Christianity 201

June 14, 2022

Mothers Prayers

Today something a bit different, as we look at mothers interceding for their children, both in scripture, and with contemporary examples.

Last week I met Canadian pastor Rev. Bruce Pero for the first time, who has just written Teachings from God’s Word. You can learn more about the book by clicking this link. Bruce graciously supplied us with a devotional to share with you today.

Mothers Prayers

So many times, down through the ages, we have heard it said there is nothing like a mother’s prayer. That is so true, even today. Let’s take a look at situations where mothers’ prayers prevailed. We are going to talk about a number of mothers.

The first is Moses’ mother found in,

NIV.Exodus.2.1 Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

Can you just imagine the prayers that went up from Moses’ mother. The joy she felt as God took care of her son; not to mention, the plan God had for Moses in leading the children of Israel out of bondage.

A comparative example for today is John Hagee who also had a wonderful praying mother. For years John’s mother, a God-fearing, praying lady, had asked God for a minister among one of her sons, and she believed John was the one. So many times, as John would sneak in, after a late-night out with his friends, he would go past his mother’s bedroom door and hear her crying out to God for him; that God would watch over her son and make him the preacher, she knew, God wanted him to be.

John would often say to his mother, “If you are praying for me, stop because when I turn eighteen, all you will see is the dust from my feet, going down the street.” But when we have a praying mother and she will not quit, God has another plan. Just one week before John was to register at West Point, God, through his mother’s prayers, radically changed his direction, and just a short time later, he registered at Oral Roberts University.

That was over fifty years ago; all because of the prayers of a righteous mother.

Today, we know John as John Hagee Ministries from San Antonio Texas, one of the biggest ministries in the United States. John is the forty-seventh member of his family to be in ministry.

Another righteous mother we can think of is found in 1 Samuel.

NIV.1Samuel.1.20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.”

21 When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.”

23 “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him.

24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

Another amazing and righteous lady that we can think of today, to compare to Samuel’s mother, is often referred to as Sister Hannah.

When some of you hear this name, you will know who I am referring to. But in her son’s own words, “Sister Hannah?…God’s gift to me.” Chuck Price told his story.

After dad died, I was sixteen and rebellious, so off I went and joined the CNR, working on a gang crew. We were stationed about three and one-half hours west of Toronto. I had not told a soul where I was going, but no worries, Mom prayed, and the Holy Spirit said, “Go.” directing her miraculously to the very street where we were clubbing it up. Long story short; she parked her car one block from the bar I walked out of. During that part of my life, Mom’s prayers protected me until I could run no further.

In ministry, she would call late Sunday evenings… “I knew you were up Chuck still wrestling through the preached word and lack of response. You know Chuck, when you preach, there is not always an immediate result. Let me pray with you and then, get some sleep.”

Even in death, Dec. 2009 Mom had dementia and could not always remember everything, but she could still pray. So thank God for a praying mom.

– Pastor Chuck Price

The fifth and final man that we will look at, with an amazing, fearless, praying mother and father, was a very gifted and talented singer.

He was also a very good athlete, excelling in baseball. When he was young, the Lord revealed the call that He had on his life. Like all God-fearing, praying mothers, his mom got a hold of this; like a dog with a bone, determined not to let go. When this young man was old enough, he left home to make his way with a music career. Just when he was about to sign a major recording contract, he became extremely ill. He returned home, where he spent some time in bed.

Quite often he would hear his mother praying for him. Then one evening as his dad entered the room to say goodnight, as he always did, his father had a vision from the Lord. God revealed to him that his son was to enter the ministry, and he saw hundreds of thousands of people being ministered to and giving their lives to Christ and many more getting healed.

Oral Roberts shared this with his son. Shortly thereafter, Richard Roberts signed up at Oral Roberts University, starting one of the largest ministries going today. Since this happened, Richard’s mother and father have passed, but until his mom died, she never stopped praying for her son, Richard Roberts. He took over his dad’s ministry with a double anointing on his life, and it all began with his mother’s prayers.

For those who may not understand what the anointing is, it is the power and wisdom that God put on our being through the Holy Spirit so we can accomplish The work we are to do. So a double anointing would give us twice the power to accomplish our work. So you see, through the ages, the strength of a mother’s prayers, your prayers, have been proven over and over again to defeat any situation that comes along.

I am sure, that every time a mother gets down on her knees for her children or any situation, the Devil is cringing in his boots because nothing can win over against a mother’s prayers.

I even asked my mother if she ever thought, when we were growing up, she would have any of her children in ministry; not to mention, by this June, in 2011, she will have five in the ministry. She said she, “had always prayed for one to make it but never dreamed five would make it.”

So mothers, don’t ever give up praying for your children, grandchildren, husbands, or anything you need in your life. God will not let your prayers return to you void. Amen.

 

May 22, 2022

Do You Have a Teachable Spirit?

Today we’re returning to the daily devotional page at Magnficent Life Ministries where fresh devotional studies are posted (wait for it) daily! This one was a two-part topic. If you click through to their page — the headers below are links — you’ll also find the same content available on video.

Are You Open to God’s Correction?

“For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

Since the dawn of time, humans have been plagued by the fear that something terrible will happen to them. For some, this manifests as extreme worry and an inability to enjoy life; for others, it manifests as a crippling belief that they are not good enough. Regardless of its severity, this fear is too common and often results in destructive behaviors. Remember, Proverbs 29:25 says, The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

But what if there were a different way of looking at circumstances or mishaps around us? What if some setback were simply an opportunity to learn and grow? This is not to say that bad things never happen to good people or that enemies don’t play tricks, but we can always find something positive even in the worst situations. When something bad happens, it can be tempting to see it as a sign of punishment from God because we are not expecting God’s correction of our actions.

Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”

However, if we look at the situation objectively, we will see that God does not punish us but rather redirect us toward the right plan. It can be helpful if we think of that issue or setback as a kind of tuning. Revelation 3:19 says, “Those I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Just as the violinist screws up the key till the tense cord sounds the concert pitch, it is not to break it but to use it tunefully. So likewise, God needs to adjust His children when they go out of tune; Because sometimes we need to go through tuning experiences to correct our life course.

This is an act of God’s correction, tuning his people so that they may be used in his service. God is constantly stretching us and tuning us so that we will produce the beautiful music of His kingdom. Sometimes people think God is punishing them because he is tuning them. But He is always working for our good. As long as we remain pliable under His hand, He will continue to tune us until we reach the perfect pitch for His kingdom. Amen. Proverbs 12:1 says, “Whoso loves instruction loves knowledge: but he that hate reproof is brutish.”

Prayer:
1. Thank you, Jesus, for your guidance and help. Thank you, Jesus, for being my guide through life, guiding me through all the storms of life.
2. Psalm 6:1 Oh LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.

Are You Open to God’s Correction? Part Two

“Blessed indeed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” Job 5:17

How do you know if you’re open to God’s correction? There are a few ways to know if you’re open to God’s correction. The first way to know is if you’re living a life of repentance. If you’re living a life of repentance, then you’re open to God’s correction because you’re living a life of obedience. The second way to know if you’re open to God’s correction is if you’re living in submission to Him. If you’re living in submission to Him, then you’re open to His correction because you’re living in obedience to Him.

The third way to know if you’re open to God’s correction is if you’re living a life of prayer. If you’re living a life of prayer, then you’re open to God’s correction because you’re seeking Him and His will for your life. The fourth way to know if you’re open to God’s correction is if you’re living a life of fellowship. If you’re living a life of fellowship, then you’re open to God’s correction because you’re living a life of obedience to Him. And the obedience you have for God is what makes you free from sin.

Romans 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that we might have hope through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures.”

The bottom line is that if you want to know if you’re open to God’s correction, then you need to look at your life and see if you’re living in repentance, submission, prayer, fellowship, and obedience. If you’re not living in any of these areas, then you’re not open to God’s correction, and you need to start living in obedience to Him. Remember, the Bible is full of wisdom, and Job 5:17 is one example. This verse says that God blesses anyone willing to be corrected by Him. God is the giver of wisdom, and He will give it to us if we are willing to receive it.

It’s important to remember that God loves us and wants what is best for us. He knows what is best for us, and He isn’t afraid to correct our plans if they are not in line with His will. We need to trust Him and be willing to follow His direction, even if it is not what we originally planned. When God corrects us, it is out of His love for us. He wants us to be successful and live according to His plan for our lives. We can be assured that if we follow God’s correction, it will lead to blessing and success. Amen. Revelation 3:19 says, “Those I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.”

