“And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. … My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:4-5, 27)
In this morning’s Bible reading in the Gospel of John and the book of Ephesians there were so many wonderful nuggets of truth worth pondering. I am not going to dwell at all upon any single one, but I could and probably should:.
First of all, if Christ is truly pre-eminent in my life, I should desire to hear and obey the Voice of my Good Shepherd [John 10:1-5, 27].
When I think about hearing the Voice of God, I can’t help from thinking about this quote:
“Still, I’ve come to believe that hearing the quiet whisper of the transcendent God is one of the most extraordinary privileges in all of life—and potentially the most transforming dynamic in the Christian faith. When people hear from heaven, they are rarely the same again. When the sovereign God chooses to communicate with someone—whether eight, eighteen or eighty years old—that person’s world is rocked.“
Secondly, in the story of Lazarus’ death and resurrection is a wonderful reminder that God is in control of all the events in my life (stuck in the States), He works out His will in His time, for the follower of Jesus nothing (including death) is truly fatal or final, and everything that happens does so for a purpose and eventually results in god’s glory [John 11:1-44].
Thirdly, if Christ is truly pre-eminent in my life, like Mary of old, I should be possessed with Him and passionate to spend time with him [John 12:1-7].
Fourthly, if Christ is truly pre-eminent in my life, I must be willing to die to self in order to bring forth true fruit [John 12:24-25].
Fifthly, if Christ is truly pre-eminent in my life, I need to pray regularly (if not daily) that my eyes would be enlightened to see what God wants me to see in His WORD and to see the WORLD through His eyes and with His heart [Ephesians 1:18].
Lastly, if Christ is truly pre-eminent in my life, I must recognize that though I am not saved by my good works, if I am saved and surrendered good works will surely follow [Ephesians 2:8-10].
O Lord, help me to hear Your Voice clearly while I am reading Your word daily!
“He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. … Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” [John 4:3-4, 34-35].
What a blessing to wake up this morning to so many wonderful things going on back “home.” Lily running a three-day Sunday school teacher’s training seminar, Pachu just getting settled in up north and, along with teaching the Bible, is already teaching children, teens, and adult woman how to read, some to play the guitar, others to use a computer, and Leexeng baptizing a few new converts. God is good!
And, so many great truths today’s NT reading:
First of all, in the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, I can learn so much. Jesus was willing to GO where others refused to go; he was willing to DO what others refused to do; he was willing to LOVE those that others refused to love; he was willing to REACH those others refused to reach; and as a result, Jesus “reaped” the blessings that others would never “reap” [John 4:3-42].
Secondly, in the story of Jesus healing the impotent man at the Pool Bethesda, I am reminded that both “around the corner” and “around the world” there are people just waiting, hoping, and in many cases, praying for help, and if I am willing, I can be that man, or the instrument in the Hand of God to bring help and hope to the helpless and the hopeless [John 5:1-9].
Thirdly, there are actually quite a few great truths in John 6, but the one truth that really stuck out this morning was in the story of Jesus and his disciples feeding of the five thousand – a truth that reminds me that it is our responsibility to meet the needs of those around us [John 6:1-13].
Lastly, in Galatians chapters 3-4, and Paul’s scathing letter to the churches in Galatia, I am reminded of the great danger of being influenced or influencing others with “legalistic” teaching and the importance of having the same desire and spirit that Paul had in wanting to see the Christians in Galatia become more like Christ [Galatians 4:19].
Back to our responsibility to reach out to others with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is our privilege and it’s our responsibility to take the Good News of Jesus to those who need it most, and yes, even in the midst of a Global Pandemic. And, we need to be willing to reach out to those folks that others refusing to reach.
Who are the immoral Samaritan woman of our day?
Concerning our responsibility to be involved with the great work of the harvest and not getting caught up in the petty controversies or conspiracies of our day and there are many, I love the words of our dear friend, Pastor Paul Chappell:
I believe the greatest need is for Christians once again to engage in the work Jesus left us to do—telling others the gospel of Jesus Christ. Every Christian I know would agree with my assessment. But while we agree verbally, our focus and our priorities don’t affirm what we say. To be frank, we’re distracted today. While millions of people right here in our own country—and billions more around the world—are perishing into a Christ-less eternity, we pour our energies into good projects, but not the best project. We fall into petty squabbles and ridiculous (in comparison) issues of little lasting importance while the greatest work lies neglected. This is not to say that other issues don’t matter—some do, and many discussions are vital. This is not to say the cure for everything is “just to go soulwinning”—it’s not. But it is to say that we have lost our focus, have slipped in our priorities, and have disengaged from our greatest mission.
So, the big question of the day is simply this: Have we lost our focus?
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. … For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” [John 1:14, 17].
“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” [2 Timothy 1:9].
“Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth” [Colossians 1:6].
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” [Ephesians 2:8-10].
In this morning’s reading in the Gospel of John and Galatians there were a few important reminders worth pondering, but my focus today will be on just one of them:
If Christ is truly preeminent in my life, grace will surely be prominent in my life [JN 1:17].
To be honest, “grace” and a true understanding of the depths of God’s amazing grace have always been somewhat of a struggle for me and for most of the folks that I have labored alongside over these past 40 years or more. In a subconscious way, I am afraid I, and many others I know, have spent many of my years trying to prove my worth to God without even really thinking about it.
And, of course, for most of us, there is no end to this struggle!
Actually, there is, but sadly, it seems as if there isn’t.
There are many different definitions offered for this matter of grace, but one of my favorites is:
God’s unmerited love and favor upon those who are totally unworthy of God’s love and favor!
When we struggle with the concept of God extending His free and amazing grace to us when we least deserve it, or when we don’t deserve it at all, we are no doubt, going to struggle with extending that same grace to others that don’t deserve it!
Of course, we all know that we have been saved by grace. Here’s the problem:
WE AREN’T ONLY SAVED BY GRACE; WE ARE SANCTIFIED BY GRACE; WE ARE TO SERVE BY GRACE; AND WE ARE SUSTAINED BY GRACE!
One author pointed out four benefits that come with having a firm grasp of this matter of grace. They are:
1) We can expect to gain a greater appreciation for God’s gifts to you and others.
2) We can expect to spend less time and energy critical of and concerned about others’ choices.
