Thursday, July 2, 2020

One Thing You Lack

Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:21-22)

Even the most noble of us fall short of God's glory and His righteous requirements. Our most sincere efforts to do good cannot bridge the gap between us and the Lord, for our righteousness is like filthy rags to Him. Even our valiant efforts to "give back," to show love and kindness, and come to the aid of others are insufficient at best; and our sin makes us contributors to the death, disease and suffering we're trying to relieve. There is no other way to God than the cross. Pick it up and follow Jesus.

Our own noble works and best intentions are an insult to the Holy Spirit. Christianity is overrun with good people doing good things. Yet, they are missing the most necessary practice of obeying the Word, looking unto Jesus, and waiting on Him. Remember, nothing good ever rises up to God from us, except worship and praise. Every good thing comes down to us from Jesus Christ, and there is no other way. Upon realizing this, many have gone away sorrowful, back to their world, their ways, and their riches. May we choose to rejoice in His Word, sell all, and follow Him. 

Let's Pray - Father, Jesus is the only way to live a life pleasing to You and to be productive in the Kingdom. Today, I will pick up my cross and follow. Lead me, Sir. Thank You.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Not My Will

Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:38-39)

The Lord Jesus came to earth on a mission, and in order to accomplish that mission, He was going to have to give His life in the most painful and humiliating way. He was not the kind of king, nor was this the kind of kingdom His disciples or Israel expected -- nor could they understand the words He spoke or the path He walked. Jesus was keenly aware that no one on earth would understand, and He would have to resist every fleshly temptation to consider anyone's will other than the Father's -- even His own.

There will be times when doing the Lord's will is very painful, and we may even question why things are as they are or must be done a certain way. No one around us may understand what God is doing with us, and we are left with no common-sense explanation for the situation in which we find ourselves. Every man or woman God calls and chooses will experience these times, just as our Savior did; and we will keep coming back to those times until we come to the same point of surrender, ". . . nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." God's will for us can only be accomplished when we break from the natural tendency to go our way, leave all, and follow Jesus. May we not shrink from the call and accept the will of the Father, even when it hurts. Remember, the Father always knows best.

Let's Pray - Dear God, give me the same attitude and courage Jesus had. May I submit myself freely to Your will, especially when it is most difficult. Amen.

Having These Promises

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)

There are those who preach that Jesus is somehow sympathetic with our struggles against self and sin. I've even heard those struggles called a "beautiful mess!" Nothing could be more foolish! Our "mess" is not attractive or beautiful to God, and we only need to look to the tragedy of Calvary to see what God thinks of our "mess." Jesus dealt with sin ruthlessly on the Cross, where He set us free from the law of sin and death. Therefore, we must never tell the Lord that He is not able to sanctify us and make us holy, or we are too broken and helpless for Him to perfect us. If He is not able to do that, He is not God. But He is God, and God Almighty. He has sanctified us wholly; and, now, we must put the mess of selfishness and sin to death in our members. That is the supreme effort we put forth daily -- to glorify God, and prove He is more than able to do what He promised.

If the Lord has challenged you with difficulty, it is because He loves you. He wants you to learn to be satisfied in Jesus alone, looking only to Him. He is freeing you from all dependence on man's company and approval, as you learn to be His disciple. Now you understand what Paul is after with his instruction to "cleanse ourselves." God wants complete and unfettered access to you. Remember, you have His promises, and you belong to Him.

Let's Pray Father, it is imperative that I make my life completely open and available to You. Therein is my joy and health. I love You. Amen.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Always Be Ready

Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” (Matthew 21:18-19)

When Jesus encounters the fig tree, He finds it fruitless, and He is greatly displeased, because He was hungry. His disappointment with the tree is actually quite surprising, considering the fact that it was not the season for figs -- When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. (Mark 11:13b) Yet, He cursed the tree for fruitlessness anyway! Jesus was obviously expecting figs, even though it was not fig season. The only conclusion we can possibly come to is this -- when Jesus is looking for fruit, we had better have fruit. In other words, Be ready in and out of season. (2 Timothy 4:2)

The Lord does not view times and seasons the way we do. He is not bound by the clock on the wall, because He is sovereign, and His reign is eternal. When we were born again in the Spirit, He placed eternity in our hearts, and we began to comprehend life in the Spirit. We are no longer limited in our thinking and doing, because we have entered a realm where we understand spiritual things, where nothing is impossible, and the impossible is nothing! When we rightly esteem the Spirit-filled life, we will always be prepared for the divine moments and encounters Jesus engineers. We are always ready to glorify our God, and we are true to Him no matter the cost. May the Lord find our branches laden with the fruits of the Spirit, and may Jesus be refreshed and glorified in us no matter the season. 

