Friday, April 20, 2012
Matthew 16:13-20 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.
Jesus asked His disciples who others were saying that He was, but then He got down to the real question that was on His heart. “But who do you say that I am?” He knew that they couldn't live off the revelation that someone else had. They had to know Him for themselves. He is still asking that question of people today and each of us has to come to the revelation knowledge of who Jesus is to us for our lives to be complete and fulfilled. When we need forgiveness of sins, He asks us “Who do you say that I am?” He then reveals Himself to us as Savior. When we need physical healing in our bodies, He will ask us “Who do you say that I am?” And once again revelation knowledge comes in knowing that He took stripes upon His back that we might experience healing in our bodies and we see Him as Healer. When we need financial provision He asks us, “Who do you say that I am?” and then He reveals Himself to us through that provision. Whatever crisis we find ourselves in He will reveal Himself as the answer to that need.
Jesus praised Simon Bar-Jonah for realizing that the answer didn't come through man, but from the revelation from his Father in heaven. We can't explain Jesus; He simply “IS”. HE IS Savior, Healer, Deliverer, Provider! Notice that Jesus called Peter by his given name “Simon Bar-Jonah”. Simon means “hearing” and Bar-Jonah means “son of Johanon or John”. These are both references to Peter's humanity showing that revelation doesn't come through human understanding, but is only attained as we spend time with the Lord and He reveals Himself to us. “Peter” is the name that Jesus gave him and means “a rock or stone”. It is representative of the transformation that comes as we are strengthened through having a personal relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ. It is then that we become strong like a rock or stone that is immovable, strong and able to stand against the wiles of the devil. That strength cannot come through humanity and is only available to us as we lean on the Lord.
The next thing we notice is that Jesus made the statement to Peter that , “on this rock I will build my church”. It is the rock of revelation of Who He is to believers upon which the church of Jesus Christ is established. And then He makes another statement of great importance; “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Satan has no strength over believers who know who they are in Christ Jesus and are depending on the strength that comes from Him to fight the battles that the enemy brings against them. Satan cannot prevail against a church of believers who are aware of their place in Christ Jesus and how to overcome by using the weapons that God has given them. What good news! God has made us over-comers through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus goes on to tell of a couple of weapons that He has given us to enable us to overcome; binding and loosing. He says, “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Jesus said these were keys; keys denote authority. Jesus is passing on to His church His authority to carry out His work on the earth. Jesus activated the provisions through His Cross; the church is then charged with implementation of what He has released through His life, death, and resurrection. If someone is bound by sin, the church can “loose” him by preaching the provision of freedom from sin in Christ Jesus. If someone is indwelt by a demon, the church can “bind” the demon by casting it out. We, as the church, have been given His authority to carry on the work that He started!
Where are you today in your walk with the Lord? Have you received the revelation of Who He is in the need that you have? God revealed Himself to the Israelites as what they had need of when they experienced that need. It is called “the principle of first mention”. When they had a need He would reveal Himself as the provision to that need and from that “first mention” of Who He was to them it was known that from then on He would be that provision when they needed it. So, we grow progressively according to our needs and according to whether or not we receive Him as the answer to that need.
Father, I thank You that You are the answer to all of our needs. Your desire is for us to come to You for that provision so You may reveal Yourself to us. I pray for my Spark Friends today who may be struggling with situations in their lives where they feel they have no provision. I know that You, Lord, are that provision and ask that You would reveal Yourself to them as You provide for that need in their lives. Thank You for meeting all our needs according to Your riches in glory by Christ Jesus. I know that Your riches never run out and You never experience lack so we can depend on You to make complete provision for every need that we have. Thank You, Lord, for meeting the needs of Your people! In Jesus' name. Amen.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
2 Corinthians 1;3-7 NLT All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. So when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your benefit and salvation! For when God comforts us, it is so that we, in turn, can be an encouragement to you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in suffering, you will also share God's comfort.
I am so thankful that nothing is wasted in God's economy! The heartache that you may be experiencing today, if allowed to be ministered by God through your life, will be the comfort and life-line to God that someone needs tomorrow. God always comforts us if we will turn to Him. Then as we are comforted and strengthened we will be able to help others who are going through similar difficulties. You can't really give something away that you do not own yourself. It is much easier to identify with someone's problem if you have already experienced it yourself. You have much more compassion if you have already gone through what they are experiencing. God turns tests into testimonies and messes into messages!
Paul was telling the Corinthians about his difficulties when he started this letter to them. He told them how he had suffered and how they could overcome as he overcame.
