BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS…


Joshua 1:1-9 – “Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, 2 “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. 3 ” Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. 4 ” From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. 5 ” No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6 ” Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8 ” This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”  NASB

Three times in nine verses the Lord told Joshua to be “strong and courageous” or “very courageous.”  When I read things like that, I must confess that if I were in Joshua’s shoes I would be thinking and probably saying, “Lord, what is it that you are not telling me?”  For the Lord to emphasize in a few verses three times that he needed to be “strong” and “courageous” or “very courageous,” makes one wonder what is coming. 

I have little doubt that Joshua wondered even though there is no record that he asked.  He had seen the hand of the Lord demonstrated mightily in the wilderness and possibly his faith had reached the place where those types of questions did not come but for me, they would come.  Trusting the Lord is one thing, wondering what is coming is another!

I take that message to Joshua and apply it to us today and believe that it is applicable in light of the condition of our world.  We must be strong in the faith, and this is a day when courage is greatly needed.  I believe that there is coming a day very soon when if we are not “strong” and “courageous” trusting God completely, we will be overcome and overrun by the assault of hell on our faith. 

We have people around the world and in this nation who, fully believe that they are doing God a service by attacking us.  We have enemies of the Christian faith who want to eradicate us and any remembrance of our God.  The Bible predicts that this time will come and everything that can be shaken will be shaken.  I am seeing a “whole lot of shaking going on” and realize that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

How do we become “strong” and “courageous”?  The only way that I see it happening in the spirit realm is by “seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”  When we turn our whole hearts to the Lord, He infuses His strength into our lives and through that strength, we obtain the courage to face anything!   So today turn your heart to the Lord and draw from His strength and courage.

May God be with you as you go through your day!

ARE YOU A FIG OR A THORN?


Luke 6:39-45 – “And He also spoke a parable to them: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit?  40 ” A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.  41 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  42 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.  43 ” For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit.  44 ” For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.  45 ” The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” NASB

Jesus spared no words in this parable.  He made it clear that fruit is important in our lives and the absence of or type of fruit is a defining statement about who we are.  No one would think it normal or desired for the blind to be charged with leading the blind.  Likewise, the student is the one learning and the teacher is the one that has been trained and is dispensing information and knowledge.  If we are laden with sin and issues in our lives how dare, we think that we can be God’s designated “fruit inspectors” for others with the same or even lesser issues?

Jesus then turned to the subject of trees and fruit, and this is not a new topic to our Lord or the gospels, you find it in numerous places and each time there is a similar message and emphasis on its importance.  A “good tree” or a “righteous life” does not produce “bad fruit” or “a life of sin.”  You would not go to a thorn bush to look for figs or seek grapes in a briar patch because those plants by their very nature could not produce that fruit. 

The Lord brought his message to a climax in verse forty-five telling us that “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”  What is in your deepest innermost being is what will make its way to the lips sooner or later.  You may hide it for a time but eventually, what you will call a slip will take place and the fruit of your lips will reveal the tree that you are. The overflow of the heart manifests itself in words.

I want to be a fig, not a thorn!  I want to be a grape, not a briar!  I want to produce “good treasure” not “evil.”  I want to manifest the love and lordship of Jesus not hate, bitterness, and the carnality of man.  I want to exhibit His righteousness, not my sinfulness.  This can only happen as I commit my entire being to Him and “seek Him first before and above everything.”  At that point, He will live His life through me and what comes out in my words and actions will manifest Him. 

That is my desire!  I pray like David in Psalm 51:10-13 – “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.  11 Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.  12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.  13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to you.” NASB

May the Lord be with you as you go through this day!

THE SANDS OF TIME…


James 4:14 – “You do not even know what your life will be like tomorrow!  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Job 14:1 – “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil.”

Psalm 90:12 – “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”

While I was praying, the image of an hourglass arose in my mind.  It was filled with sand, some of it had seeped into the lower chamber and some was still to be seeped out.  I heard in my heart of hearts – “Your life is like a sand-filled hourglass.  Each grain of sand represents the time you will live on the earth.” 

The problem was that I could not see the sand inside the container for it was not transparent like the glass hourglasses we typically see.  If life were like an hourglass and we could see how much of life has been spent and how much remains we might adjust our lives accordingly.  The problem is none of us knows how much sand is in the container.  None of us can see how much has been lived and how much is to be lived.  None of us knows how much sand was in the container at the beginning. 

