Jesus taught and described the kingdom of heaven through stories and parables. When His disciples asked Him why, He gave a startling response. His disciples were granted knowledge to the parables and their meaning, but it was not granted to the nation of Israel. “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” The context is the knowledge and revelation of the things of God.
When Jesus called each of His disciples, they left everything and followed Him. Whatever knowledge they had of God, it resulted to simply choosing Jesus above everything else. It was a similar choice to the message of John the Baptist, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Turn from whatever you are doing and choose God. As those in the crowds truly received this revelation, they repented and turned their eyes toward God. Receiving the revelation of John the Baptist led to the revelation of Jesus as the Christ, the salvation of the world. As the Pharisees rejected John the Baptist, their hearts were hardened, and they were unable to receive the greater revelation of Jesus. If we harden our hearts to the word of the Lord, we begin to lose even the revelation that they once had. Spiritual eyes and ears begin to grow dull.
Revelation and obedience is an increasing cycle. As each of us receive even the smallest amount of revelation from God, we must choose to soften our hearts. As we receive instruction from God with simple faith and repentance, greater revelation is granted. Those that have, receive more. The bedrock of revelation begins with the knowledge that God sent His son, Jesus, to the earth to save sinners, of which we were the worst. Today, may you soften your heart to what the Lord is saying, fully surrender to Him, and may He grant you an increase in revelation.
Our mind is often a battleground for the issues of our heart. Thoughts of insecurity and anxiety can come uninvited. Situations that cause stress and relationships that are in conflict can rob us of our peace. Beyond this, insecurities and poor self-image can bring thoughts that tear us down and produce unhealthy feelings and thoughts.
God is not a god of confusion, doubt, fear, or insecurity. He is a god of peace. Our peace must come from Him. As we re-focus our thoughts away from the things around us and the events of the world, and towards God, His peace begins to reign in our hearts. Through Jesus, all of God’s peace, comfort and His great power, are graciously poured out on us. Thinking about who God is, and how great He is, brings peace in every area because it tells us about ourselves. As sons and daughters of God, those who have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus Christ, we are defined by who God is. We have peace because we the Prince of Peace lives in us. We are righteous and good because the blood of Jesus has made us so. We can be secure in every situation because God is for us, not against us.
As we focus on God, the things of the world fade away, and the issues around us can no longer rob us of our peace. Thinking on God also transforms our self-image into a realization of who we are in Christ Jesus. It is this realization that washes away the insecurities that may be lodged in our hearts, and heals the trauma of past experiences. Today, may you fix your eyes on God, and may the God of all comfort guard your heart and mind in Jesus Christ!
As wheat matures, it transforms. It starts as a telescoping sheath of grass and grows to a stalk ending in a head of seeds surrounded by small husks. As it changes color from a hearty green to golden brown, it dries out, and become more brittle. If left un-harvested, the husks on the seeds will break and shatter, and the grain will fall to the ground. It is a process that represents both death and new life. In John chapter twelve, Jesus uses this imagery to foretell His death and what it would bring to humanity.
Jesus declares, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus, as the seed sown by the Father, is the Word of God that must enter the human heart. He died so that all of humanity had the chance of receiving eternal life. His beatings and torture can be represented as the beating of wheat during threshing that occurs at the harvest. He was lifted up, as being winnowed, on a cross, and as He entered the tomb, the Word of God, the seed, died and entered the earth. From His death and burial, He rose again, bursting forth to new life. At His resurrection, humanity was ushered in to a new age, where through Jesus Christ we can be born again into a living hope.
Jesus continues, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am there will my servant be also.” Jesus laid down His life for us. To receive the eternal life that can be found in Jesus, we must surrender our life to God. As we surrender our life to Him, it is blessed, and bears a bountiful harvest, and in the end, produces eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. Today may the seed of new life continue to grow in your heart and may you give all of yourself to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
1 Samuel 1:13-18
Hannah wanted a son. She was unable to conceive. In the natural world there was nothing that could be done. Only breakthrough from God could give Hannah the desire of her heart. Hannah went to the temple and poured her heart out to God. She made a vow before the Lord, that if God gave her a son, she would give him back to serve the Lord all of his days. She was in such an emotional state that Eli, the priest, saw that her lips were moving and thought she was drunk. When Hannah explained that she was pleading with the Lord to give her a son, Eli said, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thy petition that thou has asked of Him.” This was all that Hannah needed. She received the word of the Lord that Eli gave. She went her way, ate (she apparently was fasting) and it says she was no longer sad. She broke through into faith. In time, she conceived Samuel, a powerful man of God who anoints both Saul and David to lead Israel.
