Bible Reference: Luke 9:23
Translation: Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)
Bible Text: 23 Jesus continued to say to all of them, “Any of you who want to be my follower must stop thinking about yourself and what you want. You must be willing to carry the cross that is given to you every day for following me.
OBSERVATION: I have heard that to become a good military officer, you must be willing to give up everything, for military leaders consider you their subject while under their leadership. From the outside looking in, think about how you identify military guys and gals when they enter your town and a restaurant where you are having a meal. I believe that God wants us to walk into a business and recognize His followers in much the same way. Let us be reminded of what God requires of us.
APPLICATION: I’m not sure what the initiation stages of the military is in each of your respective countries, but I’m sure that the orientation is probably very similar. For young men and women are having to be taught the differences between selfish desires, wants and wishes, to one that is dictated by the leadership of their country. To do this you will find very regimented military leaders who will impress upon you the differences between the two wills. So compare that to what God is commanding in our focal verses today. If you say with your mouth that you are a follower of Christ, but you continue to do your own thing, whenever you want, and wherever you feel like doing it, will that display God’s leadership in your life, or will that truly convey that you are still fighting to be your own boss, making the same mistakes and committing the same old sin? We are considered a very privileged people, when we try to imagine that a pure and holy God would adopt us into His family, if we seek His face and commit ourselves to His Lordship. Do we become perfect at that stage? Not while we are here on this earth, beaten on every side by Satan and his evil followers. However, in His Word, God promises that one day we will unite with Him in glory, where we will bow at His feet and worship our perfect King, in a holy and righteous place called heaven, forever and forever! So with that in mind, can we commit, or perhaps recommit today that we will serve only our God, regardless of the distractions of Satan, so that it will become very obvious to anyone around us, that we are Christ’s followers? For those who are already followers of Christ, please stay true to your Leader, and indoctrinate yourself with His Word, so that you may follow His ways, obey His commands, and become more like Him in every way, every day!
PRAYER: Lord, You are, more precious than silver…… and nothing I desire compares with You! So Lord please shower Your blessings on my readers and I today so that we may become more like You in every way. People need the Lord, and unless they see Jesus in every fiber of our beings, they may always doubt if anything good could ever come to us. You are good oh Lord, and I would ask that our circle of influence will see You and Your goodness in everything that we do or say. It’s You oh Lord that the world needs today, please use us in Your service to help others find You and accept You as Lord. AMEN!
Bible Reference: Ezekiel 11:18–21
Translation: The Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Bible Text: 18 ….. I want you to clear the land of all disgusting idols. 19 Then I will take away your stubbornness and make you eager to be completely faithful to me. You will want to obey me 20 and all my laws and teachings. You will be my people, and I will be your God. 21 But those who worship idols will be punished and get what they deserve. I, the LORD God, have spoken.
OBSERVATION: Our Youth & Families Pastor recently challenged 28 youth to leave their devices at home so that they might truly seek God’s face in very primitive living conditions at a camp, while they worked hard to help the poor in that community. Do you suppose that this gave our youth some uninterrupted time with God? You may quickly respond that you don’t have that problem. May I suggest that you sign up for the next trip with our Pastor? I wonder if this would help us on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings and evenings? Read on as we meditate on this Scripture!
APPLICATION: I have a relative who surrendered his heart to the Lord, and immediately went home and broke up his music records and tapes, and burnt up all of his cigarettes that he had on hand. He felt like these were ‘idols’ that would tempt him back into sin. In our scripture today, there are many Israelites that were scattered away from their home country and God told Ezekiel that He would bless them when they returned, providedthat they first clear the land of the idols. This made me think about the idols that may be interfering with our blessing today. I know, we don’t have the huge idols that some people go up to and worship, as if they have power to help them overcome some issue they might be going through. But friends, these chosen verses today really spell out what types of idols may be applicable to us today, for God actually explains to Ezekiel what He will do to actually bring the people more in line with himself. Here are some of the things, with a few ideas from me:
—-Take away stubbornness – Isn’t this brought on by us wanting our own way? Wanting our own will, instead of totally surrendering to the will of a righteous and holy God?
