Friday, February 25, 2011
This Week’s Verse: Acts 1:4-5, “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’”. (NIV)
Devotion: Our Life Group read the book ‘Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire’ by Jim Cymbala. I had heard a few people talk about this book and how awesome it is. I’m one of those people who get disappointed after seeing a movie or reading a book that’s been ‘talked up’. It raises my expectations too high. This book, however, did NOT leave me disappointed in the least bit. In fact, I don’t think it could be ‘talked up’ enough, I recommend you reading it if you haven’t.
This book tells about how the Brooklyn Tabernacle went from a small, dysfunctional church to a very active mega-church. What is so amazing is not the high attendance numbers or the award-winning Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, but what God has done with the church. Back when it had few members, who were only there out of duty, the church (with Pastor Cymbala’s lead) broke down and cried out to God for His Spirit to move. And from that very simple, but humble act, modern-day miracles happened. The book recounts story after amazing story of personal spiritual transformations of people in the community (which is considered a rough area). It just amazed me and humbled me to read how powerful the Holy Spirit is. Not too long ago, the Holy Spirit was something foreign to me. Of course I’ve always known about the Trinity, but the Holy Spirit was an unknown, therefore neglected by me.
Back to the Brooklyn Tabernacle, the only reason the Holy Spirit moved was because the congregation started pleaded for it during their weekly prayer meetings. They prayed out loud, in unison – as one voice lifted to Heaven. As it states in Matthew 21:13 “It is written”, he said to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer…” Jesus didn’t say “My house will be called a house of great sermons, or great music…” Those things are good, but not the emphasis of Jesus’ teaching. In our Life Group we end our meeting praying this way. We pick a few topics to pray for that are weighing on our hearts and we pray for them at the same time – as one voice. It really is invigorating!
After reading the book, God heavily laid it on my heart that our church needs to have a time of corporate prayer, calling out for the Holy Spirit. I feel that if I ignore this nudging, I will be disobedient to God. So, I have spoken to our minister and plan on beginning weekly prayer meetings sometime in March. This is all very exciting and scary to me, but I know that is will be a ‘success’ as long as the prayers are sincere and heartfelt, and there is a true calling out to the Holy Spirit. To quote Jim Cymbala from his book ‘Fresh Power’ (a follow up book to ‘Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire’) he states the following very clearly:
1) The Holy Spirit’s power is our greatest need.
2) This power and blessing is freely promised to all of God’s people,
3) This promise can only be fully received through sincere praying in faith and through waiting of God for His blessing to come.
Lord, thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit and please help us know the Holy Spirit and His blessings. Please send the wind and fire of your Spirit upon us, transforming us from the inside out.
Application: If the Holy Spirit is an unknown to you, pray that God will reveal His Spirit to you and be willing to wait upon the Lord.
Phillipians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (NIV)
1 Peter 3:12, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (NIV)
Acts 2:42-43, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.” (NIV)
Friday, February 18, 2011
This week's verse: Psalm 103: 11-13, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him. (NIV)
I personally know someone who has come to Christ later in life. Don’t we all? Some are “born” into Christ because their family brings them up from birth. Some come to Christ as a child or teen and get baptized in their own time. But, there are still some that come to Christ late in their adult life after a lot of mistakes have been made. The Lord forgives all of these equally and remembers those mistakes no more. Yeah!!
As I was watching “Four Christmases” this year I heard a comment that put me in mind of this new Christian as he relates to his immediate family. The couple was going to meet each other’s parents for the first time and who they wanted to be was confronted by who they used to be in their families eyes. Their families still saw them the way they were in the past and went to great lengths to embarrass them in front of their mate. Unfortunately, this sometimes happens in the new Christian’s life much the same way. Any change is forgotten or ignored. The first time the new Christian is faced with ridicule of His new found love for Christ is possibly within his own family.
We must never forget that everyone has a story about his or her life. It’s a rough world out there and some have been affected by it more than others. That’s why salvation in the Lord IS so important – for those who NEED God’s love and compassion and forgiveness. The fact that they waited until they were 40, 50, 60, or even 70 to acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Savior is a matter between them and the Lord.
Our job as Christians is to be just as Colossians 3:12 states: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe you with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (NIV, emphasis mine). Patience is the key here. New Christians are watching us and they need to know that we don’t see their past anymore either.
Colossians 3:13-14 Bear with each other and forgive one another. If any of you has a grievance against someone forgive as the Lord forgave you. (NIV).
Lord, please help us to remember that everyone is forgiven who comes to you with a repentant heart. You love everyone equally, no matter where they have walked. You created each and every one of us and have a plan for each of us. Thank you for your unending love and unbelievable huge heart to forgive us all our debts – large and small. In Your Sons’ Name, Amen.
Are you a “new” Christian that has a hard past? Maybe you need to ask others for forgiveness from your past behaviors. Have you hurt others because of who you used to be? A small “forgive me” can go a long way.