3) We can expect to become more tolerant and less judgmental.
4) We can expect to take a giant step toward maturity.
I don’t know about you, but as I read the above list, I know that I can desperately use a little bit of God’s help, God’s grace, in all four of those areas.
O Lord, help us all to have a greater understanding of Your amazing grace and in turn, help us to extend that same grace towards others!
“A casual study of the New Testament will quickly and clearly reveal that the writers were completely consumed with Christ. He was their message, their teaching, their proclamation, their very life. And everything else flowed out of their desire to know, love, and serve Him.”
“Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I” [Exodus 3:1-4].
Nothing like waking up and finding out our team back “home” had their house church facility broke into sometime over the past few days and then to realize this might very well have been an act of retaliation for the family that trusted Christ and burned their idols just last Sunday. If nothing else, this is definitely a work of the evil one and a test of their faith, which has been allowed by God. Please pray that they remain strong, steadfast, and that their hearts remain soft and sensitive!
In my Bible reading, lots of good thoughts worth prayerfully pondering in days to come, I thought I would share just one today:
If Christ is truly pre-eminent in our hearts and lives, we must be open to His calling in our lives!
Over the past few days while reading in Exodus and about the Calling and ministry of Moses, I can’t help to be reminded that God uses everything in our past to prepare us for our future. Whether it was Moses’ forty years of living in the luxury of Pharaoh’s palace or his forty years living and tending sheep in the dusty wilderness, God was always doing something in Moses’ life and preparing him for the day he would go back to Egypt and be used to deliver the people of God from Egyptian bondage!
In other words, GOD’S DEALINGS IN OUR LIFE are always in preparation for GOD’S CALLING IN OUR LIFE!
Speaking of “Calling,” I love these words by author Os Guiness:
“What do I mean by ‘calling’? For the moment let me say simply that calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service. … Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him. First and foremost, we are called to Someone (God), not to something (such as motherhood, politics, or teaching) or to somewhere (such as the inner city or Outer Mongolia). Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him. We can therefore properly say as a matter of secondary calling that we are called to homemaking or to the practice of law or to art history. But these and other things are always the secondary, never the primary calling. They are “callings” rather than the “calling.” They are our personal answer to God’s address, our response to God’s summons. Secondary callings matter, but only because the primary calling matters most.” – Os Guinness
He also wrote the following:
“When Jesus calls, he calls us one by one. Comparisons are idle, speculations about others a waste of time, and envy as silly as it is evil. We are each called individually, accountable to God alone, to please him alone, and eventually to be approved by him alone. If ever we are tempted to look around, compare notes, and use the progress of others to judge the success of our own calling, we will hear what Peter heard: ‘What is that to you? Follow me!’”
As followers of Jesus, we are all called to be saved. We are all called to be sanctified, or to become a holy people. We are called to serve. And yes, we are called to sit at the feet of Jesus!
O Lord, help us to be like Moses of old, turn aside and to carefully hear and heed the call of God for our life!
“To our minds, there is one reason why a Christian would not be absolutely occupied and consumed with Christ. That person’s eyes have not been opened to see His greatness. The sad truth is that the Jesus who is preached so often today is so shallow, so small, and so un-captivating that countless believers are enthralled with countless other things.”
“Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” [Luke 24:25-32].
““Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:… But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation” [Hebrews 3:7-8, 13-15].
Great to hear glowing Lord’s Day reports from back “home.” One of the highlights of my week is every Sunday morning hearing and occasionally what the Lord has done back “home” over the weekend. It was definitely a great weekend back “home” with folks being saved, including a grandmother and a handful of young people, and God’s people worshipping and serving the Lord. I pray you had a blessed weekend too. Among the many lessons from my Bible reading over the past few days that is worth pondering is this important truth:
On our journey in this life, we need to regularly take a little walk with Jesus and have our spiritual eyes reopened, our spiritual understanding refocused, and our spiritual hearts rekindled [Luke 24:25-34].
If you are at all like me, you know this is absolutely true. In fact, I think we can all testify to this truth below:
WE ALL GET DISTRACTED AND DETOURED FAR TOO OFTEN. WE ALSO BECOME COLD, CALLOUSED, AND CARNAL FAR MORE OFTEN THAN WE WOULD LIKE TO ADMIT!
In other words, we often need to be revived, rekindled, and restored. We all do! And, how is this going to happen? By hearing God’s Voice.
Hearing from God ALWAYS makes a difference in the life of a man or a woman that is listening!
As one author rightly noted:
“Still, I’ve come to believe that hearing the quiet whisper of the transcendent God is one of the most extraordinary privileges in all of life—and potentially the most transforming dynamic in the Christian faith. When people hear from heaven, they are rarely the same again. When the sovereign God chooses to communicate with someone—whether eight, eighteen or eighty years old—that person’s world is rocked. … If you lower the ambient noise of your life and listen expectantly for those whispers of God, your ears will hear them. And when you follow their lead, your world will be rocked.”
Here we have the words of another author reminding us that God is wanting to speak to us daily and clearly:
“But God is faithful to speak too. His voice rises from the pages of His Word, which is the exact expression of His will. He speaks, not only on Sunday mornings in the sanctuary where the congregation is gathered, but also in the stillness of His works scattered across the night skies. His Spirit speaks with promptings that are not audible—often they are much louder than that—always in perfect harmony with the Scriptures and always resounding with perfect wisdom.”
I don’t know about you, bu I want to hear from God today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life. I am not interested in being religious, but I am very interested in having g a living relationship with Christ!
O Lord, open our eyes, our ears and our hearts to hear from You today!
“There is a grave danger of mistaking the shadowland of the eclipsed Son of God for the broad daylight that the redeemed were redeemed to enjoy, thinking all along that this treadmill of Christian engagements, polite Christian conversations, and good Christian behavior is the abundant life Jesus came to earth to deliver and declare. It isn’t. … Once our eyes are opened to see the incredible richness and captivating beauty of Jesus, either our other pursuits will take a backseat, or we will discover them anew and afresh ‘in the light of His glory and grace.’ Like Paul, we will be apprehended, ambushed, and arrested by Christ.”
“Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” [2 Corinthians 5:9-10].
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” [Colossians 3:1-5].
