Hope

Acts 2: 26

Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted; moreover my flesh also will abide in hope.

It is a horrible thing to live without hope, and yet there are many people who are doing just that. But you don’t have to be without hope any longer. Jesus brought hope into the world. Now you can be free of dejection, depression and sorrow.

When Jesus went to the cross, died and rose again, he accomplished more than salvation for your eternal soul. He brought hope into a dying world. He became hope. He died that we might live. He told us in John 10: 10 that he came to give us abundant life. Jesus conquered hell and the grave that we might live in joy and victory, his victory, the victory that he won for us. When we couldn’t overcome, he overcame for us. When we were downtrodden, he arose, lifting us up with him.

You see there is no reason for you to be overcome with the anguish of this world any longer. Although we know that the world dishes out pain and suffering, Jesus said for us to take heart because he has overcome the world (John 16: 33). You do not have to despair any longer. Jesus has made a way for you to be comforted and enjoy the good fruit of his victory.

Outlandish Favor

Exodus 11: 3

And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Furthermore, the man Moses himself was greatly esteemed in the land of Egypt, both in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people.

If you know the story about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, you know that neither Moses nor the Israelites had favor in the sight of the Egyptians in the natural. They were hated and despised. Pharaoh was more than fed up with Moses and Aaron. At one point Pharaoh told Moses that if he saw Moses’ face again, Moses would surely die.

None the less, when it came down to it, God was victorious. Not only did Pharaoh release the captives, but the Israelites carried out of Egypt much gold and silver. They left 400 years of slavery in immense wealth. God gave them such favor that the Egyptians just gave over their wealth to the Israelites. That is God for you.

We know that through Jesus all of the blessings of the Israelites have come upon all people; all who call God their Lord. How much more should His favor operate effectively in this country and in our lives than against such high odds as the Israelites faced in Egypt? After all, the Israelites were slaves when they were in Egypt. None the less, when they left Egypt, they left with the Egyptians’ wealth. The Israelites didn’t earn that bounty. It was the favor of God on their lives that moved the wealth out of the hands of the Egyptians and into the hands of the Israelites. That same kind of profound favor is available in your life too.

God sent His son to the cross for you so that you could enjoy all the blessings of God. We must accept in our hearts that God is a good God and that He has good intentions towards us. Then with our faith we reach out to Him with the expectation that He will be a good partner in our lives. He will lead us by His Spirit into the land of favor and abundant life. That is what Jesus came here to do (John 10: 10).

Know Love

1 John 4:16

We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

So, here is my question, have we come to know and do we believe the love God has for us? When I hear some of the things that come out of Christians’ mouths, I think we have not come to know the love God has for us. Have you ever heard a Christian say that God gave them, or a loved one, cancer in order to make them stronger? I have and it makes my head feel like it is going to explode. Remember this verse, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7: 11)? Would you give your child cancer? Of course not! There are much better ways to teach and strengthen than cancer. Cancer is a destroyer! Would you agree? Then consider this verse, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” (John 10: 10). Only the thief comes to destroy; not Jesus, not the Spirit and certainly not our Father. Jesus said he came to give life more abundantly. Intuitively I think we know these two truths but somehow the wires in our brains get crossed and we begin to think, or mimic, some crazy thoughts.

Today’s verse should be one of great comfort. It is the promise of love and the constant companionship of God. Beyond that, is a statement of faith; faith that God cares for us and will always be our advocate. We have only to come to believe in the love. Love acts in a predictable way and we should have confidence in that love. Love is saving grace and it defines every action and word of our Father. Come to know and believe in that love in a way that leaves no room for doubt. Call upon God knowing that He will always answer you.

Angry Expression

Ephesians 4: 26 -27

Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

This is the verse I have been working my way towards for several days now. The point of all of this is for Paul to tell us not to give the devil an opportunity in our lives. An opportunity for what? Well, Jesus told us in John 10: 10 that the devil comes only to steal, kill and destroy. Therefore, we want to keep the door closed to the devil so that he cannot kill us, steal from us or otherwise destroy us, our families or our lives. That is what all of this has been building up to.

We saw Paul teaching the Ephesian church to put away their old selves in which they were deceived by the lusts and desires that the devil tempts with. He told them in putting away their old selves they should put on the new self that was purchased by the shed blood of Jesus. It is that blood by which we have become the righteousness of God. We are to live in truth, which is Christ, and put aside, for all time, the ways of the devil. We are to walk like Jesus rather than act like the devil. Then Paul sets the anchor pin by telling us not to give into anger.