Perhaps as a Christian you have had negative thoughts about a family member who has different beliefs than you and you have a hard time seeing them the way our Lord sees them. Take those thoughts captive with these memory verses:
Psalm 25:7, “Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth. Remember me in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O Lord. (NLT)
Romans 12:10, “Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.” (MSG)
Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (NIV)
Friday, February 11, 2011
**This is a re-run of a wonderful reminder to celebrate our Heavenly Father. It was originally posted in December of 2008.
Sometimes I think we forget just who it is that we serve. I think we forget how magnificent, and powerful, and faithful, our God is. The following scripture is a historical account that depicts the greatness and faithfulness of our Jesus…let’s take a journey through the Word. “Father, as others read this, may your Word be alive and active in them.”
In Mark chapter 6:30-44, we see an account of how Jesus took two fish, and fives loaves of bread and miraculously fed 5,000 people.
Two chapters later we see the same thing happen AGAIN. Mark 8:1-3 says this: "About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, 'I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.'"
Now, just having seen Jesus feed 5,000, you would think the disciples would respond with great faith and expectation, eagerly anticipating how Jesus is going to handle this current situation! Instead, their response is this, “His disciples replied, ‘How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?’” (verse 4).
As I read this, I thought, you have got to be kidding me! Did the disciples just totally forget how Jesus had previously fed 5,000?!
Jesus, very graciously, took the seven loaves, and a couple of fish, and miraculously fed this large group as well. “They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. There were about 4,000 people in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten. Immediately after this, he got into a boat with his disciples and crossed over to the region of Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:8-10).
Now hang with me here, I’ve got one more Biblical account that I want to share….so, Jesus and the disciples get in this boat and they head off for the other side of the lake. Mark 8 continues, “But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food.” (Oh my, not again!) They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.” At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread (verses 14-16).
This time Jesus responded with “you’ve got to be kidding me!” Read on…
“Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear? Don’t you remember anything at all? When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”
“Twelve,” they said.
“And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”
“Seven,” they said.
“Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them (verses 17-21).
As I read all of this, it’s easy for me to say, “you crazy disciples…how could you not see?” However, I would never say that, because I’ve seen a similar pattern in my own life. I too forget what God has done for me. For instance, every time He calls me to step out in a new way for Him, I panic. I too have a crisis of belief, even though every time previously He has been faithful to me. I don’t want to forget! I want to remember His faithful ways. I want to remember how He proved himself faithful in Bible days as we see in the above account, and I want to remember how He daily proves himself faithful in my life. I want to approach every situation with faith, not fear, knowing that He’s brought me through before, and He’ll do it again!
Later in Mark 8, Jesus tells Peter, “You are seeing things from merely a human point of view, not from God’s”.
I think that we often get caught in that trap. We see things from our perspective, and not God’s. “You have eyes, can’t you see?”
Dear Lord, as we enter into a new year, let us not forget how great and faithful You are. Help us remember WhoYou are and How You’ve met our needs. Let us learn the lessons that You have for us today, so that we can grow on to full maturity in Christ. Let us know the truth that nothing is impossible with You, our great and faithful God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Identify times in your life when you’ve experienced your own crisis of belief. Re-read the above story in Mark from various translations and allow Jesus’ words to the disciples to sink into your heart. Ask for His help in gaining understanding and acceptance of His work in your life.
Lamentations 3:23, “Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” (NLT)
Proverbs 2:6, “For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (NLT)
Ephesians 1:8, “He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” (NLT)
Friday, February 4, 2011
By Charity Pence
This Week’s Verse: Ephesians 6:11, “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (NKJV)
Devotion: Lately I have felt the need to continuously check my armor. It seems that the devil has been searching me, looking for a crack. He has circled around me, waiting for me to set down my shield of faith and drop my sword. Ephesians, chapter six, lists the armor of God that we are to wear constantly. Gird your waist with truth. Put on the breastplate of righteousness. Shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Take the shield of faith. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. We are also told to pray always.
Satan’s darts keep coming. He has tested me in financial situations and I stood firm. Then, suddenly, I found myself not feeling well. I stood firm on God’s promises of healing. Another dart was thrown and I found myself worrying about a particular situation. So I prayed and put my trust in God. Satan filled my mind with fear and I was plagued with self-doubt. Lifting my hands, I cried out to God. I could give more examples but I do not think that would be necessary. I am sure you get my point.
Satan does not stop. He knows my weaknesses. He carries a list with him and when he has worked through it, he goes back to the top and starts over. The truth is, I am battle weary. I get worn out, as we all do. Sometimes I do not have the strength to go on but I know that if I let my guard down for one second, if I remove my armor, the devil’s darts will keep coming and they will overwhelm me. It is during these times that I must rely on God for strength. Isaiah 40:29 says, “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.” (KJV) I do not want Satan to find a chink in my armor. So while thanking God that He has not left me to fight my battles alone, I will stand firm.
Dear Heavenly Father, help me to stand against the devil at all times. Please give me the strength I need so I am not overwhelmed by the devil’s attempts to turn me away from You. I love You, Lord, and in You alone I put my trust. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Applications: When you feel the devil pricking you, looking for your weaknesses, call out to God and allow Him to strengthen you. Hold up your shield of faith and watch Satan’s darts fall.
Psalm 31:24, “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.” (KJV)
Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised.” (KJV)
Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” (KJV)