Prayer:
1. Oh Lord, help me know the truth about your ways that I should not sin against you.
2. I am open to God’s correction; therefore, Holy Spirit comes into my heart and shows me how to walk in the way of righteousness in Jesus’ name. Amen.

May 15, 2022

Approaching God: Awe, Obedience, Reverence, Fear, Caution

One of the most frequently appearing writers here is Elsie Montgomery who writes at Practical Faith. For this year, she is following readings in a book called Daily Treasures from the Word of God by Leona and Nicolas Venditti, published in 2012. She says, “I will read what they have to say listening to what the Lord is saying to me, write my thoughts here, and pray for His enabling to apply them to my life.”

To read this where it first appeared, click the header which follows.

Power of Reverence

READ Hebrews 5–8

Experience and the Word of God tells me that answered prayer is not a simple matter. It rarely happens unless I keep my communion with Him clear through confessing known sins. It never happens when I pray selfishly or plainly outside of His will. Today’s reading offers another thought; God hears the prayers of those who deeply reverence Him . . .

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. (Hebrews 5:7)

Bible dictionaries say that the words translated reverence mean “a feeling of profound respect” yet also a “certain element of awe, which may be interpreted in some instances as implying even fear.” The implication of such reverent fear or awe is, of course, obedience. Some scholars prefer to interpret these terms as ‘to obey.’ One dictionary says this word is properly understood as “caution” with religiously reverence or piety yet implying dread or fear. An English dictionary says reverence is profound respect and love and a reverent attitude toward God means honoring Him, expressing gratitude to Him, and obeying His commandments.

Another says common synonyms of reverence are adore, revere, venerate, and worship. While all these words mean “to honor and admire profoundly and respectfully,” reverence presupposes an intrinsic merit and sacredness in the one honored with a similar depth of feeling in the one honoring.

In other words, reverence is about my response but it is more about God. The idea of fear comes with the realization that I do not pull God’s strings. He IS in charge and every breath that I take is by His grace. Knowing His power and other qualities should produce in me total cessation of ‘doing my own thing’ and a deep desire to fit in with His plans. Jesus did that. He knew the Father could save Him from death and knew He heard His cries, yet said, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” Prayer is not about getting my own way but yielding to God’s way, sometimes in holy fear. This is being like Jesus.

The New Testament also talks about patience being the mark of maturity or being like Jesus. He was always emotionally calm in the face of provocation or misfortune and without complaint or irritation. It comes to us through trials and is also a huge part of reverence. Respecting God and not taking matters into my own hands requires patience and total faith. Hebrews 6:12 & 15 says it is “through faith and patience” that God’s people inherit God’s promises.

Maturity also involves discernment. This reading speaks of having my senses trained to rightly understand the visible realm of reality and the equally real realm of the unseen. God gives Scripture and the Holy Spirit so I can sense the unseen and not be swayed by the constant pull of the world and evil forces to pull me away from following Jesus and instead resorting to sinful self-effort.

Discernment also combats false doctrine and gives an accurate perception of what is really from God and what is not. Scripture warns believers about the devil appearing to be an angel of light. I need to discern fully the powers of darkness and realize how patience and discernment are both tied to spiritual maturity. Both have a strong relationship to effective prayer and to “holding fast to the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:18)

The marvel is that even if I pray incorrectly or fail to pray at all, Jesus still “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) Jesus prays for me, protecting me from the evil one and from destruction. He is my Savior; I am not.

Another beautiful thought from this reading is the power of the gospel that begins a life of knowing God and growing in that patience that marks maturity and that ensures God’s ear to our prayers:

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:10–12)

The bottom line for all this is three-fold. Discernment is a gift that enables me to know the Christ of Scripture and not be distracted from Him as my source of all that is godly. Being like Him means reverence, not mere ‘joyful worship’ but the awe that is mixed with fear and obedience that considers His power and ownership of all that concerns me. If my prayers are to be heard and answered, then I must discern all that distracts me from Christ and know all He desires from me so I can yield all of my life to this amazing God of glory.

May 3, 2022

Much of the Teaching of Jesus Happens In the Moment

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Earlier today I was reading a commentary on The Lord’s Prayer which noted that in Luke, the text is offered in answer to a direct question.

NIV.Luke.11.1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

2a He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father,
hallowed be your name…

However, in Matthew’s version there is no prompt from the audience is mentioned for us. It occurs in the context of earlier remarks, which are part of a larger discourse.

NIV. Matthew.6.5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name…

Given that this is in the middle chapter of a 3-chapter passage we call “The Sermon on the Mount,” it should not surprise us that Matthew doesn’t indicate that any interaction with the crowd was taking place. It appears continuous until the final close-quotation-mark when Matthew states,

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

For the most part however, Jesus seems to do what he does “in the moment;” with a measure of spontaneity that suggests “coincidence” which most of us would say is not coincidental at all, but rather divinely appointed circumstances.

In Luke 5:12, as Phillips translates it,

“Jesus came upon a man who was a mass of leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he prostrated himself before him and begged, “If you want to, Lord, you can make me clean.”

The phrase “Jesus came upon” is interesting here, because it suggests that regardless of who is traveling in which direction, a meeting takes place, and an act of healing follows.

You could equally say that in Mark 11, “Jesus came upon” a fig tree. There’s no miracle here in the standard sense — he curses the tree — but there is a teaching which takes place later in the day.

NIV.Mark11.22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

The whole scene appears prompted by the somewhat random encounter with the tree.

Again, in John 9, although we don’t have the phrase “Jesus came upon” used in any of our English translations, Jesus does encounter a man blind from birth. (Remember that Jesus and the disciples are constantly on the move; the itinerant or peripatetic nature of his ministry is such that they aren’t usually in a fixed place. Follow other rabbis if you will, but if you want to get your daily steps in, Jesus is the least sedentary.) The most significant point of the narrative is the healing, but the lesson in the words of Jesus which follow are a very close second in importance.

NIV.John.9.3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

So we’ve seen that divine circumstances precipitate actions and lessons from Jesus, but if we go back to where we began (“Lord teach us to pray”) we also see that many of his teachings are responses to direct questions. And there are many of them.

His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?” (Matthew 13:10 NLT)

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3 ESV)

There He saw a man who had a paralyzed hand. And in order to accuse Him they asked Him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”  (Matthew 12:10)

To be fair, Jesus often asked questions of those around him as well. (Several books have been written summarizing the things he asked.) But he also received questions from the crowd, the Pharisees, his disciples, and others. Part of this was the simply the basic method of learning in Jewish culture. (And often the response itself would be another question.)

But the thing that struck the writer I was reading earlier today was that the teaching on prayer occurring as it it did in the context of a sermon, was a bit of a rarity. Perhaps that’s why preachers — people paid to prepare sermons — hold Matthew 5, 6 and 7 in such high regard.

And that’s what got me thinking.

Should more of our modern churches provide sermon content which is in direct response to questions the congregation wants answered?

I know this flies in the face of (traditional church) Lectionary preaching, or (modern church) your teaching pastor’s penchant for series preaching — “today we’re starting a new series” — but I also know of churches that reserve Q&A Sunday (or Q&R Sunday) for the very purpose of addressing the subjects parishioners want to hear, and sometimes, the Sunday (or weekend) service is the only place where that can be done with the greatest number of people in attendance.

If you’re in church leadership, give that some thought.

If you’re not, either forward today’s devotional to them for consideration, or simply, with pen and paper or with email, ask the question you think is on the lips of people in your church, but heretofore unspoken.

Jesus crafted both direct teaching and parables “in the moment” to help us better understand the unfolding Kingdom of God.

 

April 29, 2022

A Thing About “All Things”

Having spent the better part of my lifetime in close proximity to the Christian giftware industry, I’ve seen my share of Bible texts plastered on mugs, key chains and picture frames which have been presented without proper context. The most often referenced is Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you…”) I am certain that God does want to give us a hope and a future, but when people read that God wants to “prosper” them, it can send their thoughts down a doctrinal rabbit hole.

There’s also the issue of “the plans” God has for us. People rail against “open theology,” but decades ago in the book Decision Making in the Will of God, Garry Freisen argued that being “in God’s will” doesn’t mean there is only one place you are to live, one vocation you are to pursue, and one coffee order you are to place today at Starbucks. (Or to rephrase it, God’s will is a circle not a dot.)