Well, yesterday was the first day of a new Administration. Interestingly enough, half of the country is giddy and filled with “unspeakable joy,” while the other half of the country is weeping with “unspeakable sorrow.” Yet, for those of us that know and love the Lord, trust in His eternal word, and are setting our affection on things above, regardless of our present circumstances and potential consequences, WE CAN REJOICE, AND WE CAN BE EXCEEDINGLY GLAD!
In my Bible reading, among many other great truths, there were a few that really stuck out and worth pondering:
First of all, if Christ is truly pre-eminent in my life, I must be a good steward of all that which He has entrusted into my care and I must not allow a spirit of covetousness and a love for money keep me from being a compassionate follower of Jesus Christ [Luke 16:1-13, 19-21].
Secondly, when Christ is truly pre-eminent in my life, forgiveness of those that have hurt me will reign in my heart [Luke 17:1-5].
Thirdly, if Christ is truly pre-eminent in my life, I should have a grateful spirit [Luke 17:11-19].
Fourthly, when Christ is truly pre-eminent in my life, I will be a praying Christian [Luke 18:1-8].
Fifthly, if Christ is truly pre-eminent in my life, I must not hold onto anyone or anything so tightly that it keeps me from going where Jesus wants me to go or from doing what Jesus wants me to do [Luke 18:18-30].
Lastly, when Christ is truly pre-eminent in my life, I will live, love, and labor with eternity and future judgment in mind [2 Corinthians 5:9-10].
It is on this last meditation that I would like for us to especially ponder today!
Over the past year (it was exactly one year ago yesterday that the first person died of COVID in the US and the number is now over 400,000) with COVID and its related restrictions, the economic downturn, the political divisiveness, the social unrest, the untold number of conspiracy theories, and let’s not forget THE ELECTION FIASCO, many of God’s people have gotten their eyes off of that which is eternal and have found themselves dwelling on that which is not eternal.
Might God help all of us to focus our attention and affection on things that are above, things which are eternal, and above all else upon the Lord Jesus Christ!
O Lord, help us to be a grateful, compassionate, and praying Christian that shine brightly in the midst of darkening days. Help us to be wise stewards over all that You have entrusted into our care and in these difficult days help us to live, love, and labor with eternity on my mind!
“So, what is Christianity? It is Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less. Christianity is not an ideology or a philosophy. Neither is it a new type of morality, social ethic, or worldview. Christianity is the ‘good news’ that beauty, truth, and goodness are found in a person. And true humanity and community are founded on and experienced by connection to that person. Conversion is more than a change in direction; it’s a change in connection. … When we dethrone Jesus Christ from His rightful place, we tarnish the face of Christianity and redefine it out of existence.”
“And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” [LK 14:7-11].
“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. … Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” [JS 4:6, 10].
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” [ 1 Peter 5:6].
Well, yesterday was Inauguration Day!
To be honest, it’s been a long four years and I am guessing the next four years aren’t going to be much better (in a different way, of course), but we will be praying for President Biden and VP Harris on a daily basis. As I mentioned yesterday, while I didn’t vote for their ticket and will definitely disagree with many of their policies and their overall agenda, I will pray for them and will trust solely in the sovereignty of Almighty God!
In my Bible reading, among many other great truths, one truth from Luke’s Gospel that really stuck out and is definitely worth pondering on this day after Inauguration Day:
If Christ is truly pre-eminent in my life, humility, compassion, and generosity towards those who have less than me should become a trademark of my life and ministry [LK 14:7-14].
One of the great trademarks of Jesus’ ministry and great differences between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day, especially the Pharisees, was his humility and His compassion towards those that didn’t belong to the religious community. I remember reading these words below and thinking to myself, “O Lord, we desperately need this spirit in our lives and ministries today.”
“We had been praying for years for revival and nothing happened. But when we as a congregation started helping the desperately poor and needy refugees, and shared the love of God with both hands, in words and in action, revival came and changed our church. … Is it possible that something profound changes when people in the name of Christ are willing to step out of their comfort zone and self-centeredness, and put their time, money, reputation, and resources on the line by sacrificially helping those who are broken and poor, and then introducing them to the King of the kingdom of God. … For the leaders of the early church the care for those on the margins of society was as much at the core of the Christian faith and its expression, as the understanding of God’s redemptive act in human history through Jesus Christ, because the acts of compassion in the midst of everyday life demonstrated that God is redeemer.”
On Twitter just yesterday, I read these convicting words by a pastor:
“The evangelical church in the US is going to have to go into a season of deep repentance, cleansing, and listening. The power of the Gospel doesn’t depend on the holiness of the church but the lovelessness (lack of compassion) of the church impedes its own credibility as a witness to that power.”
I am reminded of a conversation that I had with a dear evangelist friend of mine (Dan Martin) a few years ago, when we both shared our concern for the lack of compassion among our churches, and one reason for this is, no doubt, our lack of humility!
In other words, our lack of humility and our lack of compassion is hindering the power of the Gospel. People aren’t going to listen with open hearts if they sense that we think we are better than them or that we don’t care for them!
O Lord, the real question isn’t whether or not we have a new administration in the United States today, but rather will we have a new heart in our homes and our churches. Help us to have humble, hungry, and caring hearts!
“The real issue here is not if pride exists in your heart; it’s where pride exists and how pride is being expressed in your life. Scripture shows us that pride is strongly and dangerously rooted in all our lives, far more than most of us care to admit or even think about. At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.”
“And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Luke 11:1-10).
“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
Today, in the United States a new President will be sworn into office. For many, if not most Christians, these are days of uncertainty. Between a Pandemic, political divisiveness, social unrest, and the new Administration’s very liberal, and in some cases, ungodly agenda, many Christians are concerned. And yet, we must be reminded that God is still on His throne, Christ is still Lord of all, the promises of God as found in His eternal word are still true, and “the gates of hell” shall not prevail against the church of the Living God.
In my Bible reading, among many other great truths, one truth from Luke’s Gospel that really stuck out and is definitely worth pondering on this Inauguration Day:
If Christ is preeminent in my life, fervent and persistent prayer will be the desire of my heart and should be the devotion of my life [Luke 11:1-13].
After witnessing Christ praying, at least one of his disciples longed to learn to pray as Jesus prayed and asked Jesus to teach him to pray. We might want to get this longing today.