Culturally we have completely overlooked this command. We constantly vent our anger and act out. Many people have heard the first two words of verse 26 but stopped there. We’ve got to read to the end. Paul knows that you are going to feel anger at times, but he is telling you not to give vent to it. Keep your mouth shut. Don’t rage, don’t tell everyone and their brother about this thing that has angered you or the person that you think has done you wrong.

He just finished telling us that we are the righteousness of God and holiness through the truth which is Christ. Do you think he is then telling us to allow anger to run amok in our life? Surely not. No, rather in verse 29 he goes on to say, “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth” which is exactly what will happen if you let anger have its way with you. When you open your mouth you are going to give the devil something to work with and he is going to run amok with it.

I want you to see the completeness and the construction of Paul’s instruction. He is showing us how to overcome the devil’s machinations. He is protecting his own flock by showing them how to defeat the wiles of the devil. Don’t give anger a place in your life. Put that anger down. Do not carry it into the next day. For that matter, you are to overcome the anger before the sun sets. Do not let that anger rule you. As soon as you let the anger have expression in your life you are going to say things you ought not, and you are going to give the devil an opportunity. And believe you me, if you give him an opportunity, he is going to take it. He is going to steal something from you. Let the expression of anger and lying lips be part of the old man that you bury forever. Put on the truth and righteousness of Jesus so that you may live a life of victory over the trickery of the devil. Be free from the sin that continually binds you to disappointment, frustration and defeat. Receive this instruction into your spirit from a loving Father who gives it as a means to protect you.

Good God!

Psalm 73: 1       TPT

No one can deny it—God is really good to Israel and to all those with pure hearts. But I nearly missed seeing it for myself.

I have just returned from an Impact Ministry conference with Dr. Jim Richards. It was a special weekend with a special acknowledgement of Jim’s sister, Pat Richards. I am sure as time goes on, more and more will filter through my mind about what I learned. The takeaway that I loved most, though, was this statement from Dr. Richards, “God is good, and only good.” That is the point of this scripture, that God is good. And let’s get this part right – who is Israel? Well, that would be you. You have been made a royal heir according to your ingrafting into the family of God. However, some of us have nearly missed understanding about God’s goodness.

I’ve been teaching on the goodness of God for a long time, but the way Jim phrased that really resonated with me. We often hear, “God is good all the time” but it seems people don’t believe that. Perhaps we’ve heard it so many times that we have ceased to actually hear it with our brains. It amazes me how often Christians talk about the bad things God has given them. They will even praise God for it and tell you how it made them stronger. That comes from a misunderstanding of God but more particularly of Romans 8: 28 which teaches us that although bad things happen, God will take them and turn them for good. I call it the “Lemonade Scripture” because it basically says that God will take lemons and make lemonade. Because good comes out of a situation, does not mean, though, that God created the situation. That is very poor logic and just wrong. God is a good and benevolent God. He is good ALL the time and He is only good. He is never bad.

John 10: 10 reads, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Of course, these words were spoken by Jesus. If you understand, and even memorize, this verse, you will understand a great deal of the Bible and you will have a solid personal theology. First, you have to understand who the thief is. Jesus spent most of this chapter explaining the difference between a good shepherd and a bad one. He identifies himself and the Heavenly Father as good. They care for the sheep. The bad shepherd is, of course, the devil. We need to get this settled in our hearts and minds. You can imagine how funny the devil finds it when he sends bad into the world and our benevolent, good and gracious Father gets the blame for it.

Settle this once and for all in your heart and you will understand much about life and the world. When you see good, that is your Father because He is good and only good. Heaven doesn’t have any bad for Him to give you. There is no cancer in heaven. There is no hunger. There is only good in heaven. Our Father is only good, therefore always good. Don’t let this be a point of confusion for you any longer. Satan doesn’t bless you, he only curses. Goodness is of the Father. He is the source of all goodness in the earth. Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy. Therefore, if you see theft, death or destruction, you should be able to identify the author. The devil is a corrupter of good. He twists and perverts. He steals whatever is good and turns it inside out. There is no goodness in him.

Your Father knows how to give good gifts to His children, and He knows how to care for the sheep. He is the good shepherd for He is good and only good.

Killer God

1 Kings 17: 18

So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!”

