Monday, September 10, 2012
Mark 6:30-32 Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.
Once the word about the miracles that Jesus was doing and how He had empowered His apostles to do those same things, the people flocked to them. The multitudes came from all over to hear and receive the life that they offered. Healings abounded and many received the miracle working power of God through them. They found themselves constantly ministering to the needs of the people until they had no time for themselves to rest. Many times they didn't even have time to sit down and eat a meal because the needs of the people were so great. In this particular instance after the apostles had been out ministering Jesus sensed their need for rest so He took them away to a deserted place where He thought they could get by themselves to have some time to rest and refresh themselves for the days ahead.
Rest – Greek word anapauo – Strong's #373 means “to make to cease.” The word describes a cessation from toil, a refreshment, an intermission.
Everyone needs time away from the demands of life to catch their breath, to relax and to enjoy a little “down” time. A lot of ministers will take Monday off after having such a demanding ministry day on Sunday. God, the Father, said that man should work six days and then take a day for rest.
Exodus 31:15-17 'Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 'Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 'It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.'”
Rested – Hebrew word shabat – Strong's #7673 means to stop, to rest, to cease, to end. This verb is of great importance in the Old Testament, mainly because of the noun that is formed from it: shabbat, or as we say, “Sabbath.” The shabbat is the day when all work ceases, and Israel rests and meditates on the glories of God's creation (heaven and Earth), just as God rested on that first Sabbath (Gen. 2:1-3)
God worked in making His creation for six days and then He took a day for resting and refreshing Himself. He knew that His man would need that same “down” time to give his spirit, soul and body the refreshment they need to be able to handle the demands of life. We now live in a society that goes constantly; people rarely take time to just do nothing but be with the Lord. They are pulled in all different directions by the high demands of life. Some work even on Sundays which is the Lord's day and supposed to be a day of rest. And even when they take time off to rest their vacations are so filled with activities or work that they do at home that they never get to the place where they feel rested from being away from work. They simply exchange one form of work for another.
It is when people continue in the high demands placed on themselves that their bodies become stressed and eventually break down under the pressure. Their emotions are pulled in different directions and Christians can experience instability in their spiritual walk with the Lord because the demands on their bodies have become so great.
In 1 Kings 19 we read the story of Elijah running into the wilderness fleeing from Jezebel who wanted to kill him for the ministry he had done in exposing her and the false prophets that were leading the people astray. We find that because of his extreme fatigue his whole emotional outlook towards ministering for the Lord became skewed. He was tired and emotionally drained and listen to what he said to the Lord because of it:
1 Kings 19:1-4 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” and when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
Elijah was tired, stressed and emotionally drained. He had confronted all the prophets of Jezebel and ministered mightily in exposing them and revealing God to the people as the One true God. He hand of the Lord was upon him to end the drought they had been experiencing for three years. He had run ahead of Ahab to beat the abundance of rain that was coming as he spoke according to God's word to end the drought and bring rain upon the land once again. His ministry was flourishing and he was exhausted as he met the attacks of the enemy. He spoke to the Lord of wanting to die because he simply was worn out from working in the ministry.
God didn't condemn him or reject him for feeling the way he felt. But instead He caused him to lie down and rest. After the rest he sent an angel to minister refreshment to him.
1 Kings 19:5-7 Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.”
God ministered to him in his time of fatigue. He sent an angel to provide foot for him after he slept. The Father knew that he needed time to rest and be refreshed before he could continue on doing what He had called him to do. People need time to rest and be refreshed or they will burn out under the demands of life. It was only after Elijah had taken time to rest and have proper nourishment that he would be able to go back into the high demands of ministry that God had given him.
Are you tired this morning? Do you feel that life is overwhelming you? Maybe you just need some time away from it's demands to rest and refresh yourself; to get the proper perspective about what is taking place.
