Thursday, September 22, 2016

I Kings 19:1-18

In our Scripture passage today; Elijah had just gone through a spiritual mountaintop experience.  In chapter eighteen of I Kings Elijah had been used by God in a powerful way.  God had used Elijah to demonstrate to the people of Israel that the Lord is the only true God and the only one who can hear our prayers.  God had shown decisively that Baal, the god the people were serving, was a false god.

In spite of this tremendous recent spiritual mountaintop experience Elijah now found himself in the depths of discouragement, depression, and fear.  The wicked queen, Jezebel, was seeking to kill Elijah, and he was fleeing for his life.  Elijah had just seen a wonderful demonstration of God's faithfulness and power on Mount Carmel in I Kings chapter eighteen.  In chapter eighteen Elijah had also demonstrated great faith and trust in God's power.  But  now when a new crisis had arisen in his life, Elijah was afraid and discouraged.  Elijah was not trusting the Lord to once again lead and protect him.  Elijah was looking at the difficult circumstance and looking away from God.

God has also been faithful to us.  He has answered so many prayers in our lives and has been with us each step of the way.  In spite of this, however, it is easy for us also to become afraid and not trust in the Lord when a new crisis arises in our lives.  We need to cling to God's precious promises, and we need to trust that He will always be with us.  There is great joy and peace in trusting in the Lord!

Elijah found himself so discouraged and depressed that he asked God to take his life.  Elijah felt that his life had been fruitless. Hence, he felt his life was not worth living.  He had temporarily lost his confidence in the ultimate triumph of God's Kingdom.  We too must remember that God is in control.  We must further remember that anything we do in our lives for God's kingdom is worthwhile.  This is true even when we do not always understand the workings of God in our lives.

In the midst of Elijah's depression and fatigue an angel touched him and ministered to his needs.  Some believe this angel may actually have been a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ!  The Lord also give us strength for each new day.  The Lord provides for our needs, and He gives us exactly what we need in the moment we need it.  We too might become discouraged by our circumstances at times.  This happens when we look at our circumstance and fail to focus on the Lord.  God is always there to refresh and revive us, however.

In our Biblical narrative Elijah retreated to a cave.  In I Kings 19:9b God approached Elijah and said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?  God repeated that question in verse thirteen.  Groveling in self-pity in a cave was not where God wanted Elijah to be.  Elijah was not where he was supposed to be, and he was not in the center of God's will.  Elijah was following in his own misguided plan of action instead of God's will for his life.  Both times Elijah answered God's question. "What are you doing here, Elijah?" with complaints and lack of submission to God's will.  God wants us to trust Him in all of life's circumstances, and He wants us to be submissive to His will in all areas of our lives.

God then spoke to Elijah in a gentle whisper.  Elijah had to learn the lesson of being quiet and calm in his spirit, so he would be able to hear the Lord's voice,  We too have to be still and listen for God's voice speaking to us.  When you and I read a Scripture passage, we are not to rush through the passage.  Instead we need to quietly think about what the Holy Spirit is trying to teach us personally in our lives through the Scripture passage.  Our hearts and souls need to be tuned to God, so we can hear His voice.  Then we must respond in obedience and submission to the Lord's will for our lives!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Psalm 25

"To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in You I trust, O my God." Psalm 25:1
"Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long."  Psalm 24:4-5

In Psalm 25 David prayed to the Lord for relief.  David was going through a crisis in His life, and he needed the Lord's help.  Psalm 25 is a prayer for God's help in David's time of illness, distress, or attacks from enemies.  David said to the Lord in Psalm 25:1, "To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in You I trust, O my God."  David lived in a deep personal love relationship with the Lord.  Hence, in his moment of crisis and need, David could immediately and confidently go to the Lord in prayers for help.  David approached the Lord in prayer with a humble heart.  David recognized his own unworthiness and the Lord's great power and love.  In this way, David experienced the power of prayer and of the Lord's presence and love in His life.  When our lives are saturated with God's Word and with prayer we too can experience the power of prayer and of the Lord's presence in our lives.  We too can then be used by the Lord in powerful ways.