We only have this moment in time.  God determines the length of our days.  Yet, he places before us life to be lived each moment of each day as an offering to Him.  How much time we have is not nearly as important as how we live that time.

When the last drop of sand falls into the lower portion of the hourglass that’s it.  We cannot flip the container over and begin anew watching the sand seep through to the lower portion.  We do not get ‘do overs’ in life.  We pass through once and then according to the Bible we stand before God in judgment. (Hebrews 9:27).  According to Romans 14:12, we will each give an account of how we lived here on earth.

Jesus instructed us not to be anxious about tomorrow.  (Matthew 6:34).  David urged us to live each day delighting ourselves in the LORD. (Psalm 37:4).  Also, we are encouraged to live by faith believing that God has a path for us to follow and that in His presence there is fullness of joy and at His right hand pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11).  The apostle Paul directed us to do everything we do unto the LORD, not for self or man. (Colossians 3:23).

Jesus promised that He would not leave us without comfort or guidance.  He promised that He would come back for us.  He assured us that He was unchanging, and we know that He completely defeated the devil.  Therefore, we are to live victorious, joyous, content, and with hope.  The number of grains of sand in our hourglass is not the important point, how we live those moments is.

So, I ask that you consider your life like it is an hourglass filled with the sands of time.  You do not know how many grains (days or years) you have, but while you have life learn to live!  You cannot see how much time is left or even how much is spent.  You can calculate your years but that means little when it comes to your hourglass.  You can assume to know with relative certainty how much time is left based on how much has been spent, but God is the one who ultimately determines that.

The point I am attempting to convey is you have time but how much you do not know.  You have your life on earth but for how long you do not know.  What you can control is what you do with the time you have.  I suggest that we should make it our ambition to please the LORD.  We should live each moment as if this would be our last day on the planet.  We should seek first and foremost God’s kingdom and righteousness.  Jesus said, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you can ask whatever you will, and it will be done unto you.” (John 15:7).

We have been granted a great treasure, the treasure of Life.  We are to be good stewards of that life and managers of the time He has put in our hands.  You are important to God and to others that you may not even know.  You are influencing others, so let’s seek to have the greatest impact possible when the last grain of sand falls to the bottom of our Life’s Hourglass.

God bless you and you live this day focused on Him!

REVEALING THE HEART…


2 Corinthians 9:6-8 – “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”  NKJV

I have long believed, through my study of Scripture and watching people, that generosity or the lack thereof reveals the heart of a person.  I am convinced that if God does not have our pocketbooks, He does not truly have our hearts for where the treasure is there the heart is also.  I know the context of this passage is focused on money, but I want to press it beyond that and do not believe that I am violating truth in doing so.

The Law of Sowing and Reaping reaches far beyond the monetary in considering the principle of reaping WHAT we sow, LATER than we sow, and MORE than we sow.  It is applicable whether it is about money, time, patience, or love.  In this truth, God promises that He will cause ALL GRACE to abound to us so that we have All Sufficiency in All Things and have an abundance for Every Good Work!  That is an incredible promise.

Sadly, some have taken it as a promise of personal wealth and attempted to manipulate God through their giving.  God is interested in the gift and the motivation behind the gift and His blessings are following that principle.  It would behoove us to examine what we are giving and why we are giving or what we are not giving and why.  It will reveal our hearts either good or flawed.

I have experienced times when I desperately needed finances and had no means of acquiring those needed funds.  I recall one such incident in which I had a $500 need and had $55 to my name.  I do not mean had that amount of ready cash I mean that is ALL I had in this world.  The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said tithe on your need.  What?  My response was “God I have $55 to last me a full week a wife and two small children to care for.  If I give the $50 you are asking for, I will have $5 left.” 

Three times I heard ‘tithe on your need’.  I took the $50 and planned to put it in the offering on Sunday morning and as the plate came around, I tried but could not turn it loose.  I spent a miserable Sunday afternoon and on Sunday night when the offering took place, I literally threw the $50 in the plate as though it were a hot potato that I had to get out of my hand.  I believed God would care for us, but my humanity kept me awake all night battling thoughts of my failure in my responsibility to my family and they would have little to eat this week if…  That is the problem IF…  

I was in the condition of the man that said to Jesus, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”  The next day after a time in prayer I went to town to run an errand for the church and a person walked up to me on the street and said, “The Lord spoke to me last night to give you this.”  They placed an item in my hand and walked away.  I sat in my car and opened my hand, and it was a check for $550.00. 

