Word of the Day

Starvation

John 6: 35

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”

I am overwhelmed today with how much hunger and thirst there is and I do not speak of the world but rather of the body of Christ. How can it be that people are dying of starvation who are of the Body and faint from thirst who are the children of God? Then there are those of us who are wasting away spiritually and are not even aware of our malnutrition. Have we been fed straw instead of wheat for so long now that we no longer even expect a full course meal for your spirit?

We, the church, ought to be powerful and strong in the spirit but we have become anemic. I believe the reason for this is that we are not being fed the bread of life. Jesus is not a one-time feast. He is our daily bread. Do you recall that in the Lord’s Prayer Jesus prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread,” (Matthew 6:11)? We are to feed daily if our spirits are to grow and be strong but all to often we find ourselves weak from the hunger.

The Body of Christ is famished and I blame me. God has called us to feed the sheep and yet the bodies of God’s beloved are strewn across the landscape, weak from lack of nourishment. If we love God we are to tend His flock. I have to question how well pulpit ministers are doing our jobs. How can the Body of Christ go about its Great Commission to reach the world with the love and grace of God if it has not been given sustenance? And how are you going to tend the lost if you are dying from mal-nutrition?

I am grieved that believers are not receiving what they need. Sure, each of us has a personal responsibility to draw upon Jesus daily for our needs but our churches and pastors must add to our plates as well. I can write to you for days upon end on my thoughts and ideas but in the end they are just vain philosophies, they are straw. The only thing that will actually nourish you is the Word of God which is, of course, Jesus who is the bread of life. Ministers who feed us on the Word are in fact feeding us Jesus who is the bread that will ever satisfy and water which ends thirst.

I don’t mean to be radical but honestly I have observed that the Word of God occupies less and less space in our worship services. Our brothers and sisters are dying on the battlefield because the pastor is more concerned about which congregation will be first to reach the local restaurant. Of course the pastor has been pressured to end the service earlier and earlier for that and other non-spiritual reasons. There is little room for the Holy Spirit to even have a say in most services these days. The upshot is that our people are dying. And if the children have no bread, then how are they to feed the lost?

If you have a pastor who teaches the Word of God and reveals the heart of the Spirit then you ought to get on your knees and praise God. If you do not, then you should stand on your feet and demand Bread! You have every right and should pull on any one who calls themselves a minister and demand that they feed you.

If you aren’t already so spiritually numb that you can no longer assess the condition of your spirit then you should do a spirit check and see how you really are. Are you anemic? Are you suffering from a lack of nutrition? If so, demand food. Look around you. Are the people you know spiritually alive or spiritually dead? What about the people at church. Are their spirits thriving or just hanging in there? Whether or not you have noticed it, we are living in spiritually perilous times. However, for those who are receiving nourishment these are exciting times. Make sure that you are receiving the sustenance that you need in order to keep your spirit thriving. Don’t be a casualty of war. There are resources. There are teachers. There are believers who yearn to be a blessing. Let us join together however we may to give each other needed nourishment.

A Faithful God

Psalm 86: 7

In the day of my trouble I shall call upon you, for you will answer me.

David had experience with God. We can learn a lot from David because he and God were so close that they were actually friends. David reveals to us the nature of God in this passage. David knew from experience that when a faithful person calls upon God, God answers. He answers every time. He answers every person.  

Part of that receiving is in the faith. David became very good at receiving from God because he had absolute faith in God’s faithfulness. David believed whole heartedly that God would answer his every prayer. God is moved by that kind of faith. He wants people to call on him and depend on him. The more we expect God to move on our behalf, the easier it is for us to receive all that God has bestowed upon us. When you call, expect an answer and I promise you will not be disappointed.

Hope Prevails

Isaiah 42: 3

A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice.

The forty-second chapter of Isaiah is a prophetic foretelling of the coming of Jesus. This passage reveals the gentleness of Jesus. He came that we might all come to the Father. He will not foreclose anyone’s opportunity to come into the Kingdom of God. No matter how dimly the light is burning Jesus will stay there and fan that flame. No matter how weak or damaged a person is, she is never too far gone for Jesus. He will bring forth justice for that person and they will receive their salvation and all of the other gifts the Father has provided. Never give up and never give up on anyone else. Neither Jesus nor the Father has forsaken them or you for God has promised us that he will never leave nor forsake us. 

