Commission, and may you see the fulfillment of all of your labor.
In Matthew Chapter 10 Jesus is preparing His disciples to go out and spread the message of Jesus Christ to the Jewish cities. He gives them specific instructions, as well as warning them what to expect, and briefing them on the reaction they will receive because of Him. He declares to them “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Symbolism, object lessons, and metaphors for life and character prevail throughout nature. In the animal kingdom, we find aspects of ourselves. Jesus used these examples to declare the kingdom of heaven, and to clarify the state of the world. The world is full of predators. Many religious leaders would oppose the disciples and the message of Jesus Christ. The disciples were sent out in to this environment. Jesus tells them, “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are not to close our eyes to the evil in this world. God has not called us to naiveté, but to wisdom. And yet even as we see the ugliness in the world, we are not to take part. In the midst of darkness, we are to shine as light, to be as innocent as doves. We are not to overcome evil with evil, but to overcome evil with good. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to shine with purity in the midst of a dark world. It is only through relationship with God through His son Jesus Christ that we are able to maintain innocence and remain spotless while clearly seeing the wiles and schemes of the enemy. It is this dichotomy of wisdom and innocence that witnesses to the goodness of Jesus Christ. It is only in Him that we are able to both clearly see and remain innocent. Today, may you be granted wisdom that comes from God, and may your innocence before men bring others a view of Jesus Christ.
2 Cor. 5:17
Relationships are often a journey. Our relationship with God is no different. The beginning of a new relationship with Jesus is often filled with excitement and faith. The love of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit is new and precious. As God becomes our primary relationship, our life is shaken up, re-arranged, and shifted. Changes in our outer life occur for two reasons. The first is an outward change that an expression of the transformation that has occurred in our hearts. The fact that we are a new creation in Christ is manifested in our lives. The other change is made in effort. We change our lifestyle to align it to the Biblical Christian example. Like changing habits or clothing styles for a girl or boyfriend, these changes are dependent upon relationship. In time, as a level of comfort and familiarity comes into the relationship, these changes often regress. Instead of hanging the towel on the rack, it is left on the bathroom floor. The effort required to change our natural behavior can only be sustained in a state of pursuit and passion.
Both forms of change are beneficial, and we should always passionately pursue the Lord and His precious Holy Spirit. Ultimately, the only change that lasts is the change that comes from transformation. Unless the changes we start in effort truly become who we are, they stay in effort and in our own human strength. When strength fails, who we are in Christ remains. In the desert, alone, amidst hunger and physical weakness, Jesus resisted the devil to the end. Circumstances could not change His identity. Our identity in Christ is one of perfection. We have not been given a Spirit of fear, or weakness, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind. As we accept the identity of Christ, all areas of our life change to manifest this new identity. It is a lasting change that is not maintained by effort, but rests in the identity of Jesus. May your life reflect the transformational power and identity of Jesus more each day!
1 Kings 19:11-12
1 Kings records a struggle between Elijah the Prophet, a servant of The Lord, and King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, servants of the false god Baal. Shortly after Elijah wins a major victory over the prophets of Baal and sees the people of Israel actually turn against them and slaughter them, Queen Jezebel swears death to Elijah. Elijah flees for his life. It’s in the midst of the wilderness, where God is supernaturally providing for Elijah, that God and Elijah have it out. Elijah is despairing and depressed over his circumstances. In the passage above, God shows Elijah that The Lord isn’t in earthquakes, fires, or wind, but a still, small voice. Often we believe God is speaking to us through our circumstances, but here, God is telling Elijah the opposite. Elijah is so focused on the roar of Jezebel and the situation that he is in, that God shows him this awesome demonstration.
We can often have trouble hearing the “still, small voice” of God in the midst of our circumstances. Not only this, but the cries of our flesh for food, sleep, sex, etc. can sound like a five-alarm fire, almost drowning out any other voice. We must tune out the white noise that our flesh and our circumstances can produce in our walk with Jesus. A time of Spiritual tuning can make a world of difference in our communication with God, turning our prayer time into a true dialog. How often do we leave a message on God’s machine, instead of waiting to hear him answer us?
God’s voice is often in the quiet, but He speaks time and time again. During our times of fasting and prayer, listen for God’s voice. If we seek Him with all our heart, that still, small voice will speak to you, and the voice of God will change our lives in ways more awesome and spectacular than we could ever imagine!
