June 26, 2020

Your choice

You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

Chosen by God and precious to God!  That’s what each one of God’s children are to Him.  We have been chosen.  Chosen to be His spiritual house, His dwelling place.  A body for Him to live in through His Holy Spirit.  To occupy and form a nation of God filled people.  God inhabited people.  This is hard to get my head around and definitely requires faith to grasp.  God wants His people to be full of Him so that He can have an entire group/nation/military of God filled people.  Right here and now in this life.  This is why the passage says being built up into a spiritual house.  It’s happening right now.

Now I’m not saying we are God possessed, we do have a choice.  We have a choice to work with Him and be a part of His miraculous plans for these last days here in this world.  However, it is a choice that must be made on purpose to be an active part of His plans.  It’s a partnership.  God being the senior partner, of course.  That makes us the junior partner.  We partner with God by making ourselves available to do His good works.  This is not to obtain salvation, for that is received by accepting Jesus sacrifice for our sin.  He became the first born of many brothers.  The choice is yours and the choice in mine.  Choosing to fill up with God is to choose to put God in.  Into our lives and into our hearts through our eyes, ears and mouth.  The choice is to look at, listen to and speak more of God thoughts, aka God’s Word.  Spend focused time with Him.  Decide to make His agenda the priority of your life.  Not just what you think it is or should be, get the plan directly from Him.  It’s not a guessing game or a puzzle.

Today I want to encourage you to choose to fill up your life with God!  Make the priority of your day to spend time with Him and ask Him to direct your day to fulfill the plan He has for it.  Each morning as you start your day, pray a prayer something like this:  “Heavenly Father, I come to you in Jesus name and I am making my body a living sacrifice to you today by offering it up to You for you plan and purpose.  Lead me in your path of righteousness and empower me to follow everywhere that you are leading.  Show me how to prioritize your work over any selfish desires and I will be watching for opportunities to share Your love with all those who come across my path.”  Let’s start today to become more aware of whose we are and why we live and breathe.  Don’t let your enemy steal all God has planned for you to accomplish in this life.

Today’s scripture reading: 1 Peter 2:4-8

June 24, 2020

The lens of God’s love

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 1 Peter 2:1

This is pretty much where our world is . . . full of malice/hostility, deceptions, envy/jealousy and evil speaking.  We live in an angry society that has pretty much come to the boiling point.  Between the news, social media and day to day activities, you cannot even go outside of your house without hearing some angry words.  Whether it’s neighbors that are upset with one another over some trivial matter or at work with people getting into each other’s space.  We won’t even get into racial and political disputes.  Everyone wants to fight for their rights to be right!  What is really sad is when you see this angry attitude creeping into the church, the body of believers in Christ Jesus.  Many Christians have gotten to the place where they will accept nothing less than perfection from others.  At the first sign of imperfection, so called “Christians” can be some of the most intolerant, hypocritical people around, I’m sorry to say.

Let’s stop that!  By following verses 2 and 3, we can be different than in the past and the rest of the world for that matter.  If we become like newborn babes desiring the pure milk of God’s Word, we will grow up in these areas.  Jesus made it very easy for us to know what the right thing to do is.  He said: A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have love you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34)  We can use this direction to guide us in our actions and responses to those around us.  Ask yourself, “how do I inject love into this situation?”  When we begin to look at the world through the lens of God’s love, we will gain a whole new perspective of the possibilities.

Today I want to encourage you to put away all malice, hypocrisy and evil speaking.  Begin to look at every situation as a test of your love and grace toward others.  You may not be able to change the world and their reaction to every circumstance, but you will be able to change your world and influence those around you.  Let’s be like the Apostle Paul and look at others with the determination to not know anything about them except salvation in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1Corinthians 2:2)  Let’s recognize that our job in any relationship is to turn hearts toward salvation in our LORD Jesus.

Today’s scripture reading 1 Peter 2:1-3

June 23, 2020

   God’s Word is eternal

“But the word of the LORD endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”  1 Peter 1:25

God’s Word is eternal and relevant in all of today’s circumstances.  The same words that were given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob centuries ago, can give us direction and comfort today.  The same words that David and Solomon wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit can give us wisdom and encouragement in our everyday lives.

It’s the reason why I can say today that God’s Word is where your peace is!  God’s Word is where your comfort is and God’s Word is where your wisdom for the future is. When David was being pursued by his own son trying to steal his kingdom, he penned these words. “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance/approval.”  (Psalms 42:5)  David encouraged himself when he was depressed and saddened at the circumstances surrounding him.  He stirred up the words of God on the inside and allowed those words to strengthen his spirit.  The entire Psalm 42 are the words given to him by God to speak over himself in a time he was forced to leave his home for a season.

