Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Worship or Waste

And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Mark 14:3-9)

One of the hardest things for a Christian worker to do is to keep his focus on Jesus and off the world and the work. The Lord of glory was right there in the room with His disciples, yet they took issue with a woman who was determined to worship and make a sacrificial offering to Him. In their minds, she could have and should have made better use of her time and resources. They missed the essence of the matter, being snared by their own selfishness. This woman may not have followed protocol, she may not have been an expert on scripture, she probably wasn't highly esteemed, and she wasn’t one of the twelve – but she knew Jesus was the Messiah and her Savior; and she ministered to Him in a way that honored and strengthened Him for the horrific experience that lay before Him -- "She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial."

"Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her." The woman in this passage did what the disciples should have been doing, but they were caught up with everything and everyone but Jesus. We are still talking about her and what she did, because it was done solely and strictly for Jesus, and that is all that matters to God. Thus, we have been given a true picture of acceptable worship and ministry – that which is done, maintained, and fiercely focused on Jesus Christ alone. That is the Bible's definition of ministry, and it must become ours. Are we motivated to glorify the Lord in all we do? That is how the Lord will judge our works -- and He will judge.

Let's Pray - Dear Lord, forgive us for ministry that comes from our own sense of righteousness. Help us regain a Christ-centered focus and seek the Kingdom first and last. Amen.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Our Own Devices

Now Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" And Saul answered, "I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do." Then Samuel said: "Why then do you ask me, seeing the LORD has departed from you and has become your enemy?" (1 Samuel 28:15-16)

Saul could no longer go to God in prayer. After years of refusing to walk uprightly, the Lord had withdrawn from him, and he was left to his own devices and the consequences of his sin. Saul took drastic measures to save himself, but he would not be able to cover the tracks of decades of recklessness and pride. He saw the end coming, and he could not do anything to stop it, because God refused the repentance he sought, though he sought it with tears. How sad!

Note how many Christians are like Saul – hiding behind the thin veil of status or religion, yet far from the Lord and devoid of the Spirit of grace. Beloveds, we are still enjoying a time when the hand of God is being extended to us, so let us humble ourselves in His sight and receive the wisdom He offers in His Word. Do not be fooled into the malaise that defines so many, and let us take heed to God’s encouragement in Hebrews 2:1; Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. Let us not be like Saul, who drifted away and never found the way back.

Let's Pray - Dear Lord, may we heed Your warnings and receive Your wisdom while it is available to us. May we not be like Saul and Esau, who lived recklessly and tempted God. Help us, Father. Amen.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Bearing Much Fruit

"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

When Jesus says we can do "nothing" without Him, He's not suggesting we are unable to do things independently, just nothing of eternal or spiritual significance. It is quite possible for us to set and reach goals, to make names for ourselves, or even to become successful in ministry without God. Empires, nations, fortunes, and great legacies have been built by folks who have never taken a second to acknowledge the Lord, and many magnanimous feats have been accomplished without a single prayer being lifted to heaven. The Father, though, is looking toward the day when the works and words of every man and woman will be judged according to His holy standard -- and His standard is Christ. Nothing short of perfection will withstand His white-hot scrutiny. The sharp two-edged sword that proceeds from His mouth will separate the worthy from the worthless, and the things He did through us versus all we did in our own strength. In other words, things that some count as "something," Jesus counts as "nothing."

" . . . let us make three tabernacles; one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" - not knowing what he said. (Matthew 17:4) 

Some, like Peter, suppose Jesus is pleased with our earnest efforts to do good and make a difference in the world in His name, but that is a grave error. Peter sought to do what he considered a great and noble thing, yet the thing he should have done was be quiet and listen -- "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" (Matthew 17:5) We must learn to wait on the Lord, to be still, and hear Him clearly. Our "work" is to abide in Jesus, and that takes much more time and effort than we first thought. Be still today and wait, because you can do nothing good without Him; but be encouraged, because all good things are possible with Him. "He who abides in Me, and I in Him, bears much fruit . . ." 

Let's Pray - Dear God, I fully realize Your ways are superior to mine. Every day, I will ask You to fill me with the knowledge of Your will. I humble myself in Your sight. Amen.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Not About Me

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 
(John 5:19)

"It's not about me!"Those are some of the most important words I've ever learned to speak to myself. They reflect a basic understanding that undergirds everything the Lord wants to do through me and for me. Once I die to the belief that the world revolves around me, what I think, and what others think of me, I am ready to receive the life and perspective of the Lord. Once my feelings and my agenda are cast down and I find myself at the feet of Jesus, then the Lord can have an honest conversation with me that will change my perspective from an earthly one to a heavenly one. When I wake up tomorrow, I must start the whole process again, "It's not about me!" -- because my flesh and my pride will never relent as long as I live. Dying to myself is a day-by-day, moment-by-moment, conversation-by-conversation thing, and so is coming alive in Christ! I can make that choice, and therein lies my freedom. I am most free when it's not about me!