Prayer, especially fervent and persistent prayer has always been important, but never more so than in the coming days. Most followers of Jesus will readily admit that prayer is important. We talk about prayer. We read about prayer. We quote verses on prayer. We teach and preach about prayer. We even sing about prayer. Unfortunately, many of us don’t pray or at least we definitely don’t pray as we should.
God is looking for some real men and women of prayer today, you can bet on it!
Three of my favorite quotes on prayer remind us of the need for a praying people in these days:
“My observation is that the evangelical church does a great deal of complaining about the demise of our culture, the low level of political discourse, and the encroaching religious darkness. Helpless as we are to stem these ominous tides, yet incredibly we still do not humble ourselves and pray. We lament that we have not seen a revival, but we are not yet desperate enough to seek God for such an outpouring. … We need an urgent rediscovery of early church leadership and a return to New Testament power. In this moment it’s apparent that the American church is drifting. All indicators would also point to an impending sifting. There has not been a more critical moment in recent history. It is a moment that calls us to the core supernatural realities of ministry. This is our only hope and must be our clarion conviction. It is time for a necessary, indescribable awakening among God’s people.”
“I often wonder what would transpire if every Christ-follower got serious about installing solid prayer practices into their lives. What kind of kingdom gains do you suppose would be made if each of us made pressing into God through prayer a nonnegotiable part of our everyday experience? I believe hearts would soften. Habits would shift. Faith would expand. Love for the poor would increase. Positive, purposeful legacies would be built. And a ravenous hunger would rumble through us all to get usable and to get used in significant ways by the one true God. We can make this happen in our lifetime, friend. And it all starts with learning, and loving, to pray.”
“Every time I set my face to seeking God in a fresh way, God begins to change my heart, my mind, my preaching, and my leadership skills. When any believer commits his or her heart to seeking the Lord, everything is going to change.”
I would encourage all of us to ponder these passages and quotes today. Who knows, they might change us from within and give us a desire to be a praying g people in the midst of perilous times.
O Lord, teach us to pray! Help us to be men and women of persistent and fervent prayer. Help us to pray for the great needs “around the corner” and “around the world.”
“Christianity is a relationship with Jesus the Christ. When things go wrong, it’s not because we don’t understand certain doctrines or fail to follow particular commands. It’s because we have left our ‘first love’ . . . or never had it in the first place.”
“And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand” (Genesis 39:1-4).
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29).
In my Bible reading, among many other great truths, there were two that really stuck out and worth pondering especially in these days:
First of all, the life of Joseph is a vivid reminder for all God’s children that our Father is always in control—yes, even in the midst of dark and discouraging days—and He is always working behind the scenes for our good, for the good of others and for His glory (Genesis 37-50; Romans 8:28)!
I am reminded of what one author wrote concerning God’s Providence and our problems:
“Once you begin to see God’s hand in your life (yes, even in the midst of your problems), you will know that his workmanship within you and through you was tailor-made, just for you. His design for your life pulls together every thread of your existence into a magnificent work of art. Every thread matters and has a specific purpose. … God does not display his work in abstract terms. He prefers the concrete, and this means that at the end of your life one of three things will happen to your heart: it will grow hard, it will be broken, or it will be tender. Nobody escapes. Your heart will become coarse and desensitized, be crushed under the weight of disappointment, or be made tender by that which makes the heart of God tender as well. God’s heart is a caring heart.”
I’m just wondering in light of all of the trials and troubles over the past year, if our hearts have become more tender or more tough in how we act or react to others, especially those we disagree with!
Secondly, Whether Joseph was with his parents, in a pit, in Potiphar’s house, in prison, or in a palace, whether he was poor or whether he was prosperous, the Lord was with Joseph and Joseph just stayed faithful despite his often unfavorable circumstances (Genesis 37-50).
Oh, to live such a life and, by God’s grace, to have such a testimony!
O Lord, this morning and throughout the day, help me to remember that regardless of where I am right now and what I am going through, you are with me and You are doing a work – a deep work in my heart and life!
“But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled” (Mark 15:5).
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).
“To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (Titus 3:2).
“That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).
This past week was a wonderful week with all of the discipleship, teaching college students back home, heading to SO. CA for three days to be with Pastor Stokes and his family, the chance to spend a little time with the grandchildren in Long Beach and Los Angeles, great reports from back “home,” and celebrating my 44th spiritual birthday.
While we are definitely living in disturbing days, there is still so much to be grateful for that’s for sure (like family, friends, and fellow-laborers). And, in the midst of the trials, the troubles, and the discouraging news, it is such a blessing to know that God is still on His throne, Christ is still Lord over all – including COVID, restrictions, political divisiveness, and social unrest – the Holy Spirit is still with us, the promises of God as found in His eternal word cannot and will not fail, and our Lord set an example for us to follow for these very times.
In my Bible reading, as always, I was reminded of many truths, but I thought I would share two important truths worth pondering and applying today:
First of all, it is “natural” for men to deceive one another and to rise up against one another [Mark 13:5-8]. Of course, we not only see this over and over again in the Bible, but throughout history. And, whether we like it or not, America isn’t exempt!
Let’s not be shocked when these things take place!
Secondly, we might want to follow the example the Lord Jesus set for us the last 48 hours of His life in the midst of these trying times and disturbing days [Mark 14:43-15:41; 1 Peter 2:21-23].
In the midst of these trying times, these dark and discouraging days, there is a great need for the people of God to rise up and not to whine or complain, not to beat their drums for their personal rights, but to set their attention and affection upon Christ and the cause of Christ, and to shine brightly for Christ in the midst of the darkness. In the midst of these trying times have we been complaining before men or crying out to God? During these dark days, have we been shining brightly for God or have we unknowingly put our light “under a bushel”?
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
O Lord, in the midst of these trying times help us to live, love, and serve rightly and help Your church to shine brightly!
“In times of crisis, the church doesn’t need rules established, laws passed, or wolves shot. She needs a seismic revelation of her Lord—the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form.”
“Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:21-22)
In my Bible reading, I was once again reminded of an important truth, if I am truly acknowledging the Preeminence of Christ in my life, I must be willing to give up anyone or anything to follow where Christ might lead, and if I do, I will be blessed on both this side of eternity and the other side of eternity [Mark 10:17-31].
