Archive for March 2014

Prayer in Earnest When Acknowledging That Problems Point Back to Us

March 31, 2014

God’s Word

Ezra 9:2–7 (GNB)

2Jewish men were marrying foreign women, and so God’s holy people had become contaminated. The leaders and officials were the chief offenders. 3When I heard this, I tore my clothes in despair, tore my hair and my beard, and sat down crushed with grief. 4I sat there grieving until the time for the evening sacrifice to be offered, and people began to gather round me—all those who were frightened because of what the God of Israel had said about the sins of those who had returned from exile.
5 When the time came for the evening sacrifice, I got up from where I had been grieving, and still wearing my torn clothes, I knelt in prayer and stretched out my hands to the Lord my God. 6I said, “O God, I am too ashamed to raise my head in your presence. Our sins pile up, high above our heads; they reach as high as the heavens. 7From the days of our ancestors until now, we, your people, have sinned greatly. Because of our sins we,…..

My Thoughts:

In earlier chapters of Ezra, he (Ezra) had prayed for him and his people, and had been convinced that God was blessing, because of answers that he saw to their prayers. In these highlighted verses, Ezra agonized over the leaders of his people (including the priests), ‘God’s holy people’ – as referenced in vs 2; that they had become contaminated because of their association with neighboring non-believers. In vs 3 and following, we can see where Ezra took a very personal stake in this whole problem, and our eyes are opened to what it really looks like when we sincerely ‘cry out to Jesus’ over a need that concerns us.

Our Challenge:

Way too often, we seem to pray about needs so casually and superficially. I wonder how much more effective our prayers would be if we always prayed with the urgency in which we pray when something is seriously wrong with a very close, loved one? Do you remember ever ‘crying out to Jesus‘ when things looked very desperate, like you would lose someone very near and important to you? What if you prayed with that sincerity every time you bowed before our God with a special request? Additionally, when you pray for family, church, community, state, country or world needs, do you place yourself in the middle of the reason for the problems, or do you distance yourself and pray for everyone else that may have impacted the problem? Ezra tore his clothes in agony over the problem. In vs 6 he placed himself in the middle of the fault, because he acknowledged that “our sins pile up” and “we, your people, have sinned greatly”. Friends, think about this: if you smoke, and your child winds up with cancer because of smoking, can you truly pray for the habit, or sin, of that child without taking responsibility for your promotion of that habit, or sin? Likewise, when you pray for your spiritual leaders, can you honestly pray for them without taking blame for certain spiritual responsibilities that you have faltered in, like supporting them continuously through prayer, encouragement and moral support? Ezra took full responsibility, along with his people for what was occurring around them. I believe that it is only when we place ourselves in middle of what is happening around us, and stop pointing fingers at every one else that we feel may be at fault, that God will truly bless us and our land. Will you join me in becoming more focused on the problem, so that we can be more earnest in our prayer life?

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, we have become a people of blame and pointing fingers at others. Please forgive me. Please forgive us, Your people, for not taking full responsibility for our actions. and lack thereof. Please humble us to recognize our own part in the problems that surround us and impact us each day, so that we may deal with self more than any blame we might attempt to put on others. You are the perfect One, please help us to recognize our lack thereof while still on planet earth around imperfect people. Please help us to align ourselves with You and Your perfect plan for us, and not with any earthly being or plan. We want Your likeness to shine through us, albeit in an imperfect world in which we live. For it is in the precious, loving and holy name of the only ‘perfect’ One, Jesus my Lord, that I pray, amen!

 

Things may not be as they Appear

March 29, 2014

God’s Word Says…

Acts 11:18 (GNB)

When they heard this, they stopped their criticism and praised God, saying, “Then God has given to the Gentiles also the opportunity to repent and live!”

My Thoughts…

Oh that we may learn to ask, listen, and try to discern how God is using people and situations for His glory before we criticize and judge! Fortunately the Jews listened to the end of Peter’s explanation, and then they were able to glorify God for something they had already started to ridicule Peter.