But today we want to look at “all things.”

The first “all things”

The first is Philippians 4:13. The familiar King James rendering of this is, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Perhaps you memorized that as a child, or it appeared on a plaque in the home in which you were raised.

Before moving forward, the post-Charismatic in me wants to remind you that there are no limits with God. Empowered by his Holy Spirit, there are stories of people who accomplished things which would normally have been physically or intellectually impossible. The “God of miracles” about which the TV preachers testify is, literally, a God of miracles.

But the immediate context in the prior verse (4:12) is, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (NIV)

Think about that. Being booked in a luxury hotel one night, and spending the next night sleeping in a tent. Eating at a five-star restaurant one day, and the next day subsisting on peanut butter sandwiches. Having had a huge bank balance one year, and the next year struggling with how to make the month-end rent payment.

The NIV forces us to consider the verse in context by responding, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (emphasis added). But most of the other translations perpetuate the KJV’s take on the verse, perhaps in the interest of not tampering with a text that is extremely familiar. We do however see,

  • I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him (AMP)
  • Christ gives me the strength to face anything. (CEV)
  • Christ is the one who gives me the strength I need to do whatever I must do. (ERV)
  • I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. (GNT)
  • I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me. (Phillips)
  • I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (Message)
  • I can be content in any and every situation through the Anointed One who is my power and strength. (The Voice Bible, which combines the two thoughts into a single verse)

If you’ve ever heard of real estate agents saying, “Location, location, location;” then think of scripture this way: “Context, context, context.”

As I said above, I think you can read the verse more broadly, but you shouldn’t try to force the verse into situations where you’re being presumptuous. A good verse to read in parallel to this one — again with a unique context, as Paul considers his “thorn in the flesh” — is 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

The other “all things”

By now you’ve figured out that the other verse we’re thinking of is Romans 8:28. Again, we’ll start with the familiar KJV, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

The NIV states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This verse has led to the maxim, “Everything happens for a reason,” a saying which doesn’t allow for the possibility of some things happening by virtue of random chance but consistent with keeping the idea of God’s sovereignty.

The opposite situation however can be equally distressing. If some things are a product of random of chance, this may not bring comfort to someone who has lost a loved one through an act of mass gun violence, or an earthquake, or in the case of a woman I follow on Twitter, a rogue wave at the beach.

However within the random events of life, God can still be working; or to say it differently, given what has already happened, God can work to form good out of those circumstances.

Again, the question will follow, ‘If God can orchestrate the events of life so that the good shines through tragic events, why could he not have orchestrated things so that the situation never happened in the first place?’ It is a fair question, but it says more about the problem of evil and suffering in the world than it does about the ability of God to shape present realities for good.

A parallel perspective is found in Philippians 1:6, And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (NLT)

If you want to go even deeper on this, the prophet Jeremiah, in chapter 18, tells a story — a beautiful analogy to how God is working — in the section headed in the NIV as At the Potter’s House.

If ‘I can do all things’ is about getting the context from the previous verse, ‘All things work together’ is more about the tense of the verb. Some commentators have suggested that a better translation might be “In all things God is already at work…” or “is working” which creates the visual image of God coming alongside us.

Also, before you start to send me an email, yes, it must be said that if you are claiming the promise of this verse, you must remember that it is a conditional promise, the conditions being met by those who

  • love god and
  • are called according to his purpose

We tend to lean in to the first part of the verse, and gloss over the conditional part.

Finally, here’s how Eugene Peterson renders the passage in The Message:

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

April 27, 2022

Can God Be Trusted?

With all their apologetics objections met, after crossing the line of faith, the major question faced in living the Christian life is, “Can God be trusted?”

This is our ninth time with Jack Wellman who posts daily devotions at Rhetorical Jesus. Each one contains an original drawing that may be used as a link to his writing for your Facebook or Pinterest account. Today’s devotional shared here is really the second of two on a similar theme. We’re going to give you the link to the first one and then you can come back here for part two.

The first one asks the question, Where is Your Faith? Looking at the narrative of Jesus asleep on the boat Jack writes,

…he disciples panicked, and one of the most humorous statements you’ll likely ever hear comes from the disciples when they woke Him at the height of the storm basically saying, “Master, don’t you care that we’re all going to drown” (Luke 8:24a)? Now think about that statement. Does Jesus care about them?…

The reference for this is Luke 8:25,

He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?

Then we come to the second one, which is linked in the header below. Clicking is encouraged!

Do you trust Me enough to give you what is good?

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! – Luke 11:13

Being the Parent

We see Jesus speaking here about what earthly parents do for their children, and if parents, who have a fallen nature, know how to give good things to their children, then how much more so does God know how to give good things to those who ask Him? Jesus compares the idea of when a child asks his father for a fish. Will he give him a serpent or snake? Some fish and some snakes look very much alike, so Jesus’ point is that God the Father can tell what is best for us even if our eyes might deceive us. If a human father, being sinful and having a fallen nature by birth, knows how to give good things to his own children, then surely God the Father knows so much more how to give us good things if we ask Him. He gives His Holy Spirit to everyone who repents and trusts in Christ. The Spirit of God gives a person a new nature, and then even an earthly father can discriminate much better between what is good for their children and what isn’t and what is good for us to ask for in prayer requests and what really isn’t.

Know What to Give

Even a human father or mother, as imperfect as they and all human beings are, can usually tell the difference between what a good thing is and what a bad thing is and whether to give it to a child. When my son was young, he tried to grab a knife out of the kitchen drawer, but the drawers in our kitchen had childproof latches. Even though he wanted to play with the knife, I knew he would hurt himself, so he had no access to it. I made sure of that. In the same comparison, even a human father or mother knows the difference between an egg and a scorpion, and the parent would never give the child something that they could hurt themselves with (Luke 11:12). Since this is true, again Jesus contrasts the frail and subject-to-error parent with the perfect heavenly Father, Who would never choose to give us anything that would hurt us, even if we think it wouldn’t. We don’t have that kind of wisdom. That wisdom comes from above (James 3:15-17), so I must ask for God’s wisdom in order to even know what to ask for.

Knowing What to Ask For

It takes great wisdom to know exactly what to ask for in prayer because what might seem good to us (a fish) might actually be bad (a snake) (Luke 11:11). Just asking is not enough. The Holy Spirit, Whom God gives to those who ask for Him (Luke 11:13), can help us in knowing what to pray for (Rom 8:26-27). Not one of us could ever comprehend the mind of God without the Spirit of God helping us (1 Cor 2:11). The question is do we trust God enough to give to us what is good, even if we don’t think it is?

A Closing Prayer

Righteous God in heaven, thank You for not always giving me what I ask for but giving me only what I need. I haven’t the wisdom to always know what to pray for, but You do, so please help me by Your Spirit to know what to ask for that is best for me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

 

March 21, 2022

Confession: God Reveals Sin in our Lives

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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We’re invoking our “six month rule” instead the usual 12 months in order to again share something from Geno Pyse, who writes at Geno Pyse and the Proclamation. He is the author of 16 books (!) including Christian Reflections in a Deflecting World.

Click the header (title) below to read this there, where this is one among several recommended articles.

The Importance of Confession

How easily we can camouflage pseudo-spirituality and religious pretenses with religious activities and rhetoric. We can fool others, and astonishingly, we can even deceive ourselves! But we cannot fool or pull one over on God, the omniscient One. We can twist God’s Word in a way to fool ourselves and others, but this is only to our own harm. Truth remains truth regardless of twisting, rhetoric, or smoke and mirrors.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins,” (7:20). We can (and do) go around patting ourselves on the backs, thinking, “You’re okay and I’m okay.” But the truth of the matter is we’re not always okay. If we’re not careful, we can ignore the flowerbeds of our hearts and allow the weeds of anger, pride, lust, covetousness, worry, and the like to take root and begin choking the flowers of virtue and grace. We can begin to deny God’s perspective on attitudes and behaviors He declares  as sin. We can erect various forms of idolatry in our lives and churches and truly believe everything is alright when everything is all wrong.

