Saturday, June 27, 2009

Refresh my heart in Christ

"Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ." Philemon 1:20

Refresh my heart is a term that was used in this time period to describe love and compassion that was (and is) a regenerative aspect to living. Onesimus was a non-believing slave that had run away from his Christian master. One of the areas of life that believers today may not realize or remember, believers in Christ were at one time slave owners. Today, we know that no person should own another. Yet, in this culture, it was a fact of life. Cultural training has always been at odds with our walk with Christ; culturally entrenched sin will always limit our walk with God unless we are able to rise above it.

Paul was talking to a fellow believer who owned people, and Paul was asking for mercy for Onesimus! He did not tell Philemon to set this now fellow believer free (Onesimus must have accepted Christ when he was with Paul, verse 10 and 11), but to treat him with compassion and love. This alone was counter-culture to their times! The Roman Empire was, of course, the dominant culture of the time; yet, Paul was asking Philemon to look at his responsibility to Christ to be the foundation Philemon made his decisions on.

The value of being a believer will not make you error-free; rather, it is the foundation that will be the benchmark for your walk with Christ. We do not run away from our past; through Christ, we are transformed and renewed ... we rise above our past sins and iniquities. We perform our duties out of our love for Christ, therefore we benefit each other, and we refresh our hearts in Christ's sacrifice and resurrection. This is the benefit that Paul must have been talking about; Philemon's growth in love and trust in Christ will bring the benefit, both to Paul and to Philemon (as well as Onesimus)! To live with that response will refresh our hearts in Christ!

Read 1 Corinthians 7:19-21, 16:18; and Philemon 1:7 for more illumination

Monday, June 22, 2009

He will give His angels charge over you

"For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways." Psalm 91:11

The security that God promises is awesome! The promises that God the Father made to His Son are the same promises our Savior shares with you and me ... as we learn to follow His Word, we learn to exercise this authority Christ shares with us! The power of His love can not be defeated by anything! This is not our salvation I'm talking about. This is growing, as mature believers, into useful servants, soldiers and ambassadors of Christ, and trusting our heavenly Father in all situations we deal with, knowing that He is faithful and will not let us down.

"You will only look on with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made the LORD, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place." Psalm 91:8-9
The promises leading up to the security God promised to Jesus are based upon our making the LORD our refuge. Our work at making this a real part of our life is something that is a lifelong effort. It takes work at walking away from the knowledge we grow up with. Maturity demands we grow past the biases we live with ... as the future we are promised becomes a reality for us, they are real instead of just words that we recite or mouth, or are just part of a show!

Satan quoted Psalm verse 91:11 to Jesus when the Adversary was trying to tempt the Messiah to show off God's power. People will always ask us to show off (or prove) the miraculous because we believe God's promises. As Jesus demonstrated on the cross, God's plan for us is to serve all His children and not just ourselves. The world does not understand what true love is; the world focuses on "me" or "I" instead of God and we.

Jesus' final response should sum it up for all of us! "Begone, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the LORD your God, and worship Him only," Matthew 4:10. Jesus used the Word of God to respond to Satan's temptations. Remember ... He will give His angels charge over you!

Read Psalm 91:1-4 and Matthew 4:1-11 for more illumination.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

You were bought with a price

"For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body." 1 Corinthians 6:20
"For you have been bought with a price, do not become slaves of men." 1 Corinthians 7:23

Agorazo in Greek (use a long o) is used of frequenting the marketplace and making a purchase, just as we would at the grocery store and the clothing store. Interestingly enough, this term is used in parables by Christ in Matthew, talking about fine pearls and treasures, and what astute people do to acquire them.

Paul is making a point in this epistle to ensure his readers understand the purchase from the adversary that Christ gave to them (as well as us). We were purchased with the blood of Christ (Revelations 1:5), and we were given the Holy Spirit to indwell in us (Ezekiel 37:3). We are told two things within a very short time frame from Paul. Glorify God and do not become slaves to men. After all, our bodies are the temples (residing places) of the Holy Spirit! Man can not control God, so do not let yourself be controlled by men ... the Holy Spirit will cleanse you, or put you in situations that will correct you. God will not be mocked.

