My posts come from my personal daily scripture readings and a part of my personal accountability. If we are going to grow as followers of Christ, we must be in the Word! If you miss these a few days, something has kept me from it; but if they're gone for too many days, call me on the carpet. We need to hold one another accountable. I follow the readings and journaling from lifejournal.me. Join me on this journey as our lives are to Reflect the Image-and Jesus IS the image. Peace, Carla Sunberg
For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.
(2 Thessalonians 3:10 NASB)
For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.
(2 Thessalonians 3:11 NASB)
Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
(2 Thessalonians 3:12 NASB)
But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
(2 Thessalonians 3:13 NASB)
In this letter to the church in Thessaloniki some very practical
advice for daily living is given to the followers of Jesus Christ. To
be a part of the Church community meant that you were to also take
responsibility for your personal life. It sounds rather harsh, but if
people weren't willing to put forth effort to work, then they were not
supposed to get free food. This didn't mean that they didn't help the
needy. Often we read about the ministry to the orphans and the widows.
Those who were unable to care for themselves were cared for by the
church community. But those who were able to work were to do everything
that they could to be busy with their hands. Not only this, but there
was something about the Christian life which was to bring about
self-discipline. People were not to make a big deal about their work,
but simply to go out and do their job, and not get tired of doing the
Growing up my parents had a motto; "Plan your work and work your
plan." While this phrase is not found in scripture, in some ways the
principles behind it are, as seen in today's reading. Sadly it seems
that we may not be passing along this kind of a work ethic these days,
even within the life of the church. The concept of "entitlement" has
permeated society that even followers of Christ do not always accept
responsibility for working hard for their own bread. The instructions
above sound rather harsh. If someone is not willing to work for their
bread, then they should not be allowed to eat.
It is when the community of faith works together that society can be
cared for. The community members who can work, do work. They provide
for themselves and for those who cannot provide for themselves. If the
Church had been living this way we would not need governments to step in
and take over the responsibilities that should have belonged to those
who are members of the Kingdom. Is it too late now? Have we gone too
far? Has the Church's lack of involvement in caring for the needs of
the communities in which they have been placed made them irrelevant in
the eyes of the world? We are exhorted to not grow weary in doing good.
Therefore, the answer ought to be a resounding "no!" It is not too
late for the Church to step up and step in and be Jesus in the world.
It begins with each and every one of us leading a disciplined life,
working hard, and caring for those around us who genuinely can't care
Wake up, dear Church. Plan your work -- and then go out and work your plan!
Lord, help us to be Your disciplined disciples. Amen.
Those who trust in the LORD Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.
(Psalms 125:1 NASB)
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the LORD surrounds His people From this time forth and forever.
(Psalms 125:2 NASB)
One of the surest things in this world is a mountain! Just this
week, sadly, a pilot learned that you cannot fly into a mountain, for
the mountain will not be moved! The Lord is reminding His people that
if they will simply put their trust in Him, they will be like a
mountain. They will be strong and firm, and yet that is not all, for in this state they will also be surrounded by the Lord. The Lord
Himself will be stronger than one mountain, but rather will be as the
mountains which surround Jerusalem. God's children will not be left
alone, but rather will be surrounded day in and day out by His mighty
What more could we want, but to be surrounded by the Lord? The
promises of God are great but they all rest upon whether or not we serve
Him, our Lord, in obedience! If we fail to serve Him out of an
obedient heart, we will fail. We will no longer be surrounded by Him,
or be provided protection by Him, but rather, we will be left bare and
fodder for the enemy.
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt that all protection
was gone and you were stripped bare to face the world and everything
that could be thrown your way? If so, it's because you have left the
protection of the Lord on high! He is a mountain -- He does not move.
We are the ones who move away and suddenly we find that we have wandered
out of that place of protection and we are holding on and barely
surviving. What must we do? We must get back into the center of God's
will, into a life of holy obedience, and not be moved by the things of
this world. Spend time daily in His holy presence and allow Him to draw
you to the place where He can again surround you and you will be
Lord, please help me to be obedient and to remain in the center of your protective mountains. Amen.
“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
(Matthew 25:40 NASB)
Jesus was preaching a powerful sermon and it spoke right to the
hearts of the religious leaders. These were the ones who thought they
had everything right in terms of looking good before God. He shot them
down because they had their priorities mixed up. They thought it was
all about show and how it looked to the world from the outside. Instead
Jesus pointed out that their motives and behavior on a day to day basis
were what God would judge. This was completely foreign to their way of
This week we have celebrated Thanksgiving in the United States. A
day of celebration, which is followed by a day called "Black Friday." I
have already heard stories of Black Friday -- how people pushed and
shoved and came home with bruises because they were caught up in the
chaos of shopping. In the midst of our consumer frenzy, I wonder how
many of us thought about the "least" that we may have encountered? How
many times this week did we minister to Jesus? What about that poor
store clerk who had been yelled at umpteen times? What about that store
manager who had the line of people angry with them? Jesus said that
whatever we did for the least of these, we did for Him. I think that
sometimes we forget that Jesus is present in the simple everyday moments
of our lives. The question is how are we going to respond? May we
consciously take time to realize that we are minister for and to Christ
in the everyday moments of our lives. Don't hold out for the big
things, but trust Him and serve Him in all things. It's easier said
than done, but "What are you going to do for Jesus today?"
