We Win!

Daily Devotions

Monday, August 31, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  We Win!

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:19-22  …through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Jesus is alive! He is risen from the dead! And because He lives, I too am alive and will live forever.

Those statements form the basis of a proper understanding of this difficult passage in First Peter. Keep all of that in mind as we go through it.

Jesus Christ was crucified in the flesh, but when He was raised from the dead by the power of God He was raised a spiritual being. Yes, He still had a body, but it was a glorified one. As Peter writes to us in chapter three about our Christian lifestyle, and specifically in the previous verses about being willing to suffer for our faith, He uses the death and resurrection of Christ as an example for us to follow. Christ was unjustly persecuted and killed, yet in His resurrection He proclaimed His victory and their condemnation. Now He abides at the right hand of the Father with all authority over them.

Let’s break down each part of the passage and give a short explanation so it doesn’t confuse us.

  • Through whom… the Holy Spirit, who was the giver of Christ’s resurrected life at the command of the Father.
  •  also he went and preached…He did not preach to these spirits while He was in the grave, but rather after He had been given life from above.
  •  to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built…Who were these spirits? Of all the explanations, I think the best one is that they were the demonic spirits that influenced the people of Noah’s day to remain in rebellion against God in spite of Noah’s preaching of judgment. I do not believe that these are the spirits of dead people, righteous or unrighteous, because nowhere in Scripture does the term spirit refer to dead humans. These demonic spirits are being held captive by the power of God until the final Day of Judgment. In the victory of His resurrection, Christ proclaimed to them that their final doom was sealed and that He is Lord!

I’ll finish the passage tomorrow, but need to make a point of application so you have something to live by today. The Apostle Paul said, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…” There is an undeniable correlation between our willingness to suffer as Christ did and the experience of the victory and power of Christ’s resurrected life in us. We must reach the point of death to self. We must surrender the complete and total control of the outcome of our life to God. When we do, we will experience the same power over the suffering that Jesus did.

Look at Paul’s words in Ephesians one – “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Here’s the point – the power of God to stand in victory over all enemies is ours because we have been raised from death to life in Christ. That doesn’t mean that all the enemies are presently defeated. But in the final Day of Judgment, we will stand with Christ in the power and authority of His Name and we will be exalted over them. It was that hope that allowed Jesus to endure the cross (Hebrews 12:2 – Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.) It is that same hope that gives us endurance today (Hebrews 12:3 – Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.)

My friend, times are tough. They are going to get tougher. It is not God’s objective for our lives to empower us to make life easy. It is His objective to empower us to look beyond whatever suffering happens to us as a result of our stand for Him and to see the finish line of victory. Stop spending so much time trying to change your physical condition now. Your spiritual life in Christ is the guarantee of future exaltation. Live in the hope of your faith.

Pastor John

Buried Alive

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

 Current Study: First Peter

 Today’s Topic:  Buried Alive

 Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:18b  He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.

“For the watching world, we ourselves serve proof that God is alive. We form the visible shape of what he is like.” (Philip Yancey) For some that statement sends a shiver of fear up their spine. They know that they are not presenting the world with an accurate or positive picture of who God really is. Their lives are a testimony to the strength and determination of the human will rather than the power of the Holy Spirit.

In his book A Father for All Seasons, Bob Welch writes:

Last summer, my son Jason was a seventh-grader playing in a seventh/eighth-grade league. A fire-armed pitcher—more than a foot taller than my 4-foot-9 son—blazed a fastball right down the pike. Strike one. The second pitch scorched across the plate for a called strike two. The third pitch, unintentionally I’m sure, came right at Jason. He turned to avoid being hit and fell to the ground. His bat went flying. His helmet bounced off. The ball seemed to have skimmed his shoulder.

“Take your base,” said the umpire.

Standing in the third-base coach’s box, I was happy just seeing Jason alive, much less getting a free base.

“It didn’t hit me,” Jason said to the ump.