David needed the Lord's direction and guidance in his time of crisis.  David said in Psalm 25:4-5, "Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths; guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long."  This must be our prayer also both in times of crisis and in times of relative calm in our lives.  God has a plan for our lives.  Psalm 33:11 tells us, "the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations." 

Since the Lord already has a plan for our lives, we need to only ask the Lord to direct our steps.  We need only to pray, "Show me Your ways, O Lord."  The Lord already knows the way that He wants us to go.  We often wish that we could see ahead into the future.  Peace, however, comes by simply letting the Lord take care of our future and by trusting Him to lead step by step.  We must patiently trust in the Lord's guidance and not seek to run ahead of Him.

David asked the Lord to teach Him the Lord's paths and ways.  This must be our prayer also.  Who could be a better teacher and guide for us in this life than the Lord?  He is the one who made us and takes care of us in love.  The Lord is the One who knows the beginning from the end, and He is the One who has planned our lives.  We need to trust that the Lord will guide us along the way.  The Holy Spirit will use Scripture, prayer, and circumstances to guide us step by step through this life.  Psalm 25:9 tells us that the Lord "guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way."  Psalm 24 goes on to say in verse ten, "All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of His covenant." 

In spite of our weaknesses and sins Psalm 25:12b promises the child of God that the Lord "will instruct him in the way chosen for him."   Hence, we can face the future unafraid.  We simply need to keep our eyes focused on the Lord and not on our circumstances and on the unknowns in our lives.  Even though we do not know what our future holds the Lord does, and we can trust Him.  We can say with confidence along with David in Psalm 25:15, "My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare."  The Lord will remove any obstacle from our paths in our journey through this life.  We need only to bring our needs and our desires for His guidance before the Lord.  He will guide us.  We can trust the Lord and say to the Lord with David of old in Psalm 25:21b, "my hope is in You."  The Lord is our source of certainty for our salvation and for eternity.  The Lord is also our trustworthy and faithful guide through each step of our lives!  Praise His name!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

John 21

The disciples had just witnessed the crucifixion and death of our Lord Jesus.  They had also heard about the resurrection appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, and the Lord Jesus had appeared twice to the disciples themselves.  The disciples were now together at the Sea of Galilee or also known as the Sea of Tiberias.  The disciples perhaps did not fully comprehend what had happened in the last few days.  Peter impulsively said in John 21:3, "I'm going out to fish."  The other disciples decided to join Peter.  Peter was not only forgetting his call to follow Jesus and be a fisher of men, but he was also causing the other disciples to forget their spiritual calling also.

The disciples eagerly cast their nets, but they did not catch even one fish that night.  Early the next morning Jesus was standing on the shore.  Jesus called out to the disciples in John 21:5, "Friends, haven't you any fish?"  Jesus Christ is God Himself, and He knows all things.  He knew that they hadn't caught any fish the night before.  Jesus was asking them this question to point out their own insufficiency.  Their efforts at fishing had not been directed by the Lord.  Lack of success and disappointment had followed their self-willed and self-directed efforts.

Then the Lord said in John 21:6, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat."  When the disciples followed the Lord's direction in obedience, John 21:6b tells us that "they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish."  Obedience brought blessing for the disciples.  Obedience to the Lord will bring  us blessings also.  These blessings may not necessarily be physical blessings, but when we obey we will always experience the blessing of the Lord in our lives.  When we try to live our lives in our own strength we will fail.  When we allow our lives to be directed by the Lord we experience God's best for our lives, and our lives will only then be productive for God's Kingdom.

After the disciples landed on shore, the disciples saw that the Lord Jesus already had a fire going with some fish cooking.  Jesus said to His disciples in John 21:12, "Come and have breakfast."  Jesus was providing for the disciples' physical needs.  The Lord had also provided for their spiritual needs by dying on the cross for their sins.  The Lord would further provide for them spiritually by sending His Holy Spirit into their hearts and lives, so that they could live abundant and productive lives for the Lord.