Matthew 26:38, 39, 42
Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane is the greatest portrait of inner conflict. The Son of God, The Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world, was in the midst of His greatest trial. Jesus was fully aware of the suffering He must endure for the salvation of humanity. Suffering that would culminate in death by crucifixion. It was the fulfilment of His ministry on the earth. In order to be the sacrifice of for all the world, Jesus was rendered fully human. He had to be tempted in all ways like we are. In the garden, Jesus’ resolve to suffer and die for the world, and to have the sins of the world be put upon Him was tested. Twice, Jesus goes to pray, and asks God the Father to let this “cup” pass from Him. Ultimately, He ends each prayer surrendering His own will, to have the horror he will face pass from him, to the will of the Lord. Possibly more than any other passage, this shows Jesus as the ultimate example. Facing suffering, torture, and death He was able knowingly count the cost, and submit His will to the will of the Father. The Christ follower must endure this same trial. Paul writes that we must be transformed by having our mind renewed. This will allow us to know the will of God. Once the will of God is known, we must resolve this knowledge with our own desires. Jesus, the Son of God, who was given the Spirit of God without measure, still had to battle with His own will to avoid suffering. This battle did not end in a negotiation or compromise. It ended in complete submission to God the Father. Our relationship with God is no different. At times, possibly even in complete understanding, our will does not align with the will of the Father, and our submission to God is tested and tried. Our love is ultimately shown through our obedience. Jesus said if you love me, obey my commandments. To follow Jesus is to die to self, to submit our will to the will of the Lord, and to be a servant and vessel of the Holy Spirit. Today, may you submit to His glorious will, and at the end of the age may the King of Kings and Lord of Lords commend you with “well done, thy good and faithful servant.”
Genesis 1:1-3, Psalm 139:13-16
At the start, the earth was formless. It had no shape. The word “void” speaks to complete emptiness. Another phrase that might evoke the same imagery is “the vacuum of space.” There was no order of things. The language “darkness over the deep” describes both an absence of light and order. It was an abyss of chaos. Even the word “waters” used is the best way to describe not necessarily liquids, but something shapeless and unstable. Unlike a marble slab that waits for a sculptor to chisel away the excess to reveal the sculpture inside, the universe was a blank emptiness, lacking shape or order. It stood as the darkest canvas, prepared for God to add His medium.
God’s creativity is boundless. Throughout each day God would layer His canvas with different environments. In succession, he would populate each environment with diverse and abundant life. Just as the stars God placed in the sky, every domain stands with countless signs and symbols of God’s character. Ultimately, from the wheat field to the ocean’s marine life tells the story of Jesus Christ.
Humanity was an integral part of God’s creation. After forming man in His image from the dust of the ground, God gave Adam life by breathing into him. God’s breath would carry with it a desire and capacity to imagine and create. It is an attribute that comes from God. God used His creativity to express Himself, and express His son Jesus Christ. As believers, made alive by what Jesus has done, and set apart and sanctified by His blood, our creativity and imagination should produce a self-expression of Godliness and sanctification. As faith wells up from inside, the Holy Spirit guides us in an outpouring of expression, an expression that glorifies God. Today may you create and imagine, may the Holy Spirit inspire in you a new song that tells of the love of God, and witnesses to the glory of Jesus Christ.
1 Samuel 17:38-40
In the Psalms, David declares that God has numbered every hair on our head. In Jeremiah, God tells the prophet “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart”. We are God's creation. He creates each human individually. There are no duplicates. As creators ourselves, we understand the value of being unique and individual. We are all born with different talents and personalities. The Lord did not do this by accident. We are born with these differences to His glory.
In 1 Samuel, The Israelites are lined up to war against the Philistines. It was custom back then to put forth a champion from each side to possibly avoid bloodshed. If agreed, the fight would be decided by these two champions from each side, rather than the entire armies fighting. In this case, the Philistines put forth Goliath, a giant. For days Goliath ridicules the Israelites because no champion from their side will come forward to accept the challenge. When young David arrives to the front lines, he boldly is eager to accept the challenge. Saul hears that David is willing to fight Goliath. Although Saul was unwilling to put himself out there against Goliath, he quickly tries to unwittingly conform David to be more like him. He urges David to wear his armor. The symbolism of wearing someone else’s armor in this case represents trying to use someone else’s methods or approach to achieve something for God. David was wise enough to know that He could not use someone else’s armor. It did not fit him. Although David probably didn't fit the description of a great warrior without armor just carrying a sling and five stones, he was exactly who God had created to defeat Goliath. He didn't meet up to the worlds expectations of someone who would triumph, because they couldn't see with God’s eyes. It is often easier to try to learn to copy someone else’s methods to try to achieve something for God. However, God didn’t create our uniqueness and individuality for us to conform to a duplicate of someone else. God didn’t call the armored warrior to defeat Goliath. He called a young shepherd with a sling. Today may you rise up as the unique creation that God has called you to be, free of pressure to conform, and may the unique vision of God shine through your life!