“Take your base, son,” said the ump.

Our fans were most likely thinking the same thing I was thinking: Take your base, son. You’ve been wounded, soldier; your war’s over. You’re going home …

“But honest, it didn’t hit me,” Jason pleaded.

The umpire looked at Jason and out to the infield ump, who just shrugged. “Okay,” said the ump, “the count is one-and-two.”

Should I intervene? Make him take his base? Jason was already digging in his cleats in the batter’s box. I mentally shrugged and headed back to the coach’s box.

The towering pitcher rocked and fired. A bullet right down the middle—the kind of pitch that would send the kid to the dugout. Instead, Jason ripped the ball into left-center for a stand-up double. Our crowd roared. The manager of the team in the field was standing a few feet behind me. He had no idea that the kid on second base was my son. He spit out his sunflower seeds and slowly shook his head. “Man,” he said, “you gotta love that.”

If you have any competitive bones in your body, you were begging the boy to take his base. It didn’t matter very much to you whether or not his life would be one of integrity and truth. You simply wanted the advantage of a base runner. If you had been in the same situation, you would have gone to first base.

Author and pastor Maxie Dunnam made an interesting observation. He said, We must be careful what we bury in our heart. To bury something does not mean it is dead. It may simply mean we have buried something alive that will devour and destroy us from within. Your behavior will reveal whether or not that’s true for you. Has the flesh truly died, or have you just buried it somewhere in a back corner of your life, in a room with ventilation so it can be “resurrected” when you feel the need to satisfy your own desires?

“For the watching world, we ourselves serve proof that God is alive. We form the visible shape of what he is like.” So the question of the day is – What does the world think God is like when they look at you?

Pastor John

Dead or Alive?

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Dying to Live

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:18b  He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.

We are at once both alive and dead. We have in our flesh the raging process of death, while in our Spirit, as the redeemed in Christ, we possess the eternal gift of life. The war between the two within us has been well documented in Scripture.  It is well-proven by our current condition.

In the late 1800’s, Africa was torn by tribal war as kings and rulers attempted to eliminate enemies who were declared such simply because of ethnicity. One such ruler, King Lewanika of Barotsi, was so cruel that he was named the “human tiger.” His greatest delight was to put to death through torture any who offended or opposed him.

During the height of his reign, the Rev. Francois Coillard came to the Barotsi people under the authority of the French Evangelical Mission. He knew he was putting his own life at risk to bring the Gospel to this unreached tribe. God began to work. He did a miraculous work. By 1896, things in Middle Africa were completely different when Captain Alfred Bertrand of the Swiss Federal Army arrived on the scene. He had been travelling through Africa, and had just previously been in the company of Mr. M.J.S. Moffat, the son of missionary Robert Moffat, who was the brother-in-law of Dr. Livingstone. Yet, with all of the contact he had with missionaries during his expedition, Bertrand himself was without faith in God.

When Sunday came at Rev. Coillard’s mission, Captain Bertrand attended church at the request of the missionary. When the service was over, Bertrand asked, “Monsieur Coillard, who was that remarkable looking man sitting next to me, who listened so carefully?”  Rev. Coillard responded, “That was King Lewanika, the ‘human tiger.’ ”  Bertrand was broken, and said, “Then if that is what Christ can do, I mean to be His.”

In the chronicles of his expedition, Captain Bertrand writes, From the accounts of previous travelers as to the treachery, rapacity, cruelty, and degradation of the Barotsi, we expected to take our lives in our own hands. All the greater, therefore, was my astonishment when I saw with my own eyes the transformation, both in the moral and the material domain, effected during the ten years that the missionaries had been at work…The king, in whom we had expected to find a bloodthirsty tyrant, I first met in church, seriously and intelligently joining in the service. Every month the king and his chiefs used to celebrate the new moon with drunken orgies of strong native beer-drinking. By the time of my visit, the king had forbidden the making and consumption of intoxicants throughout the country, and had himself set the example by becoming an abstainer for the past seven years.”