Kayaking with God

Revelation 22: 1

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

I was corresponding with a friend of mine last week when this image of the river took on new meaning. Many of you know that I love to kayak; rivers, lakes, the ocean, it doesn’t matter. I like it all. I will say, though, that it makes a great day to paddle down a deep water river. The very thought of it is making me yearn for my boat and a day off.

Last week I wrote in an email, “We need to be in that river just floating along. Dad has taken away our paddles so that we must trust Him for the thrust and steering.” That really spoke to me as I wrote it. I couldn’t get it through my fingertips fast enough. I could see me going down the river without my paddle. It gives a whole new meaning to “up the river without a paddle.” But even as I wrote it I had such a calm and reassured feeling. I mean, I like the effort and motion of paddling but I probably could enjoy riding along with Dad doing all the work too. The feeling that washed over me was very pleasant. There was not even a moment’s hesitation like things are going to go bad for me if I don’t have my paddle.

So obviously this is a metaphor for life. The Holy Spirit is the river and we are supposed to allow him to direct our path which is analogous to steering with the paddle. What if we just floated along going wherever he takes us? Most of us are challenged in this area. Sometimes we paddle so hard that we can’t even perceive the nudging in another direction. The other problem that I have is that God gives me a direction and a paddle and I start paddling really hard trying to accomplish everything in my strength. That is why He doesn’t tell me too much at a time. I think I am serving Him with my effort but that is not what He is asking us for. He wants everything we do to be a partnership endeavor. He isn’t intending to give you tasks which you are to complete in your own strength. You are in the same boat together and He just tells you where you are going. You don’t have to panic when you come to a fork in the river. Just take your paddle out of the water and He will steer the right course.

We work too hard. I believe in hard work and our father most certainly does not applaud laziness. The problem is that we work hard but without Him and His grace. He wants us to get down the river but not by injuring ourselves. That is what the old me always did. He wants us to let the flow of the river, which is the Holy Spirit, propel us. He has not set us a course upstream so when we feel like we are paddling against the current it would serve us to stop and ask Dad if we are even headed on the right course. It is probably that we are working ourselves to death going wrong way. Neither do we have to paddle our boats faster than the Holy Spirit is leading. Even if you get to the right destination if you get there before the Holy Spirit it will do you no good.

Learn to work with the Spirit of God. The Father sent him to us to lead us and help us. We are not meant to accomplish anything in our own strength. Nor are we meant to plot our course on our own. Our Father knows the bends of the river and the best way to go. Let your effort be combined with His grace and direction and you will find that you arrive where you were meant to be and you will get there sooner and without being exhausted. 

Take a five minute mini-vacation right now. Close your eyes. Picture yourself and God together in a canoe or two person kayak going down a beautiful river. Imagine perfect weather with just the slightest breeze blowing across your face. Listen to the sounds of birds and frogs. Let your Father sit in the back and steer and enjoy the river of life.

Intertwined

1 Corinthians 6: 17           God’s Word

The person who unites himself with the Lord becomes one spirit with him.

Let’s really try to wrap our minds around being one spirit united with God Himself. How are you doing? So, this is a large concept but I think it is a 100% accurate portrayal of what Jesus meant when he talked about us abiding in him and the Father abiding in us. We become one with Him. There comes a time when you can no longer tell where you end and He begins.

It sounds wonderful but this idea can also be a bit daunting. People fear they will get lost in Him, that they will lose themselves and their sense of identity but we are not lost in God. We are hidden in Him. That means that He is our protection, our cover and our shield. I believe what we will find as we embrace unison with God is our true selves. I think we will find the person we were always meant to be and longed to be.

Imagine walking in perfect counsel and perfect wisdom. If we are truly united with God, living as one with Him wouldn’t that be a necessary result? Wouldn’t decision making become easy?

This, I believe, should be our aim, to live such that we are truly in Him and He in us such that our lives are inexorably intertwined. I would love for the me that you get to know to be the Jesus version of me. Shall we allow Jesus to infuse us to such a degree that we are united as one spirit with him? It seems a worthy aspiration.

Debt Free

Romans 13: 8

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

This verse has often been used to teach people about financial debt. One substantial reading of this verse would say that we are not supposed to borrow money. That seems to be a fair reading but I think we can read it in a broader context as well. In order to see where I want us to go we need to read the verse which immediately precedes this one: “Render to all what is due them; tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (v. 7). We see immediately that Paul is not discussing money alone, nor is he writing about just repaying what has been borrowed or refraining from borrowing at all. He teaches us to give people what they are due whether that be money, honor, respect or even love. This is to say, then, that you could be debt free in the sense that you have borrowed no money and yet still guilty of withholding something that should have been paid to another. The only debt we are to carry forward is the daily obligation to love our fellow human beings. Look at today’s verse from the God’s Word translation, “Pay your debts as they come due. However, one debt you can never finish paying is the debt of love that you owe each other. The one who loves another person has fulfilled Moses’ Teachings.” We can never completely satisfy our obligation to love all people because it is new each day but interestingly, Paul writes that even the Law of Moses is fulfilled in loving one another.

