Thankfulness

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Jesus walked the road from Samaria to Jerusalem, a road known to be treacherous with bandits. As He was going into the village, ten lepers met Him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When Jesus saw them, He said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” They were healed on their way to the temple. One of the men who was healed, a Samaritan, returned praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the others? Has no one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:13-19)

Leprosy is very contagious, and during the time of Jesus, the lepers had to live outside the community. They could not be close to anyone, even their own family. They could not hold their children or teach them or sing with them. These ten lepers were rescued from isolation in a moment–their lives given back to them. Why didn’t the other nine show gratitude?

THINK ABOUT IT

What about you? Do you show thankfulness when you are blessed or do you go on your way as most of the men in the story did? The Thanksgiving holiday is a reminder for us to show thankfulness for all God has done for us. Make it a time of rejoicing: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:4-6).

PRAY ABOUT IT

O Lord, our Lord, all we have comes from you. Thank you for loving us and blessing us. Help us to show others the compassion and generosity you have shown to us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Keys to the Kingdom

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Have you ever wondered what the keys to the kingdom are? In response to Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock (his confession) I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven” (Matthew 16:17-19).

The keys to the kingdom were not only for Peter. They are for every believer who abides in Christ and in whom His word abides.

THINK ABOUT IT

The person who abides in Christ has God-shaped desires. He knows the character and will of God from being in a relationship with Him. That is the person God gives the keys of the kingdom. Could the keys be our prayers? Jesus said, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 16:7).

PRAY ABOUT IT

Holy God, wonderful Father, thank you for Jesus. Through His sacrifice we have access to you, our Lord. Thank you! As we abide in you, teach us your ways, will and purpose. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

No Other Gods

The first commandment says, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Deuteronomy 5:6-10).

In this first commandment is God’s covenant of love–those who reject God will be punished to the third and fourth generations, but God will show love to those who love Him and keep His commands for a thousand generations. How foolish it is to choose an idol made by man to worship instead of worshiping the God of all creation!

THINK ABOUT IT

Unfortunately people worship what they can see over what they cannot see. Instead of trusting a living God, although unseen, they choose to worship manmade idols. Idols have eyes that cannot see, ears that cannot hear, and they have no power to help in times of trouble. People who worship them become as worthless as their items of worship, yet those who worship the Creator God, become loving, merciful, forgiving, compassionate and helpful to others.

We may not think we worship manmade gods, because they do not look like the picture above. But what do you spend your time doing? Is it serving others or yourself with pleasure or hobbies? God loves you and wants to have a relationship with you. Relationships take time, so spend your time wisely–God and others or self.

PRAY ABOUT IT

O Lord, send your Spirit on us to spend our time wisely. Help us to become more like Jesus. In His great name we pray, Amen.

5 Loaves for 5,000

When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been beheaded at Herod’s birthday party, He withdrew by boat to a solitary place. He looked up and saw a large crowd following Him. He had compassion on the people and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples asked Him to send the crowd away so they could go to the surrounding villages and buy food for themselves. Jesus said, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16). A boy offered them his lunch of five barley loaves and two fish, but how far would this go? Jesus said, “Bring them here to me,” and He directed the people to sit down on the grass. He took the loaves and fish, looked up to heaven, gave thanks and broke the loaves. The disciples distributed the food to the people, and all ate and were satisfied–about 5,000 men (not counting women and children).

THINK ABOUT IT

It seemed like Jesus asked the disciples to do the impossible when He said, “You give them something to eat.” Yet, He participated in serving the people. God intervenes in times when we feel inadequate to do what we think is impossible. We will never do great things if we limit ourselves, but if we trust God, He will help us do more than we can imagine.

PRAY ABOUT IT

O Lord help us to carry out your will and plan in our lives, even when we think the task is impossible. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Best of Prayer

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Do you want the best you can think of or the best God can think of? Do you find it difficult to pray as Jesus did, “Not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42)?

We live in an instant gratification culture. If we want it, we get it, but prayer often involves a waiting period. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Consider the story of Lazarus in John 11. When he was sick, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus. “Lord, the one you love is sick.” The sisters were close friends with Jesus and had seen how He healed people. They thought sure He would come immediately when He got their message, but He didn’t. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days” (John 11:5-6). What?

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days. Martha and Mary said to Jesus if He had been there, their brother would not have died. He followed them to the tomb and asked that the stone be rolled away. Martha said, “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days” (John 11:39). The Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” They rolled the stone away and Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41-42). Then Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out and Jesus said, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (Luke 11:44).

THINK ABOUT IT

Do you see how God was glorified in the waiting? A great number of people had come from Jerusalem and the surrounding areas to comfort Mary and Martha. These people saw what happened and believed. Mary and Martha wanted Jesus to heal their brother Lazarus, but He gave Lazarus back to them. For two women who probably had no other means of support, this was the best God could think of. This was a greater miracle that what they prayed for or expected.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Thank you, Father God, for Jesus. Help us to pray that He would be glorified in our lives. Help us to pray in line with your will and to persevere–to wait for the best you have for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The World Needs a Rescue

A lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered the question with a question. “What does the law say?” The lawyer said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus agreed with him. Then the lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus responded with a story about a Jewish man who traveled on a rocky path through the mountains from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves. They stripped him, beat him up and left him for dead. A priest walked by the injured man on the other side of the road. A Levite also walked by the injured man, but a Samaritan came by and took pity on him. He bandaged up his wounds pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his donkey and took him to an inn where he took care of him. The next day he gave two denarii to the innkeeper and said, “Look after him, and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have” (Luke 10:35).

Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The lawyer said, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”

THINK ABOUT IT

I have been convicted about busyness in my life, and like the priest or Levite, I would probably be too busy, too committed to stop and help anyone, something of which I’ve had to ask God to forgive me. There is more to this story than meets the eye. It’s called a parable. Compared to the Garden of Eden, Jerusalem was a place where man met with God and Jericho was the cursed area outside the garden. The world today is like the man who fell among thieves and needs our help. The world needs Jesus who is not only able to rescue us from drowning; He teaches us to swim. This gives greater depth to the situation of the man who fell among thieves. Mankind needs to know about the amazing love of Jesus. Helping others in trouble is a good way to initiate a discussion that will lead to their need of a Savior. Who will tell them? I hope you will answer as Isaiah did when God asked, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” and I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8).

PRAY ABOUT IT

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for Jesus and His amazing love. Create in our hearts a willingness and availability to serve others by recognizing opportunities to share your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Look to Things Above

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Since you received God’s amazing love, set your minds on things above, not on earthy things. Get rid of your anger, rage, malice, slander and bad language. Do not lie to each other. Don’t live in sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed. You used to do these things, but now as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient. Bear each other’s problems. Forgive each other as Christ forgave you. And love each other because love unites all these together in perfect harmony (my paraphrase of Colossians 3).

THINK ABOUT IT

Living for God and not ourselves is very different for new believers, but God has put His guidelines in His word, the Bible. He wants us to shine as beacons of His light in this dark world so we will lead others to experience God’s love, which will give them peace over their anxiety, hope in place of discouragement and lives of purpose in place of confusion or frustration.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Heavenly Father, be in us today to overcome the world–to love and serve others. Empower us with your love and a love of your word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Heavenly Minded

Heaven is the hope of every believer, but heaven probably has as many definitions as there are believers. At creation, however, God made everything with eternity in mind. It is a real place. I imagine the Garden of Eden with beautiful skies, waterfalls, flowers and trees. The Bible describes the New Jerusalem as a precious jewel. The wall is made of jasper, and the city of pure gold as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone: jasper, sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, ruby, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, turquoise, and amethyst. The streets are of pure gold as pure as transparent glass. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God'” (Revelation 21:3-4).

THINK ABOUT IT

Too many Christians are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good, but if Heaven is our hope and it is a real place, shouldn’t we live to glorify God on earth as we would in eternity? Whatever we do for God will last forever. It will have an affect on people before and after we are gone from earth and will continue to be part of God’s plan in Heaven. Randy Alcorn said in his book HEAVEN that man’s creativity and technological advancement will not be lost in Heaven. The God who gave people creativity surely won’t take it back, will he? The gifts and callings of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29).

So how should we live? Although God is interested in our work, He is more interested in how we live. He calls us to be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and live our lives with love, light and wisdom (Ephesians 5:1-2). This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16).

So, since Jesus gave us all He had, His life, let us give our lives to Him in response by loving each other.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Heavenly Father, help us to be more like Jesus–to love as He does and to show compassion as He does. Fill us with your Spirit to fulfill your plan on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Does God Change His Mind?

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Is there a place in Scripture where you would think God changed His mind? Yes, I think of the time when Moses spent forty days and nights with God on Mt. Sinai. The people He rescued from slavery in Egypt grew impatient waiting for him to come down the mountain, and they convinced Aaron to make a golden calf for them to worship. It seemed reasonable to them because the surrounding nations worshiped golden calves.

God became so angry with them that He said He would destroy Israel and make a great nation out Moses.

Moses replied, “Why would you do that? The Egyptians will think You brought us out into the wilderness to kill us. O Lord, turn from your fierce anger and do not bring this disaster on your people” (Exodus 32:9-12). Then the Bible says God relented and did not bring about the disaster He said He would.

THINK ABOUT IT

Did God think in His heart, Moses has a point. I think I should show mercy and not judgement? If Moses could change God’s mind, He is not God. Instead, He looked for someone to stand in the gap for His people and He found Moses.

God still looks for those who will stand in the gap and intercede for His people. God loves all people so much that He sent His only Son as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sin. Will you stand in the gap? Will you pray for your friends and family who do not know the love of God?

PRAY ABOUT IT

Father God, thank you for Jesus who made it possible for us to reconcile ourselves with you–Holy, Faithful and True God. Raise up your people, Lord! Bring revival to this world. Bring repentance and justice. O Lord, only You can heal our land. Only you can turn this world right side up again. Empower us to partner with you, to speak boldly for the salvation of many who need to know Your amazing love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Increase

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Jesus’ last words to the apostles were, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about” (Acts 1:4).

His friends waited in Jerusalem. The gift Jesus spoke about was the power of the Holy Spirit. It came on Pentecost when people from many nations were in Jerusalem. Tongues of fire rested on each of the apostles and they began to speak in languages the people could understand. Peter explained, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:16:21).

Peter had the attention of the people and continued to speak with great power. He said, “Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, who you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” The people felt helpless and asked what they must do. Peter said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:36-38). Peter used many other words to warn the people, and that day about 3,000 people accepted the message and were baptized.

While the apostles were still in Jerusalem, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John. They were disturbed because the apostles proclaimed the resurrection of the dead in Jesus. Even though they seized Peter and John, the number of believers grew to about 5,000 (Acts 4:4).

THINK ABOUT IT

The same power that raised Jesus from the grave was at work in Peter and John. These were not educated men, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, they made convincing statements that led people to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. This same power is at work in believers today. We are a kingdom of priests, called to tell the truth. Will you rely on this strength to speak boldly about God’s amazing love to a dark and dying world? I assure you, many people need to now the love of Jesus–mercy instead of judgement, peace instead of anxiety and hope instead of hopelessness.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for Jesus and His sacrifice that brought about the forgiveness of our sins. Help us to live in the power of our salvation, to show compassion to others and to speak of your love to those who need to hear it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.