Let's Pray - Father, I realize You will return like a thief in the night. Therefore, I am to be ready for Your return. May You find acceptable spiritual fruit on my branches, and may that fruit refresh You and bring You glory. Amen. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Come Follow Me

Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family, and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you." (Genesis 12:1-6)

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26-27)

Every man God calls to Himself will face the challenge of leaving what he has for what God has for him. In order for the Lord to draw us to Himself, He must draw us away from the familiar, and we have to lay down the life we know and love to receive the life He promises. Abram is a picture of true worship and devotion, which moves beyond words and good intentions and manifests in obedience, especially when it's difficult. God is not asking Abram to leave a bad situation for a good one -- any fool knows to do that! He's asking him to trust and believe Him, to leave all and follow Him, to prefer and prioritize Him, to go to a place without knowing what or where that place is, and to walk by faith and not by sight. "Sell all you have . . . and come follow me." (Luke 18:22)

A crowded life is one God cannot (and will not) use. Those of us who come to Him cannot bring along our schedules and possessions; those things will not fit through the narrow door entered by the few. You will notice that everyone who profoundly affects your life for Christ is one who is "sold out" to Him. That is the one God sends, because he or she will be faithful with the strength He pours into them. The Lord is looking for the one He can trust with souls, and that one is willing to forsake all he has to receive all the Lord would give. Jesus will not share His disciple with anyone or anything else. Are you His disciple? His and His alone?

Let’s Pray – Lord, I will respond when You call, and I will do so without doubting. I have learned that You are trustworthy, and You always lead me in the righteous path. Here I am, Lord, at Your service. Amen.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Chosen Few

"So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen." (Matthew 20:16)

In other words, few will prove themselves worthy of the call by laying down their lives, picking up their cross, and following Jesus. Answering the call of the Lord is not merely agreeing to do things for God, but we must obliterate our allegiance to any other relationship, any other cause, any other creed, and any other obligation. Our commitment to Jesus must become and remain unrivaled, and few of us ever reach that place of surrender.

That being said, it is God's sovereign right to choose who He will. At times, His choices seem strange to us, certainly not what we would have expected or chosen. For instance, who would have chosen Saul of Tarsus to be the quintessential apostle to the young church of Jesus Christ? Didn't he brutally persecute the church? Who would have chosen Gideon over the more qualified soldiers and leaders of his day? Why was Abram chosen out of all the men on earth? Didn't David have seven older brothers when he was anointed by Samuel? Why did Jesus choose uneducated and uncultured men to be His disciples, not to mention Judas, His betrayer? Yes, the Lord chooses some very unlikely and unworthy vessels. We must learn to see ourselves the same way, because God chose us, too. 

You did not choose Me, but I chose you . . . (John 15:16)

Let's Pray - Lord, please count me among the faithful; one who not only speaks what is right but does what is right. I know I am not worthy, but I want to be counted among the few. Amen.  

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Beware of Ambition

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask." And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?" They said to Him, "Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory." (Mark 10:35-37)

Wanting to be first or great was not the disciples' only problem. Having Jesus right before them and not recognizing Who or what they were looking at was the real issue. God Himself was living among them, not only as Lord, but as the Son and Servant of Man -- bearing their burdens, healing their diseases, feeding, caring, teaching, sacrificing, and blessing. Yet, they could only see the perks of power and the awe it inspired. They were called to be co-servants with Jesus, but they were blind-sided by pride and ambition. Nothing much has changed. 

But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you ask." (Mark 10:38)
We must beware of ambition, no matter how "spiritual" it is. David's ambition caused him to number God's people. Moses' ambition caused him to slay the Egyptian. Aaron and Miriam's ambition caused them to challenge Moses' authority. There are many more examples of selfishness in the scriptures, and there are many in the church today. But our Lord humbled Himself, laid down His life, served us, and suffered the most shameful and painful death imaginable out of obedience to the Father. We, then, must reject the temptation to glorify ourselves, and we must sit in the lowest place, not the highest. That is what our Lord did, and now He is seated next to the Father. Let Him be your Example and follow Him today.

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:10)

Let's Pray
 - Precious Lord, teach us that humility is the highest attribute, and we must lay our lives down in order to be lifted up. Save us from the craven sin of selfish ambition. In Jesus alone, Amen.