I think if most of us were honest, brutally honest that is, we would have to admit there are certain people and certain things (prosperity and possessions, popularity and prestige, safety and security, comfort and convenience, parents and peers, friends and foes, etc…) in our lives that we simply refuse to “let go” of, and because of this, our walk with Christ is hindered, our growth in Christ is stunted, and our work for Christ is thwarted.
Was this not the Rich Young Ruler’s problem?
According to Jesus, the Rich Young Ruler had only ONE THING that kept him from following Jesus and finding true fulfillment and fruitfulness in life. For him, it was his prosperity and his possessions. And once again, if we are brutally honest, far too often, this is our problem also.
It might not be a bad idea, as we are still in the beginning days of a New Year, to BE HONEST with ourselves and ask this one question, “Is there someone or something that I need to “let go” of today in order to know, love, and serve Christ better, and to follow Him more closely?”
What is your “ONE THING” today?
O Lord, help me to submit to Your Lordship and be willing to give up anyone or anything that hinders my walk with You, stunts my growth in Christ, and thwarts my work for Christ and the cause of Christ!
“The center and the circumference of the Christian life is none other than the person of Christ. All other things, including those related to Him, are eclipsed by the sight of His peerless worth. God put an image in our galaxy to demonstrate what Christ is to us. We call it the sun. Without it, no life can exist on planet Earth. We are dependent upon the sun for everything. And just as the sun is the center of our solar system, Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of God’s universe, and even our lives.”
“And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:34-35)
In my Bible reading, I was, once again reminded, if I am truly acknowledging the Preeminence of Christ in my life, I must recognize that God’s purpose and plan will not always make sense to me, nor will it necessarily be comfortable for me, especially when it comes to Christ’s call for me to deny myself and take up my cross [Mark 8:31-38].
In these days when so many of God’s people are crying out for their personal rights, and in many cases, demanding their personal rights, it might be wise for those of us that are following Christ to keep in mind that our only true right is to deny self, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus.
The life of a follower of Jesus was never meant to be a comfortable, convenient, safe or secure life. The life of a follower of Jesus always was meant to be a life of consecration, commitment, and compassion for others, as we follow Christ wherever He might lead and obey whatever he might heed.
When it comes to the Cross, A. W. Tozer is right on target:
“The cross of Christ is the most revolutionary thing ever to appear among men. The cross of old Roman times knew no compromise; it never made concessions. It won all its arguments by killing its opponent and silencing him for good. It spared not Christ, but slew Him the same as the rest. He was alive when they hung Him on that cross and completely dead when they took Him down six hours later. After Christ was risen from the dead the apostles went out to preach His message, and what they preached was the cross. And wherever they went into the wide world they carried the cross, and the same revolutionary power went with them. The radical message of the cross transformed Saul of Tarsus and changed him from a persecutor of Christians to a tender believer and an apostle of the faith. Its power changed bad men into good ones. It shook off the long bondage of paganism and altered completely the whole moral and mental outlook of the Western world. … We must do something about the cross, and one of two things only we can do—flee it or die upon it. And if we should be so foolhardy as to flee, we shall by that act put away the faith of our fathers and make of Christianity something other than it is. … If we are wise, we will do what Jesus did: endure the cross and despise its shame for the joy that is set before us. To do this is to submit the whole pattern of our lives to be destroyed and built again in the power of an endless life. … The changed attitude toward the cross that we see in modern orthodoxy proves not that God has changed, nor that Christ has eased up on His demand that we carry the cross; it means rather that current Christianity has moved away from the standards of the New Testament. So far have we moved indeed that it may take nothing short of a new reformation to restore the cross to its right place in the theology and life of the Church.” – AW Tozer
May God help all of us to present to a dark and dying world a true picture of what the life of Christ and a follower of Christ is and not this cheap American imitation!
O Lord, help me not to simply sing about clinging to “the old rugged cross,” but help it to become a reality in my everyday life. Like Paul of old, help me to present myself as a “living sacrifice,” help me to “die daily,” by denying myself, picking up my cross, and following You!
“When the moon eclipses the sun, it is a wonder to behold. When anything eclipses Jesus, it is an atrocity to eradicate. … After all, Christianity is the worship of Jesus Christ. It’s the worship of Jesus Christ exclusively, and it’s the worship of Jesus Christ comprehensively. He alone is worthy; He alone is God; He alone is the infinite sacrifice made for the sins of those who would believe. But it’s comprehensive as well, which means that every part of our being should be engaged in the worship and honor of Jesus. If Jesus is who the Bible says He is, if He did what the Bible says He did, He is worthy of absolute, complete, exclusive, comprehensive attention and focus in our life.”
“And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. … And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Genesis 32:24, 27-28)
In my Bible reading last night, I was reminded that if we truly acknowledge the Preeminence of Christ, we shouldn’t be wrestling with God, but we should be surrendering to God.
Jacob was an interesting character to say the least. Unfortunately, most of us are just like Jacob and we spend much of our lives trying to cleverly navigate our purpose and plans for our lives, rather than submitting to God’s purpose and plan for our lives. Like Jacob of old, if we are running from our past, fearing what is in store for us in our future, or simply struggling with trusting God, we need to get alone with God and have a “life-changing experience.”
As one Bible commentator said concerning Jacob and this passage:
“All along Jacob’s life had been the struggle of a clever and strong, a pertinacious and enduring, a self-confident and self-sufficient person, who was sure of the result only when he helped himself-a contest with God, who wished to break his strength and wisdom, in order to bestow upon him real strength in divine weakness, and real Wisdom in divine folly.”
One Bible blogger wrote these following words:
“For the last two years, I have been wrestling with God. I have wrestled night and day, asking for a fresh vision of who he is and what he wants for my life. I’ve had a particular situation that has caused me to lose many nights of sleep—nights spent wrestling with God in prayer. I’ve begged God to give me clarity because I know that God is the author of peace and not confusion. I’ve spent countless hours crying, seeking God’s face. And I’ve finally reached a place of blessing—a place of peace where I know God has revealed himself to me, a place where I can walk forward in confidence knowing that he is in control.”
Folks, I don’t know about you, but I am thinking that the past ten months and with all that has gone on in our world, has surely been ordained of God and, no doubt, to “break us,” and to “remake us” into the men and women that He wants us to be.