Lord, may I be faithful in the big things but especially in the
little things. May I love You by loving the world around me. Amen.
But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.
(Matthew 22:34 NASB)
One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,
(Matthew 22:35 NASB)
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question:
(Matthew 22:41 NASB)
No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.
(Matthew 22:46 NASB)
In this story in Matthew we find an interesting dialog between
Jesus and those who were trying to trap Him. The Sadducees came to Him
first and tried to trick Him. It didn't work. So, the Pharisees
decided to step forward with their questions. After they were
unsuccessful at tricking Him, finally Jesus turned the tables on them
and asked them a question. His question was so clever that they dare
not answer it, because they would have had to concede that he was the
Christ and that He was the Son of God. Instead they decided that they'd
better not ask Him anymore questions.
Do we ever go back and forth with Jesus, peppering Him with
questions? The leaders of His day loved to throw questions at Him,
their goal being to catch Him saying something wrong, or to find some
kind of inconsistency. What is our purpose in questioning Christ?
Let's be honest, maybe we're trying to find some kind of inconsistency
as well. If only we could find something wrong with Jesus we might be
able to make excuses for ourselves and our lack of faith. But in
reality, don't we do this? Don't we try and run our own lives and get
ourselves into a bind and then we begin to ask why God let all of this
bad stuff happen to us. We question whether there really is a God and
we blame Him for the mess in our lives. Somehow if we could find
something wrong with Christ, we would feel better about not follow His
leading and commandments for our lives.
Sadly the Pharisees and the Sadducees gave up questioning Christ, not
because they had faith, but because they were frustrated that they
couldn't beat Him. Maybe we ought to take a different stance. Maybe we
ought to quit questioning Him, and put our wholehearted trust in Him.
Jesus really does have the answers, if we want to hear them and apply
them to our lives.
Lord, may we listen to Your voice and Your leading in our lives on a daily basis. Amen.
The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.
(Matthew 16:1 NASB)
But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’
(Matthew 16:2 NASB)
“And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?
(Matthew 16:3 NASB)
The Pharisees and the Sadducees were well educated and they
certainly knew the teachings of the Prophets. From childhood they had
been taught the signs of the coming Messiah. Now, suddenly, the Messiah
stood before them and they simply refused to believe the Truth.
Instead they kept pushing Him for signs and wonders. Finally Jesus
reminded them that they were willing to fall back on their education and
experience to predict the weather, and yet, they were unwilling to do
the same thing in regard to Him. It didn't make sense, and they knew
it. They were simply too stubborn to believe that Jesus was the
fulfillment of the prophesies.
What sign are we looking for? Let's be honest, there are times
when we, too, don't want to believe what is written in the word, but
rather, want some kind of miraculous sign. In our daily lives we are
willing to accept the roadsigns and markers which lead us on our way,
and yet, when it comes to our faith, we don't want to accept the
obvious, but rather, want Jesus to jump in and do something miraculous.
We need to open our eyes and realize that He really is doing something
miraculous each and every single day, if only we'd pay attention.
However, too often our hearts and minds are overly cluttered with the
junk of life and we can't see or understand the simply reality of the
It's time for us to have very simple faith. You can read the signs.
Believe what you have learned, trust in Him and allow Him to use you to
change the world. It's really that "simple."
Lord, please help me to see You today in the simple things of life. Amen.
He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of
heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field;
(Matthew 13:31 NASB)
and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THEAIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES.”
(Matthew 13:32 NASB)
Jesus continued to present the "upside-down" kingdom to the
Disciples. The world expects great people to do great things, and by
the world's definition, these are usually "big" things. Jesus explains
what it means to be willing to work in the kingdom. It may mean
faithfulness with something very, very small. The mustard seed is so
small that one can barely even see it. And yet, the man in the story is
faithful with the very small mustard seed. He takes it to the field
and he plants it. Not only does he plant it, but he must take the time
to nurture it. The tiny little seed -- the one little seed -- begins to
grow, and the results are amazing as the plant becomes a tree and
eventually is large enough to support the livelihood of others.
How many of us would truly be faithful with just a little tiny
seed? Let's be honest, if we were standing in line and seeds were being
handed out, and we noticed that the people around us were getting a
handful of big fat seeds and then we received just one little tiny speck
of a seed -- we'd be disappointed. Why should we only have one tiny
seed? And yet, God calls us to be faithful with whatever He gives us,
even if we don't understand what it is. Be grateful for the little tiny
thing, and then love it, care for it, and nurture it with everything we
have. God put the DNA into the mustard seed and it grew into a mighty
plant. God has put the DNA in the little tiny thing He has given to you
and to me. Let's trust Him that He really does know what He's doing.
Maybe it's time to stop looking for the "big" things in life and be
willing to take care of the really small things. Who knows what DNA God
has already placed into that small thing, and He's just waiting for
someone to be obedient enough for Him to be able to do great things.