What is that expression, the more things change, the more they stay the same? This might well have been said yesterday rather than long ago. There are two implications in the verse. The first one is that God punishes us for our iniquity by making bad things happen to us. The second is that it is God who takes life from people.

God answered this widow’s prayer when she was at the end of her rope with nothing to feed herself or her child. Elijah showed up, sent by God, and blessed her flour bowl and jar of oil such that neither ever ran empty. She received supernatural provision from God through Elijah. However, when her son died she immediately turned on Elijah and God blaming them for her son’s sickness and subsequent death.

Isn’t that about how we are today? When someone dies we say, “Well, God took them home.” Other people are even worse. When something bad happens they not only blame God, but they say He is punishing them for their sins. Hello!! That is a person who understands nothing about the message of the cross. Jesus took your sin and God said He doesn’t even remember it anymore. So, how is God going to punish you for something He doesn’t remember and that Jesus already paid for?

Elijah took the woman’s son to the upper room and prayed to God for the boy’s life to return to him and the boy was restored. Now, unless God is schizophrenic, it makes no sense to suggest he killed the boy. If He wanted the boy dead, He wouldn’t have brought him back to life. Or is God just a puppet master who sits in heaven playing games with us. “Hey, watch what happens when I kill this widow’s son!” You can’t know God and believe something like that. He is love and further, He doesn’t play silly games with people’s lives.

We forget, I guess, that there is a devil in the world. John 10: 10 teaches that Satan’s aim is to steal, kill and destroy. The verse does not say that God comes to kill. In fact, Jesus was speaking and said that he came to bring us abundant life. That is kind of the opposite of kill, steal and destroy.

It is amazing how twisted around we get but that is why it is called deception. God is a life giver. Blessing comes from the Father. He doesn’t even need to bring you trials. There is already plenty of that in the world. Is there anyone you love? I mean really love. Is there someone you love more than you love yourself? Do you wish to be a blessing to them or do you want to make their life a hardship? What does love do? Trust your Father to be the source of blessing. He is goodness and mercy. He will restore what the devil steals from you just like he did for the widow of Zarephath.

Life and Peace

Romans 8: 6        NIV

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

I am sure we all want life and peace. Jesus said he came to the earth to give us abundant life (John 10: 10) and I certainly do not want to frustrate his purpose in my life. I am equally convinced that you want the peace of Christ flowing through your life along with the abundant life he brings. I wish, sometimes, there was nothing I had to do to position myself for all the blessings of the Father. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Our Father has blessed us with every blessing in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 1: 3). How, though, do we have all that blessing manifest upon us routinely? As to peace and life, Paul answers that question for us today in this verse from Romans. Our minds must dwell on the things of the Spirit rather than on the things of the body or of the world.

You’ve all heard this verse before, but I wonder how well we hear it. This makes sense, of course, but it is much easier said, and agreed upon, than actually done. The world and all its pleasures are before us daily. We live in the world and must interact with it. It can be a challenge to live in the world and yet not be part of it. It is hard to interact with the world all day and at the same time keep our minds on the Spirit. None the less, that is the way to peace and life.

One hears a great deal of talk these days about intentionality. It means to be purposeful about the minutes of our day rather than blowing about with the wind. It means to make some determined choices and let those guide our day rather than just bumping along from one stimulus to another.

If, when we awaken in the morning, we immediately turn our thoughts and hearts to the Lord, it is much easier to stay in that place with him and with the Spirit all day. You can actually stay linked with the Spirit all day, even when you have to go to work, do the shopping, pick up the kids, etc. All the tasks of life are easier when you stay connected with God’s Spirit.

Notice that the mind is governed, or ruled, either by the flesh or the Spirit. What are the things of the flesh that attract us? Well, it is all the things of the world, isn’t it and things our body wants. It could be sleep, food, television, wine, social activity and more. None of these things are bad, are they? God is not trying to deny us these things, but it can be a question of priority. Are these things which gratify the flesh the focus of our attention? Are they more important to us than the things of the Spirit? The verse says that when our minds are ruled by these things, it is death. When our minds are governed by the Spirit, we are always led to life and peace. That sounds nice. So, we need to learn the skill of focusing our minds on the things of the Spirit and then staying connected there even as we travel through the world. The Spirit will always lead us into blessing. He will always show us the way of peace and life. We have only to fix our minds on him and he will bring us love, joy, peace, life and the blessing of God. That is a good plan. So what are you thinking about today?