We have just come through one of the most difficult trials our world has seen in a long time.  It felt like a time of retreat and withdraw.  However, we have come out with renewed strength, strength in our faith, strength in our hope, and strength in our peace.  Like I caterpillar flying out of its cocoon as a new butterfly, we have emerged with new life and energy knowing that God has great things planned for our future. So, continue to encourage yourself and others with the eternal words from God our Father. 

Today I want to encourage you to look at God’s Word in a whole new light.  See it as a relevant source of strength and healing in whatever you are facing in life.  Spend time looking up and committing to memory passages on peace, faith, and the eternal love of God.  Some suggestions would be Psalm 91, Psalm 103, and Psalm 112.  I know that an entire chapter seems like a lot to memorize, but simply reading it out loud every day for one month is one of the best ways to learn God’s eternal Word.  Believer me . . . it’s worth it!

Today’s scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:22-25

June 22, 2020

Rest in His grace

Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 1 Peter 1:13

This verse builds on yesterday’s passage and shows us how we can greatly rejoice in life even while going through life’s difficulties.  It says that we are to “gird up the loins of your mind.”  Simply put: pay attention to what you are thinking about and focused on.  It tells us to steer our thinking toward God’s grace and then park it there.  We are to remain focused on the grace of our salvation in Christ Jesus.  This takes some practice.

Think about it, when you are doing your day to day activity, you are mostly focused on that, especially if your time is spent with other people.  However, the first chance your mind gets, it defaults back to what ever you are concerned about.  Maybe it is what you are going to be doing next, maybe it is about something that happened earlier or maybe it is something you are afraid is going to happen.  The point is, your mind is always going, and it is up to you to control where your thoughts end up. 

So, initially, you have some training to do.  First you have to recognize that your thoughts are trying to take you some place.  Then you have to decide where you want to go in your thinking.  For example, if you are worried about something, your thoughts will always take you back to that worry.  Not only that, your thoughts will guide you through all the possible outcomes from not so good to the worst possible.  Your mind is always going, and always creating ideas.  You must come to the point that you are directing those creative ideas in a positive direction.  This is why todays scripture says to take control of you thinking and make your default thought be resting/at peace in His grace that has you covered for every circumstance you face.

So today I want to encourage you to first of all consider what your default thoughts are.  Are they going toward a positive, grace filled direction?  Or are they always heading to the fear of what could happen in a negative way?  Begin today to take authority over your thoughts and purposefully direct them to God’s grace.  Choose a verse to turn to every time you notice your thinking going idle and let that be your thought process in the down time. Today begin to greatly rejoice at the possibilities of what God’s grace can accomplish in your life! Now that’s something to focus on!

Today’s scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:13-21

June 21, 2020

Get excited

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 1 Peter 1:6

Have you ever been excited about something?  Something you were looking forward to?  Maybe it was an event like a wedding or holiday?  Maybe it was a dream vacation to check off your bucket list?  Or maybe it was and upcoming birth of a new baby?  While these are all wonderful things and worthy of our enthusiasm, we can be left in total “let down” when the anticipated experience is over.   There is, however, something we can get excited about every day we are here in the world.  Something that can inspire and propel us through each day.  Something so anticipated that it becomes the very reason for our existence.  That is the incorruptible inheritance in our salvation in Christ Jesus.

This is something to truly get excited about.  It is what to keep our focus on each day, especially in those days when we are not so energize by the everyday activities or rut that we often get into. Below is a list of just a few of the benefits of our inheritance in Christ Jesus.  Some in this life and some in the next.  Keep in mind that this is a very short list.  There is so much more to it, in fact the list is limitless.

All things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Right relationship with God (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Victory over sin (Romans 6:14)

Death has no sting (1 Corinthians 15:55)

God’s Spirit lives inside of us (Romans 8:11)

Godly wisdom (James 1:5)

Can talk directly to God through Jesus – prayer (John 14:6)

Divine protection (Psalms 91)

Eternity in heaven with our Savior and Heavenly Father (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

Crown of glory with your name on it (2 Timothy 4:8)

No more tears (Revelation 21:4)

No more death (Revelation 21:4)

New heaven and earth – Incorruptible and undefiled (1 Peter 1:3)

Today I want to encourage you to make your own list.  Spend some time looking up scripture on the promises God has given in His provision for salvation.  Write them down, then each morning when you get up and feel less than passionate about the day, choose an item from that list to meditate that day.  I guarantee you will have much more joy than you would without it.

