Cornelius’ Memorial

Acts 10: 4      (CJB)

Cornelius stared at the angel, terrified. “What is it, sir?” he asked. “Your prayers,” replied the angel, “and your acts of charity have gone up into God’s presence, so that he has you on his mind.”

Ivey Ministries has been working on our prayer ministry and developing a prayer team. Naturally I have been spending time in prayer verses. There are a number which have grabbed my attention but how can this one not cause us to pause? Today’s verse was taken from the Complete Jewish Bible. The NASB reads, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” The very idea that our prayers ascend to God’s presence and stand as a memorial is mind boggling. Here is what I want you to hear, God honors your prayers.

Let’s make this story even more real. Cornelius was not a Jew. In fact, he was a Roman soldier, an officer at that. He was far from the model of a follower of Christ. The Jewish Messiah, afterall, came to the Jews and the Jews were not in a rush to accept Gentile believers. Cornelius, though, was a devout believer. He gave to the poor and “prayed to God continually,” (v. 2). The Passion Translation says he was, “a devout man of extraordinary character who worshiped God and prayed regularly, together with all his family. He also had a heart for the poor and gave generously to help them.” Though he was not a Jew, not of the chosen people, his faith, actually, his devotion which was demonstrated through his generosity and his prayers ascended to the very throne room of God and stood before God as a memorial. Cornelius got God’s attention. He so impressed God that God sent an angel from heaven to bless the man. If you read the rest of Cornelius’ story you will see that God sent Peter to Cornelius’ town, to his very home so that he and his whole household might be saved. Now Peter was one of the leaders of the church. There were plenty of other folks that could have traveled to Caesarea, but God sent for Peter because he had Cornelius on His mind. Cornelius’ devotion stood in the throne room of God as a memorial before the Almighty. The book of Revelation says that the prayers of the saints are incense before God (Revelation 5: 8). Cornelius’ prayers must have continuously wafted before God such that it got God’s attention. It blessed God so much that it moved Him to action. First, He sent an angel then He sent Peter. God, literally, moved heaven and earth for this man.

That is exciting to me. Sometimes when we pray it feels like we are spitting into the wind but, not so. Your Father is collecting those prayers and then He uses them as the scent for His throne room. You can get God’s attention with prayer. You can move Him to action but not only for the people you pray for. God is going to return the blessing to you. That’s good news. Maybe He will send an angel to you.

Let this be a call to prayer. Let’s shake things up. Now that we know the spiritual realm is taking notice of and moved by our prayer, let’s kick it up a notch. How exciting could things become in just 30 days if we all increased our prayers. And here’s the thing, it need not be hard or even time consuming. I am all for getting alone in your private space and communing with God, but you cannot “pray without ceasing” if you wait for that perfect setting. Here is what I ask of you instead, pray when you are pumping gas. You’ve got nothing better to do. Pray in the shower, driving to work, at the grocery store, waiting for the bus, waiting in line at the bank, etc. The point is there are many times during the day that we can bless God and others with a simple prayer lifted up to heaven. Don’t make it wordy or complicated. You can say twelve prayers while the eloquent people say one. Just be real and talk to the Lord about the people you see around you and don’t think you have to list everyone individually. Pray for “everyone who works at this bank, all the people pumping gas right now, everyone who attends the YMCA, everyone at work” and so on.

Lastly, consider joining our prayer team. It’s a Christian thing to do. If you are too busy to be on a prayer team, you’re just too busy. Quit something. Be a part of a team that is doing God’s work. I believe God will bless you for your faithfulness. Don’t you? Just click “reply” and let me know you’re in.

Costly Merchandise

Psalm 49: 6 – 9

They trust in their treasures and boast in their riches, yet not one of them, though rich as a king, could rescue his own brother from the guilt of his sins. Not one could give God the ransom price for the soul of another, let alone for himself. A soul’s redemption is too costly and precious for anyone to pay with earthly wealth. The price to pay is never enough to purchase eternal life for even one, to keep them out of hell.

This is not a verse about money though some people categorize it that way. It is about the value, the cost of one human soul. Even more, this verse speaks to the extreme high cost of redeeming even one human soul.

The cost of sin, it tells us, was so high that all of the earth’s wealth could not have purchased even one soul from hell. Standing on this side of the cross, we understand the high price. Only the blood from the innocent child of God could redeem us. What an incredible price to pay for us. I can’t help but wonder if we were worth the price, but our Father thinks we are. Nothing less than that which was most precious to Him was sufficient to buy our way out of hell.

I wonder if this psalmist had any glimpse into the price that would be paid. He understood Passover so maybe he had an idea how expensive the cost and maybe he knew the Messiah was going to have to do something extraordinary. Or, did he think we would go on sacrificing unblemished lambs forever. His writing sounds like he knew there would have to be something more, but could he ever have imagined that God would sacrifice His son? Sometimes that is even hard to fathom from this side of the cross.