The Lord Jesus also daily provides for our physical needs.  What is more important the Lord also provides for our spiritual needs.  We must continue to feed our souls with the spiritual food of His Holy Word.  We must continue to nourish our personal love relationship with the Lord.  The Lord wants us to be diligent about nourishing our spiritual lives as well as our physical lives.  The Lord wants us to grow and flourish spiritually.

After finishing their meal which Jesus had prepared for them Jesus said to Peter in John 21:15, "Simon, son of John, do you truly love Me more than these?"  Jesus was asking Peter whether he loved the Lord more than anyone or anything else in his life.  The Lord asks the same of us today.  Does our love and passion for the Lord eclipse our love for earthly things, earthly security, and earthly relationships?  Does our love and passion for Christ eclipse our own lives?  Our love and passion for Christ must involve our whole being.  Peter would not go back to his old life.  Peter's new life now centered in Christ and in service to Him.  So we too must live radically changed lives in service to the Lord.  The Lord died for us and purchased our salvation.  How can we do anything less than live our lives in service and gratitude to Him?  How can we do anything less than passionately offer our "bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God." (Romans 12:1)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

John 20

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name."  John 20:31

Jesus is alive!  We serve a risen Savior!  Jesus conquered sin and death for us!  When Peter and John ran to the empty tomb on that wonderful resurrection day they found undeniable physical evidence that Jesus had indeed risen from the grave!  John said about Himself in John 20:8, "He saw and believed."  As a result John's life was changed forever.  The apostle John then went on to write the Gospel of John; the Epistles of I John, II John, and III John; and the book of Revelation.  As we also truly behold the Lord Jesus in all of His glory and in all of His mercy and love, we too are changed forever.

Because of Jesus Christ's resurrection and death our hopelessness is removed.  When Mary Magdalene was standing in the garden she was crying tears of hopelessness.  Mary thought that Jesus was still dead and that someone had stolen His body.  Jesus appeared to Mary and said in John 20:15, "Why are you crying?"  Mary's hopeless crying was needless.  The Lord was and is alive!  Those who do not know or accept the Lord in their lives have no hope or true purpose in their lives.  As children of God, however, Hebrews 6:19 tells us that we have Jesus Christ's hope and peace in our lives "as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." 

John 20:19b says that when Jesus appeared to His disciples He said to them, "peace be with you!"  Jesus then showed His disciples His hands with their nail prints and His side which had been pierced.  John 20:20b tells us, "The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord."  Jesus Christ, our resurrected Lord, is also our source of joy and peace!

Because of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection doubt and fear are removed.  The apostle Thomas was not present the first time that Jesus appeared to the disciples, and he did not believe the other disciples' reports of Jesus Christ's resurrection.  Thomas said in John 20:25b, "Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it."  Because of Jesus Christ's love for Thomas He revealed Himself to Thomas about a week later.  When Thomas saw Jesus face to face all doubt was removed.  At that moment John 20:28b tells us that Thomas said to the Lord Jesus, "My Lord and my God!"

Jesus Christ removes our doubt and fears also.  Jesus said in John 20:29b, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."  We have not physically touched or seen the Lord Jesus.  We are blessed and joyful, however, because we have believed in Him.  The Lord has removed our doubt, and He has blessed us with His joyful presence in our lives.  We know with absolute certainty that He will lead us through this life into eternity! 

Because of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection God's children have His life in them.  All the wonderful things recorded in the Gospels about our Lord and Savior were written down for a purpose.  The apostle John says in John 20:31, "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name."  Jesus Christ is our certainty for eternal life.  Jesus Christ is our only purpose for living.  He is our joy, hope, and peace.  He removes our fears and doubts; and He is our sure foundation.  The Lord Jesus changes our lives for time and eternity!  Praise His holy and awesome name!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

John 18-19 Isaiah 53

Jesus said, "'It is finished.'  With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit"  John 19:30b

"But He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed."  Isaiah 53:5

In John 19:30 Jesus said, "It is finished."  Jesus has completed your and my redemption!  Your and my sins are so horrendous in God's sight that they deserve the the punishment of God's eternal wrath. Instead Jesus Christ willingly suffered the consequences of our sins on the cross! Jesus Christ suffered the horrors of hell on the cross for us!