Challenge…

We do it all the time friends. Ashamedly I must admit that I do this all too often.

Prayer….

Lord Jesus, please soften our hearts so that we will understand that Your ways are not our ways, and that You will work in ways that we may never dream of, so we should therefore put self aside and listen to what a believer may be sharing with us before we ridicule. Thank You for being more forgiving than we are, for working in ways completely differently than we would, and for reaching folk that we tend to stay away from because of the lack of hope that we see with our self-centered eyes.

Starting off a journey the right way!

March 29, 2014

God’s Word Says…

Ezra 8:21–23 (GNB)

21 There by the Ahava Canal I gave orders for us all to fast and humble ourselves before our God and to ask him to lead us on our journey and protect us and our children and all our possessions. 22I would have been ashamed to ask the emperor for a troop of cavalry to guard us from any enemies during our journey, because I had told him that our God blesses everyone who trusts him, but that he is displeased with and punishes anyone who turns away from him. 23So we fasted and prayed for God to protect us, and he answered our prayers.

My Thoughts:

God is so good! Here in this remote book of the Old Testament (Ezra) He has shown us the importance of making God an important part of our everyday decisions and activities. Ezra shared how ashamed he would have been to ask for help from the emperor (for a cavalry to guard his group as they travelled) knowing that he hadn’t done everything to protect the provision being asked for. So before he and his group began their journey, he gave an order for them all to fast and pray leadership by God and for protection of themselves, their children and their possessions. Does it not seem like today we tend to wait until we have exhausted all of our efforts, before we humble ourselves and pray?

Challenge:

Friends, we are being taught to make this our top priority before we make a step. I have a relative who practiced this every time she got into a vehicle! Will you join me in making this a priority each time we jump behind the wheel or board a flight or other means of transportation?

Prayer:

Father, I pray that You may infill me with Your divine presence and to not assume safety on any trip that I make, but to seek Your face and ask You to build a hedge of protection around me as I travel. I’m Yours, and I believe that You will protect Your own, especially when I humble myself and ask.

Any Group That Should Not Receive The Word of God?

March 28, 2014

God’s Word

Acts 11:1–3 (The Message)

The news traveled fast and in no time the leaders and friends back in Jerusalem heard about it—heard that the non-Jewish “outsiders” were now “in.” When Peter got back to Jerusalem, some of his old associates, concerned about circumcision, called him on the carpet: “What do you think you’re doing rubbing shoulders with that crowd, eating what is prohibited and ruining our good name?”

My Thoughts:

Unfortunately I believe that today, more of us than we care to imagine, feel the same way as the Jews felt in this discourse with Peter. Now, before you start to throw imaginary stones at me, let me explain! I believe that we have become so comfortable in our church buildings, that we have satisfied ourselves in thinking that our service to God has been completed when we walk outside the doors of the church to return home. Furthermore, I challenge you to imagine for a moment that, in preparation for a church organized visitation (something seldom practiced anymore) you have gone to your church for your assignment. Because of recent sermons on the church reaching the WHOLE world (communities) around us, you are given an assignment to visit an ex-convict living in an area of town that you seldom drive through, will you take the assignment, pray over it with your visitation partner, then hit the road to make it happen? I would dare to say that many of you will: 1). Not be present, because that’s your family time, or that’s the job of the church’s hired staff, or you’ve already been to church twice that week, and you will not return receive yet another commitment; 2). Never be a part of the visitation team, because you are afraid that you may be asked a biblical question that you may not be able to answer; 3). You would hand that assignment back to the leader and ask for a safer, more comfortable assignment near your home, or near the church – you know, someone like you!

Our Challenge:

Friends, let’s be reminded that we are the church. We are Christ’s ambassadors to carry the gospel wherever and whenever we go somewhere. Are you doing your part to extend the gospel to ALL parts of the earth, to every person in every location? Our mission field begins when we exit the doors of our church. We are more than conquerors through Him that strengthens us. Let us not be afraid, but carry the gospel to everyone through our actions, words and our love for one another, God being our helper!

