Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Ephesians 1:15-23 NLT Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for Christians everywhere, I have never stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future He has promised to those He called. I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance He has given to His people. I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of His power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms. Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else in this world or in the world to come. And God has put all things under the authority of Christ, and He gave Him this authority for the benefit of the church. And the church is His body; it is filled by Christ, who fills everything everywhere with His presence.
There are two prayers in Ephesians that have directly influenced my growth in the Lord. This is the first one and the other one is in Ephesians 3:14-19. In this first prayer we see Paul praying for the Ephesian believers to grow spiritually. I started praying this prayer for myself back in the late 1980's and immediately saw my spiritual life grow and increase by leaps and bounds. God loves for us to pray His word over our lives. Paul prayed these things for the Ephesian believers:
1) That they would have spiritual wisdom and understanding so that they might grow in their knowledge of God.
2) That their hearts would be flooded with light so they could understand the future God had promised them.
3) That they might realize the glorious inheritance He has given to His people.
4) That they might understand the great power He has made available to His believers; that same mighty power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead.
5) That His believers would understand that they share Christ's authority because they are His body and are filled with His presence.
I am amazed when I pray this prayer for people, to see God move in such a mighty way as to remove the scales that cover their spiritual eyes. He longs for us to pray for others that He might grow within them and open the eyes of their understanding to see Him more. Without a spiritual awakening people continue to walk around in darkness. We must bring them before the Lord and intercede for their spiritual well-being. This is just one of the prayers that will unlock their spiritual understanding. Just as Paul prayed for his friends at Ephesus, so we must pray for family and friends to know the Lord!
Have you experienced these five things in your spiritual life? Do you have the spiritual wisdom and knowledge to know the Lord more fully? What about your understanding of the future God has promised you? Jeremiah 29:11 says that God has a good future for His people, full of good things. He desires to do good to you and not harm you, to give you a future full of hope. What do you know about the inheritance He has given you as a child of His? When we understand who we are in Christ Jesus we can walk in the fullness of all that He has planned for us. We can walk with authority because God has given us that same authority over the devil that Jesus had. The power that is available to us as believers is the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead. What a mighty power that is! That is the power of the Holy Spirit within us! He lives in us and through us and enables us to live victoriously over all the bad things that the devil tries to bring against us.
Jesus said in John 10:10 “The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”
Here we see that Satan has a plan for people everywhere; it is to steal, kill and destroy. But God's plan for people is that through Christ Jesus they might have life in all its fullness.
God's desire is that we have life in abundance. The word for abundant in the Greek means superabundance, excessive, overflowing, surplus, over and above, more than enough, profuse, extraordinary, above the ordinary, more than sufficient.
Is that the kind of life that you are living in Christ Jesus today? If not, maybe you need to delve into the word and find out just what Jesus died to give you. It is only as we hear the word of God that we can have faith to receive all that He has made available to us because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God according to Romans 10:17. If you don't understand what is yours by covenant rights purchased by the blood of Jesus you can't believe to receive them.
Father, this morning I pray for my spark friends, that You would give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding that they might know you more fully. I pray that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened so that they might know the great inheritance they have in You and that they might understand the great power that You have made available to them in Christ Jesus; that same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at Your right hand, far above all principality and power and rule and dominion. I pray that they might understand the authority that You have placed within them as they look to Jesus as their head. I ask You to fill them to overflowing with You understanding of what belongs to them as children of God; their place in the Body of Christ. Thank You, Lord, for making Yourself real to each one of them. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Monday, April 23, 2012
Psalm 138:8 The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.
As I was praying this morning the Lord reminded me of this verse of scripture. I am so thankful that what He has begun in me He will bring to completion. Many times we look at the magnitude of what He has called us to do and feel that it is our responsibility to get it done. How wrong! He is the one doing the work through us and will complete it in His own way!
Perfect – Hebrew word gamar – means to end, finish, accomplish, perfect; to come to an end, cease; to perform, fulfill. This verb occurs five times in the Old Testament. Three times it refers to something or someone being cut off or brought to an end (Ps. 7:9; Ps. 12:1; Ps. 77:8). Twice it refers to the completing, finishing, and perfecting of God's work in one's life.
The first reference to the completing work of God in our lives is Psalm 57:2 I will cry out to God Most High, To God who performs all things for me.
The other reference is the one that I started out with: Psalm 138:8
Both of these two references are Old Testament parallels to Philippians 1:6: 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;
Sometimes we have a tendency to think as we get older that there is no purpose left for us. We enter retirement and feel as if we are just on the downhill slide to the end of life. But when we understand that God is the one who is finishing the work in us that He has begun then we can look forward to each new day as another day for Him to open up new opportunities for whatever He has for us to do. We once again have a purpose to live; to see the manifestation of the promises of God in our lives. We don't have to resign ourselves to “the best of life is over”. No! The best is yet to come! When a plant reaches maturity is the most fulfilling time of fruit bearing for it. That's the time when that plant bears the most luscious fruit!
