Word of the Day

My Kingdom for a Leader

Proverb 13: 10, 13, 14, 18, 20                        NIV

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded. The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored. He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

I prayed many years for a mentor and when one appeared I learned a quick lesson. This learned and wise man suggested that I participate in a conference call which occurs weekly. Even as I clicked on reply to affirm my acceptance I realized something very important, I had already eliminated the option to say “No.” When you ask someone to mentor you or you ask God to provide you with a mentor, then “No” is no longer an option. This is called discipline and obedience and although they are very alien concepts in our modern culture, they are part of the bedrock of the Judeo-Christian ethic. We talk about discipleship a lot in Christian circles but one of the things it seems that we fail to realize, much less underscore, is that discipline is at the root of discipleship.

What do you think about when you hear the word discipline? Many of us think of punishment. I do not. I think of athletic prowess. Athletic competition taught me much about discipline, for which I am, to this day, grateful. When I hear the word discipline I think of the well-honed athletes that we admire. They have had to discipline and deny their flesh. They have had to discipline their minds, overcoming every negative thought, fear and impulse that would constrain them. And they have submitted themselves to coaches and trainers in order to become excellent in their chosen field. This, I believe, is an ideal model for discipleship.

No one attains any great level of success on their own. You may hear people claim that they are self-made but it is not true. When you pull back the veneer of their success you will find that they had mothers drive them to practices at ridiculous times in the morning, dads pitching the ball with them into the twilight hours and wives who have taken care of every detail of their lives so that they could focus on their one central goal. Neither do we become spiritual giants of our own merit. We must always lean on those who have gone before and we are just foolish if we try to learn it all on our own. Why spend 80 years of your life learning what the guy who went before you learned. First learn what he can teach you and then take that wisdom on to the next level. This is how it was meant to be. This text says that whoever walks with the wise will be wise. Why? It is because they share their wisdom with you so that you may avoid the potholes which cause misalignment and also because you get to stand on their shoulders. I remember when I was a small child and we went swimming, I would stand on my dad’s shoulders. All of a sudden the water wasn’t over my head. Instead I was well above it.

I can only think of two reasons why we do not subject ourselves to authority more readily, perhaps you can think of others. The first reason, I suspect, is just ego. We do not want to bow to anyone. That is pride and you know that nothing good comes out of pride. 

The second reason is fear. Anytime there is a spiritual problem if you look behind the curtain you will often find fear lurking. Fear comes from not having a full realization of the love of God. In here is weak self-esteem, anger issues and about everything else but including not being able to submit oneself to authority. It is hard enough to submit ourselves to our bosses and pastors who have legitimate positional authority over us. How much more difficult is it to willingly submit yourself to the authority of someone who does not exercise any substantive power over you. Fear makes you feel that you will be made small when you submit yourself to another but that is a lie. Willful submission to a mentor or intentional discipleship will make you stronger and wiser. Is there ever an occasion for a rebuke? Well sure. If your mentor loves you, they will correct you and correction is okay. It helps us to grow and to make right choices.

So this is my suggestion, if you are the locomotive of your train, find someone who can be a leader and an advisor for you. The people following you need for you to be a good disciple to someone else so that you can be a good leader to them. Leadership always begins with followship (if you will allow me to coin that word). If you have never allowed yourself to be led, mentored or discipled today is a great day for you. Do not delay. First ask God for a mentor. Second, recognize that one may appear quickly and humble yourself. Do not let the fear that they may take advantage of you or “Lord” it over you prevent you from receiving that person and their wisdom. Just keep your mouth shut and learn everything they know. If you outgrow their knowledge, God will assign you a new mentor. Just remember, if he has not yet assigned you a new leader then there is still something that He wants you to get from the one you have. The person that God wants you to shadow may be in your life right now and in fact, probably is. They won’t be perfect so stop looking for the perfect but they have something you need.

Lastly, if you perceive yourself as the leader of your group I suggest this little exercise. Stop leading for a moment. Turn around and see who is behind you. Who is following you? If your following is not what you want it to be or expect it to be, then run quickly to find your mentor. Submit yourself to their direction. Never let yourself be a leader without a leader. Make sure that as you lead others there is someone leading you. Foremost that is Christ but God has also provided people to disciple and mentor us. If you do not have someone filling that role in your life, pray to the Father for your leader and make it your determined goal to receive that person. 