2 Corinthians 1:8-11 I think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and completely overwhelmed, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God who can raise the dead. And He did deliver us from mortal danger. And we are confident that He will continue to deliver us. He will rescue us because you are helping by praying for us. As a result, many will give thanks to God because so many people's prayers for our safety have been answered.
People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. What you experience in life that identifies you to them will be the thing that God will use to show them how much He cares for them as He ministers through you. People are drawn to those who are like them; that understand what they are going through. The difficulties that I have experienced in life have opened many doors for me to minister God's love and comfort to others. He continues to use those things that the devil meant to harm me for my good and the good of others. The seeds of conflict and heartache are growing into a great harvest for the kingdom of God and I praise Him for bringing something good out of the bad.
Many of you have expressed your sympathies to me on the loss of my “first” husband. Thank you for expressing such kindness to me! I want to apologize for having given you the impression that he was my first husband. That was not my first marriage. I have experienced much heartache through abuse and marital unfaithfulness. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:8, I, too, had been crushed and completely overwhelmed by years of heartache and didn't think I could live through it, but it taught me to rely on God instead of myself. That's why it was so important to me for God to orchestrate my marriage and then when He did and my husband died so early in the marriage I was devastated. As time goes by I will share with you some of the heartaches I've experienced simply because I want to give God the opportunity to use those situations to encourage others. If something I have experienced will help someone else I will be happy to share that with them. Until then, please know that I am aware of the mistakes I have made and wish I could go back and change things, but that is impossible, so all I can do is offer them up to God for Him to use to effect change in the hearts and lives of other people!
Thank You, Father, for using the mistakes that we make and the difficulties in our lives to help others. I pray for my Spark Friends this morning that as they go through difficult times they will seek You for comfort; not food or other people or material possessions. Thank You for working in all these situations to right the wrongs and turn the bad to good. May You be glorified in our lives as we yield our disappointments and heartaches to You. Thank You for being our stronghold in the time of trouble. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Ephesians 3:20, 21 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
This is one of my favorite portions of Scripture. I guess it is because I have seen the Lord work over and over again, to my amazement, to fulfill it in my life. He has done exceedingly abundantly above all that I could ever ask or think in so many situations in my life! I like the way the Amplified Bible says verse 20:
Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and ] do super-abundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts hopes, or dreams]--
There are three things that I see in this verse that God is able to do in our lives:
1) What He does is by His power working within us.
2) It is according to, or in the same measure as, His purpose for our lives.
3) It is far above or beyond anything that we could ask, think, hope or dream.
When I think about my life and how He has worked in me I remember a couple of things that I will quickly recount to you that He has done that is exceedingly above all that I could ask, think, hope or dream.
When my husband passed away after only 7 ˝ weeks of marriage I was very despondent, not wanting to do anything but curl up in a ball and stay in bed. My heart's desire was to have a marriage that would glorify God and fulfill the desire within my heart to be able to be united to a godly mate that I would be able to help achieve all that God called him to do and be and, vice verse, who would help me do and be all that God planned for me. I was ready to give up, quit and live the rest of my life as a single person, but God had another plan. Before I married Larry the Lord had given me some scriptures to stand on, to build my faith and help me to persevere until I would meet the man He had planned for me. I had done that and when Larry and I were married I felt I had fulfilled what God had asked of me in persevering until the promise could be manifested. Then when he had a massive stroke and died I didn't want to go back to standing in faith believing for another mate. I just wanted to give up. But God had a different plan. He instructed me to take that stand of faith again because He still had a plan for me to be married to a godly mate. It wasn't long until He brought Gerald into my life and shortly thereafter we were married. He saved me from destruction by encouraging me to get back up in life and continue to believe Him for what He had promised. My marriage to Gerald has been a blessing from God to me. He is everything that I could have asked or hoped for and more. I praise God for doing what I saw as an impossibility in me and for me. To God be the glory!