In times like today, it becomes increasingly difficult to not be controlled by society, economics, technology or sensual pleasures. We carry the LORD in our bodies, so we should be a beast of burden, nobly carrying our LORD like a warhorse into battle! We have been bought with a price, let us reflect the nobility of housing a fine pearl and treasure for our God!

Read Psalm 74:2; Matthew 13:44-46, 20:28; Ephesians 1:13-14; and 1 Peter 1:18-19 for more illumination

Fighting the Good Fight

"This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith." 1 Timothy 1:18-19

Hmmm ...having faith to fight the good fight. What does that mean?

Prophecies made in Scripture should give us the confidence to rely upon the blessings that we should count on to live powerful, loving lives. The book of Acts is full of examples of people who have made use of the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter, Barnabas, Saul/Paul, Stephen, just to name a few. Peter, as you remember, denied Jesus; yet, Jesus still entrusted to him the command to tend and feed His sheep.

Even as we have made previous mistakes in our lives, being prodigal and selfish before our loving Father and His loving Son, the Holy Spirit still indwells those who believe in Christ as their Savior. The problem most of us have is having the faith to fight the good fight. Our training (the society we live in which helps produce the mistakes our parents made, the mistakes our teachers made, the mistakes our government made, the mistakes we make) gets in the way of our faith. This training explains a part of "the shipwreck," because we rely more upon this training rather than our faith in God's Word and promises. We lose our light and saltiness.

We are to be the salt (halas in Greek) of the earth (see Matthew 5:13-15). Salt, with it's purifying, antiseptic qualities is still a symbol of friendship and fidelity in many mid-eastern countries. Believers are to be the antiseptic that cleanses the worldly training people have received.

Paul instructed Timothy to have confidence in the promises of God. We must, as well, have the faith to be inspired and aided by God's promises, relying upon the abilities He tells us we have and instructs us to use. We are more than conquerors in Christ, even when our surroundings seem to be so intimidating, bigger than we think we can handle. God promised us! We must fight the good fight by trusting God's Word ... He can not lie!

Read 2 Timothy 2:3-4, Acts 23:1-5, 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, Galatians 3:24, Titus 1:1-3 for more illumination.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Approach the Throne

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16

Jesus Christ is our High Priest, the person who has given us the strength and ability to approach the throne of God. We are heirs to His Sonship ... He has given us such a wonderful opportunity to approach God the Father with boldness and expectation! This is such a difference from the Old Testament, where only the high priest could go into the throne room in the Temple. He was the only person who had access to the throne room. Because of Christ's birth, death and resurrection, we have access!

Jesus Christ, as our High Priest, has made the way and set the example for all of us. As we serve our Father, we have the knowledge that whatever we have to deal with, He will be there for us! Paul tells us we need to rely upon the promises of our Father so that we may enter His rest (the promise that all who follow will be ruled by God's harmony and beauty). We are given the grace to trust in this message of salvation for our lives.

This doesn't mean we won't have problems in this world; we now have the answers to deal with these problems. Jesus has achieved the victory over our adversary and He shares His power and strength with all of us, ambassadors and soldiers for Him.


Read Ephesians 3:1-14 and Hebrews 4 for more illumination.

Fruit of the Spirit

"the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

I attended a company retreat where we were all instructed to right a mission statement. Many people chose to seek fortune, a good life, success in their achievements ... worldly ambition with good intentions. In one of the most fortunate moves in my life, I chose to seek the fruit of the Spirit as my mission statement, my goal. I haven't always achieved this goal ... hamartia in Greek (missing the mark, or sin)... but it is the goal that brings me back to my faith and the truth life has to offer to those that believe Christ is our Savior. The Holy Spirit leads us into bearing this fruit into not only our lives, but the lives of people we touch. We all have the capacity to let the Holy Spirit dwell in us to bear this fruit!