Sin is never neutral. Even if a person is truly redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, sin still has consequences. And the more one ignores and dismisses the warnings of God’s Word, faithful believers, and the convictions of the Holy Spirit, the more severe the consequences will be.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. ~ 1 John 1:5-6

God is light. There is no darkness—not even shadows—in Him. He is completely holy, Truth to the utmost absolute, and pure in the highest caliber. We, on the other hand, are not. And while God, indeed, is very lovingly long suffering with us, He does not at all condone our walking and wallowing in sin like kids jumping in puddles and pigs rolling in mire. What we sometimes fail to understand is when we try to harbor our sins we begin to walk in darkness. The longer we are in darkness, the further we can stray from the Lord and lose our way. This, in turn, causes us to become more vulnerable to other deceptions and various forms of bondage (even religious kinds).

We read a truth in the Old Testament that remains true in the lives of true believers:

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. ~ Isaiah 59:1-3

In Christ, the issue is not whether one can be forgiven, because all sin is forgivable through Him. Rather, are we willing to let His light expose our sins, and are we willing to agree with Him for what He says about them? Our sins do disrupt our fellowship with Him. And Jesus says of those who reject Him and the reason they stand condemned:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. ~ John 3:19-20

For God’s people, in the midst of our struggle with sin, the apostle writes,

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 8-9

The word confess doesn’t simply mean to admit. Rather, it’s taken from the Greek word, homoiogeo, which means to agree and consent to. Thus, confession has to do with agreeing with God concerning the way He sees our thoughts, behaviors, attitudes, and motives, then changing these accordingly.

Today, we are in dire need to confess—to agree, to consent—with God and His perception on things. It is easy to look at the world and see what a mess it’s in; however, as Christians we can be ever so guilty of wanting to take the specks out of unbelievers’ eyes, while being oblivious to the forests in our own. The church in the West (especially in the United States) harbors all kinds of pride, anger, envy, and partialities. We’ve allowed all kinds of “back talking” and casting doubt on God’s Word—even in many of our seminaries. Furthermore, we’ve erected all kinds of idols (especially in the areas of entertainment and comfortable living) in our hearts and churches.

How can we see if we are walking and stumbling in darkness? How can we really be walking with God if we are not willing to agree and consent to what He says about things? An essential part of prayer is asking the Lord to reveal sin in our lives. The psalmist writes,

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! ~ Psalm 139:24-24

This, my friend, is a continual and life long endeavor. But we are promised that as we do, God is both faithful and just to not only forgive us of sin but to also cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

 

March 5, 2022

Carrying and Sharing the Light

After a break of several years, today we’re back with Canadian Presbyterian pastor Jeff Loach who writes at Passionately His, whose writing first appeared here in 2011. Clicking the header which follows will take you to that site, where you’ll also find video of sermons Jeff has recently preached.

Throwing and Flooding

I met with my spiritual director earlier this week, and she read this familiar verse from The Message, which always manages to take the familiar and make one think about it:

Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.” – John 8.12

It was a really good reminder for me that though we live in a time of darkness, with the pandemic and all the divisions that have been created and underlined by it, Jesus still provides plenty of light to live in.

It can be easy to point fingers and take pot shots (especially on social media, where we can’t see the other).  This verse reminded me of the importance not of pointing out the deficiencies of one, but of flooding all we know with the light of Jesus.

Since getting interested in the world of everyday carry (EDC), I’ve learned more about things like flashlights than I ever thought I would need to, or care to learn.  Some flashlights are made to throw light a long distance.  These lights have a fairly narrow beam, but you can see a long distance with them.  Other flashlights are made to flood a smaller area: you can see a lot around you, but not for very far.

Let me encourage you, in this politically and socially challenging time, to flood the world with the light of Jesus.  Not everybody lives in his light; some do stumble around in the darkness.  But we can flood the world around us with the light of Jesus, prayerfully hoping that some will see that light and turn to him and live in that light.

We all long for a peaceful world, free of division and strife.  Jesus is the way to fulfill that longing, and he invites us to spread that light.  By flooding the world around us with his light, we will have a greater impact as we seek to share the One who is our peace.

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us (Ephesians 2.14, NLT).


Because Jeff’s articles are shorter, here’s a bonus item for today.


The Alternative to Prayer in School

In a previous Encouragement From the Word, I recounted part of the story of Cassie Bernall, the student at Columbine High School who was killed for being a Christian, relating that to the reality of suffering and persecution among believers.  This elicited a heart-tugging response from a subscriber who was part of a tragic school shooting at one time.

This person told me how important a role prayer played in the aftermath, noting that “Amongst the sirens and the ambulances and the police, we gathered in small groups, holding hands and praying.  God was there giving comfort to us in our time of greatest need”, and that when the school reopened, a few days later, a prayer was offered over the PA system to bring comfort to the injured and the families of the victims.

Most schools today, at least where I live, don’t offer the option of public prayer.  And while I would welcome a call to restore school prayers, I fear that horse has left the barn, as the saying goes, and that nothing short of national revival is going to bring it back, especially in the political culture in which we find ourselves these days.

So what is the alternative?

Prayer at home.  (Now there’s a concept.)

Those students who gathered to pray amid the chaos in my interlocutor’s story must have had some foundation of prayer, both at home and in the church, to lead them to pray together.  It served them well to provide comfort in an unimaginable moment.

Too often, in our consumer culture, we depend on institutions to do work that more rightly belongs to the family.

We should not rely on the school system – even a Christian parochial school system, if that’s where our kids go – to teach them such foundational faith basics.

I dare say we should not even rely on the church to do this.  (Gasps come from the crowd.)

I think this is the responsibility of parents.  In fact, this is not my idea; it’s deeply rooted in the history of God’s people.  Consider that sharing the basics of faith has been considered a family mandate from as far back as the time of Moses:

Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.  And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.  Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up (Deuteronomy 6.4-7, NLT).

Of course, parents themselves have to learn this, if they weren’t taught it by their own parents.  And that’s where the church comes in.  The church’s job is to equip parents to be used by God to shape their children as followers of Jesus.

Someone has said, tongue-in-cheek, that as long as there are exams, there will always be prayer in school.  But in an age of increasing persecution for followers of Jesus, all the more do children and young people need to be spiritually formed at home – including knowing how to communicate with God in a loving relationship – so that they can be strong in their faith, no matter what they face, in school or elsewhere.

It may not be bullets that they face (and so we earnestly pray!), but it may be words, which injure in different ways, or something else that comes with persecution.  As the church equips the parents to form the children, we will see great spiritual renewal among the people of God, which we need for the world in which we live today.

March 2, 2022

God Will Sort Out Our Enemies

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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This is our fourth visit with Rev. Tonia Slimm who has been writing very faithfully at blog Growing with God . A blogger after my own heart, there has been a fresh post on that site every day since September, 2015; and we’re talking original devotional studies; not the beg-borrow-and-steal approach that we take!

Clicking the header below will take you there, where a bonus music video awaits you.

God Deals with our Enemies – Isaiah 51:23

Isaiah 51:23 (NIV)

“I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk on you.’ And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked on.”

Isaiah 51:23 (MSG)

“I’ve passed it over to your abusers to drink, those who ordered you, ‘Down on the ground so we can walk all over you!’ And you had to do it. Flat on the ground, you were the dirt under their feet.”

****************************************

“I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who have said to you, ‘Lie down so that we may walk over you.’ You have even made your back like the ground and like the street for those who walk over it.” -AMPLIFIED

“This strong drink is now to be taken from Judah and given to Babylon, so that it will stagger and fall. God is going to destroy Babylon as he destroyed Judah.” ~Bridgeway Bible Commentary

In yesterday’s text, we found God reminding Israel that their suffering was only for a time. Soon He would remove the cup of anger that He had given to them, and they had drunk deeply from.

“Your children have fainted and lie fallen in the streets, like a gazelle caught in a net.
Yahweh’s anger, the rebuke of your God, has overwhelmed them. So listen, you who are weak and wounded, who are intoxicated not with wine but with God’s anger. This is what your sovereign ruler,
Lord Yahweh, your God, the Mighty Defender of his people, says: “Look! I have removed from your hand the intoxicating cup that made you stagger. You will no longer drink from the bowl of my anger.”
-Isaiah 51:20-22 (The Passion Translation)

In today’s passage, God tells Israel He is about to pass that cup of anger on to their oppressors.