What a crazy plan! I would have never guessed the price Father was willing to pay for me and I don’t know that He got a good bargain, but I am so thankful that He gave all. He gave His best for the least of us. Not one of us was unworthy of the price in His eyes. Isn’t that amazing? How could He love us that much? How could Jesus give himself up to slaughter?

I hope today’s verse stirs something in your heart. I hope you see how precious you are to the Father. Nothing less than the blood of His beloved was valuable enough, rich enough to redeem us. They gave all. Maybe today, in light of this verse and its revelation, we feel moved to give them more.

Know Me

Psalm 25: 4 – 5

Make me know Thy ways, O Lord; Teach me Thy paths. Lead me in Thy truth and teach me.

How much easier would your life be if you knew God’s ways and walked in His paths? There is a song the lyrics of which are, “Show me your ways, that I may walk with you.” It has been a favorite of mine for years. I wonder if the writer got the inspiration for that song from this verse.

The first thing I thought about today as I read this verse is that in order to make this a reality we need to be teachable. Generally, I find we are not. It is a genuine delight to find someone who is hungry enough to be teachable. They are fun because they absorb everything you say and demand more. They are insatiable. They want to know the Father and all of His ways so they have made themselves teachable.

Most of us want the Lord to teach us and well, we would be foolish if we didn’t, but the rub comes when He sends a person to be the teacher. Then our egos flare and we become more intent on showing what we know instead of listening to them. That is one of the problems with a lot of our prayers. The Father answers them but sometimes in unexpected ways. Then we don’t recognize it as God’s response to our prayer and end up rejecting it. He who has ears to hear. . .. We do this more than we know. We have our mind already made up to the form the answer will take so we push away everything else.

The other problem with God answering this prayer is that we have to take the time to hear Him and that can present a challenge. The good news is that practicing listening to Him really does improve your hearing. How do you expect God to make His ways known to you? How is He to teach you and lead you?

We need to prepare ourselves to receive the answer to this prayer. First, expect Him to answer this prayer. It is His intention. The ideas posed in this verse were His ideas first. Now, if you expect Him to answer, then how are you going to receive your answer? If you are playing football and want to receive a pass, you need your hands ready and your eyes looking. If you are playing baseball, you probably want a glove. The point is to prepare yourself for His reply.

Be wise, keep your eyes open for a person God may send your way, a gospel song, or a message from a minister. These are some of the vehicles God may use to teach and lead you. Be renewed in your Spirit, renew your mind and receive His blessing. Be fully persuaded that He is going to lead you and teach you and you will discover that you are right.


1 Samuel 7: 2

During that time all Israel mourned because it seemed the LORD had abandoned them.

Have you ever been in this same situation where it feels like the Lord has abandoned you? I suppose there are few people who have not had a time when it felt like God was not listening. We know in our minds it is not true, that He will never leave nor forsake us but there are those times; times when you feel like you are in the middle of a desert with no food or water, no sustaining presence. Where is God, you wonder.

Listen to Samuel’s response to Israel. Verse three reads, “Then Samuel said to all the people of Israel, “If you want to return to the Lord with all your hearts, get rid of your foreign gods and your images of Ashtoreth. Turn your hearts to the Lord and obey him alone; then he will rescue you from the Philistines.” It wasn’t that the Lord had abandoned them. It was that they had abandoned the Lord. They did not seem to realize they had turned aside from him.

It is so easy to end up in the same place. It doesn’t seem like we have turned from the Lord but then, all of a sudden, something happens, maybe someone happens, someone like Samuel, and then you realize you don’t do the things you did and you don’t feel the way you did. There has been a subtle shift. So subtle, in fact, that you didn’t even notice. This isn’t criticism and it sure isn’t condemnation. It is just an opportunity to check yourself. Is your heart where it was? Do you still sing your songs to the Lord? Do you talk with Him as much as you did? Where did you put your Bible?

If this is you, don’t fret. God is as close as your next breath and He is not mad at you. He loves you and He understands. He knows we get distracted by all the things going on in our world. It happens sometimes. Today is a good day though. You can right that ship in a moment. Just talk to Him and tell Him what you feel and how you want things to be with Him. He is just awaiting an invitation.

If you feel like God has withdrawn, take a moment to reconnect. The Israelites had idols fashioned by hands. We shift idols onto our altar too, but we don’t always realize what we are doing. Our idols tend to be our jobs, social life, projects and even TV or the internet. We can become so distracted by those things and place such a priority on them that we supplant God. We don’t mean to, but it happens. Then one day we turn around and realize we aren’t where we were. We no longer have the Father firmly enshrined on the altar of our heart. The busyness of life has pushed out everything which threatens to get in its way.

Take a little check-up today. Are you where you want to be with God? Has your relationship slipped a little? Maybe it has not but you are just ready for a closer walk with Him. Today is the day ordained for just such a query. Perform your spiritual check-up and make sure there are no shrines to other Gods. Make sure nothing has enshrined itself in God’s place.