God met the need I had and gave me back the $50.00 above the need.  My family was cared for, the need was met, and my faith was given an adrenaline shot that has never been forgotten.  God responded to my obedience and blessed me despite my fears, questions, and even doubts.  From that time on my giving has been cheerful and I have not given out of necessity since that day but out of a desire to honor the Lord and help others.

I have faced times when I desperately needed someone to assist me, comfort me, love me or counsel me and found that the return on my investment in others came back to me manyfold.  When I apply the Luke 6:38 principles and “Give what I need” God NEVER fails to send help in the time of need.  If we allow Him to have control of our time and treasure, we will find that Grace will Abound to us in a mighty manner.

God bless you as you go through this day!

PERIL OF THE IDLER – Part II


Matthew 12:43-45 – “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 “Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order.  45 “Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”  NASB

Let us move another step into our consideration of the topic.  Last time we identified that the first blunder or mistake this man-made was in thinking that harmlessness was holiness.  We noted that this is a misconception that is commonplace and refuses to die.  Now let us consider another dimension of this problem.

I contend, as I believe the Bible confirms, that emptiness or idleness falls short of holiness and can be classified as sin.  Please understand, I understand that just being busy is not what God is looking for.  I wrote a book entitled, “Too Busy With Busyness To Hear God.”  It is possible, as the Bible confirms, to bestow all your earthly good to feed the poor, and even give your body to be burned and it be a worthless act. 


An individual’s works may appear great and yet that worker is lacking in moral worth, but an idler is certain to be so.  James 4:17 declares, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”  May God help us to never reach the place where sin does not bother us.  Lost humanity crushes the heart of God and should us too.  No person can stand in the midst of a needy world, like the one we live in, and not be guilty in the sight of God if he or she remains empty and idle.

Jesus taught this truth and gave the example of cursing the barren fig tree.  He did not curse it because it produced poisonous fruit but because it bore no fruit.  Sin involves disobedience to God’s Word.  We can become a curse by refusing to be a blessing. 

Remember the parable of the talents?  The one was cast out, not because he wasted the talent, but because he did nothing with it.  Remember the parable of the wedding feast?  The man was cast out not because of the wrongness of his life, but because he did not have on a wedding garment.  Which is equivalent to accepting the Grace of God in Salvation!

I heard a story of an engaged couple who were in a movie theater and a fire broke out.  The man ran and later returned for her.  She refused to acknowledge him because he ran off rather than helping her escape.  She called off the wedding because he failed to do the right thing.

Not only is emptiness sin, the sin of omission, but it leads to positive or active sin.  There is only one cure – Fulness!  There is only one way to conquer the evil which is to bring its opposite into the mix and do good.  The only real foe of darkness is light.  The only way to destroy error is through the truth. 

Jesus taught a unique lesson regarding the tares and the wheat.  You focus on the wheat, not the tares.  It is better to allow some tares with the wheat than to destroy all and leave the field fruitless and barren.  Paul wrote to a semi-barbarous tribe in Galatia, who had been converted. They were having difficulty practicing self-control.  He did not say, “Set your face and make up your mind that you are not going to do wrong.”  Rather he said, “This I say, walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”  Get the right focus!

Please hear me, we cannot win by doing nothing.  We must be filled with Christ and invested in His service.  We cannot simply be emptied of sin; we must be filled with Christ and His Spirit.  The world does not mind us gathering together and keeping all, we do within the four walls of the church building.  It is when we take the Good News to the community and begin to bring change that they resist.

There is a work for us to do and Jesus said, “The harvest is ready to be reaped but the laborers are few.”  Our focus is on the harvest, not the problem.  We do not know how long we have to work the works of Jesus for the night is coming.  We do not know how long it will be before the Lord Jesus returns, but He is coming again, and we need to be busy about the Master’s business. 

Let us allow the Holy Spirit to fill our lives with the Word of God and through the power of the Spirit of God and the Love of God, let us move forth in action rather than sitting idle. 