“And I will give that drink to those who abused and oppressed you—who ordered you, “Get down so we can walk all over you.” And your backs became the ground they walked on, the streets they passed by.” -(VOICE)

Adonai–Tzva’ot, God Almighty, the God who does the impossible, is able to humble the enemy. Consider how many times had God told Israel in the past that all they need do is be still, and allow Him to fight their battles? Case in point, Moses speaking to the Israelites:

“So I told you, “Don’t be scared! Don’t be afraid of them! You won’t have to fight this battle yourselves; the Eternal your God, who always goes ahead of you, will fight for you just as He did in Egypt—you saw Him do it! And here in this wilderness, all along the route you’ve traveled until you reached this place, haven’t you seen the Eternal, your True God, carrying you the way a parent carries a child? But you still don’t trust the Eternal your God, even though He always goes ahead of you as you travel and finds places for you to camp. In a pillar of fire by night and in a cloud by day, He always shows you the right way to go.” -Deuteronomy 1:29-33 (VOICE)

Guaranteed, this was not always the case, but once again, we do find God defending Israel in our text. Adonai–Tzva’ot, God Almighty, tells Israel that He will take remove this cup from their hands, and place it in the hands of their tormentors. The tables will be turned now, what Babylon had done to Israel, tormenting them, and abusing them, will now be done to them.

If you wondered about the truth of the abuse that is mentioned in Isaiah, wonder no more. Grogan tells us that this practice of Babylon, having people lie on the ground and walking across on their backs, is well documented.

“This “barbaric practice…is well documented in the ancient Near East, featured especially, but not exclusively, in Assyrian inscriptions” ~Geoffrey Grogan

This was a form of abuse that was intended to humiliate and bring suffering and affliction to people. Babylon had done this very thing to Israel, now God says it will happen to the Babylonians.

The time of Israel’s redemption has come. And the time for Babylon’s punishment is about to begin. If you wondered why God would punish Babylon for doing what He intended for them to do, it is because they carried out their assignment with the wrong attitude. They used and abused Israel. They took all the glory in their conquering of other nations, and never gave any of the glory to God.

“But I will put that terrible cup into the hands of those who tormented you and trampled your souls to the dust and walked upon your backs.” -(TLB)

“There will be a reversal of circumstances for them when He gives the cup of stupor of bowl of wrath into the very hands of those who dished it out, so that what they did to others now happens to them. What the King of Assyria and his people did to the people of God is now done to them.” ~Avraham Gileadi 

In the book of Exodus, God told Israel that if they would obey Him, then He would be an enemy to their enemies. God said:

“If you are obedient to his voice and follow all of My instructions, then I will be an enemy to all of those who are against you, and I will oppose all those who oppose you. When My messenger moves ahead of you and leads you to the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites—I will annihilate them.” -Exodus 23:22-23 (VOICE)

Throughout Scripture God reminds us that He will deal with our enemies. He promised that He would avenge us. Take a look at what Paul wrote to the Romans:

“Do not retaliate with evil, regardless of the evil brought against you. Try to do what is good and right and honorable as agreed upon by all people. If it is within your power, make peace with all people. Again, my loved ones, do not seek revenge; instead, allow God’s wrath to make sure justice is served. Turn it over to Him. For the Scriptures say, “Revenge is Mine. I will settle all scores.” -Romans 12:17-19 (VOICE)

We would do well to learn this lesson that Solomon tried to teach his son:

“Do not rejoice and gloat when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad [in self-righteousness] when he stumbles, or the Lord will see your gloating and be displeased, and turn His anger away from your enemy.” -Proverbs 24:17-18 (AMP)

Let us take into consideration something that God said to Jeremiah:

Eternal One (to Jeremiah): Hear me, Jeremiah: I will make you strong in these trying times to accomplish My good. I will make it so your enemies ask you to pray for them in times of disaster and suffering.” -Jeremiah 15:11 (VOICE)

Our job is to pray for our enemies, and let God avenge us. Finally, consider what Jesus told His followers to do when it came to how they should treat their enemies. Jesus said:

“If you’re listening, here’s My message: Keep loving your enemies no matter what they do. Keep doing good to those who hate you. Keep speaking blessings on those who curse you. Keep praying for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, offer the other cheek too. If someone steals your coat, offer him your shirt too. If someone begs from you, give to him. If someone robs you of your valuables, don’t demand them back. Think of the kindness you wish others would show you; do the same for them. Listen, what’s the big deal if you love people who already love you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you do good to those who do good to you? Even scoundrels do that much! So what if you lend to people who are likely to repay you? Even scoundrels lend to scoundrels if they think they’ll be fully repaid. If you want to be extraordinary—love your enemies! Do good without restraint! Lend with abandon! Don’t expect anything in return! Then you’ll receive the truly great reward—you will be children of the Most High—for God is kind to the ungrateful and those who are wicked. So imitate God and be truly compassionate, the way your Father is.” -Luke 6:27-36 (VOICE)

“We may not be able to prevent other people from being our enemies, but we can prevent ourselves from being enemies toward others.” ~Warren Wiersbe

My friend, let us be careful of how we are treating those who call themselves our enemies. Our job is to pray for them, and allow God to deal with them, and their sins against us. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. Your job is to follow the example of Jesus, and love your enemies. By doing so, you are heap burning coals on their heads, and the LORD will reward you for doing the right thing.

“Prayer is the great engine to overthrow and rout my spiritual enemies, the great means to procure the graces of which I stand in hourly need.” ~John Newton

My Prayer:

Adonai–Tzva’ot, God Almighty, help me to love my enemies, just as you have loved me. When they strike out, intentionally hurting me, remind me that vengeance is yours, not mine. Help me to do what is right, according to your Word. Help me to follow the example of my Savior, who did not retaliate, but He was kind and compassionate towards those who hurt Him. I lift these hurting souls up to you, Lord, and ask that you reveal yourself to them. Help them to see their need for you in their lives. Heal their hurting hearts, Lord. Let them come to an understanding of their deep-seated need for a Savior. Amen.

February 21, 2022

Prayers and Due Honor to Leaders

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints – Ephesians 6:18

For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. — 1 Peter 2:13-14 NLT

Several times in scripture we are reminded to pray for, and offer obedience to those who have been placed in charge over us. We have readers here from around the world, but usually government involves our cities and towns; our larger regions, often called counties, or in larger sense, states or provinces; and our federal (national) government.

We also need to remember those who draft the laws, those who are tasked with enforcing the laws, and the judges who must mete out the penalties when laws are broken. Also those Kings and Queens in countries where monarchy exists; along with Prime Ministers and Presidents.

Key verse today:

I believe all those could be included in these words from Paul to Timothy:

1.Tim.2.1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them, and give thanks. 2 Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. 3a This is good and pleases God our Savior…

In a May, 2021 article that was linked here but not quoted, Dave Lowe wrote, using capital letters no less, that this includes praying for political rivals:

We are more divided than ever and much of our division is a result of our political views that are not embraced by those on the other side of the political aisle. But if I’m taking this passage to heart and seeking to implement this wisdom that Paul gave to Timothy so long ago, then I need to pray for those in authority, EVEN IF THEY DON’T REPRESENT MY POLITICAL POSITIONS.

A month later, we quoted from Melody at In Pleasant Places, who wrote concerning the connection between praying for leaders, and leading a peaceful life.

…The study notes in my Bible connect the two pieces, stating, “This sort of living commends the gospel.”

Our sharing of the gospel, then, is inseparably impacted by the manner in which we live. Because with our whole lives, including those moments when we are alone, we are witnesses to the truth of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and salvation of us, and witnesses to His power to change us at our very core. We speak and we live the truth, and this shows those around us that what we declare is real and life-changing.

Prayer is crucial to this – to all of it. As we intentionally and consistently lean our hearts toward the gospel in prayer, God’s heart and His truth strengthen within us. And perhaps we will begin to live with the focus of Paul: “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them…I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:19, 22-23); “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:10)…

In January, 2018 our friend Jill shared with us a scripture medley calling us to pray for world affairs. As I looked at it again today, I noticed that the two largest citations were from Psalm 2, and reading it in light of world affairs today, I decided to share it here in full from the NLT.

Psalm 2

Why are the nations so angry?
    Why do they waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepare for battle;
    the rulers plot together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.
“Let us break their chains,” they cry,
    “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”

But the one who rules in heaven laughs.
    The Lord scoffs at them.
Then in anger he rebukes them,
    terrifying them with his fierce fury.
For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne
    in Jerusalem,[a] on my holy mountain.”