Lord, we thank You today for the tiny things. May we be faithful with every little thing that You have given to us. Amen.
“He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.
(Matthew 10:40 NASB)
“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall
receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the
name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
(Matthew 10:41 NASB)
“And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little
ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not
lose his reward.”
(Matthew 10:42 NASB)
Jesus was constantly turning the world upside down by the things
that He said. Now, He was telling the leaders what it meant to receive
their eternal reward. Of course, they were thinking that it was all
related to the high and mighty things that they may have accomplished in
their lifetime. Instead, Jesus turned it all around and told them that
it boiled down to doing things like giving a simple cup of water to
little children. How could that be important to these priestly leaders?
They had other people that could do that for them. They also most
certainly did not want to accept Jesus Christ, and yet He said that was
part of the deal. They needed to accept Jesus for who He was, and in
doing so, would receive the Father -- the One who had sent Him. This
was not what they wanted to hear. It didn't fit their paradigm of
Jesus is still pushing us out of our mold today and encouraging us
to turn the world upside down. We are to seek Him with all of our
hearts. We are to desire to live for Him and to serve Him in everything
that we do. Our job is to know Him with all of our being and to allow
Him to transform us from the inside out. In the process we are to
become Jesus to a hurt and dying world. We are to help them come to
know Him in a very intimate way; in the very way that a parent would
reach down and give a cup of cold water to a hot and thirsty child.
Let's allow Him to turn our world around, humble ourselves and serve Him
and our world in all things.
Lord, please help me to take advantage of the moments in which I can be a servant leader. Amen.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
(Matthew 5:44 NASB)
so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
(Matthew 5:45 NASB)
“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Matthew 5:48 NASB)
Jesus commands us to love those around us. We are not only to love
those who like or love us, but rather, we are to love our enemies --
those who despise us! He is reminding us that by loving those who do
not love us, we will be His sons. It is in this act that we join into
the holy life of the Father and we are literally His children. As this
entire segment is brought to a close Jesus wraps it up with the
statement that we are to be perfect. That is, we will be brought to
completion as God's holy children when we are completely filled by His
Too often we have tried to define holiness by a list of things that
we will or will not do! That's not what God had in mind. Holiness is
about God's holiness living and dwelling in us. It is about God's
holiness transforming us into the very likeness of His Son. The very
nature of God is love and it is that transforming holy love that changes
the way we behave on a daily basis. Holiness is about falling in love
with our world, and very specifically with those who do not love us
Look around you today. Who do you see? I see a world of people that
I do not know. A world of people who desperately need Jesus Christ --
only they don't know it. How will they know it? Only when we bring
Jesus to them, by being the likeness of Jesus in our everyday lives.
What will it take for this to happen? All of our selfish pride and
self-righteous anger must be washed away by the love of Jesus Christ.
We must be willing to let go of the things that we believe we have the
right to hang onto -- and give it all to God. Let His love wash over
our hurts, wounds and frustrations. Then, allow God's love to so wash
into us that it spills over in every aspect of our lives. In this way
we are made perfect, or brought to completion, as the reflection of the
very Image -- Jesus Christ. Be perfect -- it's possible, through Him.
Lord, may Your love transform me to the point of becoming complete in You. Amen.
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORDTHAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”
(Matthew 4:4 NASB)
Jesus had spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness and obviously
He was tired and hungry. Then Satan came and tempted Him, at the point
of His weakness. Jesus did not succomb to the temptation, but rather,
responded out of His strength. His strength came from having spent
time with God, His Father. While Jesus had not eaten physical food
during His time in the wilderness, He had devoured the opportunity to
feed upon every word which He had received from His Father. The result
was that Jesus was able to resist the Evil one and ultimately was
victorious over sin and death.
We must ask ourselves what we are devouring? Often we've thought
of this response referring to the fact that we must fight back
temptation with the Bible. However, I think it goes much beyond simply
knowing the word. We are to know the word, and that comes from knowing
and studying the word, but also from simply spending time with the Word.
As we sit in the presence of our holy God, we may personally
experience the word which proceeds from His mouth. It is in this
intimate relationship that we gain the strength to fight the temptations
of this world. It is our responsibility as followers of Christ to
devour everything that we can that comes from Him. We are very
attentive to our need for physical food. I wonder whether we are just
as attentive to our need for spiritual food? What are you eating today?
Lord, please help me to make sure that You are a part of my daily diet! Amen.
I don't like feeling weak, and yet in those moments do I trust in Him. It is the ultimate test, whether in my weaknesses I am in Christ!
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power
is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast
about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB)
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine
yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus
Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?
(2 Corinthians 13:5 NASB)
If you are like me, you really don't look forward to taking tests.
They are one of those necessities of life and every now and then we are
faced with them. It may be that we have a test in our studies, or
maybe it's simply the driver's test -- or why is it when we're having
some lab work done we also worry about how we'll do on the test!?