Prayer:

Lord God, please forgive me, and forgive my church family for becoming so lax in spreading your gospel to all peoples in all parts of our communities. That we continue to support missionaries as they do the same in parts of the world where they have heard your calling. Please help us to be Your loyal ambassadors wherever we go, so that Your name may be lifted up and praised by all people. Please help us to be bolder in our witness for You, knowing that You’re by our side. For it is in Your precious and most powerful name that I pray, amen!

Use Your Gift to Glorify God

March 27, 2014

Gods Word

Acts 10:44–46 (The Message)

No sooner were these words out of Peter’s mouth than the Holy Spirit came on the listeners. The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on “outsider” non-Jews, but there it was—they heard them speaking in tongues, heard them praising God.

My Thoughts:

Two things about this story that needs our attention: 1). The Jews were astonished that God had poured out His Holy Spirit on even the Gentiles. In my devotional yesterday I shared how I was reminded that God is no respecter of persons. This is yet another example. The Jews looked down on the Gentiles, considering them so much less than themselves, yet God chose to bless them with the gift of His Holy Spirit. 2). The Gentiles didn’t go and hide in an effort to keep silent about their gift, for the Jews knew they had been blessed with a gift from God, because of their speaking in tongues, unknown to them, and their exuberant praise and worship service that broke out.

Our Challenge:

What gift has God blessed us with individually? Were we ever deserving of a gift from God Almighty? When last have you acknowledged that special gift from God? Do you often praise God for it? Most of us feel like taking a gift back if it appears like the recipient didn’t appreciate it.I believe that if we were less self-centered, and if we never consider anyone in any condition, from any part of town, less than ourselves; and if we will learn to praise God for His mercies and His gift(s) to us, we will see more unsaved people wanting to know the Lord whom we adore and worship. Friends, the unsaved have to see something exciting in us, to believe that what we have is worth the worldly sacrifice most of them will need to leave behind.

Prayer:

I pray that God will be merciful to us and allow us another opportunity today, this week, this year to glorify Him, thank Him, and show our appreciation by using that gift, given to us by Him, for His glory.

 

No Favoritism With God

March 26, 2014

God’s Word

Acts 10:34–35 (Good News Bible)

Peter began to speak: “I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Those who worship him and do what is right are acceptable to him, no matter what race they belong to.

My Thoughts:

Peter was basically confirming in verse 34 that the whole idea of God not ever showing favoritism to any particular race or sect, was just proven to him as he had just met with Cornelius (a Gentile) who truly was a man of God. I believe that way too often Satan whispers in the hearts and minds of the unsaved that God would never love them – perhaps because of their race ( if he knows that they struggle with prejudices); or perhaps because of their nationality ( if he knows that the individual has an inferiority complex because of their nationality); or perhaps because of their financial standing, because unfortunately we spend a lot of money to impress God with our large church buildings and/or make ourselves very comfortable while at church, but it could very easily give a lost person the impression that a particular church is way out of their league, and they would never be accepted socially in that church.

Our Challenge:

Friends, all of these earthly things that we do to supposedly enhance the kingdom of God and help us better minister for His glory, could actually stand in the way or hinder the sinner’s decision to seek and accept Christ. Peter had it proven to him that God shows no favoritism. We need to closely examine ourselves and our churches to make sure that there is nothing we are doing, saying or practicing that would keep a sinner from entering into our space of ministry opportunity, whether it is our personal space, or that of our churches. Important Questions: Can a sinner walk away from our presence, or from our churches, feeling reassured that God is not a God of favoritism, and that they too are accepted and loved by God because of how they were treated while with us? Cornelius acted in a way that proved this to Peter. Will you join me in seeking God’s help so that we can be this kind of witness also?