The king proclaims the Lord’s decree:
“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son.[b]
    Today I have become your Father.[c]
Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,
    the whole earth as your possession.
You will break[d] them with an iron rod
    and smash them like clay pots.’”

10 Now then, you kings, act wisely!
    Be warned, you rulers of the earth!
11 Serve the Lord with reverent fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Submit to God’s royal son,[e] or he will become angry,
    and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities—
for his anger flares up in an instant.
    But what joy for all who take refuge in him!

In December, 2015, Clarke Dixon shared with us the view from the other side; the picture of a king himself asking for wisdom.

And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people. (1 Kings 3:7-9)

Finally, almost ten years ago, in May, 2012, our online friends Stephen and Brooksyne Weber shared this related verse and commentary at Daily Encouragement.

“If my people, who are called by my Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Their devotional continued,

…[T]he vast majority of our population gives little or no attention to God. Our government and court systems increasingly pass laws and policies that will surely lead to persecution for the believers. Our arts and entertainment industry is a cesspool of immorality. Broken marriages and troubled households abound and in recent years a massive effort is being made to drastically redefine the God-ordained institution of holy marriage. Violence fills the land. Our educational system has been very successful at breaking down the moral constraints. Brooksyne and I see this brokenness first hand in our ministry to the workplace, but it’s evident to anyone who turns on the news or reads a newspaper. I believe one of the greatest evidences of this escalating trouble is spiritual blindness.

I have often pondered the daily verse and committed it to memory many years ago. It will surely be quoted in many prayer services today. It is initially expressed as a condition and promise to Solomon during a time of great personal and national consecration as the temple is being dedicated approximately 3,000 years ago. I believe there is an element to this promise that is unique to Israel as a nation, who as a national people were called by God’s Name.

The phrase “My people” in the daily verse in its initial application applied to these people and their specific land. Thus I feel there is interpretive error when we view our specific country (wherever we live) as God’s land in the same sense as that spoken of in the initial promise. True believers foundationally hold heavenly citizenship (far superior to our national citizenship).

Having said that, I believe there is still great application in the condition and promise today. There is surely a sense that “My people” today refers to the redeemed in Christ who live throughout the world.

God requires these conditions of His people:

  • Humble themselves
  • Pray
  • Seek My face
  • Turn from their wicked ways

God promises these blessings for His people:

  • Then will I hear from heaven
  • And will forgive their sin
  • And will heal their land

So remember, to pray for those in authority over us, by whatever power that authority is granted, and in whatever situation you find yourself in our world.


 

Footnotes for the Psalm 2 quotation

  1. Hebrew on Zion.
  2. Or Son; also in 2:12
  3. Or Today I reveal you as my son.
  4. Greek version reads rule. Compare Rev. 2:27
  5. The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain.

January 24, 2022

Carving Out a Place for Prayer into Your Schedule

Today’s first-time writer here is Heather Knowles who lives in the  West Highlands of Scotland. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, and daughter. Her blog is An Unfinished Work of Art (tag line: Otherwise known as a Work in Progress.)

You can be a blessing to the various writers we feature by creating some traffic for their site. There’s two devotionals by Heather today, and you’re encouraged to click the titles for each, which follow, and read them on her page.

Making Time for Prayer

Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. – Mark 1:35 NLT

Is it important to make time for prayer?  Well, yes it is, but why?  I’m sure that we have all sat through sermons expounding the benefits of prayer and underlining the fact that Jesus took Himself off to pray on a regular basis, and if He needed to pray, then so do we! But actually going out of our way to make time for it?  Letting prayer “interfere” with our established daily routines?  Let’s take a closer look.  Consider for a moment your relationship with your partner, best friend, parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, anyone important in your life.

When two people first fall in love, they become a bit obsessed with each other, spending as much time as possible in each other’s company, ringing up, sending messages, cards, gifts, etc. If a relationship is ‘one-sided’, it’s not going to go very far – it takes two people to build a relationship.  Any relationship can only grow and develop as people spend time in each other’s company, as they get to know each other better and on a deeper level.

And now think about your relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  I don’t know about you, but my relationship with God can only grow, deepen and develop as I spend time with Him – not just a rushed few seconds here and there, when I can ‘fit Him in’ to my day/schedule/diary/routine, but real, quality time.  God has done His part. He speaks to us through His Word, He has given His Son, He has laid down His Life, He has sent His Holy Spirit. Now it’s up to me to do my part to grow my relationship with Him – to spend quality time with Him, to prioritize Him in my day, to listen to His promptings. I know that I am richly blessed to be in such a privileged relationship, where I can come before the throne of God and simply chat to Him.

Jesus took Himself away to pray before and after performing miracles, when He needed peace and quiet, when He needed to hear from His Father, when He wanted to strengthen and consolidate His relationship with God the Father. To grow my relationship with God, to strengthen it and to consolidate it, I need to do likewise, and it is such a wonderful blessing to be free to come to Father God to get to know Him on a deeper, more personal level.


Bonus article:

A Challenge!

Matthew 22:36-39 (NIV):  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ““Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.””

How’s that for a challenge? You’re not following me?

Well, Jesus said that we have to love God totally and completely – that’s the most important thing to do, the first and greatest commandment.  It’s the second one that presents the challenge.

Love your neighbour as yourself. That’s a huge challenge – why?

Because I have to love myself!  In order to love my neighbour, I have to love myself.  I can only love them as I love myself.

So who is my neighbour?  Is it really only the people that live next-door?  In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus taught that loving your neighbour means more than loving your immediate circle of family, friends and next-door neighbours.  He taught that loving your neighbour means more than just being kind and considerate to people you meet in your day-to-day life.  He taught that loving your neighbour meant more than just being respectful, generous and tolerant.  He taught that loving your neighbour means searching for the outcast, the rejected, the marginalized, the abused.  It means drawing alongside them, making space for them, listening to them, getting close to them, accepting them as they are, looking for the spark of Christ in them, searching within them for the likeness of God – for He is surely there, as we are all created in His image – and then holding out the hand of love and friendship, being pro-active to right wrongs and to end injustices.

I can only love them as I love myself, and to do that I need to have a God-given perspective of who and what I am because it’s easy to be self-depreciating and to hold myself unforgiven, and to beat myself up over past mistakes, to drag up memories of past sin and feel so very, very unrighteous and unworthy.  But what does God say about who I am, and what I am?  His word tells me that I am:

  • His
  • His beloved
  • His prize
  • His bride
  • Called
  • Chosen
  • The apple of His eye
  • A new creation
  • A temple of His Spirit
  • Forgiven
  • Redeemed
  • Blessed
  • Elect
  • Victorious
  • One in Christ
  • Fearfully and wonderfully made
  • Set free

Thank you Lord for your great love for me, and thank you that you have that same love for everyone I meet, for everyone who has ever and will ever live here on earth.  Help me Lord to have a right self-image, and to see you in others, that I may love myself and my neighbour.  Amen

December 30, 2021

All That God Has in Store for You

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me. LORD, your faithful love endures forever; do not abandon the work of your hands. – Psalm 138:8 CSB

Once again today we have a new writer to introduce to you. Joey Rudder is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and has several novels and novellas awaiting publication. She started an eponymous site, JoeyRudder.com this year, from which today’s devotional was selected, and also writes at Training for Eternity.

If 2021, didn’t bring you everything you had hoped for, and there are still dreams in your heart that lay unfulfilled, this encouragement is for you. Click the header which follows and read it at her site.

When It All Comes Together

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT.

What if all you’ve been working on, all the tiny threads of your life, and the dream God tucked into your heart so long ago are about to intersect and explode into a miraculous move of God?

Perhaps the time is approaching when all the sweat, all the tears, and all of your faithfulness as you kept your eyes fixed on your Heavenly Father as you persevered in your calling is about to come together before your very eyes.

You may not realize all that God has been working on behind the scenes in your life. Maybe you got the tiniest glimpse of it, like spotting a tiny droplet of water dazzling in the sunlight.

But a time is coming when God will lift your eyes from that droplet, revealing this ocean of a plan He’s been working on all along. It’s going to take your breath away and leave you standing in awe.

God’s love for you is like that too. More than you can possibly take in.

Oh, dear soul. This dream God planted in your heart so long ago is far more elaborate, intricate, and magnificent than you can possibly understand.