The other thing that I immediately remember is this: In December of 2009, shortly after Gerald and I were married my job with Capital One Home Loans came to abrupt halt when they closed the office in Overland Park, Kansas, where I was working. All 320 employees were phased out over a period of approximately six months. Since I had been living in the Kansas City area when Gerald and I met and he was in Tennessee, we had planned to move me to Tennessee after my town house sold, but we had to reverse the order and move me when my job ended and leave the town house to sell after I moved. So we moved and I began searching for a job in Tennessee, to no avail. My employer had put in my severance package some re-training assistance funds but due to fear and unbelief I put off trying to see if I could use the funds. However, I had seen some others make some different career moves so the possibility of using those funds stayed in the back of my mind as I searched for employment. In August of 2010 I finally decided to try to use the funds on some college courses that I wanted to take in Christian Counseling. The only problem was that I had to complete the courses by January of 2011 for me to meet the eligibility requirements from the company for use of the funds. I needed to complete 10 courses to receive a certificate in Christian Counseling. They said it was not humanly possible to complete 10 courses in that period of time as each course was designed to last for 12 weeks and would require approximately 5 hours of course work per week. But God had another plan! When I started the courses my instructor said I would need to complete each course in about 2 weeks time in order to stay on course to complete them by the deadline of the end of January, 2011. I prayed and asked the Lord for His super-natural anointing to accomplish it! I applied myself with all that I had humanly available, worked long hours each day, some 12 or 13 hour days, and prayed that He would help me get it done. Gerald encouraged me and helped me study for tests. My instructor prayed with me and promptly responded every time I needed help and other students prayed and encouraged to do the impossible. I worked as if it all depended on me and prayed as if it all depended on God. He worked a miracle in me and for me by enabling me to complete all the courses in record time, 2 weeks before the deadline! And with amazing scores on all courses....straight A's. He had done in me by His power what I could never have done on my own! He continues to bless me with excellent test scores as I move on towards my degree in Christian Counseling. I have about 8 more courses to finish!
God has done exceedingly abundantly above all that I could have asked or imagined in my life and I give Him all the glory! He constantly amazes me with His goodness to me!
What do you see in your life today that is an impossibility? The Bible says in Acts 10:34 that God shows no partiality. He is no respecter of persons; what He has done for one He will do for another. Do you believe that He will do for you what He has done for me? It may not be the same exact situation but everything that you see as impossible is possible with God! He is the God of impossibilities!
Father, I thank You once again for all that You have done for me and in me! You truly have exceeded my highest expectations and I thank You! I know that You will work in others as You have done for me. I ask You to give them eyes to see what You are doing, and hearts to believe for the impossible! Thank You, Father, for fulfilling the desires of their hearts! You are great and greatly to be praised and I praise You this morning for Your unfailing love, mercy and grace! Thank You for hearing and answering my prayers! In Jesus' name. Amen.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
1 John 5:1-4 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Love – Agape – An undefeatable benevolence and unconquerable goodwill that always seeks the highest good of the other person, no matter what he does. It is the self-giving love that gives freely without asking anything in return, and does not consider the worth of its object. Agape is a love of choice, rather than emotion. It is the unconditional love that God has for the world.
We oftentimes want to wait until we have the feelings of love before we extend love to another person, especially if that person is one of the “hard cases” that we talked about yesterday. This mindset is the reverse of what the Bible teaches; it is getting the horse behind the cart! We must love before the feelings come for the love of God to be extended to others. Agape love, which is the love by which God has loved us, is unconditional and is not based on what the other person does, but is a love that is based in choice. It chooses to think of the other person before you think of yourself. This is the love that God deposits in our hearts when we become “born again” and the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us.
Romans 5:5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
The Holy Spirit has poured out His very own love in our hearts! Now, we have a choice as to what we will do with that love. Will we dam it up and hold on to it, or release it and let it flow to those around us? Christianity, or living out our lives as believers, always comes down to our choices. If we dam up the love of God within us and hold on to it what happens? When I think of holding on to the love of God and not releasing it I get a picture in my mind of a body of water that has no outlet. It becomes stagnant; green stuff begins to grow on the surface and it looks stale and unappealing. It is not a body of water that I would want to swim in or drink from. It looks sick! That's what I believe happens to us when we do not allow the love of God to flow freely from our hearts. We become full of stale, stagnant, bitter water unable to fulfill the call of God on our lives. As a result, our relationship with the Lord and everyone else suffers. We have difficulty receiving from God because faith works through love.
Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
When there is a problem with our ability to love, there is a problem with our faith being able to work properly! If there is a problem with our ability to love, there is a problem with us having victory over the world. Going back to 1 John 5:4: For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. When we choose to hang on to the love of God and not release it to others we suffer through battles with temptation because our faith has been minimized through not loving as we should. We are crippled and unable to fight spiritual battles properly. Faith to overcome the world works through love!
John 15:17 These things I command you, that you love one another.
The bottom line to the subject of loving others is that Jesus commands us to do it! Nike has a symbol on the side of their athletic shoes that is a “swoosh”. That symbol of the swoosh and the Nike name means “just do it”. That's the attitude that God wants us to take about His commandment to love: just do it!
Father, today I choose to release the love that you have deposited in my heart. I will not hold on to it, but I will let it flow freely from me to those around me. Thank You for loving me even when I am unlovable. Thank You for forgiving me of my sins and living within to enable me to do those things that You do. You are my God and I will pattern my life after Yours. Thank You for strengthening me for this day and enabling me to walk victoriously through it. You are great and mighty and worthy to be praised and I praise you and honor You today! In Jesus' name. Amen.