Today’s scripture reading: 1 Peter 1:4-9

June 19, 2020

He is happy

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1 Peter 1:3

This is something I am turning my focus to on purpose.  It is something I have never really given any thought to, but it is very significant.  It is the fact that our God and Heavenly Father is blessed.  What does that mean?  Not to get in too deep, but the word blessed is translated from the Greek word makarios that means happy.  (I’m not a Greek scholar, I just googled it)  So, this is what I want to focus on today and what I believe God our Father wants us to know about Him.  He is a happy God and He is a happy Father.  I don’t know about you, but happy has never been a word that came to my mind when talking to or thinking about Him.  I often think of words like holy, just, perfect, loving or gracious and full of mercy, but never happy.

So let’s think about this for a minute.  If God is happy, that means He is not mad at us when we sin, He is not disappointed in us when we miss it and He is not sad when we cry.  It seems that His happiness is not dependent on our behavior in anyway.  That’s a relief.  We do know that He feels compassion for us and cares for us, but nothing we bring to Him alters His character of happiness.  So, according to this scripture, His blessing/happiness has given us a living hope through Christ Jesus‘ resurrection form the dead.  Yes that’s right, God’s happiness gave us Jesus as our hope for life.

This word blessed (makorios) is the same word that Jesus used in Mathew 5 in His sermon on the mount.  He goes through a list of attitudes that are present in a blessed/happy person.  Such things as: poor in spirit –  recognizing our need for God, mourn – sorrowing to repentance, meek – submitted to the Holy Spirit, hunger and thirst for right standing with God, just to name a few.  By following this list in Matthew 5 we too can take on the happiness of God regardless of the outward circumstances.

Today I want to encourage you to consider God as a happy Father.  Don’t let your preconceived and religious ideas limit your vision of your loving, happy Heavenly Father.  Think about it this way:  In this world when you approach someone to talk to them or request something from them would you rather they were in a good mood or a bad mood?  This morning when you talk to God, remember He is happy and He is always in a good mood and you cannot in any way change it.  It’s really not too far out there to think of Him being happy.  Where else would happiness come from?  Meditate this idea today and see if you can come up with any other passages that talk about Him being blessed/happy.

Today’s scripture reading:  1 Peter 1:1-3

June 18, 2020

Cover a multitude of sin

Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.  James 5:20

This is a hard one . . . turning someone from the error of their ways.  How do you do that effectively?  I think we would all love to and probably have attempted to help others in the past find their way back.  Certainly, we start with prayer and ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit that turns the heart.  However, verses 13-16 in this chapter give us some direction on what to do as we experience different things in life.  Things such as:  if you are suffering, then pray.  If you are cheerful, sing psalms.  If you are sick, call for the elders of the church and let them pray over you and anoint you with oil.  Certainly, these things will work for someone that isn’t so close to God also.  If they are suffering, they can pray, if they are happy, they can be thankful and if they are sick, they can go to church for prayer.  We can encourage those around us who seems far from God to do these things when they are hurting.  This reminds me of the scripture in Romans that says:  Don’t despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads people to repentance? (Romans 2:4) 

God’s goodness is the greatest thing we can share when we want to help someone find their way back to God.  To point out where they are sinning or missing it, may only result in bringing out an attitude determined to prove you wrong.  Most people don’t like to be told they are wrong.  I know I don’t, but if you tell me that I am loved, that will definitely impact me differently and help me to want to know more about my loving Heavenly Father.

Today I want to encourage you to share the goodness of God with those around you.  First of all, look at how His goodness has touched your life and then be willing to help others see when it has touched theirs. Most people think that the good things in life are because they did something right or maybe a coincidence.  Gently help others to see that all good comes down from above from the Father of lights with whom there is no variance. (James 1:17)

Today’s scripture reading: James 5:19-20

June 16, 2020

Fervent prayer

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16

I really appreciate how James uses Elijah (who was one of the greatest prophets of all time) in this passage as an example because he was a person like us and had a nature like every person does. However, he prayed fervently that it would not rain and then again that it would rain and God answered his prayers.