So, here’s the question: “Has it worked or are we still wrestling?”
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
O Lord, break me, mold me and make me after Thine own will. Help me to quit wrestling with You and help me to simply surrender to Your will every day!
“God is not so much about fixing things that have gone wrong in our lives as He is about finding us in our brokenness and giving us Christ. When Christ is not central and supreme in our lives, everything about life shifts out of orbit and moves out of kilter. So, for Christians, our first task is to know Jesus. And out of that knowing, we will come to love Him, adore Him, proclaim Him, and manifest Him.”
“For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:9-11).
As you probably know, the church at Corinth had a boatload of problems. Oh boy, that might be the understatement of the year. Yet, it would appear that ALL of their problems stemmed from two sources, and these are found in 1 Corinthians chapters 3 and 13. First of all, the church at Corinth wasn’t focused and properly founded upon Christ [1 Corinthians 3:1-14]. Secondly, the church at Corinth was not motivated by love [1 Corinthians 13:1-13].
In today’s reading of 1 Corinthians 3:1-14, I was reminded what happens to a family, a church, or even a Christian movement when it takes its eyes off of Christ and focuses its attention and affection upon anyone or anything else [Colossians 3:1-2; Hebrews 12:1-2; Philippians 3:7-15; Jeremiah 2:13].
We eventually become distracted, detoured, disoriented, and almost always end up being divisive!
Just think about the days in which we live. Our country, and, in far too many ways, our churches are in a mess. We have become focused upon so many different things. Can anyone say, “politics”? And, by the way, that is just one of many!
I remember reading these words a few years ago and, at the time, they seemed so relevant. I have to be honest with you, they seem so much more relevant today than they were at that time:
“The body of Christ is at a crossroads right now. The two common alternatives are to move either to the left or the right. It’s our observation, however, that we are living in a unique time, when people are frozen as they look in either of those directions. When they look to the left, they decide that they cannot venture there. When they look to the right, they feel the same. … If the church does not reorient and become Christological at its core, any steps taken will be backwards.
Christians have made the gospel about so many things—things other than Christ. But Jesus Christ is the gravitational pull that brings everything together and gives it meaning. Without Him, all things lose their value. … It is all too possible to emphasize a spiritual truth, value, virtue, or gift, yet miss Christ, who is Himself the embodiment and incarnation of all of these things. Seek Christ, embrace Christ, know Christ, and you will have touched Him who is Life.”
We might want to hang that quote on the fridge for awhile.
There are three questions worth prayerfully pondering and sincerely asking ourselves this morning: (1) Is Jesus Christ the overwhelming love and passion of my life? (2) Have I become distracted and disoriented? (3) Is Jesus Christ Preeminent in my life or simply prominent in my life today?
There is a huge difference!
As one author noted, “When we dethrone Jesus Christ from His rightful place, we tarnish the face of Christianity and redefine it out of existence.”
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:16-18).
“And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of. And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not” (Genesis 28:15-16).
A wonderful Lord’s day yesterday! I am looking forward to a great week ahead and there’s no better way to start the week off than by making a few important decisions, beginning with a short, but much needed fast from Social Media. Definitely need one after the events of this past week!
In my Bible reading from last night (OT) and this morning (NT), there were a few thoughts that really stuck out:
First of all, if truly acknowledge the Preeminence of Christ, I need to come to grips with the fact that I am often right where God wants me (even if I might not want to be there), right where God has led me, and GOD IS WITH ME, and sadly, I might not even recognize it [Genesis 28:10-22].
Secondly, if I truly acknowledge the Preeminence of Christ there will be times when I will find that the Spirit of God leads me into the wilderness, but I can rest assured that He will always be in the wilderness with me and will be guiding and caring for me [Mark 1:12-13].
Thirdly, if I truly acknowledge the Preeminence of Christ, when Jesus calls me to go somewhere or to do something, I won’t debate, argue, nor will I put it off until later, I will simply obey [Mark 1:16-20].
Fourthly, if I truly acknowledge the Preeminence of Christ, like my Lord Jesus, I will also understand the importance of solitude and time with the Father [Mark 1:35].
Fifthly, if I truly acknowledge the Preeminence of Christ, I need to understand the importance of unity in the church. A UNITED CHURCH is a HEALTHY CHURCH [1 Corinthians 1:1:10-17].
Lastly, if I truly acknowledge the Preeminence of Christ, I need to occasionally evaluate my preaching. Biblical preaching is preaching CHRIST and the CROSS OF CHRIST [1:18-31 & 2:1-5].
O Lord, help me in these trying times! Help me while I am stuck here in. America, while there is so much chaos and confusion, division and, in some cases despair, to recognize that You are still in control and thatYou have me right where You want me for this season of my life. Help me to be faithful to point others to Christ and the cross of Christ in these times!
This past year (2020) was the longest year of my life. Not sure, but I this past week has definitely been one of the longest weeks of my life. What has been transpiring over the past few years, and what transpired in D.C. this past week, should be beyond disturbing for all Americans, and especially Christians in America. And yet, I just have to remind myself daily that God is still on his throne, Christ is still Lord of all, the Holy Spirit has not left us, the word of God is as true today as it has ever been, and GOD IS STILL GOOD!
God is good all the time. All the time, God is good!
In my Bible reading today, there were a few thoughts that really stuck out and helpful:
First of all, as a follower of Jesus that claims to truly recognize the Preeminence of Christ, I need to get back to digging, and in some cases some serious re-digging, building “altars,” and calling on the Name of the Lord, if we are ever going to see a true revival in our homes, our churches, and our land [Genesis 26:15-25].
God knows we all desperately need a revival in our homes, churches, communities, and our country, but that revival needs to start in my heart!
Secondly, and so relevant for the days in which we live, If I truly submit to the preeminence of Christ, I have a choice to make, we all have a choice to make in these politically divisive days, will we choose Christ, or will we lower ourselves and choose the political zealots of our day [Matthew 27:15-26]. Sadly, throughout history, many of God’s good people have chosen the political zealots of their day!
Thirdly, as a follower of Christ that claims to submit himself to the preeminence of Christ, like the Apostle Paul of old, I must commit myself to the cause of Christ “around the corner” and “around the world,” and give myself to being an encouragement and an example to the people of God [Romans 15:1-3, 14-33].