Monday, April 16, 2012
As I woke up this morning I had some things on my mind that I had asked God to do in me regarding a person who has been a challenge for me to love. I'm sure you've run on to those people in your life as well. Jesus told His disciples in John 13:35 “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” It is my desire to please the Father and show the world that I am His so in order to do that I must reflect the love of Jesus in my life. And yet sometimes you run onto someone that it is just difficult to love. So I was praying about this situation and the Lord brought to my remembrance this scripture in Philippians 1:3-6 where He is addressing the believers in the Philippian church.
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
I love this portion of scripture and especially verse 6 where it says that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”. It reminds me that the changing in my life is not up to me, but God is the one who brings to completion the changes that He has begun in me. It is a lifelong process that He starts when we become believers in Him and then works throughout our lives. That doesn't mean that I have no part to play in the process, because He always gives us the choice of cooperating with this process and then obeying what He asks us to do to work with what He is changing in us. We see further evidence of this work in progress, and His and our parts in it, in Chapter 2 of Philippians and verses 12-13:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
You will see in these verses the part that that we play is to obey by working out our own salvation and the part that God plays is in working within us to give us the desire to change and then the ability to do those things that He is asking us to do. He is the one who does the work within us and we are the outworking of that process as we obey Him in walking it out. In the beginning of Chapter 2 Paul gives us some keys to allowing God's process within us to have it's perfect work.
Chapter 2:1-4 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
He gives us some keys in this portion of scripture to loving others.
1) Be like-minded. Don't allow distractions of race, culture or color to cause you to think differently.
2) Don't be selfish thinking you are better than the other person.
3) Think more highly of the other person than you do of yourself.
4) Look out for the interests of others, not just your own.
Then Paul gives us the supreme example to follow: that of Christ Jesus who didn't see Himself too good to go to the cross for us even though He was the Son of God. He laid His deity aside to become a man, just like us, who saw servant-hood as a privilege and humbled Himself to go to the cross that we might be saved from sin and an eternal separation from the Father. He says in verse 5 of Chapter 2: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”.
Wow, what a way to think! We are to pattern our lives after that of Christ Jesus! Now that is a tall order to fill. So how can I accomplish this love that Jesus so aptly portrayed?
Galatians 2:20 gives us a key: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
I have been crucified with Christ! Romans chapter 6 tells us that we were buried with Christ and when He was raised from the dead we were raised with Him that we might no longer be a slave to sin, but might be raised to new life. But we have to see ourselves in that manner; that our old man of sin was crucified with Christ and our new man of righteousness was raised with Him. Part of the changing process that we must do is to see ourselves as that new man, freed from the power that sin held over us. Then we can walk out our salvation through faith in Christ Jesus that He might finish the good work that He has begun in us. If I constantly see myself as a lowly sinner, then I have set aside the grace of God because I will constantly be striving to attain a righteousness that only comes through faith. So, first I must see myself as Paul addressed the Christians at Philippi in Philippians 1:1: “....To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi”. Do you see yourself as a saint or a sinner? In order for God to finish His work in me I must first see myself covered by the grace of God and changed from a sinner to a saint. That doesn't mean that I don't sin; it just changes me from a sinner who is controlled by sin to a saint who occasionally sins. Now I can see myself covered by the blood of Jesus and worthy of His righteousness because He purchased it for me. When I sin I can ask God's forgiveness and receive it in order to go on walking out my salvation by faith.
The next thing I must do to cooperate with God's changing process is found in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I love the way the Amplified version expounds on this verse:
I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency].
Now that gives me encouragement! It's not totally up to me to try to love those around me! I can depend on Christ's strength. When I read this verse I get a picture in my mind of Jesus holding a large funnel above my head pouring His power into me! He is infusing me with His very own strength and power to do what I can't do in and of myself. I do not have to be self-sufficient; I am self-sufficient in His sufficiency. He is working in me changing me into the person that He wants me to be. All I have to do is cooperate with Him; allow Him to fill me with His strength and then obey when He asks me to love! How much easier could He have made it for me?
How about you? Do you long to love as Jesus loves with that Agape kind of love; unconditional love that chooses to love even those who we consider to be “hard cases”?
Thank You, Father, for working in me, changing me into the person that You desire for me to be. I will cooperate with Your process of change and will love as You have loved me. Thank You for filling me with your power and ability to carry out what You are doing within me! Thank You for loving me that I might love others! You are my strength for this day! In Jesus' name. Amen.
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