I encourage each of you to write a mission statement and put it on your wall. Every day, look at it. Be inspired by it ... be sure to make it a statement that will help you focus on Christ, the Anointed One, as your advocate and deliverer! As David mentions in the Psalms, we have a loving and faithful God who loves us; He is our Good Sheperd, our Rock and our Provider!

Read Psalms 23 and 2 Corinthians 6:6, Ephesians 4:2, Colossians 3:12-17 for more illumination.

A shield about me

"But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head." Psalm 3:3

A history lesson from David, a king in whom God delighted, that benefits us all!

It is easy to forget it is our Father that always protects us against the evil one instead of by our own efforts. Our ego and pride can easily get in the way of trusting Him in all we do. It's easy to trust in our own strength when we have victories, as did David; we trust in our own insights into Him. There is temptation to stop being truly humble, pull our heads down and follow our own instincts. Yet, David says we must continue to let our Father lift our heads to Him to see what He would have us do! David demonstrates it in his own life and records it in his writings.

In Psalms 3, 4 and 5 David talks about relying on the LORD. He says his foes believed he would not be saved by his reliance upon God. It becomes easy to rely upon ourselves when we are attacked and God gives us victory over our enemies ... we are children of God who has promised us great strength and abundance and victory over our adversaries! This is a great truth we all should trust. David was a king that Scripture says had a heart for God, one in whom our Father delighted in. David was a very victorious king, having victory after victory because of his trust in God.

Psalm 6 (and 13) describe anguish. David let his society and passions dictate his actions; he had one of his trusted followers killed because he forgot to lift his head to God. He became weak in his victories; he gloried in his success, he "looked" at Bathsheba and had Uriah killed so he could have his own way. He trusted in the successes God had given him and became prideful, feeling he deserved what he wanted, or could get.

Let us humbly keep our heads lifted to our Father; the LORD forgave David when David again listened to God (when Nathan rebuked him, he acknowledged his sin and repented). What a humbling lesson we all can learn from! Let us let God lift our heads today, and praise Him for His everlasting love for us! This is where our shield continues to come into action, our Father protecting us against pride and our adversary/adversaries.

Read Psalms 3,4, 5 and Psalms 6 and 13; also 2 Samuel 11 and 12 for more illumination.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Sword of the Spirit

The full verse, of course, is, "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Ephesians 6:17. Why are we to pick up a sword? In 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 and Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul talks about the warfare we fight ... a spiritual battle that darkness (Satan) wages against God and His children. He also talks about the armor we have available to us.

This spiritual battle is one that is beyond the realm of the carnal, or natural, world. Instead of cold, hard steel, our sword is the Word of God! The sword of the Spirit (much like the sword laying across the well used, taped up bible in the picture) is sharp and cuts; God wants to separate (cut) us from sin, so we are able to worship Him in spirit and in truth. The sword of God, His Word, is designed for us to live life abundantly, and in power. We are being set apart from this world to bear fruit.

The term "set apart" (hagiasmo, noun or hagios, adjective in Greek) means holiness or holy. The Word of God helps us to be holy by separating us from loving the world more than loving God! Hagios is also the word used for saint(s), which every believer is! We are saints because God separates us for His purpose.

What a wonderful gift! Enjoy your blessings!

See Romans 8:10-12, 2 Thessalonians 1:10, Ephesians 3:10-20, Hebrews 2:14-15 for more illumination.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Protected by the Power of God

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." 1 Peter 1:3-5

What a powerful message Peter shares with us! Our Father's great mercy gave us new life with hope! We have an inheritance (the Holy Spirit being the deposit, living and dwelling in us) and we have reseverations in Heaven!!! The Adversary wants to attack the confidence and trust we have in God. We all fall short of perfection ... we sin (hamartia in Greek), so it is easy to buy into the lie that we aren't good enough to have such a love given to us!