—-Eager to be completely faithful to God – I wonder what all God would need to de-clutter from our lives so that we might be completely faithful to Him? How about things like: televisions; phones; tablets; cars; boats; finances; shopping; etc? Friends, when you stop and think real good about it, God (and the things that tend to draw us closer to God) often takes second place to many other things in our lives, some of which I just gave you as an example.
Isn’t it unfortunate that God really only moves into first place on our priority list, when a need arises that we can’t solve via Google, or that our TV shows really haven’t addressed yet? I realize that all of this probably don’t apply to all of my precious readers, but may I ask you anyway to consider the following: First thing each morning, do you reach for your Bible, or some idol (device)? After getting your cup of coffee or tea, do you stop and get energized for the day mentally through the Word of God, or do you depend on what you are fed from your idol (TV; Mobile Device; Newspaper; etc)? In spite of God’s Word declaring that we should assemble ourselves together for worship and fellowship on our Sabbath, which of your idols tend to interfere with that? God said that He would really bless when we get rid of our ‘idols’. May I encourage you to take a missions trip to a third world country where many of these idols are not readily available and see how this might feel? It’s amazing how we easily find uninterrupted quiet time with the Lord! It can be done friends! Are you ready for your blessing?
PRAYER: Father, You have blessed us beyond measure and I thank You. It is so unfortunate that we are now idolizing the very things that You have blessed us with, and often to the extent that we are excluding You, or at least distracted from all that You have to share with us. Please open our eyes to all that we have allowed ourselves to become, and please help us to become more in love with the One who sacrificed His very own Son so that we might have a way into heaven. Lord, be glorified in us today. Help us to place aside our ‘idols’ for very specialized and personalized time with You. I ask this humbly in the Name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior, AMEN!
Bible Reference: Luke 8:49-54
Translation: The Passion Translation (TPT)
Bible Text: 49 While Jesus was still speaking to the woman, someone came from Jairus’ house and told him, “There’s no need to bother the Master any further. Your daughter has passed away. She’s gone.” 50 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Jairus, don’t yield to your fear. Have faith in me and she will live again.” 51 When they arrived at the house, Jesus allowed only Peter, John, and Jacob—along with the child’s parents—to go inside. 52 Jesus told those left outside, who were sobbing and wailing with grief, “Stop crying. She is not dead; she’s just asleep and must be awakened.” 53 They laughed at him, knowing for certain that she had died. 54 Jesus approached the body, took the girl by her hand, and called out with a loud voice, “My sleeping child, awake! Rise up!”
OBSERVATION: Faith seems like a real possibility when doctors have reached the end of their knowledge, while the heart of the patient is still beating. But when a relative still hangs on to their faith after the eyes of a loved one have been closed in death, others might pull him away to help him save his sanity. However, in our Scripture today, Jesus insisted that Jairus hang on to his faith in spite of the evidence seen with human eyes. This takes us to a different level in our faith. Stand by as we look into this some more.