God bless you as you move forward in your life in Jesus!  Have a Great Day!

PERIL OF THE IDLER…


Matthew 12:43-45 – “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 “Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order.  45 “Then it goes, and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”  NASB

In the KJV verse 44 says, “…he findeth it empty.”  Empty is this man’s problem.  He has been cleansed but has not filled the house with another commodity, but it is swept clean but unoccupied.  When we come to Jesus and are emptied of the old, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with the new. 

This man has experienced a tremendous event.  He was a demoniac.  I am not saying that people who come to Christ have been delivered from demons but there is an applicable truth that can be seen.  He had an evil spirit and because he did not fill his life with Christ, he left himself open to an even greater attack of the enemy.

Think of it this way, coming to Christ we are set free from sin.  We need to fill our minds with the word of God and follow the directive of Paul to the Philippians and dwell on heavenly things.  If we continue in our old stinkin’ thinkin’ we open ourselves to an even more brutal attack of the enemy and allow ourselves to face temptation and deception that do not need to come our way.

This man’s greatest sin was ‘doing nothing.’  He allows himself to remain empty.  I would call him the idler.  Why would anyone in this condition or anyone who has experienced the new birth remain idle and empty?  Why?  Was it laziness, probably not?  Was it that there were not worthwhile tasks he could have become involved in, hardly?  Was it from indifference, doubtful?

Then why?  Why did he remain an idler?  It is quite possibly because he, like many professing believers, had a mindset produced by a fatal misconception of what it really means to be a Christian.  This man and all of us, need to be reprogrammed in our thinking and gain a right understanding of what being a member of the Body of Christ truly means.  He may have been eager to reach that goal, but he went at it in such a way that made it impossible.

Many make the mistake that Harmlessness is Holiness.  They confuse emptiness with godliness.  They think that goodness consists of doing no wrong.  They think that a Christlike character is made up of negatives.  Touch not, taste, not, do not.  His mistake was not uncommon.  There are many whose greatest claim to Christianity is they do no harm, or they are as good as the next person.

Some expect to sprout wings and have a visible halo over their heads because there are so many bad things, they do not do.  The list of sins that they do not do would fill an encyclopedia, but the list of burdens they carry and useful tasks they are doing would be a blank sheet of paper.  The person who does not harm is as far from Christlikeness as the man who commits open sin.

The bee is not prized because it does not sting, but because it produces honey.  The garden is not treasured because it has no briars, but because of its flowers and fruit.  A rose is not sought after because of its lack of thorns, but because of the beauty and fragrance of the roses.  Jesus told us that to be a follower of His we must take up our cross and follow Him.  He instructed us to take His yoke upon us.  Christianity is action in obedience to the directive of Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

If doing no harm made people saints, then we could make another Apostle Paul from a wax figure for it would do no harm.  Sadly, that misconception refuses to die.  Jesus found the religion of His day to be a religion of do nots… Thou Shalt Not!  He challenged them by identifying that they bound heavy burdens on people that were too grievous to be carried.  The list of things you could not do on the Sabbath was so voluminous that only the most astute scholar could keep up with them.

In fact, you could not even catch a flea or swat a fly without being guilty of hunting or working on the Sabbath.  I do not find it amazing that the religious people of that day were so appalled at Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath.  They were determined to hound Him to his death because He violated their traditions.

This misconception produced monasticism.  In the dark ages, a man could become a saint by running off and hiding in a monastery or some den or cave and being a hermit.  They were living a life of sanctified selfishness and that evil is two-fold.  The world needs the light we have and to withhold it is a terrible thing.  We are strengthened as we strengthen others and hiding denies them and us the needed strength of the Light of God’s Love and Grace.

I want to pursue this a bit more, but will pause here and say, God, bless you, go with God and He will go with you!

KINGDOM SEEKERS – Part Three…


Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  NASB

 
Let us begin today by discussing the second question that I raised in the first devotional on this subject.
 
WHAT IS THE PRIORITY OF THIS SEEKING?
 
It is to be FIRST or Above All Else!  According to Matthew 10:37, it is to be before all human relations including family.  God is to be the Number One in all things and at all times!  If God is First everything else falls into its proper place.  It is to be before the pursuits of life of life according to 2 Timothy 2:4. 
           