The power (dunamis in Greek) we have, the authority (exousia in Greek) we have ... these are to help us mature in Christ to be powerful soldiers for Christ! God is doing the work in our lives ... no matter what the circumstances. We can't allow circumstances (seeking riches, being poor, society's influences, institutions, entertainment, pleasure) dictate how we feel aout loving and seeking our God; we must know He is making all things work together for our good, to those who love Him!

The Messiah has risen! If you have doubts about His role in your life, ask Him for understanding. He promises to fill us and help us to become one with Him, just as He is one with our Father!

Read Ephesians 1:13-14, 2 Timothy 2:3 and 4:7-8, Romans 11:29, 2 Corinthians 5:5 for more illumination.

The compassion of the LORD

"Remember, O LORD, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses, for they have been from of old." Psalm 25:6

Psalm 25:6 is David speaking about the tender love of a covenantal God being merciful. One powerful message David gives us ... God's promises don't change! The LORD says He loves us; that is why He sent the Messiah. He doesn't change that love, regardless of the "sins of our youth and our rebellious ways."

God will guide us in our ways. That is what His Word is for, and the Holy Spirit is the Comforter that continues to help us understand what God is telling us! He guides the humble in what is right and teaches us His ways. Who is the humble? One who recognizes God's way is the path to love and truth; He knows what is best for us. This is the way for us to have a powerful, abundant life!

Our ways are full of incomplete knowledge. We will make mistakes because we don't have enough information to do what's best for us! The market changes, politics change, science changes; look at all the recalls pharmaceutical companies are issuing because their products turn out to be faulty, or the collapse of our banking institutions that need to be bailed out by our tax dollars, or the change in political policies depending on which party is in control. Humans are doing the best we can ... but mistakes (snares) occur, errors impact us as well as affecting our children and our grandchildren. What is the difference?

God doesn't make mistakes. Hallelujah! Remember, O LORD, your compassion and lovingkindness!!!

Read Psalm 5:7-8, Isaiah 63:7-14, Jeremiah 31:20, 35 and Hosea 11:8-9 for more illumination.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Crucified with Christ

"I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." Galatians 2:20

I do not feel I am a worthy advocate for Christ; I have sin still couched at my doorstep, and I sin or miss the mark (hamartia in Greek, an archery term). As Paul said, "For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish," Romans 7:19. Herein lies the conflict of the spiritual and natural realms.

The evil (kakon in Greek) makes us retreat in battle (jobs, society, mates, etc.) and sin (hamartia) is the result. Getting a bull's eye (truth) is the desired goal. Alēthēs/Alēthinos (adjectives indicating the type of content), alētheuō (the verb which indicates the action of dealing truly with), and alētheia (the noun that is the reality and essence of the matter) are the Greek words that portray hitting the bull's eye, or being true to the fact! Only Jesus Christ has hit the bull's eye!

Hitting the bull's eye is difficult when past training teaches us to rely on worldly goals, activities and actions (that continually change) for us to do our best; I know I'm not perfect. I have wonderful parents that trained me up to look for truth, to do "what is right" and doing it to the best of my ability. Yet, Jesus is the only person that has achieved that perfection. So now, I no longer need to rely upon my own strengths that continually let me down; I just don't know enough of the future to make all the right decisions ... except for one. I believe that God is in control! He sent His Son, Jesus Christ (who lives in us) who hit the mark for all of us! He does for all of us! Believe this one truth, and you will always have two-way access to Him!

Read John 3:33-36, Romans 7:14-25, 1Thessalonians 1:9-10 for more illumination

Every good and perfect gift ...

"Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or no shifting shadow." James 1:17

Our Father gives only good things and perfect gifts. It's a truth we rely upon. What is James saying, though, about being deceived? Knowing dokimē and dokimazo in Greek helps answer that question. Examine, test, experience and prove/approve are the English words used to explain the term. The meaning depicts removing impurities from valuable metal we are to examine and inspect for purity. The reference is self-examination (we are that precious metal!), an honest inspection of how we are progressing in our walk with the LORD. Examples of this examination are in 1 Corinthians 11:28, "... but let a man (person) examine himself ...," Philemon 1:10, "approve the things that are excellent" and Romans 5:3b-4, " ... knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;"

The next verse is a perfect example of God's good things ... "Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:5. How incredibly awesome!!!