Friends, I have written a daily devotional blog pretty much every day for the last six months and I am tired. I realize that I need to take some time off periodically so I have some time away from the demands of ministry. Not only have I written this blog, but I have also continued to pursue my college degree through this time as well as teaching as requested by my Pastor on Wednesday nights. I am going to take some time off to rest. I may continue to have a daily blog for you as I feel lead to share, but if I am not here every day please don't think that I have deserted you; I am simply taking the day off. I will seek the Lord for what to share and if I have a shortened blog for that day I will still present it to you. I know that many of you count on me for your devotional life and I feel the pressure of being responsible to feed the sheep in this manner. Please know that my heart is to share God's word with you and to encourage you in your daily walk with the Lord. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement to me through your comments, prayers and personal words of encouragement. I appreciate each one of you!
Father, I thank you for the opportunity to minister Your word to the people. I thank You for the avenue You have given me to share what I feel You have placed on my heart with others. And I thank You for their faithfulness in reading and commenting on my blogs. They have been faithful supporters of the work that I feel that You have called me to do in this place. I ask You now, to meet their every need. Fill them with the spiritual manna that they need to build up their spirit man to meet the demands of life. Give them the strength that they need to fight the battles that the enemy brings into their lives. Love them through me, Lord, and give me the word from Your word that will lighten their load and encourage them. Thank You, Father, for times of rest and refreshment. I pray that as I rest You will fill me to overflowing with what You want me to share with them. I love ministering Your healing balm to those that You have placed within my sphere of influence and I thank You for the opportunity to speak into their lives what You would have me share with them. I pray Your blessing on each reader this morning that comes to this blog to find spiritual nourishment. Grant them the blessing of knowing You, Lord. Fill them to overflowing with Your very presence and give them rest from their labors. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Sunday, September 09, 2012
I was praying recently about a situation in my life and as I prayed about it I immediately heard the Holy Spirit speak this verse to me in answer to my problem:
James 1:19, 20 NLT My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God's sight.
Since I have quieter, more passive type of personality it usually isn't too difficult for me to hold my tongue and think before I speak. But there are times when it gets the best of me and, as a person once said about the little boy when told to sit down and be quiet, he said, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside”. The person on the inside of me sometimes cries out over what is happening on the outside. And I have had to pray that God would set a guard over my mouth and keep watch over the door of my lips. (Psalm 141:3) It is a lot easier for me to deal with my own emotions than to have to go back to a person and apologize for something that I said in haste that hurt their feelings. Words cannot be retracted and always hang out there waiting for the devil, who is the accuser of the brethren, to bring them back to remembrance when they will once again bring the sting of hurt and disappointment to the person to whom they have been spoken. It is with regret that I've thought so many times that I wish I could take back the words that I have spoken in haste or anger.
God, through the writings of James, instructs us in being quick to listen and slow to speak and especially when angry because, as my mother used to say, two wrongs do not make a right. What may have been said to me could very well be wrong, but my angry response to it does not produce God's right way of living; it doesn't make my angry response any more right than the one who hurt my feelings with what they said to me. In being quick to listen we give ourselves time to gain discernment to understand the underlying reason for what is being said to us, rather than just taking the words at face value. We are more apt to understand the other person's heart rather than just reacting to the words that are spoken. Time between what is said and the response always gives an avenue whereby we are able to reflect and respond rather than react.
Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Relationships can be really challenging. Human nature compels us to feel that we are right and the other person is wrong. And since we are all human none of us is perfect so we are not right all the time, but we are not always wrong either. However, God's way, the higher road, is to relinquish our rights in order to live in peace with the other person. He says, “if it is possible”.....unfortunately, sometimes it's not possible to live in peace with another person, but our part is to do what He asks of us in trying our best to live in peace with them.
Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
I have often heard that this scripture says that God places some people in our lives as sandpaper to smooth down our rough edges! Different opinions within our relationship cause us to think about our own position, whether we are right or wrong. If there are no challenges there is no room for growth; our countenance will remain the same. We will not ever be changed. The key to good relationships, then, is not that one opinion overrides the other, but that in presenting our opinion, spoken in love, we offer room for growth. By so doing we are each giving and receiving input by which we may reflect and understand another's point of view in order to meet in agreement and be changed through the peaceable exchange of opinions. It is in working with the other person that we learn to live peaceably with them.
And once again we have come full circle back to the first scripture in James 1:19, 20 where we are instructed to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger. I guess there is some truth in the saying that God gave us two ears and one mouth so we could listen twice as much as we speak.
Father, I thank You for the wisdom that You give us through Your word. You are always working with our best interest in mind and I thank You for instructing us in how to live peaceably with others. Thank You, Father, for purchasing our redemption and for placing us in the body of Christ. May we all think of the other person more highly that we think of ourselves, yielding to them and learning from them. Thank You, Father, for those that You place around us to sharpen our countenance. May we treat them with understanding and love as we interact with them. Father, I pray that we will always walk in love towards the other person and give them the opportunity to speak what is on their heart without fear of rejection. Thank You, Father, for hearing my prayer. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Saturday, September 08, 2012
1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Those who are perishing don't understand the power of God revealed through the cross of Christ Jesus! To them it is foolishness! But to those of us who are being saved it is powerful! It is the only way to live. I can look back through the years and see how Jesus lifted me up out of situations that would have destroyed me had I not had the power of God in my life. He is my life and breath and my reason for living. It is because of Christ Jesus' sacrifice on the cross of Calvary that I will spend eternity in His presence; worshiping at His feet, proclaiming the praises of my Savior! And for life now, as it is on this earth, He is my strength and deliverance; my fortress in the time of trouble; my refuge from the storm. It is under His wings that I take refuge until the storm passes by.
Jeremiah understood that a person needed God's power and strength to live life effectively when he penned these words in the book of Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 17:5: Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trust in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.”
Jeremiah understood that those who don't know the Lord only have their flesh to trust in. They don't know God and as a result do not have hope in someone greater than themselves. They may seem to have a measure of success as some of them actually practice Biblical principles, not realizing that there are spiritual laws that when put into motion will bring the desired results, but on a whole, they will not prosper because they don't recognize God as their Source. When good comes their way, they often don't recognize it and it slips through their fingers. They are like a shrub in the desert, blown about by the wind with no root system. Even though rain comes periodically in the desert it doesn't last long and the plants are not nourished from it. They have no anchor for their soul; no direction for their lives, but simply exist from day to day wondering and worrying about the future.
Jeremiah went on to say in Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”
Here we have the contrast between the man who trusts in himself and the one who trusts in the Lord. The man who trusts in the Lord knows that his hope is in God. This man understands that the power of God is real and he depends on it. He prospers like a tree planted by the water, with its roots firmly planted by the river. He doesn't have to worry when the heat of the summer comes, or when the pressure is on him because his Source will never dry up. His leaf will always be green because he is plugged in to the power Source. His thoughts are not anxious when the economy turns sour, nor does he stop serving the Lord because of fear. He simply draws from the power of God in his life and continues doing what a tree does; being green and fruitful.
We live in trying times. We, as a nation, are experiencing some things that trouble me and many are struck with fear for the future. But I realize who my Source is and am plugged in to Him so I will not fear nor be anxious for what might lie ahead. The power of God is greater than any man, or government, or nation, or anything the evil one might try to throw at us. God is all-powerful! He is greater than anything that could possibly arise that would try to destroy His people.
Paul went on to say in 1 Corinthians 1:19-25 NLT As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy human wisdom and discard their most brilliant ideas.” So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world's brilliant debaters? God has made them all look foolish and has shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. Since God in His wisdom saw to it that the world would never find Him through human wisdom He has used our foolish preaching to save all who believe. God's way seems foolish to the Jews because they want a sign from heaven to prove it is true. And it is foolish to the Greeks because they believe only what agrees with their own wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended, and the Gentiles say it's all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the mighty power of God and the wonderful wisdom of God. This “foolish” plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God's weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength.