Because testing is a part of our lives and it is something in which we
want to succeed.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the ultimate test. They were to
examine themselves and see whether they were actually in faith. That
meant that they needed to recognize that Christ was in them. The result
was that for Christ to dwell in them they had to be weak. They had to
stop living within their own strength, power and means, but rather,
empty themselves of their own abilities and allow Christ to live in
Is Christ in us today? That is the ultimate question. While we
may have all kinds of giftings and abilities we have to ask ourselves
whether or not we have submitted those things to the Lord. We must make
space for Christ to live in us. When Christ does live in us, we, and
others will see us differently. We will recognize and give glory to God
on high for His acts in and through us. Then, we can, together with
Paul rejoice over our weaknesses, because it is in those times that God
shines through us.
Lord, may people see Christ in me and my life today and may You be
glorified in my weaknesses. May I relinquish my weaknesses to You and
to Your control today. Amen.
How are you responding in these times of bad economy? There are lessons to be learned from the faithful in Macedonia.
Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia,
(2 Corinthians 8:1 NASB)
that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.
(2 Corinthians 8:2 NASB)
We may think that we are facing insurmountable obstacles in today's
economic times but the world goes through cycles and the Church has
faced these days in the past, and has survived. Paul was on his
missionary journeys and he traveled through the area of Macedonia. He
shared with them the needs of those who were struggling in other
areas of the world. They, themselves, were going through a " ordeal
of affliction" and "deep poverty." Things were not just "sort-of" bad,
but they were "really" bad. And yet in the midst of their bad economic
times they had an abundance of joy and a wealth of liberality. Instead
of focusing on their personal difficulties, they had learned to focus
their lives on Christ. They were trusting in Him on a daily basis and
the result was not that the Lord showered them with money and worldly
goods, but rather, that they received God's joy and a freedom to be
generous and liberal with whatever they had. They were no longer tied
to the things of this world, but had learned to let them loose and give
them back to God. What did they do? Out of their poverty, they gave to
others whom they deemed more needy than themselves, even in bad
Day after day we await a hint of news that the economy may be on
the upturn. That news doesn't seem to be coming and along the way we
wonder what it all means for us personally. We've all been touched,
either personally, or by acquaintance, by those who are suffering
through lengthy unemployment. We have watched as housing values have
fallen and personal equity shrinks. The stock market stumbles and the
savings follows along. Giving in the churches has decreased as many
struggle to make ends meet. Tithing has become something in which less
than 40% of church goers participate. And yet -- could we somehow gain
the join and freedom which the church in Macedonia discovered? How is
that possible, in difficult economic times?
The answer is to look to Jesus Christ and participate in His
holiness. That's what Paul had been preaching and the people "got" it.
They chose to spend time in God's holy presence, they brought their
burdens and their difficulties to Him, and then they left those burdens
with Him. Instead of focusing on what they didn't have, they focused on
what they did have, and then gave generously. They were joyful that
they were able to help others who were even worse off than they were!
The same can be true for us today. We need to stop focusing on what we
don't have, and focus on what we do have. Then, we need to join our hearts
to His heart and give as generously as possible. Allow God to do the
rest. Trust in Him. Will it change the bad economic times? No. Will
it change us? Yes.
Lord, help us today to focus on all that You have done for us, and give us hearts of generosity to those around us. Amen.
God has called us to a ministry of reconciliation. What does that look like when there are those who have hurt you?
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,
(2 Corinthians 5:18 NASB)
namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not
counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the
word of reconciliation.
(2 Corinthians 5:19 NASB)
What we find in today's scripture is that there is a direct
correlation between our relationships with others and our relationship
with God. Christ could easily have told the Father that He didn't like
those humans! Can you imagine? Humanity had rejected everything that
God, out of His love, had done for them. However, because of that deep
love, God, the Creator, continued to reach out to humanity in a desire
to heal the relationship. Jesus, submitting to the will of the Father,
allowed Himself to be crucified on a cross to provide the pathway for
reconciliation. Our relationship to God can be healed and the things
that we have done to destroy that relationship will no longer be held
against us. And this reconciliation, or restoration of relationships,
is the ministry that God is giving to each and every single one of His
Because we serve a relational God, the enemy comes in and attacks
us at the very level of our relationships. Why not attack us at the
point where God wants to bring the greatest strength! Today we find
relationships at all levels under strain. Why else would the divorce
rate be just as high among believers and non-believers? Because the job
of believers is to become involved in the ministry of reconciliation
and that is about relationships.
There are times in life when we are very hurt over relationships.
The tendency is to "take our toys and go home!" We feel justified in
the fact that we don't like those people and it's okay for us to feel
that way. The truth is that the individual to be harmed the most by
that attitude is you. When you allow feelings of "justifiable
indignation" to grow and to fester in your life your relationship to God
will be harmed. The charge to love God and then to love others is not
simply a nice word of encouragement from the Lord, but rather, it is a
call to healing. When we have human relationships which are broken,
then our relationship to God is also broken. He calls us to a ministry
of reconciliation. For each one of us that may mean something
different, but it also means that we don't harbor bad feelings toward
others. We ask God to heal our hurt and our wounds. We ask God to
reconcile the relationship so that we can be in a right relationship
With whom might we need to be reconciled today? Go to them and begin this ministry to which we all are called.
Lord, please help me today to be an agent of reconciliation. Amen.