Satan, society, worldly ambition, social ambition, personal ambition ... anything that gets in the way of our pure worship can deceive us! Tribulations help us to understand how we are to rely upon God. In this way, we're able to fully understand and utilize every good thing that our loving Father bestows upon us. That is His promise; He will never change! He always give us every good thing and perfect gift. Our daily job is not to be deceived by the attempts to pull us away from God's good gifts! Believe me ... God's gifts are everywhere, if we but seek, knock and ask!

A thought from Psalms: Your word is a lamp

This is such a simple, yet powerful verse; it contains the key to peace and joy, however we look at it!

Your word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light for my path. When we apply it to our life ... it answers all of our questions that we ask. It is truly amazing and mystical.

The Word of God answers all of our questions, if we listen to it. We just need to apply it with a humble heart. This is the greatest thing we can do to live an abundant life. We can move mountains, if need be. Pray for one another ... ask our heavenly Father to make his Word the foundation of our lives. He supplies the power to make life rich and abundant.

Take the time to be still in your own heart. Let the Word light your path today ... and let me know how you have been blessed! The song I sang as a child, "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine" comes to mind as share this; I'd love to share your victories in a future devotional!

Paul mentoring a protege

"This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith."
1 Timothy 1:18-19

Hmmm ...having faith to fight the good fight? What does that mean?

Prophecies made in Scripture should give us the confidence to rely upon the blessings that we are able count on to live powerful, loving lives. Paul instructed Timothy to have confidence in the promises of God. We must, as well, have the faith to be inspired and aided by God's promises, relying upon the abilities He tells us we have and instructs us to use. We are more than conquerors in Christ, even when our surroundings seem to be so intimidating, bigger than we think we can handle. God promised us! We must fight the good fight by trusting God's Word ... He can not lie!

In verse 5, Paul says the goal of their insturctions was love, a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. This is what Jesus told us aboout the "greatest commandment." "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all you soul, and with all your mind." Matthew 22:37 Paul was instructing Timothy this is what would enhance his efforts ... and he should be confident in the fruit he would bear!

Read Matthew 22: 35-40, 1 Timothy 2:3-4, Acts 23:1-5, 2 Corinthians 10:3-4, Galatians 3:24, Titus 1:1-3 for more illumination.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

For my hand made all these things ...

"For my hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being," declares the LORD. "But to this one will I look, one who is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at My word."

Isaiah 66:2

Everything that is created comes from God. There is nothing He did not create.

Psalm 24:1 states, "The earth is tho LORD's and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it." Isn't it comforting to know that whomever is in control of the world's governments, or leading our societies, they are stewards that have been put in charge by God. No person, no government, no "ism" (capitalism, communism, socialism) has pre-eminence over the sovereignty of God ... and we are all stewards that have a responsibility to take care of God's handiwork, God's workmanship. It's Theocracy that ultimately rules!

What God ask of us is to be humble and contrite (nakeh in Hebrew, literally meaning maimed or figuratively, dejected ... we need a Savior, after all), to be aware of our need for Him and to act accordingly. In doing such, we can enjoy life and have freedom in serving Him, knowing we are doing God's will by being wise and faithful stewards. He will richly bless those who take care of His creation. After all, everything God created is good! We must worship Him in spirit and in truth. That's what will make life so vibrant and exciting!

Read 1 Timothy 4:4-5, Psalm 50 (especially verses 6, 10-12), John 4:24

Isaiah was telling Israel this truth because they were being swayed by the commercialism of their times, and were acting as if they had a right to do what was right in their own eyes ... they were being hypocritical and not serving the LORD faithfully.