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!
Gratitude, or gratefulness, is the quality of being thankful, or being full of thanks. Paul’s tells the church of Colossae to be overflowing with thankfulness. This quality is displayed from Moses to Mary, praises and songs of thanks are recorded throughout the Bible. It is these exclamations of thanks and praise that indicate an attitude of the heart.
It can be easy in life to focus on the negative. The trials, hardships, and failures of life can loom large. These difficulties can cloud our view and hinder our faith. It is an intentional focus on the grace of God, and gift of Jesus Christ that keeps us in the joy of the Lord, and continues to fill us with gratitude. In every circumstance and season, the blood of Jesus has cleansed us from all unrighteousness. Through Jesus Christ, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.
As we are intentional about a lifestyle of praise, our gratitude begins to overflow, and our joy overrides all natural circumstance. The knowledge of Jesus saturates us, and His light shines from our life, no matter our situation. Today, may you be filled with gratitude, and may your praises to God bring glory to God, and health and light to your countenance.
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.