Do you ever feel your self-confidence is put to the test? Maybe it's time to examine where we have placed our confidence.
For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience,
that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the
grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially
(2 Corinthians 1:12 NASB)
Paul's confidence was not in himself, but rather in God. His
wholehearted belief was that God was leading him into a life of holiness
and sincerity. Interestingly he mentions that he is not led by fleshly
wisdom, but rather by the grace of God. For Paul this is significant
for he was a highly educated man. He knew multiple languages and had
studied under some of the best teachers of his day. This was a man who
could have easily boasted in his education and his knowledge and yet,
here he acknowledges that he is not being led by human or fleshly
wisdom, but rather, trusting in God. The result is that Paul's daily
life becomes a testimony to holiness and godly sincerity. It is not
necessarily about the words that he speaks, but it is the way that he
humbles himself in service to God and others on a daily basis.
There are times in life when we may feel pretty battered by the
world and our self-confidence can take a beating. However, it is in the
midst of these moments that we hear the gentle voice of the Lord
reminding us, just like Paul, that our confidence is not to be in our
own human strength, but rather in Him alone. It is my confidence in God
which must flow through my life on a daily basis. When we place our
trust in Him, then our lives can become a testimony to God's nature
which begins to flow through us. God's very nature is holy love and the
result is a life of holiness and sincerity. All falsehoods, all the
masks, they can drop away because we become real in Him. No longer do I
have to be worried or concerned about what the world around me thinks,
but rather all of my trust is in God who reaches out to me with His
grace, transforming me into His image. My proud confidence is not in
myself, but in Him!
Lord, as the issues of daily life come my way this day, may my confidence be in You. Amen.
My desire is that God does a new thing -- that a new song will be written. How about you?
Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones.
(Psalms 149:1 NASB)
It was time for a new song. This didn't happen very often. A new
song was written when God had mightily intervened in the lives of the
Israelites. It was as if it were time for a new chapter in the story
and when that happened the people would rejoice and a new song was
written. The new song was a reminder to the people of God to worship
and praise Him for His mighty acts within the life of His people.
Are there any new songs being written today? My hope would be that
new songs are being written and that the God of all Creation continues
to be involved in the lives of His people. However, I believe that
God's intervention in the lives of the Israelites was when they invited
Him to be involved, and when they served Him in obedience. Is there a
lesson to be found for us? Could it be that there are few new songs
these days because we are not living in obedience to Him? A new song
was written in response to something miraculous. God's nature has not
changed and He is still the God of the miraculous today. I believe that
God's desire is for new songs, and if there are no new songs, maybe we
need to step back and take a look at ourselves.
We need a new thing. God wants to do a new thing. Are we willing to
pay the price of radical obedience to Him for the new thing to come
about? If so, then let's get about the business of writing a new song.
Lord, help me understand what radical obedience to You looks like in these days. Amen.
God, through the Holy Spirit wants to gift each and every one of us. Are we willing to accept the gift?
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
(1 Corinthians 12:7 NASB)
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
(1 Corinthians 12:11 NASB)
Paul was telling the Christians in Corinth that the Holy Spirit was
working in each and every person's life in a special and unique way.
The result was that the community of faith had people with different
gifts and abilities which brought balance to the church. Not everyone
had the same gifting, but rather the culmination of their gifting
created a whole. The focus was not on the gifts themselves, but on the
Spirit who brought those gifts. The early church was a vibrant place
where the Holy Spirit was moving through the individual members. Sadly,
about a century later the growth of the church began to decline
dramatically and there was little or no talk of the movement of the
Spirit among the members. Throughout history there have been moments of
time where the Church has been called back to remembering that it was
when each member utilized the gifts given to them by the Holy Spirit
that the world is eternally impacted.
I am afraid that we find ourselves in one of those eras where we
are not tapping into the Holy Spirit, and therefore we are not using our
spiritual gifting. God has a spiritual gift for each and every one of
us, but yet, are we willing to receive that gift, not for ourselves, but
for God's glory, work and movement here on this earth? God wants us to
tap into the power of His Holy Spirit in everything that we do. He
doesn't expect us to go about things on our own. Remember when Jesus
said that He needed to leave and go to heaven so that He could send the
"Comforter" or "Advocate" for us? That is God's desire for each and
every one of us.
If God gives us a gift, He does expect us to use it. Are we so
afraid of what God may ask us to do with the gift that He provides that
we would rather simply not receive it? It's time for us to jump into
the deep end of the pool -- allow the Holy Spirit to fill every nook and
cranny of our lives. Accept the good gifts of the Father and then use
them in His kingdom work.
Lord, please remove all barriers of fear which may hinder us from living in the fullness of Your Spirit. Amen.
The trend is for regular attenders to be in church less frequently. Are you a part of the trend?