Let's Pray - Dear Lord, please help me resist the temptation to place myself and my thoughts on the throne. That place is reserved for Jesus alone. Amen.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Love Never Fails

Love never fails. (Romans 13:8)
Let love be without hypocrisy. (Hebrews 13:1)

God is love, and we cannot love apart from Him. His love is unique and unfathomably profound. It is beyond what we can give or appreciate, and it is best expressed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, our love must mirror His love, or we are merely hypocrites -- bad actors. Love embraces good and rejects evil, it is kind, generous, consistent, durable, and humble. It takes action, overcomes obstacles, and manifests in service to others. It takes less and gives more. Love is alive, active, pure, and it has no agenda. We must love freely, and withholding love is not an option -- it is not ours to withhold.

Our Father knows the difference between love and everything else. True love looks like Jesus, it harkens to Jesus, it honors and glorifies Jesus, it worships Jesus, and it imitates Jesus. It is not churchy or religious, not soulish, not formal, nor is it cold, calculating, or carefully measured out. God loves us tenderly, and He expects us to love those around us the same way. I must no longer count what love may cost me, but what it cost Christ -- and it cost Him His life. Therefore, I will love like He loves, because love never fails, and I must never fail to love.

Let's Pray - Father, help me to lead with love and end with love, because God is love, and God never fails. Thank you for the love that never gives up, never gives out, and always gives all. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

A Godly Life

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:17-18)

The only Teacher is Jesus Christ, and His life is made real to and in us only by the Holy Spirit. No amount of well-intentioned striving will ever achieve the goal of wholeness, holiness, and health in Him -- we must be filled with the Holy Spirit. This truth is central to our understanding and appropriating this instruction, as it is with all the scriptures. Yet, this truth is the stumbling block that frustrates so many -- that is, we have no chance of doing what the Bible instructs until we surrender and exchange our strength, receiving God's strength in return. Only then does this passage become instruction we can successfully obey -- and obey it we must.

It is not good enough to be good citizens of earth, but we must first be good citizens of heaven. God's standards are nothing like the world's, and there is no possibility of reaching them by striving to be good Christians -- we must die to ourselves and let Him live His life through us. For instance, it will not be possible for me to live peacefully with all men and women in my own strength, no matter how hard I try. But if I learn to see the difficult person or situation as an opportunity to share the love of Christ, I will succeed every time. It doesn't matter whether or not my love is appreciated; what matters is Christ revealed in my words and deeds, and God will handle the rest. That is the path to peace the Lord has laid out before His children. Let's walk that path before Him.

Let's Pray - Dear Father, give me Your Spirit so I am able to do all You instruct. I realize I cannot do anything worthy on my own. I surrender all to You, right now! Amen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Character and Time

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

We must not assume that we come easily into the realm of righteous living without first overcoming many obstacles, both within us and outside us. Christian behavior is derived from Christian character which is developed over time and with much attention and care. Our new (spiritual) nature is firmly established as our dominant nature by the painstaking process of putting the old man to death, and then we must guard the gains we've made with much effort and diligence. This is a difficult and glorious process which is to end in our sanctification and oneness with Christ -- and in Him, we become one with the Father. Amen.

True Christian character is revealed in the tireless war it wages against the forces of evil all around it. It understands that the battle for life and righteousness is the Lord's, and the victory is at hand, no matter the present circumstance. It knows that the earth is the Lord's in all its fullness, and He is fully in control of all things. The life of Christ in His children will outwork, out flank, and outlast the wiles and wickedness of hell; and we will endure to the end to glorify the Savior acceptably. God's grace and mercy are working effectively in us, and we are to display that work in every deed and conversation. That is how the Lord is glorified, the lost are found, the blind see, the naked are clothed, and the poor hear the good news. That is how we overcome evil with good, and that is how we overcome evil with good -- with God.

Let's Pray - Father, I understand the Holy Spirit is developing godliness in me day by day, and may I let patience have its perfect work. Help me to not be discouraged on this journey to spiritual maturity and thank You for being patient with me. Amen.