Jewish Gentiles

Romans 2: 29

But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

This is a funny little verse when viewed from our modern perspective. Even more so since there are so many Christians who are not of Jewish origin. Of course, the first believers were almost exclusively Jewish. As Gentiles began joining the ranks of believers there arose debate and confusion. How can non-Jews be saved by the Jewish Messiah? What followed was a period of adjustment. Some who accepted that Gentiles could become followers of the Messiah expected, and indeed insisted, that those people should be circumcised. Paul, a Jew among Jews, was more enlightened on this subject than perhaps some would have expected. In resolving the dispute, he spoke to our time too.

Paul pointed out that being a Jew, or to paraphrase, being a believer, is an inward matter. In other words, Paul denied that faith was a matter of birthright. Instead, it is a matter of the heart. We believe with our hearts and speak with our mouths that Jesus is Lord. Being born into a race or even a household of faith is not a passkey to the family of God. God has made membership in His family elective. Even if Mama and Grandma were Christians, you can still go to hell if you choose. God will grieve but he will defend your right to make that decision. Likewise, being born on the wrong side of the tracks or in the deepest, most remote part of the world is no bar to your sitting at the Father’s table. Come one, come all. He wants us all to choose Him.

Inwardly, in our hearts, by God’s Spirit we choose to be a Jew. Our hearts are sealed in Christ Jesus as a member of his own family. If you look at our hearts, you can’t tell which of us were born Jewish and which of us were adopted. Only faith in Jesus as the born son of the Most High, who was sacrificed as the unblemished lamb, died and was raised from the dead and seated with God on high gets us a birth certificate with God as our Father. Nothing of the flesh, not circumcision nor works, avail anything. Salvation comes by faith, and that alone.

Accept your place in the family because you are as welcomed as any of the sons of Jacob. You have an inheritance in Jesus and you have a Father who loves you. You are not alone nor an outcast. You are His beloved and your heart tells the story.

Love and Wrath

Romans 5:9

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

There is a lot of chatter about the wrath of God and it never ceases to surprise me. Why are we absorbed with talking about the wrath of God? There is no wrath for those who are in Jesus.

My first thought is this, I want you attending a church that teaches 1 John 4: 8, “God is love.” That is the revelation we all need to live in, God is love. God is not wrathful, He is loving. A church which hangs on “the wrath of God” is not going to be primed to lead people into revelation of who God is or how He wants to manifest Himself in our lives.

Today’s verse draws the paradigm for us. We have been saved from wrath by the blood of the Christ. That is the whole basis of the New Covenant. Thank God, we have been redeemed, even from our own stupidity. God didn’t want you under wrath or under condemnation so, motivated by love, He sent Jesus to take our place. Jesus bore every aspect of the curse giving us, instead, peace, joy and liberty. He redeemed us from the curse of the law where there was wrath. You can’t have all the New Testament Good News and still hang on to the penalty of the curse. Jesus set us free from all of that.

The same blood which justified us saved us from the wrath of God. We don’t deserve justification. In fact, doesn’t it blow your mind just a little to even read that we have been justified. Thank you Jesus. So, let’s hold on tightly to the good news of Jesus, our Messiah. Let us cling to the love of God. Forsake the ideas of a vengeful, wrathful God because it was He who sacrificed His only child for us. Wrath didn’t do that. Love did.


Psalm 48: 9

Lord, as we worship you in your temple, we recall over and over your kindness to us and your unending love.

Recollection is an important part of our praise. It is good for us and it is good for those around us, especially our children.

There are two forms this worship may take. First is our own internal ruminations. If we are not routinely recounting the great and wonderful things the Lord has done for us, then we are missing a chance to build our own faith. There will come a day when your faith feels like it is at low ebb. That is when the remembrance of all that Lord has done for you will buoy you up. Don’t wait until that day though, because you will find your praise bucket a bit empty and then it will be harder to pick yourself up.

This internal form of recounting the Lord’s goodness is a form of meditation. As you begin to think about the Lord’s goodness on your behalf, it may, however, break out into vocal praise and that is all good. While you remind yourself of God’s hand in your life you might also recall scriptures and promises He has made to you. Tumbling all these things together in your mind will often lead to greater revelation.

The external form of remembrance is very important too. This helps build the faith of the people around you. It is very important for families to recall God’s goodness. A child’s faith is built off of the strength of their parents faith. When you take the time to recount the Lord’s goodness to you and to the family the children get to hear faith and belief coming out of your mouth. They also learn that these words in the Bible are more than just nice words. They learn from those they trust most that these are words of life and that God really is paying attention and answering prayers.

Of course, telling of God’s goodness is not reserved for family alone. Everyone benefits from good news. Today’s verse is a good little reminder about remembering. Even though we have a written Word, there is still a place for an oral history.