I do not want to lose track of the bigger picture though. There are debts we owe people beyond the love requirement. Surely Paul is telling us that if we have borrowed money or things from others we should be hasty in paying back or returning. And when we have borrowed an item love and kindness both require us to return that item in a condition which at least equals if not surpasses the condition it was in when we borrowed it. For goodness sake, wash the item, if a car, then fill the gas tank. If money was what was borrowed then deny yourself if need be and repay the money with appropriate interest. If you haven’t paid your tithes then be quick to pay that debt. Don’t allow yourself to owe a debt to God. He calls that stealing (Malachi 3: 8) and we don’t want to steal from God. That surely would reflect a scarcity of wisdom. 

If you have a mentor, pastor, teacher or even a friend who is constantly giving into your life, then make sure you render unto them that which is due them. A gift wouldn’t go amiss. Let us not lose sight of the intangibles either. We are meant to support and encourage each other. We are called to edify one another. Give honor and thanksgiving. Let people know you appreciate them and give them their due.

Never Disappointed; Never Disturbed

Romans 10: 11

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

In the New American Standard Bible, from which I quote verses, small caps, as you see in today’s verse, denote a quote taken from scripture. In this case Paul was quoting Isaiah. I would encourage you to follow these threads when you encounter them. Paul is pulling forth a quote from his education and cultural background. So even though today’s verse is found in the New Testament, its roots are in ancient Hebrew tradition and teaching. You will gain a fuller appreciation for what Paul is trying to relate in a specific instance if you can also see what he is drawing on. The specific quote Paul refers to is Isaiah 28: 16 which reads, “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.”

Probably the first thing one notices is that God was speaking and secondly that He was talking about Jesus. Jesus is the cornerstone. We could spend all day in Isaiah 28: 16 but we won’t. The point Paul makes is that whoever believes in Jesus will not be disappointed or as Isaiah says, will not be disturbed. Won’t you agree with me that is good news? Just taken on its face that is really good news but some interesting things happen when you look at the words disappointed and disturbed. Paul used the word disappointed which is the Greek word kataischunō. This word is interesting. It literally means “put to shame.” Therefore, people who believe in Jesus will not be put to shame. If you look it up in Strong’s you will find that other words associated with it are disgraced and humiliated. All you have to do is to take each one of these words and replace them for the word disappointed. As you do so you will begin to get a full sense of what Paul is saying to you. One of those words will likely go off in you more than others. That is the word that God is speaking to you. Beyond what you personally hear in this passage, Paul is saying that those who believe, and here he would mean a belief which is acted upon, will not be humiliated, disgraced or put to shame for that belief. They will not be disappointed because living out of that belief will yield victory.

Okay, that takes care of the word “disappointed” in Romans 10 but you really need to see the word which was translated as disturbed in Isaiah. The Hebrew word is “chush.” This one threw me for a loop until I spent some time with it. The margin notes of my Bible say it means “in a hurry.” What? How does that make sense? That would make the verse say “Those who believe in Jesus will not be in a hurry.” But stick with me here. This is going to make sense and be a blessing to you. As I sat and thought about being in a hurry I tried to associate the kinds of feelings we have when we are rushed or hurried. The word that came to my mind was agitated. Well, when I looked up chush I found that agitation was one of the synonyms. The concordance entry reads: chush (301c); a prim. root; to hasten, make haste: – agitation (1), disturbed (1), hasten (8), hastened (2), hastening (1), hurried (1), make haste (2), quick (1), ready (1), speedy (1), swooping (1). Taken all together what I think this means is that when we operate in an active faith in Jesus we will not be hurried, harried or agitated. The real crux of it seems to be that we will be able to enter into God’s rest. The cornerstone, Jesus, has provided the way for us to live in divine ease. We can embrace the shalom peace to which we are entitled and in which we are meant to abide.

This is just another way the great prophet, Isaiah, and renowned apostle, Paul, relate an apex truth to us; that in Jesus is victory. Everything we need and everything we think we need are found in Jesus. The most important of these is the calm assurance that we have when we abide in the peace of our Lord Jesus, the Christ.