Jesus Christ voluntarily left the glories and perfection of heaven and the presence of God the Father. Jesus voluntarily came to this world of sin and trouble.  He did this willingly for us, His chosen children!  Jesus Christ then lived a perfect life for us which we are unable to live.

Jesus Christ also voluntarily accepted the rejection of others.  Isaiah 53:3 says, "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering."  Jesus Christ accepted and experienced betrayal and denial from His own disciples.  He was beaten unmercifully by the soldiers. Isaiah 52:14b tells us "His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness."  Finally, Jesus Christ voluntarily laid down His life for our sins. John 19:30b tells us "Jesus said, 'It is finished.'  With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."  Death did not conquer our Lord Jesus Christ, but Christ voluntarily "gave up His spirit!"

It was necessary for Christ to die on the cross for His children.  Without Christ's death on the cross we have no joy, no peace, and no comfort.  Without Christ's blood being shed we have no pardon from sin, no purposeful life, and no hope.  It was OUR sins that put our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.  Isaiah 53:6 tells us, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."  So often we like to rationalize our sins or compare ourselves with others, but our sins were so abominable in the sight of God that they could only be atoned for by Jesus Christ's precious blood on the cross.  Isaiah 53:5 says, "But He was pierced for out transgressions.  He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon  Him, and by His wounds we are healed."

Praise God for His great gift of salvation!  Praise God that Christ's work on the cross is accomplished. Praise God that His children are now in right standing before Him!  We are sinners, but the Lord Jesus saved us and made us children of God!  The Lord saved us for a purpose, however.  That purpose was to bring glory and honor to the Lord.  Ephesians 1:12 tells us that He saved us and made us His children "in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory."  May our hearts be filled with thanks for Jesus Christ's salvation. May that thankfulness to our Lord be shown in our lives and actions.  May it be our consuming passion to live our lives in gratitude "as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God." (Romans 12:1)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

John 17

Prayer is as essential to our spiritual lives as breathing is to our physical lives.  Jesus, the Son of God, felt the need to spend time with the Heavenly Father in prayer.  If Jesus Christ felt the need for prayer in His life here on earth, we certainly need prayer in our lives.  In John chapter seventeen Jesus was about to suffer the horrors of hell on the cross, and so Jesus prayed.

In verses one through five Jesus prayed for Himself.  Jesus recognized that the time for His crucifixion had come.  Jesus asked the Father to glorify the Son of God through this process. Jesus said in John 17:1, "Father, the time has come.  Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You." Jesus' humiliating death on the cross would bring glory to Himself.  This was because Christ's death on the cross was the Father's will and would bring glory to the Father. Because God the Father and God the Son are one, it would also bring glory to God the Son.

Furthermore, it would bring about the glorious redemption of God's chosen people.  Jesus recognized that the glorious redemption of His people could only come about by His atoning sacrifice.  We too can be fully confident in the sufficiency of Christ's atonement for our sins, because we were given to Jesus Christ by the Father.  Further we can be confident in our salvation, because Jesus completed the work on the cross that God gave Him to do.

Jesus also prayed for His disciples.  Jesus said that they were given to Him by the Father. Jesus' disciples had shown that they belonged to the Lord by their obedience and acceptance of God's Word. They had shown that they belonged to the Lord by their acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God.  They had shown they belonged to the Lord, because glory had come to the Lord through them.  So our lives as disciples today must show these same fruit of being disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our passion and desire should be to bring glory to His name by our lives. Jesus went on in His prayer to ask the Father to protect His disciples, because they were still in the world.  He also prayed that they would be united in Him.  The Lord of the universe continues to protect His disciples today!  He also desires our unity as believers.