We should pray until we receive a word of breakthrough for our situation. Jesus tells a parable of a woman who constantly bangs on the door of a judge, asking for justice. He says that even if the judge is crooked, he will eventually grant her request because of her persistence. We are God’s children. How much more will God grant our requests! It’s equally important to receive a message of breakthrough when it comes. Let the word of the Lord inspire confidence. It doesn’t matter if there is visible evidence. In Psalms it says “He sent His word, and it healed them and delivered them from their destructions.” Receive your breakthrough word today!
1 Cor. 6:19-20, Romans 12:1
God created humanity with individual will. Each person has wants and desires, and is naturally focused on achieving their will. Every child naturally wants to get his or her way. Since the Garden of Eden, our will has been mixed with a nature of sin and became naturally selfish. When Jesus came and died on the cross, He broke the power of sin and death. The symbol of baptism represents the death and new life that is gained through accepting Jesus Christ. Death to the old man and the sin nature, and raised to new life in Jesus Christ. This new life in Jesus is not our own. It has been bought with blood. We are living under a new will, the will of God. This is a new concept and lifestyle.
Living as a servant of the Lord goes against culture and conventional thought. In a world that celebrates sports figures and entrepreneurs who can achieve their will or even impose their will on others, the Christian is to die to self and become alive to the will of God. “Our way” becomes an idol when it is surpasses our desire for God’s will in our heart and mind. When we prefer our own way, we declare ourselves God of our own life. Our hubris says “I know better than God, and my way is The Way.” It is easy to slip into this lifestyle. It is the status quo. As Christians we are not just to simply subjugate our will to the Father, but to transform our heart and mind. As we draw closer to God, our will aligns with His will. God molds and shapes our desires into His desires. As the Spirit of God touches our life, conflict between our own will and God’s will dissolves, and we become true servants of the Lord. It is a transformation that brings true peace. Today may your mind be renewed; may you be transformed by the Word of God and may all selfish desires be washed away and replaced by desires birthed out of the love and grace of God.
1 Samuel 7:1-13
After God gave the Israelites victory over the Philistines, Samuel does something particularly intentional. He took a stone and set it up and he named it Ebenezer – The Lord has helped us. Today, one of the definitions in Merriam-Webster for Ebenezer is “a commemoration of divine assistance.” The example of its use is from the hymn ‘Come Thou Fount’ – ‘here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I’m come.’ Samuel was making a commemoration, a memorial of God’s intervention. Throughout the Old Testament, stones are raised commemorating divine encounters. Through the years, these stones and altars would constantly remind the people of what God had done. The Israelites would point these stones out to their children, and tell them the story of how God visited Jacob in a dream, of how God withdrew the waters so that Joshua and the Israelites could cross, and how God gave Samuel and the Israelites victory over the Philistines.
These Ebenezer stones served as reminders of the goodness of God. Natural, meaningless items became infused with spiritual significance. They reminded the people of what God had done. This in turn provoked the people to give thanks to God. As we remember the times of breakthrough, of answered prayer, and the moments of God’s grace being fulfilled in our lives, we are reminded of God’s character. As we think and meditate on His acts, God’s nature is more fully revealed.
It is important in our own lives to take time to remember and give thanks to God for what He has done in our lives, and in the lives of those around us. As we keep reminders in front of our eyes, our understanding of God’s kindness, goodness, mercy and love are renewed. Our review of these events serve to renew and revise our own view of God, and they become a touchstone in times of doubt. They prove God’s perfect character. May God continually bless you, and may you raise a memorial of the testimony of Jesus Christ in your own life.
The book of Judges details a period of Israel’s history where a cyclical pattern is repeated. Instead of a King ruling over the people, God appointed judges over the land to settle disputes. However, because the Israelites had not dealt with the other inhabitants of the land and their false gods, they would fall away from the true God and serve idols. This would lead to them being oppressed and plundered by other tribes. God would then raise up a judge to deliver them and the people would repent. However, it would not be long before the judge died, and the people would return to evil until they once again were conquered. Unfortunately, this problem can still persist today. Often those professing Christianity can live in sin and darkness. When their sin ensnares them, they run back to Jesus for deliverance. However, it isn’t long before they once again fall prey to the temptations of this world.