Psalm 92:12-15 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, To declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
At whatever age you are, God has a purpose for your life! And for those who are of retirement age, we don't have to retire from God's work as we do from a secular job. He wants us to REFIRE; not retire! We are to be fresh and flourishing!
I think back through my life and have often thought that the best of my ministry years are over. I spent seven years in prison ministry and have taught all ages throughout my adult years in different church positions. And always looked forward to retirement because I would have more time to be fully involved in whatever ministry God had for me to do. Then when retirement came I found myself wondering what it was that I was to do now! God is opening new doors of opportunity even as I age. I was 60 years old when He told me to go to college to get my degree in Christian Counseling! That took a big step of faith for me and I'm so thankful that He isn't finished with me yet!
God's not finished with you either, Spark Friend! He has a work for you to do, just as He has for me!
Titus 2:1-5 But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine; that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things—that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, home-makers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
I often tell the older ladies in our women's ministry group that they have a wealth of wisdom stored up within them to share with the young ladies. Who's going to teach the young women if the older ones retire and sit out the rest of their lives? Don't waste all that wisdom that God has placed within you!
Moses was 80 before God had him lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Caleb was 85 before he was able to take the land that God had given him for his inheritance. He had this attitude about what God had called him to do:
Joshua 14:10-12 “And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel wandered in the wilderness, and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. “As yet I am as strong this day as one the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. “Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.”
It was said of Caleb that he was different from the others because he had a spirit that wholly followed the Lord His God! I want to have that same spirit within me! How about you?
Father, I thank You that I don't have to live out my calling in You by myself. It is not up to me, Lord. You are the One who is perfecting Your work in me! Thank You, Father, for continuing to cause me to be fruitful even in my retirement years. I praise You for the good plan that You have for my life; to be fruitful even in my old age. I pray for my Spark Friends this morning who may have retired from not just a secular position, but from Your work that You may have had for them to do. Father, please give them back their stamina for living! Cause them to see that You still have a purpose for their lives; that You are not finished with them yet! Strengthen them for the journey that is ahead of them and give them a glimpse of the good things that are yet to come in their lives. I pray that You will perfect that which concerns them! In Jesus' name. Amen.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Psalm 34:1-3 I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.
I was complaining to the Lord about a situation in my life one day and I asked Him what He thought about it and immediately Psalm 34:1 popped into my mind: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth”. It was at that moment that I realized that God expected me to praise Him in place of my complaining and grumbling!
What happens when we praise instead of grumbling? I think the key is found in verse three: “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together”. What you magnify becomes the biggest in your mind. You can't grumble and complain and magnify the Lord at the same time. One will be larger than the other. If the problem you are experiencing is magnified it will become bigger than the picture of God in your mind. But when you magnify the Lord everything else becomes small. He is God over all the universe. There is nothing too difficult for Him. He spoke everything into being! He is the great I AM; the Alpha and the Omega; the beginning and the end! He always was and always will be! There is no end to His infinite power! Is He not bigger than the problems we have and worthy to be praised?
The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 that what happened to the Israelites in the wilderness was relayed to us as examples that we might not do the things that they did that got them into trouble. One of the things mentioned there was complaining.
1 Corinthians 10:10 “nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”
Complaining opens the door to the enemy to come in and destroy your life. The Word tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:5 that God was not pleased with the Israelites because of the things that they did in the wilderness. They spent 40 years wandering around because they didn't trust God to care for them and lead them into the Promised Land that He had given them as their inheritance. When we complain what we are actually saying is “I don't trust You, Lord, to care for me and do what's best for me”.
In Numbers 14:27, 28 the Word gives a record of God's feelings about the Israelites complaining: “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. “Say to them, 'As I live,' says the LORD, 'just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: 'The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.”
God took their complaining as a direct complaint against Him. What about us? How does He view our complaining? I wouldn't want to be counted as those Israelites and have to die in my complaints. Do we actually want what we complain about to become a reality in our lives or would we rather praise the Lord and open the door for Him to work a miracle in our situations?
God then went on to say that the only two people of that generation who would make it out of the wilderness and inherit their Promised Land was Caleb and Joshua. God said the reason Caleb and Joshua were allowed into the Promised Land was because they “wholly followed the Lord their God”. (Deuteronomy 1:36-38)
We see the Psalmists in the book of Psalms over and over again praising the Lord. Many times they will begin the psalm with praise and then offer up to God the prayer that is on their heart and then close the psalm with praise again. God is not displeased with us when we openly share our feelings with Him. He is displeased when we complain about how bad things are and see them as being bigger than Him. There is a difference between openly crying out to the Lord about a situation and just grumbling and complaining about how bad it is.