Jesus further went on to pray for the disciples' joy.  This is a joy which we can also have. It is a joy that we can experience in the Lord and is not based on outward circumstances.  It is a joy which comes from abiding in Christ Jesus and in His promises in His Word.  Finally, Jesus prayed for the sanctification of His disciples.  He prayed that His disciples would grow in their faith.  He prayed that through the truth of God's Word they would grow in practical holiness and righteousness in their lives.  That is His desire for us today as well.

Jesus Christ's prayer was not just for the disciples of that day.  It was for us as well, His disciples today! Jesus said in John 17:20, "My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message."  It is also His desire for us His disciples today that we become more like Him.  It is His desire that our lives more and more reflect His holiness. Jesus further prayed that we may be one in unity as believers in Him.  This is so the world will take note our lives and believe in Jesus Christ .  Christ's prayer was that He will live in us, as He lives in the Father. Jesus Christ's prayer was that we would be with Him eternally to be able to see Him in all His glory. Jesus Christ's prayer was that He and His love will be in us.  Are we living our lives according to Christ's desires and prayers for us?  Is living for the Lord our consuming passion?  May we be increasingly reflecting Him in our lives!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

John 15:18- John 16:23

The night before Jesus went on the cross He told His disciples to expect persecution on this earth. Jesus said in John 15:19b, "I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you."  In the free world we enjoy much freedom and do not experience a lot of the blatant outward persecution which is found in some parts of the world.  There is subtle persecution in the free world also, however.  Further, as the free world moves ever increasingly toward the acceptance of all kinds of immoral behavior, we will also increasingly see more open persecution of believers.  Already we as followers of Jesus Christ are considered narrow and judgmental, if we do not follow or accept the life styles and philosophies of the world around us.

The world does not understand the wisdom of God and of His Holy Word.  They do not understand our love for the the Lord and our desire to serve Him.  It is difficult sometimes to live for the Lord in this world.  The Lord Jesus promised His disciples to send the Holy Spirit, however, to help them. The Holy Spirit is our helper also today.  The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins and leads us to Christ.  The Holy Spirit guides us into all of God's truth and speaks God's truth into our hearts.  He does this through God's Holy Word.  He gives us the guidance we need when we need it.  He makes known to us what God, the Father and God, the Son, wants us to know and understand.

The night before Jesus died on the cross Jesus tried to tell His disciples that He would soon be dying on the cross for their sins.  Jesus further tried to explain to His disciples that He would be leaving this world to return to the Father.  This was necessary so that He could pay for our sins and then go to prepare an eternal home for His people.  Jesus said to His disciples in John 16:16, "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see Me," Jesus'words must have been confusing and a cause for grief for the disciples.  Sometimes we don't see Jesus in the difficult circumstances of our lives either.  Sometimes it is difficult to hang on to our faith during these times in our lives.

Jesus told His disciples that they would grieve temporarily, but their grief would turn to joy.  This would happen when Jesus rose from the grave victorious over sin, Satan, and death!  Jesus told His disciples in John 16:22 that when this happened "no one will take away your joy."  We too may have suffering and difficulties in this life.  Our final victory, however, has been won through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!  Because of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection even the trials of life can not rob us our our joy in the Lord!  Also someday Jesus will return for us. What joy! What glorious expectations we have in Christ Jesus!

While we are on this earth we need to abide in Christ.  John 16:24 tells us that if we abide and remain in Christ, we can ask for anything form the Father in Jesus Christ's name.  We can go directly to the Father in prayer.  Jesus says this is true in John 16:27 when He says, "the Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have believed that I come from God."

If we abide in Christ we experience His peace.  It is a peace which the world can not understand or take away from us.  We should not be shocked if we often face difficult obstacles in this world. Jesus says in John 16:33b, "In this world, you will have trouble."  Trials of various kinds are inevitable in this world.  Jesus goes on to say in that same verse, however, that we should not become discouraged. Jesus says, "But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  Jesus has won the final victory! Everything is under His control, even the smallest details of our lives.  He gives us grace to meet each and every trial that He allows in our lives.  Hence, in Jesus Christ we have His joy and His peace in our lives.