It’s been a struggle, a battle to get to this point, hasn’t it? The enemy has been pressing in against you, doing all he can to distract and discourage you. Satan has even twisted things, distorting your path, so you thought you were going the wrong way.

But you kept your eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of your faith. You spent time with the Father, seeking His face and His will. And you stilled yourself, pushing the world and all its demands away so you could hear the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart, encouraging you to keep going.

And you kept going.

Others may have ridiculed you, telling you it’s a silly dream or completely unrealistic. Maybe they even got angry with you because you disappointed them by not living up to their expectations.

But you weren’t worried about disappointing them. You’d rather disappoint the entire world than disappoint God. So you pressed on even when doubt crept in too close and you felt unworthy, drab, and withered like a dandelion in a field of colorful wildflowers. You felt out of place, out of sorts, and lost.

But you’ve never really been lost. God has been with you for the entire duration of your journey, hemming you in and drawing you closer. You clung to His hand and kept walking as He led.

And now it’s as if you’re on the threshold of something spectacular. The thrill of something new like a fresh wind is all around you. Something new and yet something so wonderfully familiar.

It’s as if you were born for this very moment in time.

All the hard work, all the tears and sleepless nights. All the dreaming and hoping and praying. None of it has been wasted because you surrendered it all to God.

Your time is coming, precious soul. The beauty of God working in your life and the amazing plan He has for you is so much more than a shimmer of light on a tiny droplet of water – it’s waves and waves illuminated by His love for you, saturating you and reaching those around you.

And what a glorious sight, a beautiful, soul-saturating moment with your God as you dance in the water and then drop to your knees in complete adoration for your Heavenly Father who loves you so much to create such a plan for your life.

The plan you were born to live that brings you and others closer to Almighty God, bringing Him honor and glory.

Take it all in. Breathe. And don’t forget that even this is only a glimpse of all He has for you – He has eternity in His presence waiting for you.

God loves you that much.♥️

December 1, 2021

Sheep in the Presence of the Shepherd

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After a break of a couple years, for the seventh time we’re back with author and pastor Colin Sedgwick at the site, Welcome to Sedgonline, an excellent devotional writer. Click the header which follows to read this (and then explore other things) at its point of origin.

The Voice of Jesus

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep… He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice… Jesus said, I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me… John 10:2-4, 11, 14

I have a cousin who is a dairy-farmer. His farm is a one-man business, and that can present problems when he needs to take a break for a few days. Certainly, he can get people to stand in for him, but if he does he finds that the milk-yield of the cows is seriously depleted – it’s almost as if they go on strike until he returns.

Which seems strange. Nearly all modern milking, including his, is done by mechanical means, so what difference should it make who actually attaches the equipment to the cows? But apparently it does.

I use the illustration of the farmer and his cows rather than the shepherd and his sheep because… well, I don’t happen to know any sheep-farmers! But if you read John 10 right down to verse 20 you won’t have any problem seeing the connection. Jesus describes himself as both the shepherd of the sheep and the gate by which they go in and out, but if he had chosen to talk about cows and their farmer the same essential truths would emerge.

What’s it all about? Trust, that’s what! And trust is at the heart of all good and healthy relationships, so it’s about that too. Lacking it, the cows don’t give their milk, and the sheep don’t follow.

The idea of sheep and shepherds is strong in the Old Testament to describe the relationship between the king and his people.

Moses is recorded as praying that God would appoint for his people a leader “who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd (Numbers 27:16-17). (Compare that with Matthew 9:36, where the heart of the good shepherd is moved with “compassion” – that is, pity and deep sadness – for the big, swarming crowds “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”.)

Go to Ezekiel 34 and you find the prophet condemning false leaders as being like worthless shepherds who are only concerned for themselves. And it’s surely no accident that Israel’s greatest king – David – was, in his youth, a shepherd-boy (1 Samuel 16). In adulthood he simply swapped one type of flock for another…

So it’s a very natural parable that Jesus makes use of. What I find particularly striking about it is that four times in verses1-18 Jesus speaks about the shepherd’s voice.

Once when I was a small boy the head-teacher spoke during the assembly about the beauty of human eyes. To prove his point he told us, “There are many things you probably can’t remember today about your mother. But one thing I’m sure of – if I asked you what colour her eyes are, you would answer straight away.”

And I felt bad! Rightly or wrongly, I didn’t have a clue about the colour of my mother’s eyes. I had simply never noticed. Ah, but the sound of her voice – that was a different matter. Eyes, after all, are just there; but a voice is something you relate to. I would be able to pick that out in a roomful of noisy people.

And so it is with the voice of Jesus, our good shepherd; it is more precious to us than we can say.

But… how exactly do we hear it? Not, after all, with our physical ears. There may be times when in fact we don’t seem to hear it at all, perhaps because we have wandered away from him, or because it is crowded out by the many troubles, distractions and noises of our daily lives. But he is always speaking, even when we are not listening, or when our circumstances are such that we cannot hear.

This is where another memory of my early life comes in: as a child in Sunday School, and even more as a young convert, I was encouraged each day to have a “quiet time” of prayer and Bible-reading. That expression has, I think, fallen out of use over the years – people think it sounds a bit twee.

Well, perhaps. But I still think it has a real value, and I am not at all embarrassed to say that even all these years later I still try to make it my practice, and I’m still happy to recommend it to others.

In fact, the modern popularity of “mindfulness”, for us as Christians, is really just a recognition of our need to “be still, and know that God is God” (Psalm 46:10). To find such a time may be difficult in the busyness of our lives. But it needn’t be lengthy; it need only be sincere and determined. A few minutes with a focused heart and an open Bible can make all the difference.

So… Is it time you set aside a few minutes in your life to be still in the presence of Jesus and to allow him to speak? A few minutes to deepen that relationship I spoke about earlier? Everything good and wholesome springs from that, just as the sheep learns to confidently follow the shepherd and (if you don’t mind me comparing you to a cow) the cow produces rich, foaming, frothy, health-giving milk.

May God bless us all as we learn to listen for the voice of Jesus!

Lord Jesus, please train my ear through scripture and the Holy Spirit so that it becomes attuned to the sound of your voice, and so that I learn the secret of guidance, obedience – and peace. Amen.

November 22, 2021

Prayer: Don’t Do All the Talking

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We are continually grateful to HarperCollins Christian Publishing for blanket permission to occasionally include short excerpts from their books here. Transcription for this one was found at today at Devotions Daily. If you’re looking for a daily book excerpt in your inbox each morning, consider subscribing there.


O.S. Hawkins is a very prolific author of more than 40 books, which have sold more than 1 million copies, including The Joshua Code, The Bible Code, The Nehemiah Code, The Believer’s Code — are you detecting a pattern? — and The Jesus Code, and preaches regularly at Bible conferences, evangelism conferences, and churches across the nation. This excerpt is from his newest, The Prayer Code. See below for a link to the publisher page for this title.

Listen to Him

While He was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” — Matthew 17:5

Many of us share a common fault in our conversations with others. So often, we fail to listen. We are so immersed in preparing to articulate our next brilliant thought that we are prone to not hear what the other person is saying. How many times have we been introduced to someone and as soon as we walk away cannot even remember the person’s name? On the mountain of transfiguration, the Father gives us some good advice. He introduces His Son, affirms His pleasure in Him, and then admonishes us to “listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5 ESV).

One of the things we often forget about prayer is that it is communication with the Lord. And communication is a two-way street. We talk… and, if we are smart, we listen even more than we speak.

Perhaps one of the most overlooked and forgotten elements of prayer is taking the time to listen to Him. He still speaks to us through His Word and by His Spirit. God is essentially saying to us here, “This is My Son; I love Him; I am pleased with Him. Stop talking so much and listen to Him.”

After the resurrection, Jesus showed up on the road to Emmaus to perfectly illustrate this need in all of us to take time in prayer to stop talking and simply “listen to Him.” For three years the disciples had walked with Christ, talked with Him, virtually lived with Him, when suddenly it all came to an abrupt and crashing conclusion: Jesus had been viciously executed and His body tossed in a cold, damp tomb. Then, all the disciples “forsook Him and fled” back to their own abodes (Matthew 26:56).

Two of these followers headed home to Emmaus, a village seven miles west of Jerusalem. As they walked in discouragement toward the sunset that afternoon, they exclaimed to one another,

We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. — Luke 24:21

But they had buried that hope when the body of Jesus was placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Dejected and dismayed, they were walking proof that there is never power in the present when there is no hope in the future.