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”
(Psalms 122:1 NASB)
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
(1 Corinthians 10:12 NASB)
The Psalmist rejoiced in the fact that he could go to Jerusalem and
visit the house of God. It was a joyous and blessed occasion when one
was privileged to make the journey to Jerusalem to worship God in His
holy house. However, over the years the Israelites forgot the real
reason for their worship. Little by little they just didn't bother with
the pilgrimage. God's house became something God had never intended it
to be and God's people took for granted that they would always be
protected by Him. While they no longer participated in regular
worship of God, they expected God to be there for them whenever they
wanted to call on Him. Today the ruins of the great temple in Jerusalem
are all that remain because they did not take heed, they no longer went
up to the house of the Lord, they no longer worshiped God, and they
I recently sat in a meeting of Pastors who were discussing the
changing trends in church attendance in the last five years. The
"average" regular attender no longer attends church on a regular basis.
The "average" regular attender now visits church 1.8 times a month. I
remember the days when people would get an award for perfect attendance
and there were those people who hadn't missed a Sunday in years. Yes,
society has changed and the heavy work week, coupled with easy mobility
has made the weekend the time to visit family, friends, and even just to
get away for fun. However, I wonder how much of all this "good" stuff
is a ploy of the enemy. If he can get regular church attenders to no
longer "go to the house of the LORD" under the pretense of "good" things
to do, won't he have won the battle? In the midst of our busyness and
decreased attendance at church we have convinced ourselves that it is
okay because we are good people, we are followers of Christ, and we are
doing good things. But Paul warns us and tells us that when we
begin to think that we are okay, be ware -- that we do not fall!
Why do we need to be attending church? Because there is something
that happens exponentially when the people of God get together. Aletha
Hinthorn recently wrote in a devotional that one horse can pull 9,000
pounds, but two horses hitched together can pull 36,000 pounds. There
is a reason that we are invited to be a part of a community of faith,
and to participate in corporate worship -- because God knows that it is
good for us! It is within the community of faith that God's communal
nature found in the holy Trinity is lived out. The Bride of Christ is
the Church -- and wouldn't we want to be a part of that community?
Maybe we need to revisit our busyness. Maybe we ought to ask whether
the enemy is deceiving us into believing that being away from Church
won't hurt us, because we are standing firm. There are major shifts
occurring in Christianity in the US today, and we must ask ourselves
whether we are being pulled along by those shifts.
Lord, please help us to fall in love with your bride, the Church
and help us to worship You within that community of faith! Amen.
What are you willing to do to help others grow in their relationship with Christ?
Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.
(1 Corinthians 8:13 NASB)
Paul spends quite a bit of time talking about the freedom which he
has found in Christ. This freedom surpasses anything that can be found
in the world. Even an individual who was born into slavery can be free
in Christ -- whether physically free or not. This freedom which is
found in Christ has released many from restrictions placed upon them by
the world. However, some of the habits of the old life have crept into
the new life. For some people within the church community eating meat
which had been offered to idols was a real problem. They believed that
this meat had actually been defiled by having been used in a pagan
sacrifice. However, in a sense it was "used" meat and therefore was a
little cheaper to buy. Paul had found such freedom in Christ (which is
amazing considering his zealous Jewish background) that he had no
trouble eating this meat. But now Paul changes the tables on this
freedom. His personal freedom should never step over the bounds of
hurting his brother or sister in Christ. Paul could have pushed for his
own rights and his own freedom, but rather he placed the spiritual life
of those around him into a place of priority over his own rights.
What is there in my life that could be a stumbling block to others?
That is a serious question which we must be willing to ask ourselves
for our Christian life is not just singular, but rather, communal. We
are all called to live out the Christian life within the world and a
community of believers and non-believers as well. That is why we are
challenged to love God, and then to love our neighbor. They both go
hand in hand. Paul realized that to love his neighbor sometimes meant
giving up his own rights. I wonder if we're willing to examine the
practices of our lives and ask ourselves whether there is anything that
we do, in our liberty, that causes others to stumble and fall.
Would I be willing to go as far as Paul and say that if something
causes my brother or sister to stumble that I would NEVER do it again?
Lord, help me to see the things in my life which could be a
stumbling block to others and be willing to put them aside -- forever!
If Jesus were to look into the motivation of your heart today, what would He find?
Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.
(1 Corinthians 4:5 NASB)
We think that we are quite skilled at keeping the motivations of
our heart a secret. We do our best to keep them hidden from the light
of day. While we keep our deepest thoughts and motivations hidden we
strike out at what we judge as inconsistencies in others. Paul saw this
very thing happening in the baby church which he had birthed in
Corinth. He warned those within this congregation to stop passing
judgment based on their limited understanding. He knew that a time
would come when Jesus would pass judgment based on what was inside!
We cannot see inside, to the heart and motivations of individuals,
and often there is so much more to a situation than we can ever begin to
understand. The mitigating circumstances of life with which others may
be dealing may be far beyond our personal comprehension. And yet, why
are we so quick to pass judgment? We must step back and realize that it
is not our responsibility to judge the heart of an individual, but
rather, that is what Christ will do. Christ can, and will, look on the
heart of an individual and know their motivations.
It's Jesus who will discover what's inside, and in this revelation
there is sadness and joy. There is sadness if Jesus discovers that the
motivations have not been pure and there will be punishment for those
who do not serve Him with a pure heart. However, for those who may feel
that they have been misunderstood by the world (and Paul certainly felt
misunderstood), they will receive their praise from Christ, Himself.