O Lord, help me to do some re-evaluating and re-digging in my life. Revive me again, that I might rejoice in Thee, and Thee alone! And Lord, help me to be an encouragement and an example to others, especially during these troubling times!
Well, the first complete week of 2021 is coming to a close today. What a start! The political scene is in shambles, as a nation, we just had our worst COVID week of the entire Pandemic, and the divisiveness in our country, and in many cases, in our churches is getting worse.
Yet, despite all of these things, it is good to know that God is still on his throne, Christ is still Lord of all, the Holy Spirit has not left us, the word of God is as true today as it has ever been, and GOD IS STILL GOOD!
Nothing like starting the day off with God, especially during these trying times and difficult days. A few nuggets of truth this morning:
*If I truly know and love the Lord Jesus and if I am truly acknowledging his preeminence over my life, I will wisely invest my time, talents, and treasures for Christ and the cause of Christ [Matthew 25:14-30] and I will gladly care and help the poor, the needy, and the helpless, or “the least of these” [Matthew 25:34-40]!
*If I am truly acknowledging the preeminence of Christ over my life, I will submit my will to his will, even if it might be painful and doesn’t fit my personal agenda [Matthew 26:39-42].
*If I am truly acknowledging the preeminence of Christ over my life, I will be careful not to judge my brothers and sisters in Christ, leave the judging to God, and if I “must judge,” I will be certain to deal with my issues first [Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 7:1-5; John 8:1-11].
O Lord, in these troubling times help me to stay focused upon You, help me to grow in my knowledge and love for You, help me to be a wise steward over all that You have entrusted into my care, help me to be totally submitted to Your will for my life and ministry (even if I don’t “understand it” or “approve of it”), and deliver me from a judgmental spirit!
In my Bible reading this morning, there were a few great truths worth prayerfully pondering and applying:
First of all, if I am truly (key word there) acknowledging the PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST (this year’s theme), like Abraham and Sarah of old could surely testify, I need to remember that a PREEMINENT CHRIST will always DELIVER ON HIS PROMISES, but in HIS time. Of course, I must do my part, by remaining FAITHFUL and going FORWARD (Genesis 21:1-7).
Secondly, if I am truly acknowledging the PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST, I am going to love Christ above everything and everyone else. And, I am going to have to love people [Matthew 22:34-40]. There’s really no getting around it!
Thirdly, if I am truly acknowledging the PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST, I am going to be careful to not fall into the trap of the Pharisees, which is so easy to do, and make my Christian experience all about the externals, rather than the internal, judging others more than I judge myself, and lacking the love and mercy of Christ in my life [Matthew 23.
Fourthly, if I am truly acknowledging the PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST, I should be longing and looking for the return of the Lord [Matthew 24:36-51].
While we definitely live in unstable, unpredictable, and often uncomfortable days, we must never forget that serve a stable and predictable God, and we can trust him with our hearts and lives.
O Lord, help me to believe and trust Your promises even when everything around me appears to be going “wrong,” help me to love You and others, deliver me from the Pharisaical spirit that rests so comfortably in my heart, and help me to get back to the place where I recognize that this is not my home and I truly long to go home and look forward to Your return!
Glad yesterday is over, or is it? 🙂
Well, regardless of what comes our way today, it’s always good to remember that this is the day that the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it. So thankful for God’s word and the comfort, conviction, and challenges that it brings my way every day, including this morning.
In my Bible reading this morning, there were a few great truths worth prayerfully pondering and applying:
First of all, those that truly acknowledge the PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST will be submitted to the PRINCIPLES OF GOD’S WORD and they will FLEE FROM THE PERVERSIONS OF THIS WORLD [PRO 7].
Secondly, those that truly acknowledge the PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST will truly VALUE the PERSON OF CHRIST, far above the prosperity, popularity, power, and the pleasures that this life has the offer [Matthew 19:16-30]!
Thirdly, during these dark, divisive, disturbing, and discouraging days, we might want to remember that CLEANSING THE CHURCH might very well be the prerequisite to CHANGING THE COUNTRY [Matthew 21:12-13; 1 Peter 4:17].
And, of course, cleansing or changing the church actually starts with CHANGING ME!
Not sure about you, but it’s so very easy for me to get my eyes off of Christ, the cause of Christ, and those things that are eternal and focus on the temporal or that which is not eternal [COL 3:1-2]. This is especially true in America!
O Lord, help me to be focused upon You today! Help me to be grounded and guided by the truths of Your word, flee from the things of this world, and be far more concerned with You cleansing and changing me than I am about Your cleansing and changing others!
Genesis 17:1-2, And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
Genesis 18:22-25, And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
In my O.T. Bible reading, I continued reading about the great man Abram (later Abraham). His life, while definitely having its ups and downs, is a great example of a life lived by faith. Abram was definitely a man that lived by faith and understood the importance of hearing and heeding the Voice of God. In chapters of 17 -18 of Genesis, I was reminded of this important truth: Like Abram of old, those that truly know, understand, and submit themselves to the Preeminence of Christ will also understand the importance of both faithfulness AND intercession in their lives (Genesis 17:1-9; 18:16-33).
God is looking for a people that not only will LIVE FAITHFULLY, but a people that will PRAY FERVENTLY. This is especially true in the dark and discouraging days in which we live!
When you think about the events of the day today here in America, in fact, when you think about the events that have taken place over the past few years in America, along with the country’s constant and continual spiral away from the word and ways of God, and when you think about the great needs “around the corner” and “around the world,” it often leaves you feeling helpless.
So, what shall we do in these days?
Possibly we should follow the example of the man Abram, Live faithfully and pray fervently!
God has been looking for faithful and praying men forever. Will we choose to be such a man or woman?
Ezekiel 22:30-31, And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord GOD.
O Lord, we live in dark and discouraging days! At times, we feel such a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Often, we feel as if there is nothing that we can do. Help us to be found faithful in such days and, help us to be prayerful in these days!
Genesis 13:17-18, Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee. Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD.