WOW! The power of God through Christ brings life where there had been death. The life of Christ in us through the Holy Spirit overcomes the power of sin and death in our flesh. The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote, For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8: 13-14)

Why then, when the Life-giving Spirit of God dwells within us, do we continue to resurrect what is to be dead to us? Why do we choose sin and death over life? That is a question only you can answer, and one for which you will be accountable to the Savior. He was put to death in the body and made alive by the Spirit. He offers you the same victory over sin. Choose life, not death.

Pastor John


Daily Devotions

Monday, August 24, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Blooper Coverage

Scripture Reading:   1 Peter 3:18   For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 

The minister of a church in Wyckoff, NJ told the sexton to put on the church sign his sermon topic for the following Sunday: “Are Ministers Cracking Up?” The sexton looked puzzled but did as he was told and put up the letters to announce: “Our Minister’s Cracking Up.”

I love bloopers. I have to, because I make so many of them. Some of these are pretty old, but here are a few funny ones I’ve read over the years. Most of them come from church bulletins.

“Don’t let worry kill you—let the church help.”

“Thursday night: Potluck supper. Prayer and medication to follow.”

The Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.

The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday morning.

Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.

The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The Congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.

At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be “What Is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice.

And my favorite one of all:

“This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the altar.”

Bloopers are hilarious, even though they can be very embarrassing. I don’t think I know of anyone who died from one, unless they laughed themselves to death. What is not hilarious is that we have a tendency to call sin a blooper. We laugh it off. We may get a little embarrassed for a while, but soon the flushed face is gone with a flush of the memory.  

We seem to have forgotten that our bloopers were the cause of Someone’s death. We have been overcome with fear that the price we would have to pay to actually confess our bloopers would be too great. We are afraid that our bloopers will bring us enduring shame. So we try to hide them as long as we can, and when they are discovered, we laugh them off as insignificant. When that fails, our last resort is to transfer the guilt to others for not being willing to overlook what we did.

But we have also forgotten that the price for the bloopers has already been paid by the death of Christ. He has already taken all of the guilt and punishment for our sin. He became our sin so that we might have the righteousness of God. And His death was no blooper. It was the predetermined will of the Father so that our relationship with Him might be restored. Praise be to God, who in His mercy has given us new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ His Son.

Even those who know these truths tend to live under the power of past bloopers by continuing to be a friend to the world rather than a witness for Christ. They are silent partners of Jesus, when the truth of their forgiveness should make them explode with words of witness.

Last Sunday in church there was a blooper that I missed. Someone told me about it yesterday. It happened during the singing of a song. One letter was omitted from a word in the lyrics on the screen. That letter made all the difference. Unfortunately, it made the song truer than it should be about some of us. We sang, Jesus is our closet friend.”

Oops! Is that too true of you? Or are you thrilled daily with the thought that He who had never committed a sin became your sin for you, that you might be forgiven and never again have to be reminded of them? That makes Jesus our closest friend, not a closet one. Tell someone about Him today.

Pastor John

Stand Firm in God’s Will

Daily Devotions

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Stand Firm In God’s Will

Scripture Reading:   Colossians 4:12  Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 

A man starting a fish business put out his sign that read, “Fresh Fish For Sale Today” and invited all to visit his place of business on opening day. Many came and congratulated him on his new business. After several days of operation, one already faithful customer suggested that he change his sign. “Why the ‘Today’? It is today.” So he removed the word “Today”.

Someone else said, “Why, ‘For Sale’? Everybody knows you have fish for sale—or else why the store?” The words “For Sale” came off the sign.

Another said, “Why the word ‘Fresh’? You are a man of integrity, which guarantees your fish to be fresh.” “Fresh” came off the sign.

Only one word was left, “Fish” and one complained about it. “I smelled your fish two blocks away.” The sign was removed from the store. People stopped coming, thinking it was closed. The man’s business went under. If only he had stood firm on the foundational principles of his business, it might still be thriving.