In the time of Judges, the Bible says that because there was no King, “everyone did as they saw fit.” Left to our own fleshly desires, humans can come up with a form of religion and morality that suits their own purposes. It is easy to rationalize and excuse our own lifestyle. In reality, we have set ourselves as King or Queen of our own lives. We do as we see fit. Only in times of need and distress does the need for a savior become evident.
The call of Jesus is a call to death and re-birth. We die to the world and our own desires and are re-born to the Spirit of God and everlasting life. The Christ follower no longer serves him or herself, but serves the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom that is from generation to generation, a kingdom that shall never pass away! The mark of a Christian is not attending service, saying a prayer one time, or following a set of rules and regulations. It is a true surrender. It is giving our life to Jesus fresh every day. Today may you live as a servant of the one true King!
The Bible’s emphasis on prayer is thorough. Jesus’ devotion to prayer is displayed throughout the gospels. The epistles instruct us to pray without ceasing. In Philippians, Paul instructs the church not to be anxious about anything but to go to pray to God ‘in everything.’ It can be a natural pitfall of the Christian life to press into God only in the midst of dilemma. Our circumstances can provoke emotions and stresses that our beyond us, and drive us to the Lord. The loss of a loved one, unemployment, a trip to the hospital, can move us to cry to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. At other times, we can feel comfortable in our situation. We do not feel stretched or pressed, and our prayer life and intercession to God the Father can fade, and lack fervor.
Maturity in Jesus brings with it an understanding of our reliance on God. As Jesus quoted, “man does not live on bread alone, but every word from the mouth of God.” Our daily bread and strength comes from our relationship with God. We are called to live a life in constant communication with the Holy Spirit. Rather than relying on our own skills and abilities, like non-believers, we are to rely on the power and wisdom of God that is delivered to us through prayer. Although we may be confident in where we are in life, and confident in what God is doing, we should remain constant in prayer, knowing that God is bringing us to a higher place. We have been made to bring God worship and glory.
As a Christian, our life is to represent Jesus Christ, and to represent the overwhelming blessing of God in the midst of every situation. This will always be achieved, everything will reveal God’s glory, but His glory revealed through our blessing and righteousness is revealed to our degree of relationship and reliance on Him. As we acknowledge Him in all of our ways, and rely on Him even in the routine of life, understanding that if we can do something well in our own talents, He can do it extraordinarily operating through us. May you rely on God and acknowledge Him in all you do, and may He make your path straight and use your life as a demonstration of His love, power, and blessing!
In this passage of scripture, Jesus had just come down off the mount of transfiguration. Most of his disciples were below and they were unsuccessfully trying to free a boy from demonic possession. Jesus exhorts them that anything is possible to him who believes. However, when the disciples ask Jesus specifically why they couldn’t cast this demon out, Jesus replies that “this kind” of devil only comes out by prayer and fasting (some versions just say “prayer”.)
All things are possible to the person who believes. Prayer and fasting is not just a discipline that somehow in its own right grants new power. It is not in the rote action, but in the transformational process. What Jesus reveals in this passage is that prayer and fasting can take us to a level of faith that is unobtainable otherwise. “Nothing but prayer and fasting”. If there is any stronghold, sickness or disease, any spiritual oppression that has persisted, there is a new level of faith, a new level of belief that can be gained in the secret place of prayer and fasting.
God’s power and love are able to conquer any mountain we face, but it is our challenge to believe in Him. The closer we get to Him, the more we understand the limitlessness of His power and His love for us. This increasing revelation spurs our belief to new levels. Levels which see results. May you speak to your mountain today, and may it cast itself into the sea today!
Praise and worship is an important part of our devotion to the Lord. Praise and worship doesn’t necessarily mean singing. It is about declaring God’s goodness and power; it is about declaring our love and affection for Him. All of God’s creation displays His majesty and might, His justice and mercy, His wisdom and authority. When we praise and worship God, we join history and nature, which all speaks of the glory of the Lord. In 2 Chronicles 20, praise and worship is linked to victory. Judah was about to be attacked by neighboring countries. Jehoshaphat, the ruler of Judah at the time, didn’t know what to do, since it was such a large army against them. He proclaimed a fast for all of Judah and sought the Lord. His prayer praises the Lord’s power and might. He prays “we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” The Lord responded to the prayers of Judah. Jehoshaphat sent people in front of the army of Judah. Their job was to sing to the Lord and praise Him, saying “Give thanks to the Lord, for His steadfast love endures forever.” The Bible says that when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against their enemies. The invading force was completely defeated. In fact, there was so much treasure left behind, it took Judah three days to collect all of it. May you find victory today as you praise and worship the Lord!