God has a plan for our lives. It includes salvation; deliverance; healing; and prosperity. He knows exactly where each one of us is in our everyday walk of life. We might not always understand why things happen the way they do, but we can know that God is more powerful than any of man's plans or ways of success. Even at His weakest, if that is possible, He is stronger than any human and wiser than any of man's ideas or thoughts.
Proverbs 21:1 NKJV The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.
God is still in control! He can change a person's heart just as easily as changing the course of a river. He created all things including each and every human being. God knows where you are! He knows your situation and the trials that you are facing. Just one word from God can change your entire life. He is all-powerful; He is omniscient or all-seeing; and He is omnipresent or all-present. He is God; there is none above Him and none beside Him. Will you place your trust in Him today?
Father, I thank You for Your power to overcome any and all adversity that comes into our lives. You are greater, Lord, than anything that we might encounter. I pray for those this morning who may be fearful of the future. I ask You, Lord, to touch them and give them revelation knowledge of Who You are and want to be in their lives. I pray that they will surrender their hearts to You and look unto Jesus for their strength in the times of trouble. Father, You can change our lives with just one word. I pray that You will do that for each one of us as we trust in You. Move in our lives as only You can, Father. Bring deliverance and healing for those who are sick and oppressed. Make provision for those who are suffering lack and forgive those who have transgressed against You. You are all powerful; there is nothing too difficult for You. You are all-present and all-seeing; there is nothing that You do not see and You are always with us. Thank You, Father, for rescuing us from the evil one. Thank You for setting us free from sin, sickness and disease and poverty and lack. I pray for wisdom, Lord, that we might know how to live our lives according to Your ways. And I ask that You would give us courage to choose right over wrong. Forgive us for our wicked ways, Father, and bring healing to our land. Thank You, Father. I pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen.
Friday, September 07, 2012
Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.
Vision – do you have a vision for your life? Do you have a dream or a goal that you are working towards. This verse describes it as a revelation or as in the Hebrew meaning of the word, a prophetic vision, dream, oracle or prophecy. Has God given you a specific direction for your life that culminates in a certain goal or dream? Everyone needs a vision for direction to live life to the fullest. Whether it is for a certain weight or size or healthy living goal, a dream for a godly marriage, a certain financial status or a position in your career. Without a vision people cast off restraint.
What does it meant to cast off restraint? Well, the best way I can explain it is that when a person casts off restraint they no longer work towards a certain goal, they simply do what feels good, or what seems to be the thought for the moment. They remove all boundaries and go with the flow of what feels like the thing to do. They are like a boat without a motor simply drifting through life driven by whatever current comes their way. All motivation to achieve results is gone and life becomes whatever it makes of itself. They are controlled by circumstances, situations, feelings and are driven and tossed about on the sea of life! Depression often becomes their best friend and the hopelessness that comes with it paints a life of defeat and failure. They are on a spiral downward towards destruction. And what brought all this upon them? The lack of vision....nothing to work towards; idleness and lack of motivation!
Have you ever been in this type of a situation? Sometimes life deals us a hand that's difficult to play. We feel controlled by what has happened in our lives or by an inability to work through the challenges that we face. But God's word goes on to say in that same verse, “But happy is he who keeps the law”. There is an answer for every situation that you may encounter in the word of God. He has a plan to bring you into wholeness and set you on course to achieve the goals and dreams that you may have once had. You might paraphrase that statement as “happy is he whose vision and focus is on hearing and doing what God has said.” It is as we find the promises in God's word that applies to our situation and then apply them to our lives that vision is restored and we are happy once again. The key to hearing and doing God's word that brings the results that we desire is making the choice. We all get to make the choice to either get on board with God's plan for our lives or continue to float through life driven by whatever comes our way.