But, then — suddenly — the resurrected “Jesus Himself drew near and went with them,” but they “did not know Him” (Luke 24:15-16). After this incredible encounter “their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight” (Luke 24:31). And their response?

Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road? — Luke 24:32

Isn’t this one of our most pressing needs today? That is, burning hearts that come from listening to Him along our own Emmaus road.

LISTEN TO HIM AS HE SPEAKS TO US THROUGH HIS SPIRIT

Their hearts were set on fire when “He talked with [them] on the road.” Jesus was doing the talking, and they were doing the listening. Their hearts did not burn when they talked to Him, or when they talked to each other about Him. Their hearts began to burn with a new passion when they stopped talking to Him and to others and started listening to Him, spirit to Spirit.

There comes a time when we need to stop trying to perform, stop offering our petitions, even cease our praise for a moment, and simply be still and listen to His still small voice speaking to our spirits, and heed the admonition of our heavenly Father to “listen to Him.”

LISTEN TO HIM AS HE SPEAKS TO US THROUGH HIS SCRIPTURE

The Bible remains a sealed book until God’s Spirit opens its truth to us. We may gain a head knowledge of Him through the Bible, but we will never be able to understand a heart knowledge, a spiritual discernment, until, like the disciples, He talks to us along the road and opens the Scriptures to us (Luke 24:32). And we do the listening.

Jesus “expounded” to them in all the Scriptures the things that concerned Himself (Luke 24:27). The word expound connotes the thought of translating something out of a foreign language. The Bible is really a foreign language to those who do not believe.

Beginning at Moses… He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

From the Pentateuch to the Prophets Jesus preached Jesus.

From Moses to Malachi He revealed how the entire Jewish Bible speaks of Him. As He spoke to them, a shadow of the cross fell over the Jewish Bible. He was that ram at Abraham’s altar in Genesis. He was the Passover lamb in Exodus, whose spilled blood meant freedom from slavery and deliverance from death… and still does. He was that scarlet thread out Rahab’s window in Joshua. And the good shepherd of whom David spoke in the Psalms? Jesus was that shepherd. As the disciples listened, they understood that Jesus was the suffering servant spoken so eloquently about by Isaiah. And He was the fourth man in the midst of the fiery furnace in Daniel. No wonder their hearts began to burn within them. He was doing the talking… and they were doing the listening.

The disciples’ immediate response was noteworthy. They “rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem” to exclaim to all the others,

The Lord is risen indeed! — Luke 24:33-34

Their glowing hearts turned into going hearts. With beating, burning hearts they scurried back to Jerusalem, around the corners, down the narrow alleys, up Mount Zion, to find the others and share the good news. And they shared it not with an emaciated question mark, but with a bold exclamation mark: “He is alive!”

One of these Emmaus followers was named Cleopas. His companion is left unnamed. I like to think this is so in order for you and me to find ourselves in his or her place as we walk on our own road today. Perhaps you are reading these words with your own hopes dashed and your own dreams smashed.

Stop.

Look.

Listen to Jesus’ Spirit through His Scriptures.

He is still speaking. And if you listen, you just might walk away with your own heart burning within you.

“Listen to Him.”

CODE WORD: CELL PHONE

Today, when your phone rings and you answer and begin listening, let it remind you that prayer is a two-way conversation also. Stop doing all the talking; listen to Him!


Excerpted with permission from The Prayer Code by  O. S. Hawkins, ©2021 Dr. O. S. Hawkins.

Read more about the book from Thomas Nelson.

To sign up for Devotions Daily, click this link. (But don’t leave C201, we love you, too!)

 

November 14, 2021

How Much Fruit are You Producing?

Today’s search to highlight new (to us) devotional authors took us to Following Jesus Today, and the writing of David W. Palmer, who with his wife Rosanna are involved in itinerant ministry in Melbourne, Australia. As winter makes it way into the northern hemisphere, Australia sounds like the ideal place, but even more so when you consider that they were previously involved with something called Surfcity Christian Church, as in “Surf City, here we come.” (Coveting is still a sin, right?)

Clicking the header which follows will take you direct to their page, rather than reading here. If you live an area like we do where there’s a chance of snow in tonight’s forecast, perhaps some of the warmth will flow through your internet cable.

The Living Word Produces the Fruit Father Seeks

(John 15:4 NKJV) “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

In John 15, Jesus is addressing his apprentices on the night he was denied, betrayed, and arrested. While he had this final opportunity, he was imparting to them truths and values of ultimate importance.

In this chapter, the Master begins with a parable about a grapevine, a vinedresser, and branches. Our wonderful Lord is emphasizing the need to remain in him and to be fruitful. So far, he has mentioned removal of fruitless branches and pruning of the fruitful ones. Today, we are looking at him urging all of his devoted followers to remain in him:

(John 15:3–4 NLT) “You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. (4) Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”

Yesterday, we saw that Jesus alerted all of us who are “in” him to focus on bearing copious fruit. The consequences of being in him—drawing on his life and nutrition—but not producing any fruit, is catastrophic:

(John 15:2 NLT) He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.

Even the branches of Jesus that do produce fruit, he prunes and cleans so they can increase their yield. Clearly, Father wants us to produce copious supernatural fruit for his kingdom. To emphasize this, Jesus earlier gave some focused parables:

(Luke 13:6–9 NLT) Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’  “The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer.  If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’” (See also: Mat. 25:14–30)

In John 15, Jesus is addressing those who are “in me.” And because he is fully aware of Father’s desire for fruitfulness from the branches of his ministry, he urges us to “remain” in him:

(John 15:4 NLT) “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”

Only as we continue in close connectedness with Jesus, the living word, will we be able to be productive at the level Father wants. Being connected without fruit is serious enough, but if we pull away from him—severing ourselves from his life-giving living words altogether—we are bringing disaster on ourselves:

(John 15:5–6 NLT) “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.”

Without the water of life flowing into us from Jesus continually, we will soon wither. Jesus explained that sadly, the only possible outcome for isolated, withered branches is to be “gathered” and “burned.” That does not sound like a joy-filled eternity. So, let’s remain well and truly connected to Jesus, his words, and his life.

Jesus continued this impartation session to his apprentices by assuring them of a particular stream of approved fruitfulness if they continue to “abide” in him:

(John 15:7 NKJV) “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”

Here, Jesus specified the fruit that comes from successful prayer and faith. To double the emphasis of what we need to do to produce the type and quantity of fruit Father seeks, our Lord said both to abide in him and have his words abiding in us. He is the living word, so for us to abide in him, we need constantly to be in the word. To have his word abiding in us, we need to know it, understand it, believe it, and do it. Then, as his word comes to life in us, it is literally Jesus himself living in and through us. If he does, then he can continue his fruitful ministry here on earth.

Through the apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit put it like this:

(Galatians 2:20 NKJV) “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.”

The fruit of prayer and faith is supernatural. When we experience God’s supernatural work—which demonstrates his goodness, love, and majesty—we know we cannot take the credit for it; we give him the glory. When others see it, they too—given the right explanation—give him glory. Thus, the fruit of answered prayer and successful faith will glorify our heavenly Father:

(John 15:8 NKJV) “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

By saying, “You will be my disciples,” Jesus is saying that they would be doing things his way. In other words, he was showing them how he operated; this was exactly the way he had operated throughout his ministry on earth. He remained connected closely to his Father, drawing life from him through hearing, believing, receiving, obeying, and releasing Father’s words. As a result, God’s supernatural intervention was witnessed by all who encountered him: people received healing, saw miracles, heard the truth in love, understood mysteries, and felt God’s compassion and acceptance. Hence, God was glorified.

Today, let’s heed Jesus’s urgent plea to abide in him continually, and to have his word living in us. Then, along with this single-minded focus, we need humbly to accept his pruning while we live in abandoned obedience. This is the way to avoid withering, removal, and burning. This is the way to yield much fruit—fruit that remains, including the fruit of answered prayer and actualized decrees in Jesus’s name.


Second Helping: Abiding in Christ is a necessity to bearing fruit, but another part of the process, alluded to above, is the pruning process. (Sometimes as Christians, we don’t want to hear about that one!) The author of the above piece actually covered that two days before in a piece entitled Yield to the Father’s Pruning for a Fabulous Upgrade (click to link).

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