Prayer:

Father, I am ashamed at being reminded of things that I might do, or say, or be a part of, that may be a stumbling block to the sinner friend that You are working on. Please open my eyes to these things and give me wisdom to correct my decisions, my words and my actions. Please tender the hearts of my fellow believers who may meditate on this devotional today to do the same, for we need more men and women like Cornelius in our world today. Thank You Lord Jesus for hearing my prayer, for I ask this in Your powerful and mighty name! Amen.

Go Where You Send Me

March 25, 2014

God’s Word

Acts 10:25–29 (The Message)

The minute Peter came through the door, Cornelius was up on his feet greeting him—and then down on his face worshiping him! Peter pulled him up and said, “None of that—I’m a man and only a man, no different from you.”
27–29 Talking things over, they went on into the house, where Cornelius introduced Peter to everyone who had come. Peter addressed them, “You know, I’m sure that this is highly irregular. Jews just don’t do this—visit and relax with people of another race. But God has just shown me that no race is better than any other. So the minute I was sent for, I came, no questions asked. But now I’d like to know why you sent for me.”

My Thoughts:

Some of you may recognize the title ‘Go Where You Send Me’ as the name of a popular contemporary song. I thought to borrow the title for this devotional today, as it so aptly fits! Peter, a Jew, was traditionally brought up to not mix with the Gentiles. However, when God called him to go with the Gentile team to visit a Gentile, Cornelius, he never hesitated but followed the command given to him by God.

My Challenge:

Can you imagine how many of us would remain on our knees until we could get God straight on such a direction or command being given to us? This may sound bad coming right out and saying this, but I want us to be realistic. Some of us would have to be careful singing the words of the song mentioned, because we would be greatly challenged if God instructed us to go to a third world country as a missionary – why many of us are challenged to welcome people not of our own race into the house of God where we worship. Many of us would not dream of going into certain areas of our cities to witness and represent our Savior that, by the way, came to save ALL peoples of ALL races. My, how God must shake His head in dismay sometimes as He sees His creation living and thinking this way. Friend, I challenge you, and me, to become more like Peter and be prepared to follow God’s instructions when we ask Him to show us how to be more like Him. Peter went, without hesitation, where God sent him, are you prepared to be that obedient today? Let’s not place any conditions when, like Peter, we ask God to use us in His service. It could be anywhere and at any time.

Prayer:

Father, please prepare our hearts to ‘Go Where You Send us’, God being our helper and provider! Please tender our hearts that we may be obedient to You and not impacted by the traditions of our upbringing, or the prejudices of our hearts. Like You, may we have a heart and mind to minister to all people through our love, our actions and our words.

God Gets Our Attention!

March 24, 2014

God’s Word
Acts 10:16-20 (MSG)

16  This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the skies.

17–20  As Peter, puzzled, sat there trying to figure out what it all meant, the men sent by Cornelius showed up at Simon’s front door. They called in, asking if there was a Simon, also called Peter, staying there. Peter, lost in thought, didn’t hear them, so the Spirit whispered to him, “Three men are knocking at the door looking for you. Get down there and go with them. Don’t ask any questions. I sent them to get you.”

My Thoughts:

God spoke to Peter three times about not calling, or considering anything that He created unclean. Because of what ensued after this encounter, I believe that the emphasis here is that God got Peter’s attention. Because as you will read in vs 17 and onward, God continued to deal in Peter’s life about certain prejudices or misgivings that Peter had. First it was the food, then it was the matter of him (a Jew) mixing with the Gentiles. I sincerely pray that God will work in my life to help me identify those things that I have developed a prejudice against, and then accept His help in dealing with those things.