Anything and I mean anything that holds our affections, allegiance, interest, involvement, and investment holds our hearts as revealed in Matthew 6:21, “…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
 
Let me offer this thought and you muse on it.  If you control your life, God does not.  If anything is sought, to the expense of God and His Kingdom and Righteousness it is being sought first.  It is imperative that we remember that there can be Only One Number One!  
 
I am saying, “Oh Father Forgive Me” as I type, and I encourage everyone to join me in being completely honest and transparent with God.  He already knows but it is important that we acknowledge the truth to Him and in that acknowledgment, He can come in and help us move out of that bondage into His victory!  I believe that it is not only important but imperative that we make God our Earliest and Primary Object of attention.  We give Him Preference over Everything!
 
I understand that life’s obligations and duties may occasionally make it difficult to invest time in prayer at the outset of your day, but if that is the norm then I must ask, “What is Number One?”  Are we willing to make everything take a backseat to God?  Are we willing to even endure hardships, ridicule, make sacrifices, and even suffer loss, in the natural to make Him Number One? 
 
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF SEEKING GOD FIRST?
 
It is here that I hope to eliminate all arguments and excuses against this pursuit of God.  Notice what Jesus says: “And all these things will be added to you.”  Can you and do you see that truth?  You lose nothing by making Him Number One in all things and at all times!  What are “All These Things?” 

I suggest that you read the preceding verses and you realize that He is speaking of both heavenly treasures as well as natural treasures.  He is talking about a new-found freedom that is incredible.  He is speaking about deliverance from fear, worry, and carnal lusts and draws our attention to the Promises of His Provision in Life of All that we need!
 
·         Incorruptible Treasures.
·         Indescribable Peace.
·         Supernatural Provision.
·         Eternal Inheritance.

That which is the most important will be that which is most sought after by us!  It reveals what is Number One to us!  So, I ask each of us to be totally honest with ourselves and with God.  Are we seeking First the Kingdom and Righteousness of God?  Would we, will we renounce anything for Him?  Is our heart’s cry right now, “Guilty, I’m Guilty of failure to do this, Lord so I ask that you forgive me for my negligence and any unwittingly manufactured excused for my omission?” 
 
As I conclude the words of the chorus – “Mercy rewrote my life” are ringing in my heart.  So, I come before the Lord in repentance and to receive His mercy.  I declare that my heart’s greatest desire is Him, His Kingdom, and His Righteousness.  I want to see the fulfillment of the prayer Jesus instructed His followers to pray in Matthew 6.  “Lord, I want to see your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and I want it to be a present reality in my life.”
 
If your heart is crying out to Him in repentance for any negligence know that He both hears and forgives and if you ask, He will transform you and you can go forth renewed and manifest as well as represent Him to a fallen world.
 
God bless you as you enjoy this day in Him!
 

KINGDOM SEEKERS – Part Two…


Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  NASB

In the last devotional, we introduced the question that was the first in the three things I suggested this text unveils.
 
WHAT ARE WE TO SEEK?
 
We are to Seek the Kingdom of God.  That should be understood without having to say it.  But it is important that we address it.  The immediate question is “What is the Kingdom of God?”  I do not desire or intend to engage in a lengthy discourse or discussion about that question but suffice it to say, “It is the Sphere or Realm of God’s Rule.”  I believe that encapsulated in that declaration we find the reality of God’s Kingdom in His Presence, His Rule, His Reign, and His Sovereignty.  Let me offer a few passages to illustrate what I am saying.
 
Psalm 22:28 – “For the kingdom is the LORD’S and He rules over the nations.” 
Psalm 145:13 – “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations.” 
Dan 4:25b – “…the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.” 
Luke 1:52 – “He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.” 
 
The area and right of God’s Rule are universal.  He has the Right and Authority to rule everything and everyone.  But, although He has the right to rule the whole earth, the earth is the scene of a cosmic and universal rebellion against Him.
 
Luke 4:5-8 – “And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 “Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'” 
 
1 John 5:19 – “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” 
 
Revelation 11:15-18 – “Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18 “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” 
 
Next, the Kingdom of God is the Sphere in which, at any given time, His Rule is Acknowledged.  Please understand that God has not and will not relinquish His Sovereignty in the face of man’s cosmic rebellion today any more than he did in the Garden of Eden or the Wilderness Temptation of Jesus.  Yet, He has declared His purpose and desire to establish His Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven.
 
Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.” 
 
Daniel 7:14 – “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” 

1 Corinthians 15:24-25 – “then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” 

Finally, the Kingdom of God is that Realm in which Christ’s Lordship is not only accepted but earnestly sought and manifested.  W.E. Vines said, “Now, the King and His Rule being refused, those who enter into the Kingdom of God are brought into conflict with all who disown its allegiance, as well as with the desire for ease and the dislike of suffering and unpopularity, natural to all.  On the other hand, subjects of the Kingdom are the subjects of the care of God (Matthew 6:33) and of the rejected King (Hebrews 13:5).
 
LET ME GIVE TWO QUICK STATEMENTS:
 
Entrance into the Kingdom of God is by the New Birth – Salvation.  Residence in the Kingdom is through total submission to the King.

I offer a word of caution, warning, and encouragement before concluding this devotional.  We are to seek “The Righteousness of God” with our all.  Incorporated in the Righteousness of God we discover the sum-total of the requirements of His Goodness.  His Righteousness is to be incorporated into our lives daily and His Righteousness in us enhances the Kingdom of God in this present world.  We are more than His Representatives we are to be His Manifestations.
 
There is a checkpoint in the Bible that will be revealing if we apply the questions of Jesus to the Rich Young Ruler to our own lives.  What would you do if the Lord were to ask you to do what He asked that man?  Be Honest.  The issue is both Trust and Total Submission.
 
It is my hope and desire to encourage you and me to “Seek first and above everything, Him, His Kingdom, and His Righteousness.”   I will pause here and pick this up again tomorrow with the question, “What is the Priority of Seeking First His Kingdom and Righteousness?”
 
God bless you as you enjoy this wonderful day in Him!

KINGDOM SEEKERS…


Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  NASB

I confess I hesitate to use a single verse as my text for this devotional because the preceding and subsequent verses are incredibly germane and vital for the full understanding and impact.  However, I will focus on three words, “But seek first…”  This is not meant to say, “just seek anything but something specific and that is God, His kingdom, and His righteousness.”  He must become the prime pursuit of our lives and must be sought before and above everything or anything else.

There have been countless messages, sermons, and exhortations regarding the need and value of Commitment and Dedication to God.  The warning cry of men of God for generations has been to beware of putting anything before or above God.  There have been urgent pleas week after week from pulpits around this world seeking to inspire and encourage people everywhere to see that which is the most important in life. 

There is something or someone that is to be placed above everything in life and that is God!  There is something or someone upon which or whom or Eternal Existence depends and that is God!  The message of Jesus in this declaration is not just valuable for the believer it is vital.  It is not simply a suggestion, but a declaration of not only what God desires but that which will produce the most incredible victory we could ever experience this side of heaven.

The declaration of Jesus, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and…” is important. The “and” is a vital word in this truth.  It reveals the benefits of following the directive.  It reveals the natural benefits and the material benefits, but it also reveals the eternal and spiritual benefits.  There is nothing in life that is more important than the Presence of God and In His Presence, we find Hope, Peace, Joy, Forgiveness, and the incredible Provision of His Promises.

Sadly, far too many stop at “seek first the kingdom…”  Rather than seeking His kingdom often they are investing themselves, their time, energy, money, talents, and abilities into developing a kingdom of their own.  A kingdom of recognition, fame, fortune, influence, power, and things.  In that kingdom, God is often forced to the sidelines or out of the picture entirely.  The world and even the church are filled with Kingdom Seekers, but not His Kingdom and His Righteousness. 

I must tap the brakes lest I appear overly negative.  I do not believe that everyone in the church or even most of the people in the church are in that position and condition. Far too often we relegate God to the Emergency Button Position.  We seek Him as we would break the glass in case of an emergency.  We talk to Him in times of trial rather than making Him the most important and first sought after of our day. 

When I meditate and muse on this passage, I see several things clearly suggested:

  • Something is to be Sought.
  • The Priority of that which is to be Sought.
  • The Benefit of Obedience.

Over the next couple of devotionals, I will focus on those three things, and I hope you will join me and then take it far beyond what I suggest as you meditate, muse, consider, and ponder this passage again and again.