Joshua put it this way: Joshua 24:15 “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua said they needed to make a decision one way or the other, to either serve the Lord or some other god, but he had already made his choice and his family was going to serve.....the LORD! We all have choices to make. Will we choose good or bad, to live or die, stay in bondage or seek the Lord for deliverance. The choices that we make today will affect the quality of our tomorrows! A pond without an outlet becomes a stagnant pool. Indecision leads to stagnation and ineffective living!
What can you do if you've lost your drive; your vision or dream? First, decide to make a change. Pray and ask God to restore your vision; to give you the motivation that you need to get started again. Then seek His direction for a plan of action to help you achieve your goals. Where do you want to be next year at this time? Next, begin to make systematic changes that will move you toward the achievement that you have set your eyes upon. And lastly, continue to do the things that you have set before you as your plan of action.
Jesus knew that God's plan for His life was to go to the cross to purchase the redemption of mankind. He had to overcome all His fleshly desires to avoid the pain and ultimate separation from His heavenly Father to secure our salvation. The word describes His determination to go all the way to Calvary in Luke 9:51, 52:
Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.
Jesus steadfastly set His face; He was determined to finish His course, to purchase our salvation. He prepared for it by sending messengers before Him to prepare the way for Him. He had a plan and He was determined to complete what God had called Him to do. It was prophesied in Isaiah that this point in time would come and He would have to be determined to finish His course.
Isaiah 50:7 “For the Lord GOD will help Me; Therefore I will not be disgraced; Therefore I have set My face like a flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.
Jesus knew that the key to winning was depending on His heavenly Father to help Him and then being determined to carry out His life's purpose. He set His face like a flint. Flint is describes in Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary as being very hard, strikes fire with steel, and is an ingredient in glass. It is said to be anything proverbially hard; not impressible. In other words, it is an attitude of determination that can't be distracted by any outside influence. Jesus was determined to do what God had called Him to do. He drew His strength from His fellowship with the Father. He understood that His flesh was going to try to rebel because that's the weakness that resides within each one of us as human beings. But He countered the weakness with prayer.
Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
We will experience those same temptations to give in, to quit, to not complete our mission. But if we will pray and stay in the Word,leaning on God's Spirit, we will have the strength to overcome and win. Battles will come against us. If you are striving to achieve a certain weight or size you will be tempted to eat things that are not on your plan for healthy living. When you marry and live day by day with that one special someone, eventually there will be disagreements and the temptation comes to throw in the towel; to give up and go your separate ways. Where will you get your strength to continue towards your goal of that life-long commitment? If you are working towards financial freedom the temptation will come to deviate from your plan for success by purchasing something on credit that adds more debt instead of subtracting from the debt that you already have. Temptations come in all forms and sizes. But winning is achievable if you don't give up or quit or cave in when that temptation comes. What will you do?
Hebrews 12:1, 2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Turn your focus back on Jesus who is the author and finisher of your faith. He will lead you into the victory. Lay aside the things that have held you back, even the sin that might have been the problem that has gotten you off course. Remember, Jesus had to fight the temptation to give up just like us. But He won by looking past the pain to the joy that would come as He made the way for all of mankind to live in relationship with Father God. He pushed through the disgrace and the pain to reach the prize! You and I can do that too, if we will keep the right perspective and continue to make the right choices. The desired results, the goal, the prize is waiting. The question is: Will we reach out and grab it?
Father, I thank You for giving us the strength to win! Father, You have said that when people lose the vision they cast off restraints. I pray, Father, for those who may have lost their dream to the circumstances of life. I pray that You will restore their vision, Father. Give them back the motivation that they once had to succeed and achieve their dreams. Show them how to achieve those goals that they once had. Father, You have equipped each one of us with the tools that we need to succeed. Help us to be determined to win. Strengthen us by Your Spirit within us and give us a glimpse of the good things ahead of us when we strive to achieve our goals. Thank You, Lord, for renewing our vision and determination. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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