Wisdom, honor and success accompany discipline.

From Sling to King

1 Samuel 17: 45

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.”

Imagine being on the sidelines the day that David entered the battlefield against the giant, Goliath. As you look upon the mammoth Goliath not only would you be impressed by his towering physique but also his armor and weaponry which must have been quite impressive. He was armed with a sword, a spear and a javelin. I strongly suspect that all three were exquisite as far as weapons go. As if that was not enough, Goliath also had someone trailing him who carried his shield.

You turn your attention to the other end of the field where enters a youth, just a boy, who is clothed in shepherd’s garb. He has neither fancy armor nor fine weapons. Suspended from the cord tied around his waist you see a pouch and a sling; in his hand, a stick. In vain you continue to search for a viable opponent who will separate himself to fight Goliath. No, the only one moving forward is the boy.

The giant is insulted that Israel would send a runt armed with a stick to face the mighty Philistine warrior and so he hurls insults and taunts at the young defender of Israel’s pride. It is surprising, is it not, that King Saul and the strong, brave commanders of the Israelite army would even allow a young boy to face the champion of Philistia but no one other than the youth seems to respond to the insults of the Philistine. David boldly answered Goliath saying, “This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you” (v. 46). Goliath must have been amused and perhaps even the soldiers of Israel thought David’s statements ludicrous because no one was taking into account David’s real weapon. He declared it from the beginning mocking Goliath as he did so. “You,” he said, “come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts. ” 

More powerful than any weapon ever forged is the name of the Lord. More devastating even than modern armament is the glorious name of our Lord. David knew this. He wasn’t just hoping. His was not just an empty boast. He knew that our God is awesome and a mighty force who is always on our side and able to overcome any adversity. So convinced was this diminutive warrior that when Goliath drew up to the battle line he actually ran quickly to meet his adversary (v. 48). David was not afraid. Wow! He was bold, courageous and convinced of God’s potent assistance. So, I ask you, who really was the giant that day? I suggest that the little Israelite shepherd boy was a great giant of faith.

What are the giants in your life? Of what are you afraid? Are there things in your life that threaten to overcome you, even annihilate you? You need to take a page out of David’s book. There is a reason he would later write so many psalms about the Lord being a refuge and a strong tower and about trusting the Lord. He witnessed time and time again the saving power of our God. He proclaimed in the face of his adversary the outcome declaring boldly that God will win the day. His confession preceded his victory because he steadfastly believed in our God. 

I, therefore, encourage you today. The same God is standing beside you. You have as much right to the name of the Lord as did David. As a matter of fact, your covenant with the Almighty is actually better than David’s but he understood his and he relied on it. He became the greatest king of Israel, his throne enduring throughout eternity because he knew how to trust God. It wasn’t the rock that killed Goliath. It was faith in the name of our Lord. It was the mighty hand of the Lord that delivered Goliath into the David’s hands and God will do the same to your giants too. David was not focused on his might and his ability with a sling. Instead he relied on his God and he prevailed against overwhelming odds. You can too.

Beholding the Lord

Revelation 1: 12 – 17

And I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; and in the middle of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His breast with a golden girdle. And His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire; and His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been caused to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. And in His Right hand He held seven stars; and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as a dead man. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, “Do not be afraid.”

I had an imagination one night upon my bed when trying, unsuccessfully, to sleep. I saw in my mind’s eye myself preaching before an audience. In my message I implored the congregation to look upon Jesus. I thought how easy this would be if they could really see Him. Then I saw me direct the people’s attention to my right. I held my arm out as if introducing someone who was offstage and then I asked Jesus to come be with us, to make himself seen.

Don’t you know that as soon as Jesus would show himself the message would be over? There would be no need to teach anything. Even as I looked upon this meditation of my own mind I saw us all fall out of our chairs in the awe of the Lord Jesus, the Christ, the anointed one. I knew in that moment as I lay upon my bed that the fullness of every message any of us could ever preach, teach or proclaim is held in the visage of Jesus. Were he to actually appear in our congregations this weekend, I believe our services would be radically altered. No matter what we were doing I believe we would all shift immediately and without thinking into praise and worship. And even as I saw this happening in my mind, my body wanted to get up and go preach the glory of the soon coming Lord. 