Challenge to My Friends Meditating on this Devotional:

How is it with you friend? I wouldn’t be surprised if you aren’t in the same position that I find myself. Over time we have developed certain beliefs and practices according to society, according to our peers in the ministry, according to those things that make us comfortable. God has shown us through His Word that He loves the whole world, and that He loved each and every one so much that He was willing to sacrifice His one and only Son so that we may have forgiveness of our sin, and be assured of our eternal home in heaven with Him (John 3:16). With this being so clear in the Bible, I am in no way qualified to subtract from that, or leave a certain faction of people out of my ministry or witnessing or loving or caring. God has called us to be HIS witness, not our own, not with conditions, and definitely not with exclusions.

My Prayer:

Father, I surrender all of me to all of You. Please use me for Your glory to reach all Your people. Please touch the hearts of my friends who may be in a similar position as I am. May we together become Your church, Your bride, reaching all people in all parts of this earth, especially those in our neighborhoods that we have practically given up on. Thank You for loving us enough to trust us with such awesome responsibility and privilege as this! For it is in Your precious, holy and powerful name that I ask this!

When Instructed, Act on it!

March 22, 2014

God’s Word Says:

7 When the angel who spoke to him had left, Cornelius called two of his servants and a God-fearing soldier from among his own personal attendants.
8 And having rehearsed everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

The Amplified Bible. (1987). (Ac 10:7–8). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

My Thoughts:
I believe it would amaze us how often God whispers into our hearts and minds things that He would like for us to do, and we either brush it off, or we feel the importance of discussing it with our ‘trusted advisors’ before we ever act? Friends, I am not advocating that we should never discuss things of importance with our friends, but what I am saying is that such a discussion should be secondary to our acting on God’s instructions. Look at the example of Cornelius in verse 7 …… as the angel departed he called his servants who would carry out the instructions given to him by God through the angel. I would dare say that when we delay for any reason, we are doubting what God may have said to us. When our hearts and minds are in tuned with God, and when we are constantly in touch with Him through prayer and in studying His Word, why would we doubt? We are His chosen people, His bride (the church). If He can’t use us, who will He trust to carry out His work? When we ask our kids to do something, we expect them to act on it without question and without hesitation. God expects no less from us dear friend. Let us pray that we will overcome the temptation of the Evil One to doubt God, and instead be followers of Christ, obedient to His call and His instructions. Only then will we see this world, our world of influence, won for Christ! Won’t you join me in this endeavor of instant obedience today?

Living Holy Lives Will Produce Holy Results

March 21, 2014

One of the odd things about this man Cornelius, is that although he was leader of a troop of men, yet he had a genuine heart for the Lord. Odd because in today’s environment, when we find men in leadership, they often show little regard for our Savior. There is little evidence shown – perhaps they are afraid of offending some of their unbelieving followers. However, this man Cornelius had some other attributes, for he was considered a ‘religious man’; a Christian family leader – as he and his family faithfully worshipped God; and he also gave freely to the poor. Friend, these are the characteristics we want to see in our Christian men today, because they are indications of what must go on behind closed doors. Indications, that he must have a good connection with the Master, that this is a man we can probably trust with our concerns and our prayer needs. The verses go on to show us that God was really pleased with this man, because He sent an angel with specific instructions for Cornelius. Friend, I believe that our desire should always be to please God in all that we do and say. I believe that our ultimate desire of God, is to accept us, hear our prayers, and respond to our pleas and requests in a manner pleasing, acceptable to Him, and in alignment with His ultimate plan for us. To have this type of relationship though, involves us doing our part. Let’s not just say that we are Christian, let’s show it in all that we are and let’s depend on God for all of our decisions and His ultimate direction for our lives. In other words, let’s totally surrender to Him, so that we may be totally used by Him to produce ‘fruit’ that will glorify Him. Cornelius was a great example for us today! Will you change anything?

Book cover

There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, who was a captain in the Roman regiment called “The Italian Regiment”. He was a religious man; he and his whole family worshipped God. He also did much to help the Jewish poor people and was constantly praying to God. It was about three o’clock one afternoon when he had a vision, in which he clearly saw an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius!” He stared at the angel in fear and said, “What is it, sir?” The angel answered, “God is …