The individual or congregation that tries to satisfy everybody ends up by pleasing nobody. If we start compromising, we will end up serving the devil. The man should have put up his sign and then stood by it. This is what we are to do in life. Accept God’s will for our lives and stand on His promises.

The Christianity of modern culture is in trouble because we have forgotten the foundational principles of God’s will. We have decided to take what we consider to be the easy road of acceptance by listening to the voices of the world around us. We seem to prefer comfort in the world, even though it is accomplished only by conformity to the world. To avoid conflict with the world we have chosen conflict with the Holy Spirit. We believe the inner turmoil and distress that produces is a small price to pay for the peace we think we have achieved with the world. We have ignored the warnings of Wisdom that tell us, There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

As the Apostle Paul comes to the end of his letter to the church at Colossae, he begins sending greetings from other servants of God who are with him in prison. Be honest, most of the time when you read Scripture you skim over these parts thinking there’s nothing of real value in them, right? How wrong you are. Paul tells us about Epaphras the prayer warrior. Take a close look at what he prayed for. Take a closer look at how big of a burden it was to him because he knew from personal experience how hard it was to do. He prayed that the Christians of Colossae would stand firm in the will of God. I find that very interesting because I think most of us believe it is easy to stand in the will of God. Why? Well, it’s because we have chosen acceptance by the world as the will of God. We’ve chosen the security of possessions and financial stability as the will of God. We’ve chosen to witness less and talk more about the weather and sports so we will fit into our circle of friends. We’ve decided that the will of God for us is to enjoy this life and be successful according to its standards.

Standing firm in the will of God is hard. Epaphras knew it – he was in prison for doing it. Paul knew it – he suffered for it everywhere he went. We know it too, but have chosen to avoid the suffering rather than identify with it and experience the fullness of the resurrection power of God in our lives. See what Paul says in Philippians 3:10 – I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.

There are many, very many Christians who are afraid of making an unreserved surrender to God. They are afraid that God will ask some hard thing of them, or some absurd thing. They fear sometimes that it will upset all their life-plans. In a word, they are afraid to surrender unreservedly to the will of God, for Him to do all He wished to for them and whatsoever He wills with them. Friends, the will of God concerning us is not only the wisest and best thing in the world; it is also the tenderest and sweetest. God’s will for us is not only more loving than a father’s; it is more tender than a mother’s. It is true that God does oftentimes revolutionize utterly our life plans when we surrender ourselves to His will. It is true that He does require of us things that to others seem hard. But when the will is once surrendered, the revolutionized life plans become just the plans that are most pleasant, and the things that to others seem hard are just the things that are easiest and most delightful. Do not let Satan deceive you into being afraid of God’s plans for your life. (R. A. Torrey)

Pastor John

What is God’s Will?

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Priority of God’s Will

Scripture Reading:   2 Corinthians 8:5  And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. 

The priority of God’s will is not the gratification of our desires, but rather the glorification of Himself.  Yet the average Christian chooses to think about God’s will in the context of personal decision-making.  As a result, their lives are lived in constant tension. The Holy Spirit is drawing them to consistent surrender of their will to the Father’s, while their definition of God’s will is nothing more than a spiritualized practice of pride. Let me illustrate:

Several years ago, in July, a college graduate signed a contract to teach. In August she received another offer from a school closer to where she wanted to live. So she broke the original contract, claiming that she had prayed about it and felt it was God’s will. However, her decision broke the biblical principle found in Psalms 15:4, where God answers the question of who may dwell in His presence by stating, The one who keeps his oath even when it hurts.” God’s will for her decision had already been revealed in Scripture, but she defined God’s will in the context of what was best for her, not God. The department chairman of the school said that her justification was “I have a peace about it,” to which he commented rather sardonically, “Isn’t that lovely? She’s got the peace and I’ve got the pieces.”