Hebrews 11:8, By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
In my O.T. Bible reading last night, along with my Gospel’s reading of Peter walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33) this morning, among other truths, there was one very important truth that seemed to stick out and I thought I would share it with you this morning. In fact, it goes along with our reflection from yesterday about the call of Abraham:
Those that are SUBMITTED TO THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST IN THEIR LIVES and SURRENDERED TO THE CALLING OF CHRIST ON THEIR LIVES never really get too comfortable in this world and are ready, willing, and able to change where they are living and what they are doing at the slightest nudge from the Spirit of God.
In fact, it isn’t until, like Abram of old, we are willing to REMOVE OUR TENT FROM OUR PLACE OF COMFORT, STEP OUT BY FAITH, and GO FORWARD TO THE LAND OF OUR CALLING (even we aren’t quite sure where we are going or what we will be doing), that we are able to experience the greatest measure of God’s true blessing!
The true Christian life is a life of faith and the best way to spell faith is RISK!
If we aren’t willing to leave our comfort zone, if we aren’t willing to make some changes, including changes of long standing attitudes, possibly change the way we have done things for years, and maybe even change geographical locations, we can pretty much count out the blessing or miracle that God has in store for us. I like what one author wrote concerning Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on the water.
Put yourself in Peter’s place for a moment. You have a sudden insight into what Jesus is doing—the Lord is passing by. He’s inviting you to go on the adventure of your life. But at the same time, you’re scared to death. What would you choose—the water or the boat? The boat is safe, secure, and comfortable. On the other hand, the water is rough. The waves are high. The wind is strong. There’s a storm out there. And if you get out of the boat—whatever your boat might happen to be—there’s a good chance you might sink. But if you don’t get out of the boat, there’s a guaranteed certainty that you will never walk on the water. This is an immutable law of nature. If you want to walk on the water, you’ve got to get out of the boat. I believe there is something—Someone—inside us who tells us there is more to life than sitting in the boat. You were made for something more than merely avoiding failure. There is something inside you that wants to walk on the water—to leave the comfort of routine existence and abandon yourself to the high adventure of following God. So let me ask you a very important question: What’s your boat? – John Ortberg
O Lord, I find myself constantly getting comfortable, in fact, far too comfortable. Please help me to be sensitive to the nudges of the Spirit each and every day, and help me to be willing to lay it all on the altar, regardless of how painful “surrendering all” might be!
“We may feel a nudge about a need, but then excuses pile up and our insecurity and fear hold us back.”
Genesis 12:1-3, Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
Hebrews 11:8, By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
In my Bible reading this morning, among many other truths, there was one very simple and yet very important truth that seemed to stick out and I thought I would share today:
Those that are SUBMITTED TO THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST IN THEIR LIVES will always SURRENDER TO THE CALLING OF CHRIST UPON THEIR LIVES.
Abraham had no idea where he was going and to be honest with you he really had little to no idea what he would be doing, but he chose to obey the call of God upon his life.
How about us today?
It is good to keep in mind that the BLESSINGS OF GOD UPON OUR LIVES are greatly dependent upon our OBEDIENCE TO THE CALLING OF GOD UPON OUR LIVES!
O Lord, help me to know, understand, and submit to Your calling in my life, and yes, even in the midst of these difficult days and troubling times!
In my Bible reading this morning, among many other truths, four very important truths seemed to especially stick out and were definitely worth pondering:
First of all, like Noah of old, those that have truly acknowledged the Preeminence of Christ have intentionally chosen to live GODLY LIVES in the midst of GODLESS TIMES, and as a result of this decision they, along with their families, are blessed by God [Genesis ch. 6-8].
Secondly, the man or woman that gives himself to becoming a man of mercy and truth, trusts in the Lord with all of his heart and acknowledges him as the Preeminent One, will find that God will direct his paths [Proverbs 3:3-6].
Thirdly, if a man or a woman truly understands and acknowledges the Preeminence of Christ, which would include His holiness, they will humbled to the point of recognizing that they have little room to judge others, especially before they have first judged themselves [Matthew 7:1-5].
Fourthly, if a man or a woman truly acknowledges the Preeminence of Christ they will be committed to the cause of Christ “around the corner” and “around the world” [Matthew 9:37-38].
O Lord, give me the strength and the wisdom to live in such a way that pleases You and draws others to You. Lord, help me to be a balanced Christian, a man of mercy and truth, a man that is quick to judge himself and slow to judge others, and help me to be more committed to the great work of the harvest in 2021 than I was in 2020!
In my Bible reading this morning, among others, two very important truths stuck out:
First of all, while reading Genesis 6, I was reminded that since the fall of mankind, evil and wickedness have always been a part of our world (6:5), but like Noah of old, those that have understood, acknowledged, and submitted to the preeminence of Christ, have made the intentional choice to LIVE DIFFERENTLY and SHINE BRIGHTLY (Genesis 6:8, 9).
Secondly, while reading Matthew 6, I was reminded that those that truly understand, acknowledge, and submit to the preeminence of Christ, intentionally choose to treasure Christ far more than any personal prosperity they might have (Matthew 6:19-24, 33)!
Two Questions definitely worth pondering today:
“Do we love and treasure Christ more today than we did at the beginning of 2020? Are we living more differently and shining more brightly today than we were in the beginning of 2020? “
O Lord, grant me the grace to treasure and love You above everyone and everything else in this life. And Lord, help me to live differently and shine brightly in a dark and desperate world!
A great start to a New Year, and a new theme “The Pre-eminence of Christ.”
In my Bible reading this morning, I am grateful that I was reminded on day number one of a New Year to place, or keep God in “the beginning” of every area of my life and ministry, to be careful to keep a clear distinction of the light and the darkness in every area of my life and ministry [Genesis 1], to avoid the whispers of the evil one [Genesis 3], to live daily in a spirit of repentance and surrender [Matthew 3:1-8], and to live my life by faith and not by feelings [Romans 1:17].
O Lord, at times in 2020 it was difficult to live as consistently as I should in Your presence and be as given completely to Your purpose for my life, my marriage, and my ministry as I should have been. I CANNOT blame my circumstances and I cannot blame others, but I must look into the mirror of Your word and see that I HAVE BEEN MY BIGGEST PROBLEM IN 2020. Help me to give myself to knowing, loving, and serving You in a deeper way this year than ever before. Help me to surrender myself daily and completely to You and Your purpose for my life!