I want my life to be a praise to Christ! What about you?
Lord, please look on my heart and cleanse and purify it and my motives to Your glory! Amen.
Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that
you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.
(1 Corinthians 1:10 NASB)
So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
(1 Corinthians 3:7 NASB)
Paul had discovered that there was disunity in the church in
Corinth. They were arguing with one another over who had played the
greatest role in the development of the church. Some were proudly
proclaiming that they were disciples of Apollos, some of Peter, and
others of Paul. They were arguing over who had been their leader and
which one of them was really the best or the most influential. All of
this frustrated Paul because he knew that this was not what was
important in the life of the church. Rather, Paul worked to call them
all back to the very foundation of the church. It didn't matter who had
been their Pastor or spiritual leader, Jesus Christ was the very
foundation of all things. He reminded them that each leader had been
called to come and to be faithful with their own task. Some were meant
to prepare the ground, others to plant the seed, some to water it and
others to harvest but each simply to be obedient. So, while Paul and
the others had been obedient to the tasks that God had assigned, he
reminded them all that it was God who made the church grow, not any one
person. The unity of the church was being threatened by people taking
sides over people, when Paul reminded them to pay attention to God. God
in the incarnation of Jesus Christ is the unifying factor in the
church, both yesterday and today.
Sadly, much of Christianity today is divided. We have continued to
allow human feelings and reactions to rule the day. We have to admit
that we can become attached to certain individuals or leaders and we
like to hang around as long as they are there, however, if they move on,
we want to move on as well. While we wouldn't admit it, we may just go
and seek out another 'personality' to whom we can become connected.
That's not what God wants, and He used Paul to remind us of this. We
are to remain committed to the church community and not to the
charismatic personality of a particular leader. The focus within the
community must be on Christ. Faithfulness to Christ will unify a body
of believers and when Christ becomes the priority, God will make it
Lord, we seek You today and the strength of Your unifying grace. Amen.
They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.
(Galatians 2:10 NASB)
Paul had gone to Jerusalem to have a meeting with the leaders of
the Church. It was an important meeting as they were discussing the
foundational "rules" for Christianity. The big discussion revolved
around the practice of circumcision. If a Greek, who was not Jewish,
became a believer, would he have to be circumcised. It was all about
following the rules or the laws. Finally, after much prayer and
discussion the report came back that this was not a priority. The only
priority which Paul was given was to "remember the poor."
At times I think we fail to realize that ministering to the poor
was the number one priority of the early church. As we can see in this
situation with Paul, even the personal concerns, or concerns over
personal holiness took a back seat to ministering to the poor.
During the years of the Russian Empire, Peter the Great had a
squabble with the Patriarch Nikon. Nikon overreached in his desire to
have power. Peter decided he would clip the wings of Nikon, and the
entire church. He decided the one of the best ways to reduce the
Church's influence was to make charitable work illegal. No longer could
the Church run the hospitals, schools, or minister to the poor. The
Church lost its influence on the daily life of society and eventually
this left such a vacuum that the government was able to completely take
over and the result was seventy years of communism.
We, the Church, God's people, must remember that our calling is to
love God, and then to love our neighbors, no matter their economic
status. The Church cannot forget her mission and calling to the poor,
for when we do, others without a motivation of love, will rise up in her
Lord, may I be sensitive to the world around me and its needs -- and give me wisdom to know how to respond. Amen.
Then Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You not answer? See how many charges they bring against You!”
(Mark 15:4 NASB)
But Jesus made no further answer; so Pilate was amazed.
(Mark 15:5 NASB)
Jesus stood before His accusers and they were shouting all kinds of
accusations and insults at Him. Some of the accusations were the
truth, "He says He's the son of God!" Yes, He is the Son of God and He
could have called down fire and brimstone on those who were accusing
Him, and yet, He stood there and silently took it all. The way to
victory was not going to be through words, but rather by way of actions.
The natural response would have been to defend Himself. However, He
didn't respond and Pilate "was amazed."
There are times in life when people may throw accusations around
about you. As a follower of Jesus Christ often there are those who
simply don't "get" it. They don't understand why we do the things we
do, or they question our motivations. This is when we need to look to
Jesus as the great example. He knew that a verbal debate would not
solve the problem. He also knew that condemning His accusers would not
solve the problem. The only resolution was for Him to die for His
accuser's sins, for only in this could His accusers be saved. Jesus was
willing to keep His mouth shut so that His Father's will would and
could be accomplished. There are times when we must look to Christ as
our example. For God's will to be accomplished it may simply be better
to keep our mouths shut, allow the accusations to swirl, and continue to
move forward in living out our lives in faithful obedience to Him. At
the end of the day, that is all that matters!
Lord, may this be a day of faithful living for You. Amen.
Are we trying to live the Christian life in our own strength? If so, we will lose out for the flesh is weak!
“Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
(Mark 14:38 NASB)
The disciples had really good intentions. They had just finished
supper with Jesus and now He wanted to go to one of His favorite places
to pray. Jesus had been trying to tell them about what was coming but
they really didn't understand. While Jesus is praying for His very
life, the disciples are falling asleep. They just don't comprehend the
urgency of the situation. In their hearts they truly believed that they
would do anything to support Jesus. Peter had even declared that he
would be willing to die for Jesus, and yet, within just a few hours he
would deny Christ three times. The flesh won the day.
How often do we become excited about spiritual things and we take
off believing that everything is going to be different. Within our own
power and strength we believe that we are going to live for Christ.
Things are going to be different in the home, in school, in our
relationships with others. However, if we try to do all of this on our
own power, we will fail, for the flesh is truly weak. In our hearts, in
our spirits, we are willing, but our humanity tends to win out.
But what happens when our spirits combine with His Spirit? This is
where something supernatural happens. The weakness of humanity becomes
grafted into the power of the Holy Trinity and we step into the movement
or the stream of the Holy Spirit. This is what happened to the
disciples on the day of Pentecost and Peter who denied Christ three
times on the night of his weakness in the flesh, becomes the great
preacher of the day. This promise of the Spirit was not only for Peter
or the early followers of Christ, but for us as well. We are invited to
take our human weaknesses, mixed with our genuine desire to follow Him,
and unite ourselves with our Holy God. When this happens the formula
changes. The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak, but the flesh in the
life of the Spirit is world changing.
Lord, may every day of life be a journey with You, and in the stream of Your Holy Spirit! Amen.
Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to
drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and
overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who
were selling doves;
(Mark 11:15 NASB)
and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.
(Mark 11:16 NASB)
And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS’? But you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”
(Mark 11:17 NASB)
And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums.
(Mark 12:41 NASB)
A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent.
(Mark 12:42 NASB)
Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you,
this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury;
(Mark 12:43 NASB)
for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
(Mark 12:44 NASB)
In Mark we find a story of contrasts. In chapter 11 Jesus arrives
in Jerusalem and He observes the money changers working around the
temple. He is thoroughly disgusted with them and their behavior. They
are using the worship of God for their own financial advantage. They
are getting rich while, through corrupt means, they are taking money
from the poor. In the midst of this scene we hear Jesus speak and He
shares with us the "mission statement" for the Temple. It is to be a
"house of prayer for all nations!" Now, instead of prayer it had turned
into a place of commerce, and it is questionable as to whether the
Israelites ever fulfilled the evangelistic role to which God had called
them in the first place, reaching out to the peoples' of the world.
This is the end of scene one.
Scene two. Jesus is still at the temple and He is now sitting back
and watching what happens at the treasury. Undoubtedly He's curious to
see, once again, how the people are behaving in regard to money. At
first He is discouraged as He sees the rich come by and deliver large
sums of money. However, there was no sacrifice in their giving because
they had all that they wanted and needed. Then came the poor widow who
brought all that she could. It was then that Jesus was moved, for here,
finally He saw an individual around the Temple who had the heart of
God. In all the others, the love of money had jaded them, but not this
woman. She simply gave God everything.
The heroine of the story is a poor woman. Isn't it just like Jesus
to turn the story upside down? All the great people are in the story.
The great leaders of the Church, the great financial wizards, and the
rich laypersons and yet, the poor widow is the one who shows us what it
means to be faithful with what God has provided to us. It was good
"church" folks who had the wrong attitude toward money. Greed had so
corrupted them that it had even corrupted the very mission of the
Church. Who are you today, and what is your relationship toward money?
Lord, may I be as willing as the widow to give You all! Amen.
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come?
(Psalms 121:1 NASB)
My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
(Psalms 121:2 NASB)
Psalm 121 is one of my favorite. It has great words and a message
of hope to all of us who need it. However, that's not the reason it's
one of my favorites. As a child, I rarely saw my grandparents, because
we lived on two different continents. It's a strange thing when you
only see your grandparents once every four years of your life and yet,
there was something special that I remembered about my grandfather.
This man had an incredible personal relationship with God. Even as a
child, I had that figured out. Whenever we visited their home we would
have to stop and have devotions several times a day. I was convinced
that Grandpa had the whole Bible memorized for he could quote long
passages. This, I believe, was one of his favorites and so as I read it
today, I could hear Grandpa Johnson's voice speaking the words, (only
in the KJV)... "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence
cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and
Why did this make such a profound impact on me? Because I knew
that my grandparents had very little in terms of material wealth. They
struggled through fifty years of ministry in little churches in the
State of Nebraska. Grandpa built many church buildings with his own two
hands, even making the blocks himself. They had a daughter with Down's
Syndrome who never learned to talk or even to feed herself, and yet
they lovingly cared for her day in and day out. Somehow when Grandpa
spoke these words from this Psalm, I knew they were real because he knew
where his help came from. His help for his daily life came from the
Lord in heaven whom he had come to know and love throughout his life. I
used to think that when Grandpa prayed that he plugged straight into
heaven. It didn't matter that the rest of us were there, we were simply
an audience where two, Grandpa and Jesus, were having an intimate
I thank you Grandpa, for passing on your faith. Thank you for
teaching me that each and every day my help comes from the one above.
Lord, may I live this day with my eyes on You and the help that comes from You alone! Amen.