Seeing the Lord appear showed me that there is nothing we need outside of him. He really is our all in all. Were he to come to church Sunday I do not think we would bombard him with a thousand questions even though I think that I want to. In reality I because he is truth we would be so filled with his glory that there would be no need for questions. The truth you behold is the answer to every question. We would lock our eyes on him and give forth praise heartily. In his presence we are filled so that there is no need except for the compelling need to honor him and give him praise. And even as we sing out his praises and glorify his name the glory of his presence would fill us even more.

Then the significance of this meditation befell me. This rumination is a model for how we should live our lives now and how we should worship him as we gather in his name. He is the glorious Lord yet sometimes we all fall into a habit of worship rather than a sincere offering of praise. Our services, if we are not careful, become dry and barren with no more life than the fourth business meeting of the day. You just want to get out of there. But being in the presence of the Lord is the most wonderful and glorious thing of all. There is nothing better! Endeavor to enter into his presence and make it a habit to meditate on his greatness.

Great Love

Psalm 89: 1 – 2              NIV

I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

In today’s devotional I am doing exactly what David wrote in these two verses, declaring with my
mouth the great love of God, shouting about his faithfulness and proclaiming that the love of God stands firm always and against every fiery missile of the evil one.

Love is the most powerful force in the universe. God is love. There is no challenge which is greater than our God; therefore there is no obstacle that love cannot overcome. I love in verse one that David sings of God’s great love. Is that a measure of quantity or quality? Perhaps it is both. God does not just love a little but His love is as big and as glorious as the entire universe. If you know that you are loved by a love that great how does that knowledge reflect in your life? What changes in your world when you come to know the fullness of love that God is and that He has towards you?

And god is faithful. That is no surprise. Love is faithful. You can count on the people that love you. You can count on God’s faithfulness every day. Faithfulness means that He is steady and reliable. He is not wishy-washy. Whatever He tells you, or has ever told you, He will do. He stands beside you and with you even on your bad days. Even when you do not deserve His lovingkindness He is right there with you confessing His great love for you.  

There is no one who loves you more than God. There is no one more faithful. David’s life sure proved that. God is constant. Even when David messed up really badly, God was there to pick him up. God loved him with an unfailing love even through the rough times and even when David did not deserve it. No wonder David testifies so loudly to God’s uncompromising love and faithfulness.

Do you have a need today? Is there something that has you down or perplexed? Look up. God has an answer for you and loving arms to soothe you. You are His delight and the joy of His heart. Wrap yourself in the assurance of His devotion and faithfulness towards you. Let His love penetrate those hardened layers and rest in His peace.

Faith in His Glory

Matthew 9: 20 – 22

And behold, a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I shall get well.”  But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.”  And at once the woman was made well.

I believe this is an important recounting of one person’s encounter with Jesus. This event was also recorded by Mark (chapter 5) and by Luke (chapter 8). We see in this encounter that it wasn’t actually Jesus that healed this woman. Jesus said that it was her faith that made her whole. That is a very important lesson. But there is more here than we may at first see.

We learn from Psalm 107: 20 that God sent His word and that the word had the power to heal. We now know from our post-Messiah perspective that Jesus was the Word that God sent (John 1: 1) and that he is our great physician and wonderful healer. None the less, most of us are not walking in perfect health. Many of us have prayed for people who have not manifested their healing or been prayed for ourselves without evidencing the healing truth of Jesus in our bodies. So what is going on here? Why did the woman in this account receive her healing and so many of us fail in receiving ours?

I was praying for someone’s healing this week and something occurred to me as I opened my mouth to pray. It is best framed in this question. What was the faith that the woman in the story demonstrated? Jesus said that it was her faith that made her well so what was that faith? When we pray for others or receive prayer for ourselves we often become very focused on ourselves. We begin focused on the sickness or injury. Then we shift our focus to our faith because we want healing. Then we focus on receiving the blessing, and on and on. The point is that unwittingly we have deviated far from the example of the woman whose faith healed her. I believe the key in her healing is that she had faith in Jesus himself. She said to herself, “If I can but touch the hem of his garment, I shall be made well.” The key here is that her eyes were on Jesus. She was fixed on him and his glory. I believe we are spending so much time thinking and worrying about our faith and our receiving that we have actually taken our eyes off of the healer.

I picture this woman of faith on the ground below Jesus looking up at him. She had faith in him. She believed in him. I don’t think she thought that highly of herself. Moreover, I don’t think she had herself on her mind. I believe the crucial point here is that she was absolutely fixated on this man Jesus. She believed there was healing issuing from him such that if she could just touch even the fringe of his garment she would be made well by that anointing emanating from him.