I believe that girl missed the will of God. She violated a principle which, if she had been alert and had applied it to her situation, would have given her clear guidance in this specific detail of her life. But she’s not alone. We all do the same. And the reason is because we have missed the whole meaning of God’s will. God’s will is not about which color car you should buy, or what house to live in. God’s will is about living a life that is completely and sacrificially surrendered to Him in every way so that the Holy Spirit is in absolute control of every decision. To know God’s will is to deny our own will.

There are sixty-four references to the will of God in the New Testament, and not a single one of them refers to decision-making. Every one of them is expressed in the context of living a surrendered life to the purpose of God, and that purpose is declared clearly as bringing glory to the Father by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word, deed, and lifestyle.

Just look at the example of today’s Scripture passage. Paul is commending the people of Macedonia for their financial support. He says they did the will of God. But they were only capable of making that financial decision after they had first given themselves to God. What a confirmation of what Paul said yesterday in Romans 12:1-2 about offering our bodies to God as living sacrifices, and having our thinking transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may know and do the will of God.

My friends, this may hurt, but it is necessary. We have allowed Satan to quench the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our churches because we are trying to know God’s will for decision-making before we have crucified our own wills and surrendered to the absolute and complete control of the Father’s will. We pray to know God’s will about financial issues before we surrender our finances to God. We ask to know God’s will about relationships before we know anything about being content with Jesus as our only necessary relationship. We get bogged down in all of the management of life because we have not yet surrendered to the Manager of our lives.

The priority of God’s will is not the gratification of our desires, but rather the glorification of Himself.  Yet we tend to think that God’s will is about us adding a spiritual dimension to getting what we want. Any inclination of our hearts towards getting what we want is the will of our pride, not the will of God. We must deal with this issue individually by going to the place of prayer. The place of prayer for Jesus was the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there that He dealt with the issue of His fleshly will verses God’s perfect will. He asked for a way to gratify the flesh, but surrendered to the glory of the Father. Dennis Corrigan in Bridge Builder states it this way – Gethsemane teaches us that the kingdom of God is entered only through the denial of one’s own will and the affirmation of the will of God. Therefore, the cross must stand central to an understanding of the kingdom. Since the essence of the kingdom is our obedience to the absolute will of God, we understand it only as we bring our own will to the foot of the cross. No self-will can live unchallenged in God’s kingdom.

We’re wasting our time trying to find the will of God for decision-making if we haven’t first surrendered our hearts to the reign of God. So here’s a quick test my wife and I discovered years ago to know if we are at that point or not. We ask ourselves, “Are we completely neutral about the outcome?” Surrender will be manifested by neutrality. It’s not that we can’t have a preference, but our preferences don’t matter and certainly don’t motivate us to manipulate the outcome. Knowing and doing the will of God requires the absolute surrender of our will to His. Let’s work on that together.

Pastor John

Test God’s Will

Daily Devotions

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Testing and Approving God’s Will

Scripture Reading:   Romans 12:1-2  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.                                  

As promised yesterday, I want to share with you six principles that can be helpful in determining our surrender to the will of God. I want to thank one of my elders for evaluating the way these six principles were presented on Sunday in church and for bringing to my attention some important thoughts. He pointed out to me that these six principles are not necessarily proofs of God’s will so much as they are tests of our maturity and character in response to God’s will. How true this is, as you will see in a moment. Yet in my mind they also serve as tests of my position in relation to God’s will. That, in turn, proves what God’s will is. I guess you had to be there for our discussion. I deeply appreciate the elders of Calvary for their commitment to truth.

In Genesis 12, Abram, who would soon have his name changed to Abraham, has been called by God to establish a new nation in a new land. His response to God’s call was an act of faith, for God had not told him where he was going. He just told him to pack up everything and go west. Abram obeyed.