APPLICATION: Without sounding too morbid, or deliberately try to cause you to cry, have you ever pulled someone away from a graveside when it seemed like they just didn’t want to commit the body of their loved one to the grave? Our story today sounds similar, for it sounds like instead of the undertaker entering the home to remove the dead body of Jairus’ daughter, the family instead entertained a few more ‘holy’ men to visit. You would probably wonder if the family is just struggling to let go of their loved one. But let’s stop for a moment and put ourselves in the minds of the family members. Jairus had heard about Jesus and his healing power. In fact, he was at the scene when the woman that had an issue of blood was healed from just touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. So please try to convince Jairus that there was no help for his daughter. However, let’s consider the circumstances and pressure that Jairus was under. He had just received news that his daughter was dead, yet in the presence of all these learned people, Jesus instructed Jairus to hang tight and wait for them to arrive at his home. What do you suppose must have gone through the minds of the onlookers as they waited for a reaction or response from Jairus? Can you imagine the challenging choice that Jairus had to make at that moment? Can you imagine what you would have done? Additionally, Jairus arrives at the home scene with Jesus and His entourage, and in spite of all his family and friends hanging around his home crying, Jesus wants to move in to see the dead girl. Imagine the shock and amazement on the faces of the relatives as they make room for Jairus, Jesus and His followers to walk through to the house. Imagine the mind of Jairus as he feels what others must be thinking of him at this time. But in knowing the ending of this miraculous story, I want to challenge us to consider how strong our faith is. On a meter of 0 to 10, how would you rate your level of faith? Even in a scenario of desperation, could you follow through with all that Jairus did? Think about it, you’ve heard the Bible stories of all that Jesus did. You’ve heard the stories from your pastor of how Jesus healed a good old saint. But have you developed the kind of relationship with the Master that you are willing to walk to Him on water? Or to take your boat back out again and cast your net one more time – just because you heard Him give the order? Are you bold enough to cut a hole in a roof and lower a handicapped man in front of Jesus, because you are convinced of His ability and willingness to heal? I believe that our faith is truly tested when we are asked to act, even when friends are around that might mock us, or the circumstance seem impossible to mankind. I don’t believe that any of us could respond in faith, without knowing the author of faith personally. Under desperate situations we may ask others to pray, but without faith you are merely wishing for a good thing to happen. Having faith gives the confidence to believe that God will do what He said He would do for us. Know Him today my friend, and be confident of the miracles that are possible through Jesus Christ alone!
PRAYER: To have the faith of a minuscule mustard seed, we could move a mountain – according to You oh Lord. Thank You precious Lord for offering the hope of eternity, and the possibility of healing from the Creator of life itself! Oh Lord, You are my God and I praise You for all things available to me through faith in Your Son. Please speak to Your children today as we meditate on Your Word. May our faith grow by leaps and bounds because of this reminder from Your Word. We need You precious Lord, every hour of every day. AMEN!
Bible Reference: Deuteronomy 13:3-4
Translation: GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)
Bible Text: 3 The Lord your God is testing you to find out if you really love him with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 Worship the Lord your God, fear him, obey his commands, listen to what he says, serve him, and be loyal to him.
OBSERVATION: The Israelites were about to branch off into a ‘new world’, at least to them, where they would have to decide who they would serve, who they would honor, and who they would allow to guide their heart. Moses, through the help and direction of God, gave the Israelites instructions, and God saw fit to have these included in His Word, because He knew that you and I would face the same challenges that the Israelites were about to deal with. Let’s concentrate on the advice given so that we might be best prepared for what our day might hold in store for us.
APPLICATION: In my younger days, I worked for a company that relocated me every few years to manage their business on several Bahamian islands. At each island, my wife and I had to face the challenge of ‘going with the flow’, or maintaining our faith, in spite of vast variances in culture. In reading today’s Scripture, I now wonder if we were presented with challenges by God to see if we truly loved Him and were willing to serve Him, even under very diverse situations that we may had found ourselves in? There are also other situations that we often find ourselves in. While chatting with friends, someone invariably will turn to bad-mouth a close neighborhood friend of yours. Do you stop them in their tracks, or could that have been a time where God was testing your loyalty to that neighborhood friend? Perhaps God wanted to see how much you would tolerate in hearing your friend belittled or destroyed verbally, before standing up for them? So what does this testing do to those of us involved? Surely it is a test of our loyalty and friendship. But what about the child of God that once heeded to His voice and surrendered their life to His Lordship. What happens when that person faces a challenge in life and is hurt by someone at church? How do you help that person overcome the fear of rejection, and bitterness against the whole Christian faith? Unfortunately this is so prevalent that I believe that each of us have at least one friend or family member who refuses to enter a church door again, because of past hurts. Don’t you know dear friends, that God saw this coming as His precious children entered a land where its people knew every god but the holy God of heaven? Don’t you know that it would have become the inhabitants’ main object to see what these newcomers were made of, and to convert them into thinking the way they did? God certainly saw this coming, so He had Moses sit down and prepare the Israelites for what’s ahead. Unfortunately not a whole lot has changed, for whenever Christians walk outside of their church doors, they are bombarded by a world filled with sin, false gods, hatred, enemies of God, people who have been hurt by someone called by the same name as us – Christian. How well prepared are you to face the opposition? Perhaps it’s your turn to be tested on your love for Jesus – the One who sacrificed His very life so that you might receive forgiveness of sin and face eternal life with He and the Father – God. I believe verse 4 details how we are to stay true to our Lord and Savior – Worship the Lord your God, fear him, obey his commands, listen to what he says, serve him, and be loyal to him.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, we have been placed on this earth as ‘light’ into a dark world of sin, hatred and unbelief. It is often challenging – much like the Israelites were about to face as they entered into the Promised Land, where the inhabitants served every other god except You. But Lord, You gave Moses encouraging words for the Israelites as well as our current generation – worship You, fear You, obey Your commands, listen to what You have to say to us, and to serve You in sincerity and loyalty. Please help us to stay on track with what You ordered through Your servant, so that we may never become distracted with the evil things of this world and its leader. You are our King oh Lord, may it be evident in everything we do to avoid the distractions that Satan sends our way. AMEN!