Today’s verse is talking about praying effectively and fervently and being righteous.  This is the prayer of faith spoken of in verse 15.  So, let’s unpack these characteristic so we can see how to have an effective prayer life.  First of all, the effective prayer starts with a righteous man.  We know that according to Romans 3:10 that there is none righteous, not even one.  Isaiah said our righteousness is like filthy rags.  So how do we become righteous?  The answer is in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that says: God the Father made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us, so we could become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.  Only in our salvation in the blood of Jesus can we be made righteous.  There is nothing outward we can do to cleanse our self, other than receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

Now let’s talk about fervent.  What is that?  So fervent is actually passionate, intense, sincere, no kidding serious prayer.  This is not the begging and pleading kind of prayer although requests are certainly made during fervent prayer.  We can look at how Elijah prayed to see just what fervent prayer looks like.  Frist of all, Elijah prayed what God told him would happen.  1 Kings 18:1 says that God told Elijah to go tell the king that rain was coming.  However, at the end of the chapter in verse 42 we see Elijah bowing down on the ground and putting his face between his knees.  It doesn’t say in this verse what he prayed, but James says he prayed earnestly for rain and the heavens gave it.  Lastly, consider that Elijah spoke God’s words to king Ahab that it was going to rain.  Once that was spoken, you can be sure Elijah was praying that God would come through.  His effective fervent prayer was based on God’s word that it would rain.

Today I want to encourage you to consider fervent prayer as a position of humility, backed by God’s Word by one who has be made righteous by the blood of Jesus.  This is where to start.  Write down what God is speaking to your heart about your circumstances and what He is showing you in His written Word that He will do.  Seek out and be listening for where the Holy Spirit is leading.  Then begin to pray fervently for your answer to show up . . . the answer that God has already shown you in His Word.  When the subject comes up whether in conversation of just in thought, speak the word God gave you about the situation and continue to thank Him for the Word that He gave.  Then keep watch.  Just as Elijah sent his servant to check for clouds, you keep watching for evidence that God is moving, and your answer is on its way.  Remember that God is faithful and will always keep His promise to you.  It’s up to you to pray it out fervently.

Today’s scripture reading:  James 5:13-18

June 15, 2020

What does the farmer do?

Therefore, be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.  James 5:7

What does the farmer/planter do?  First, he prepares the ground to receive the seed he is going to put into it.  He does this by cultivating, watering and fertilizing it.  Next, he puts the seed in the ground.  After that, he doesn’t just walk away and come back in three months to get his harvest.  He nurtures, protects and invests his time and energy into that seed especially after it become a living plant.  He waters it if there is no rain, he makes sure no weeds choke it and he guards it so no animals or insects come to eat or destroy it.

Today’s passage say that we are to be patient while waiting and watching for the LORD’s return, just like the farmer waits for his precious fruit.  James goes on to tell us how to do this.  He say’s to be patient (at peace while you wait and watch) and establish your heart or attach it to God!  Don’t grumble and complain against each other because your actions are counting toward eternity. . . good or bad.  Then he finishes this by saying above everything, do not swear or make a vow by heaven or earth with an oath or promise but rather do and say what you actually have in your heart.  In other words, be a person of your word.  This is your reputation.  So that others know you can be trusted.

Today I want to encourage you to be a farmer.  Wait and watch patiently for the LORD’s return.  As you watch for Him, attend to the seeds you have planted in others and nurture them by walking through life and encouraging those that are patiently watching too.  We are not to just hold on and hold our breath until He gets here, we are to occupy more land/territory and bring more lives into the kingdom of heaven.  Not just because we love our Heavenly Father, but because we love those around us too. This is how we truly express God’s love, by genuinely loving others.

Today’s scripture reading:  James 5:7-12

June 14, 2020

Seek first

You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.  James 5:5

James chapter 5 starts out with a profoundly serious warning that I think I must have read over all the times I have read this book.  It’s an admonishing to the rich and corrupt in this world to first of all recognize that the things of this world are rotting away.  Secondly that these things will testify against them on the day of judgement.  It’s a reprimand against heaping up treasure in this life.  It ends up by saying those who live this way will be responsible for the lives they had influence over and didn’t lead them in the ways of righteousness (vs. 6).

So, how does this apply to us today?  Well, I’m taking it as a warning to not chase after material things.  Although I like nice things and have many of them, they are not what I am pursuing in life.  Maybe I should say, things should not be my purpose for living.  So, I ask myself each morning, “what am I pursuing today?  Am I looking for those around me that I can encourage and minister to?  Am I making it my goal to significantly impact at least one life each day for eternity?”  I am endeavoring to not become distracted by the “pretty” things in this world and focusing instead on the eternal.  It is not always easy, in fact, it is much easier to see and desire what is right here within reach.

Today I want to encourage you to seek the things that are above that will not fade and rot away.  Look for lives to touch each day for the kingdom of heaven.  Put away the desire for things and possession.  Although it is not bad to have nice things, endeavor to keep them in their proper place and low on the priority list.  Seek first God’s kingdom and then He will add the things to you that you need and desire.

Today’s scripture reading:  James 5:1-6