When he arrived in God’s chosen place, he set up temporary camps, for it is God’s will that we never become dependent upon this world but live here as pilgrims looking ahead to our final home in glory. But then things got rough. Let’s read the story:

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.  As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 
Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels. But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had. So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 

Abram lost faith in God’s promise and stepped out of God’s will. In this story I find six principles that help me evaluate my position in relationship to God’s will. I hope they help you as well.

  1. 1.    We won’t run when things get tough. God’s promise of provision was not negated by the famine, yet Abram looked for a human solution to the problem, rather than trusting God. When we are living in the will of God, while we may be tempted to run, the Holy Spirit will testify with our Spirit that we are in the place of God’s calling and give us the strength to stand firm in the face of trouble.
  2. 2.    We won’t manipulate any outcomes. Abram devised a scheme with his wife to protect himself and achieve his own desired outcome. Those who are in the will of God have surrendered their rights to determine outcomes and trust God with every detail.
  3. 3.    We won’t be experiencing fear. Abram was afraid for his life. Fear is the reality for those outside of the will of God. Fear is not of God. According to the Apostle Paul, God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
  4. 4.    We won’t put our needs ahead of others. Abram’s fear drove him to make a decision that didn’t consider his wife’s needs and put her in a compromising situation. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit and walking in the will of God, we will have the mind of Christ, which always puts others ahead of self.
  5. 5.    We won’t use others for personal benefit. Sometimes it may appear on the surface that what we are doing is for everyone’s good, when in reality we are manipulating others for personal benefit. Notice Abram’s words – I will be treated well for your sake. He was using her for personal gain. That’s never the will of God.
  6. 6.    We won’t bring harm to others. Abram’s decisions brought judgment on Pharaoh and his household. We are not responsible for the decisions others make in response to God’s will, but when we are in God’s will, and people are trusting us to be in God’s will, then it will not bring harm to them. God’s judgment on Pharaoh was the result of Abram being outside of God’s will. When our actions or words begin to bring harm to others, we must see that as a test of our position in relation to God’s will.

There’s so much more to be learned about the will of God. Tomorrow we will address some additional things concerning the revealed will of God in Scripture and the daily decisions we make. But for today, test your position in life and let the Holy Spirit reveal to you where you may be out of step with His will for you. Then take hope in this – God brought Abram back up to the land again. He will do the same for you.

Pastor John

The Will of God

Daily Devotions

Monday, August 17, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Knowing God’s Will

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:17 It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 

Is it God’s will?

How can I know God’s will?

All devoted followers of Christ deeply desire to know and do the will of God. In a humble spirit of Biblical admonition, let me say that Christians who ask those questions are revealing a spiritual weakness. The desire to know God’s will is not a weakness, but claiming to not know it is. To be confused between what God wants and what we want reveals the level to which we have validated our pride and minimized our surrender to Christ. Most often, I believe, when we claim to not know God’s will, it is because we have chosen to walk according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit. When we are filled with the Spirit and have surrendered our will to the will of the Father, we will be keenly aware of anything in our lives that is not in conformity to the will of God. Not knowing His will indicates that the flesh is still in control.

Tomorrow I’m going to give you six simple ways you can confirm the will of God in your life. Today you may be slightly uninterested. The reason for that is simple – we have been trained by the flesh to deal with issues from the outside in, rather than the inside out. We would much rather follow a self-help plan that has been developed to supposedly fix the problem than be asked to look into our own hearts as the root of the problem. But our hearts are the real problem, and the real fix we need to the problem of knowing the will of God is to first surrender to the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Satan would love us to remain in denial about the influence of the flesh on our everyday lives and our decisions. Knowing and doing the will of God requires the death of the flesh and the full surrender of our hearts to the Lordship of Jesus Christ through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Please carefully study the following passages of Scripture and let the Holy Spirit convince you of this truth –

  • Galatians 5:16-17  So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 
  • Romans 8:5-8  Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
  • Romans 12:1-2  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Notice the progression of knowing and doing God’s will:

  • First, we must choose to live according to the power of the Holy Spirit and not according to our own sinful nature. We must move from “my will” to “I will”. Even though we may not see the outcome, knowing the will of God is a walk of faith which requires our surrender first. We must not impose any contingencies or reserve the right to refuse what God reveals. We must say “I will” before He will show us His will.
  • Second, we offer our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord. A sacrifice has no control of outcomes. We must be willing to accept whatever God determines for us even when we have no idea what that will be. Anything less than that is not faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God.
  • Third, we allow the mind of Christ to transform and renew our thinking so we no longer make our decisions according to the standards and patterns of the world but according to our faith in the presence and power of God.
  • Fourth, we will now be able to know, test, and approve God’s will.
  • Fifth, we will find His will to be good, pleasing, and perfect for fulfilling our lives.

My friends, I know the pain involved in recovering from years of denial about the power of the flesh in our lives. None of us enjoys the prospect of such pain. But I am convinced that the sufferings of this day are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us when we surrender fully to the reign of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The richness of relationship with Christ Jesus our Lord that will be revealed will be far greater than anything we thought we were producing for ourselves. Please take some serious time today to let the Holy Spirit root out every area of pride and the flesh. Let us fall on our knees before the throne of grace and confess every area of self that we have denied in the past. Let us surrender by faith to the will of God, and let us be determined to obey His will no matter what it is.

It is ALWAYS better to do God’s will, even if it means we must suffer.

Pastor John

Why Should I Listen To You?

Daily Devotions

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  Why Should I Listen To You?

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:15b-16  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 

The First Amendment  of the Constitution of the United States says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. The right to freedom of speech granted in this law of the land has been severely tested over the past few generations. From flag burning to pornographic art, citizens have decided that they have the right to say anything they want, in any form they choose.

We could argue that right all day long, but what is more important than the freedom of speech is the challenge to get people to listen. Sure we believe in freedom of speech. You’ve got the right to say anything you like.

But others don’t have to listen! They’re under no obligation to tune you in. When they do, they can also tune you out anytime they wish.

Your right to speak is guaranteed—but you must earn the right to be listened to. It depends solely on your integrity. Integrity – having a clear conscience – is the prerequisite to acceptance. If you expect to be paid attention to, back it up with your life. Let your walk correspond to your talk. This is fundamental to your witness for Christ. Many so-called Christians listen too little, talk too much, and live lives that contradict what they say. Their “witness” betrays Christ – and alienates those to whom they speak. (Richard C. Halverson in No Greater Power. Christian Reader, Vol. 25, no. 1.)

The power of our witness for Christ is not found in our words alone – it is in words backed up by behavior. In fact, according to Peter, it is our behavior that eventually convinces our critics to listen to us.

I have been guilty far too many times in my life of saying one thing and doing another, which causes me great shame my Lord. I’m sure you know of what I speak. I am so thankful for the cleansing power of the Blood of Christ which washes away all sin and its guilt. The grace that He extends is indescribable and transformational. His mercies are new every morning, and each new day is to be a fresh start of new life. Let’s not waste this new day by continuing the hypocritical lifestyles so many have adopted. It is time to be children of God with clear consciences. It is time for integrity to reign in the church.

Integrity – a clear conscience – is to live by a single standard consistently. The late golf champion Babe Didrickson Zaharias once disqualified herself from a golf tournament for having hit the wrong ball out of the rough. “But nobody would have known,” a friend told her. “I would have known,” Babe Didrickson Zaharias replied.

Here are three questions to ask yourself at the beginning of every day:

  • “What will I do to Jesus today?”
  • “What will I do for Jesus today?”
  • “What will I do with Jesus today?”

Then ask these three questions at the end of the day:

  • “What did I do to Jesus today?”
  • “What did I do for Jesus today?”
  • “What did I do with Jesus today?”

I guarantee you that if you do that consistently, you will develop integrity, and your witness for Christ will become effective. Remember, witnessing is not so much about the freedom of speech, but the application of the Word. Your consistent choice of righteousness will be the living light of Jesus that the lost world needs to see.