When we praise God in the midst of the storm we are strengthened in our inner man and the enemy is silenced and no longer able to convince us that our God will not deliver us from destruction.
Psalm 8:2 Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.”
Father, I thank You today that You are bigger than any problem that might be taking place in my life! You are the Greater One who lives within me and You are worthy of all praise! Thank You for strengthening me through praise! Thank You for silencing the enemy who speaks destruction and defeat! Thank You for delivering me from darkness and shining the light of Your love into my life. I pray for my Spark Friends today that You would reveal Your magnificent power to them in their life's situations that they might see Your glory manifested in their lives. Help us all to remember to praise You even in the midst of the storm. Thank You, Father! In Jesus' name. Amen.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Hebrews 4:15, 16 AMP For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God's unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].
Hebrews 2:18 AMP For because He Himself [in His humanity] has suffered in being tempted (tested and tried), He is able [immediately] to run to the cry of (assist, relieve) those who are being tempted and tested and tried [and who therefore are being exposed to suffering.]
Jesus is our High Priest! He was tempted, tested and tried in everything just like we are, yet He didn't sin. Because of His suffering in those areas He is able to help us when we are going through temptations. Praise the Lord, we have someone Who wants to help us in our time of need that understands what we are are going through and has the power to give us the help that we need.
There are two times that we especially need His help: 1) when we are tempted to sin, that we might overcome the temptation and 2) after we have sinned that we might receive forgiveness for the sin.
Let's look at these two instances in a little more depth. The first one: when we are tempted to sin that we might overcome the temptation. In Hebrews 4:15 the Word says that God understands our weaknesses and sympathizes with us because Jesus has been tempted in every way such as us. Wow, that means Jesus was tempted to eat things that would be harmful to His body just as I am. That means that Jesus was tempted with thoughts of failure and defeat, just as I am. Yes, every temptation that you and I are faced with Jesus has already suffered through and won the victory that He might give us the help we need in overcoming our own temptations! The Amplified Bible says that when we come to Him He gives us His grace to help in good time for EVERY need! That help is appropriate for the temptation and well-timed, coming just when we need it! How could we fail with help like that? So, why, then, do we often fail to win over temptation? Many times we do not do our part in overcoming and that is taking the strength that we get from the Lord and standing against or resisting the temptation. Jesus gives the help that we need, but we must apply it to our own situation. You see, He has a part to play and we have a part to play. He is always faithful to supply the help that we need, but we must put it into action. He gives us the weapons to fight the battle, but we must do the fighting. We will always win if we go out in the strength of the Lord!
The second time we especially need His help is after we have sinned, to receive forgiveness. The Word says in 4:16 that we can come boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy for our failures!
Mercy – according to Webster's 1828 dictionary – that benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves; the disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, and to forbear punishment, or inflict less than law or justice will warrant.
God gives us mercy for our failures! He treats us better than we deserve; He doesn't hold the offense against us but freely forgives! What good news! I can come boldly into God's presence even when I've sinned because He is waiting to forgive me and restore me into right fellowship with Him! And yet after we have sinned we sometimes feel like we should run from Him because we are not worthy to come into His presence to ask for forgiveness. That is such a misconception! It is brought on by the Father of lies who tells us that we are unworthy of the Lord and have no right to ask Him for forgiveness. It is at that time that we have to stand up to the devil and push aside his lies so we can run to Jesus! God loves us and doesn't hold our sins against us! He wants us to tell Him about the mistakes that we make so He can help us to overcome the next time we are presented with that same situation! God is for us; not against us!
Hebrews chapter 5 goes on to tell us that Jesus is that High Priest who makes sacrifices for the sins of the people. He suffered that we might not have to suffer. He won the victory over sin and its consequences that we might experience the victory! He is waiting for us to come to Him to receive help and forgiveness!
Thank You, Father, for making the way through the sacrifice of Your Son for me to have a great High Priest to help me through the difficulties of my life. I thank You for giving me the well-timed help that I need to overcome the temptations of life and when I fail, the forgiveness that I need to restore me back to You. Thank You, Lord, for making a way when there seems to be no way! You are my High Priest, Lord Jesus, and I look to You for all that I need in this life. I pray for my Spark Friends this morning, Father, that You will reveal to each one of them Your mighty power to overcome temptation. Thank You for providing forgiveness for them when they fail and for helping them to realize that You love them and don't hold their weaknesses against them. You are a merciful High Priest, Lord Jesus, and I praise You today! In Jesus' name. Amen.
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.
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