Receiving your healing really ought not to be about anything you have to do. It isn’t as much about your faith and your ability to receive as it is about the glory of the Lord Jesus. When you invited him to make his abode inside of you, he took healing with him. He had no choice, it is part of him. We have separated ourselves so much from the majesty and glory of the Lord Jesus that his power is deactivated within us. It is exactly like when he went home to Galilee and could do no miracles there (Matthew 13: 57). He is the same Jesus, the same Christ with the same power. He was able to perform miracles everywhere he went except in his hometown where they did not revere him, where their eyes were not full of the awe and wonder of him. The text in Matthew 13 says that he was without “honor” in his hometown. I believe many of us are experiencing the same thing. We have become a bit complacent in our regard of him. He has, perhaps, become too familiar. He should be your best friend but at the same time we should never lose sight of his majesty and magnificence.

Secondly, our attention and concern with the quantity and quality of our faith has caused us to take our eyes off of Jesus and put them on ourselves. We constantly check our hearts and minds looking for evidence of world changing faith. Jesus said we only needed mustard seed faith which is the smallest of all seeds. All we need is just a bit. When we sow that little bit of faith in him and put our eyes on him and stop worrying whether we have enough faith or we have strong enough faith, then there is fullness of faith. It is then that we can see him in his glory and when you really see Jesus for who he is, you have no trouble believing that he can do all things. You won’t even see yourself as a roadblock to his greatness. You will know that he can do all things, even in you. We just have to get a bigger picture of Jesus. We don’t need to worry about who we are or who we are not, what we have or what we don’t have. It really is not about us, our qualifications or knowledge. It is all about him. He is the Lord of glory. He is the Word that our father sent with healing in his hands.

Everything we need for healing, for life, for success in every area of our lives is with us right now. God sent his best and he sent his all. There is nothing that has been withheld. What great news! Now, just let your mind and spirit be filled with Jesus. Look upon him and see the radiance of his visage. The more you fill up on the vastness and greatness of our Father God and our Lord Jesus, the less the damaging effects of this world can impact you. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Fill your mouth with his praises. There are great things for you in his heart. He is the breath you breathe, he is health to your whole body; he truly is all in all. He is the Lord God Almighty to whom no thing is impossible. Selah.

Blessed Peace

Psalm 94: 19

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, thy consolations delight my soul.

Have you ever had one of those days when your thoughts are anxious and wearisome? Sure, everyone has. In my Bible the word multiply has a footnote beside it which reveals that the writer of this Psalm is intending to convey to us that many are his anxious thoughts. Worry can eat you up. It is a very unpleasant companion. When anxious thoughts are multiplying within you even your physiology reacts. Really, this is the cause of many sicknesses. I know I used to tense my muscles in response to that stress so that my back, neck and shoulders were a mess. But the psalmist teaches us that we do not have to live with and tolerate anxiety and worry. We have a father who can dispel that anxiety and replace it with joy and delight. Is that hard to imagine? Think of one of your worse days. Do you remember how intense the worry and stress were? See yourself in your mind’s eye. Can you see the stress in your face and reflected in your body? Now change that image. See an angel of the Lord enter the room and watch your countenance change. Watch as all of your worry dissipates and you are left with the precious peace of Jesus. What does your face look like now? Has your body relaxed?

This is the way you are meant to live. When Jesus was about to leave earth he told his followers that he was going to leave his peace here. He gave us his own peace. We, much more than the psalmist, have every reason to live in peace and comfort. God’s consolations are with us at all times in the person of Jesus Christ. Even in the old days, though, before Jesus came, God consoled His people. He was the great comforter and He has not changed. Now you have God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit to comfort and console you so that you never have to live with another anxious thought the rest of your life. Grab hold of this truth and do not let it escape you. Keep it before your eyes and in the midst of your heart because as sure as the sun comes up tomorrow there will be another opportunity for you to entertain anxious thoughts. When they come just speak right out loud to the Father of Glory and tell Him that you are giving all your anxiety and care to Him and you receive in its place the peace of Jesus. Really, God’s shoulders are a lot broader than yours and mine. He can handle our tense and worrisome situations. Rest in the peace of Jesus. Claim it and make it your own.