I am going to pause here and declare that in the next devotionals we are going to consider the question, “WHAT ARE WE TO SEEK?”

May the LORD richly bless you and create a hunger and thirst in your heart as you prepare your hearts to “Seek First, Him, His Kingdom, and His Righteousness.”   May your day be rich and filled with His presence and His blessings!

THE FOLKS WHO ARE DIFFERENT – Part 3…


Matthew 5:38-48

As we move forward in considering what makes a Christian distinctively different from a non-Christian, I believe we need to be reminded that the Early Church specialized in brotherliness and not only loved fellow believers but outsiders as well.  That brings us to another dimension of their demonstration of love and that which made them distinctively different.

THEY LOVED THEIR ENEMIES…

That is a big pill to swallow, and I find many believers and professing Christians who find that almost impossible.  But they hurt me!  You do not know what they did!  You are right, I may not, but God does and if you consider what was done to Jesus, your argument falls apart rather quickly.

Loving our enemies or those who hate us and have harmed us is something the person of the world not only does not do, they do not want to.  I had a person tell me regarding another person, “I could not love him, even if I wanted to.”  The last part of that statement is revealing and identifies the root of the problem.  Yet, a genuine Christian not only wants to, the love!

In our text verses 44-45, Jesus drove this message home, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  He repeated that message in Luke 6:27 and 35.  The staggering truth implied is that if we do not want to, we are not genuine followers of His.  That may anger some, and that is not my purpose, but I want all of us to be free of hate and to walk in love.

I offer an addendum you are not asked to like or condone their sinful ways.  You are commanded to love them.   Jesus practiced that kind of love.  Remember His words on the Cross, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do”?  Stephen exemplified that quality, praying as he was being stoned, “LORD, lay not this sin to their charge.”  That is genuine Christian love.  It is to love the brethren, love those outside the faith, and even love our enemies.  That is only possible if we have an overriding love for God!  Christ in us, the hope of glory!

THE EARLY CHURCH NOT ONLY WANTED TO FOLLOW JESUS THEY WANT TO REPRODUCE HIM IN OTHERS…

They sought to inform everyone of the Good News of the Gospel. They wanted to introduce everyone to this glorious Good News and bring them to the new birth experience.  They wanted to include everyone.  They took to heart the words that “God is not willing or desirous that any should perish but come to everlasting life.”

That was a costly goal and mission.  There is a wide gate that leads to destruction, and it is the easy way, but it leads to death.  The way to life is the straight gate and the narrow way, but it leads to everlasting life.  There is a measure of self-denial and cross-bearing that we must embrace.  There is no cheap, easy, instant way to be a mature Christian, but love motivated them and they persisted and persevered.

That goal is a top priority with the Father.  The disciples and believers were motivated by God’s love, and they were committed to Him regardless of their plight or suffering.  Some of them were stoned to death.  Some were sawn asunder which is a picture of being tied with ropes and ripped apart as horses pulled in opposite directions.  They were tempted and slain by the sword.  Some experienced poverty and were persecuted.  Yet, they demonstrated the Love of God in all things.

The difference was they were not stopped by those things but counted it an honor to suffer for Jesus.  They did not seek suffering but when they did, they rejoiced.  They never prayed for escape, but for opportunity, boldness, and courage.  Remember in Acts after the apostles had been beaten by the Sanhedrin their prayer was beyond human reason.  They prayed, “And now, LORD, behold their threatenings…”  Who was threatening them?  The same people who crucified Jesus.

They continued, “grant unto your servants, that with all boldness we may speak your word.”  Wow!  The way of Christ is not self-preservation or ease but proclaiming the Good news and demonstrating the Love of God!

THEY HAD A HARD TIME BUT THEY HAD SOMETHING DIFFERENT… 

They had Joy Unspeakable and were Full of Peace and Glory!  They were full of God’s New Wine!  They were intoxicated not with alcoholic beverages but by the Spirit of God.  The apostle Paul had an incredibly difficult life but in prison, he could sing praises to God.  Nothing could rob him of his joy and the peace of God. 

Believers in fellowship with Jesus possess all that makes life worthwhile in both time and eternity.  My prayer is, “LORD, help me be a person who is different and manifests the love of God to everyone all the time!”