Bible Reference: Acts 26:10–11; 13–14
Translation: New Living Translation (NLT)
Bible Text: 10 ….. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. 11 Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities.
13 …. as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. 14 We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’
OBSERVATION: I’m sure that it is very challenging for us to read our Scripture verses today, and to imagine that this sort of thing continues even today. But I want us to stop and meditate on whether these verses are truly applicable to us, and how God might speak to us as He attempts to correct our ways.
APPLICATION: In some translations, the word ‘persecute’ is used several times in the few verses referenced. Here’s what that means: “to treat (someone) cruelly or unfairly especially because of race or religious or political beliefs“. I feel like God opened my eyes and reminded me that when we treat God’s messengers with contempt, then we are actually persecuting the Lord Jesus himself. This reminds me of a loving parent who feels condemned when their child is persecuted or ill-treated. So what is our lesson in this? After all, we don’t go about ‘persecuting’ our religious leaders… Or do we? How often do you hear corners of conversation that tend to chew on the sermon from your last service, or the dress code of the pastor, or the attitude of the worship leader, or the audacity of the pastor to say what he did during his sermon? Is that complimentary of God’s messenger? Is that the precursor to a time of prayer that the group will have for their pastor? I’ve always said that one will get as much from a sermon, as they have prayed into it. Do you feel like we tend to persecute the pastor because God didn’t respond like we expected to our prayers for His messenger who stood in the pulpit? Friends, over in 2 Chronicles 7:14, God said that if we would humble ourselves and pray (not belittle or try to humble the pastor), and if we would seek His face, and if we would turn from our wicked ways, then He would hear from heaven, forgive our sins and restore our land. Notice the personal application there? Nothing about God taking care of all that we feel are inadequate, or who screw up at every opportunity. Friends, I believe that these scriptures are warning us that wehave a full-time job doing all that God expects of us, so if we find that we are ‘persecuting’ anyone, then we are meddling, and need to get back to the basics. Take care of self first, then perhaps we will not be near as critical of everyone else. Please don’t shrug this off as being super applicable to all of your friends. Allow God to search your heart and convict you of your sin and shortcomings. I believe you will find that there’s lots there to keep you on your knees for a very long time, including praying for your spiritual leaders. There just won’t be time enough to persecute others.
PRAYER: Lord God, You created all things and You are above all things. Thank You for sending messengers, Your angels, to minister to folk like me, even though we tend to persecute the very ones that You send to bless us, love on us and warn us about our sinful ways. Please help us to love these ones, in spite of them not meeting all of our expectations, and in spite of our sinful desire to persecute them. I believe it is obvious that Paul was not the only one that persecuted Christians. Please dear Lord, rest Your hand upon Your children today, beginning with me, and help us to accept Your power and desire to help us succeed in this Christian life, so that we may serve You better and more fully. We are your messengers as well, please encourage us to treat other messengers in the same way that we want to be treated. May Your kingdom come oh Lord, and may we be ready and obedient in every way, every day! AMEN!