Pastor John

A Clear Conscience

Daily Devotions

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Current Study: First Peter

Today’s Topic:  How’s Your Conscience?

Scripture Reading:  1 Peter 3:15b-16  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 

When was the last time you specifically asked God to heal your conscience? Probably never, right? I think we’re too scared to do so. I think we have far too many skeletons in our closets to ever ask God to open the doors and let the light of His holiness shine into them. We’ve done a pretty good job, humanly speaking, of dulling the conscience so we no longer feel guilty about doing the things we know are wrong but want to do anyway to satisfy some desire of our flesh. I wonder how many people there are that really have a clear conscience?

Many electronic fire alarms have an internal switch triggered by a beam of light. As long as light is received unbroken by the photo-sensitive receiver, the detector is quiet. But if smoke or moisture or an insect obstructs the beam for even a split second, the alarm sounds. Our conscience resembles such an alarm. When sin obstructs our connection with the light of God’s Spirit, the conscience signals us that there’s life-threatening danger. But if the sin is not removed, and the alarm is endured and left to ring, soon the battery expires and the alarm stops sounding.

So it is with us and our conscience. We have become immune to the sounding of the Holy Spirit’s alarm. In fact, for some, the Holy Spirit has been completely quenched so that the alarm no longer works. We have chosen to pursue the sin we love while ignoring the recharging of the batteries through the reading and application of God’s Word. We have decided to please self rather than God, and to remove the guilt of such rebellion we have unplugged the alarms God intended for our safety and security.

Some people claim their conscience is operating correctly, when in fact they are simply acting in response to the expectations of others. There is a difference between one who does right because of his own conscience and the one who is kept from wrongdoing because of the presence of others. A person’s honor is found in the consistency of the private life and the public.  Michel Eyquem de Montaigne said it well back in the 16th century when he wrote, “A person of honor would prefer to lose his honor rather than lose his conscience.” Honor makes consistent choices no matter who is watching.

Others claim their conscience is operating correctly based on the idea that if they haven’t been caught they aren’t guilty. They have chosen to believe a lie that has eliminated the guilt that should exist in the heart, whether or not there is guilt in the courts. They have chosen to let man be the ruler of their conscience instead of God. The light of God’s holiness has been interrupted by the darkness of man’s pride.

God intended for our conscience to be illuminated by the Holy Spirit so that our minds are captivated by truth. Mark Twain said, “An uneasy conscience is a hair in the mouth.” For most of us, unfortunately, we’ve gotten used to hair in our mouths. Something has to change. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 9:1, I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit. But we must understand that while it’s always true that the conscience reigns, it does not govern. We do. We have chosen to suppress the truth and live according to our own dictates.

That has left us as people in turmoil. John Milton wrote, He that has light within his own clear breast may sit in the center and enjoy bright day; but he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts benighted walks under the midday sun. Those who walk in the denial of guilt walk a lonely path in life. God did not intend us to live that way. He designed our conscience to be empowered by His presence in the Holy Spirit so that we can walk in His will and experience abundant life. We have instead chosen to walk according to the praise of men rather than God.

Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380–1471) wrote, Great tranquillity has he who cares neither for praise nor criticism. He will be content whose conscience is pure. You are not more holy if you are praised; nor more worthless if you are criticized. What you are, that you are; words cannot make you greater than what you are in the sight of God.

It is time for us to become people of honor again. It is time for the people of God to pray for the healing of the conscience. It is time for us to become true people of honor, like our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. He wrote, I desire so to conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me 

May we be people of honor with a clear conscience – clear because we are completely controlled by the Holy Spirit of God. “Lord, heal my conscience. Show me the guilt of my sin so that I may repent of it. Let the light of your truth be energized and empowered by the Holy Spirit to sound the fire alarm of hell when even the smallest sin breaks the beam. Restore unto me the honor that comes from true integrity. Amen.”

Pastor John