Scripture Reading: Leviticus 4:1-5:13 / Mark 10:13-31 / Psalm 27:7-14
Have you ever asked a child what they wanted to be when they grew up? You will get a lot of interesting and amazing answers. Children have large dreams yet they do not have a great grasp on reality. We have great doubt children will attain what they envision and believe they will eventually figure out their place and purpose.
That type of thinking may be classified as “mature” but it isn’t always “right”. Some children have unrealistic dreams of becoming super-heroes yet they can fulfill that dream by pursuing service or health care professions that are instrumental in helping and rescuing others. Children’s dreams are not to be discouraged but directed with a loving and discerning spirit.
One day as Jesus was teaching He was interrupted by special guests... children. The children immediately became the focus of Christ’s attention while His disciples did not see the significance and importance of the children. The disciples began sending the children away and even rebuked them. “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant, He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14)
The disciples didn’t think Jesus needed to spend His time with little children…Jesus had more important people to reach. Jesus set the issue straight – children were not only welcomed, they belonged in His arms. They had every right to be in His presence because the kingdom of God belonged to them. No child, no matter how young or feeble, was disregarded by Jesus.
Our brains are dramatically molded during the first 5 years of our life…. how we think, what we think and how we behave throughout life. Infants learn and acquire an incredible amount of knowledge in a short span of time. The most profound learning occurs before 5 yrs. old…making it the “window of opportunity.”
In 30 years, Brazilian missionary Bernhard Johnson saw 1.8 million people come to Christ. He said that if he could do it all over again, he would devote all his time to working with children. His reasoning…”Because I believe the long-term results would be greater.” In his final years, he founded dozens of Christian schools, daycares and provided Bible curriculum for 100’s of public schools. He got it!
Jesus praised and admonished us to have the simplistic faith of a child. We often think the Kingdom of God needs to be understood. Jesus said salvation is not about understanding; it’s about faith. A child’s faith is required for entrance in God’s Kingdom. 80% to 85% of those who believe in Christ came to know the Lord between the ages of 4 and 14. We cannot neglect the children in the harvest field. Children have the most valuable lives in the world, “When an adult comes to Christ, a soul is saved but when a child comes to Christ…a life is saved!”
Scripture Reading: Leviticus 1:1-3:17 / Mark 9:33-10:12 / Psalm 27:1-6
9-11… that historical and tragic day marked the greatest terrorist attack ever leveled against the United States. The television and media coverage of those events were extensive and riveting. Americans were stunned as they watched and heard every account, report, decision and development. Survivors were interviewed, witnesses gave their insight and family members shared their memories and grief.
It was a day that our nation mourned and resolved to win the war against terrorism. We have taken great steps to eradicate terrorism and secure our nation from further attacks yet the overwhelming effects of terrorism still lingers today…fear. There is a heightened awareness that terrorism can strike unannounced at any time, in any way, at any location. Fear chokes all hope and keeps us in bondage.
David went and faced the challenge of Goliath when all of Israel was trembling with fear. David was not afraid for he knew the battle was the Lord’s. Even when pursued by his rebellious and murderous son Absalom, David trusted in God. He declared, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
When a child is afraid of the dark, their greatest comfort is light as it dispels all fear of the unknowns that loom in the darkness. David describes God as his light who displaces the fears and apprehensions of life. Through His Word and Spirit, God illuminates His powerful presence in the midst of all life’s circumstances. God flips the switch, turns on the light and the fears associated with the darkness - flees.
Light pierces the darkness and reveals truth, knowledge and understanding. God’s Kingdom is always referred to as “The Kingdom of Light” and satan’s as “The Kingdom of Darkness.” God’s light not only dispels fear by illuminating His presence, His light also gives life. As the sun’s light gives life (photosynthesis) to a plant, God gives us life through His Son! God has “…delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” (Col. 1:13)
His marvelous light redeems our souls and delivers us from satan and the captivity of sin. Christ becomes our stronghold of strength, protection and security. The enemy of darkness cannot penetrate the stronghold of God’s light. Whenever it casts a shadow on our lives, we like David look to the illuminating power of God’s Word, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
When God is on our side, we do not need to be fearful. He has proven to illuminate our lives with His faithfulness and presence. Remember, you don’t need to be afraid when you walk through the fog of life, shadow of death or dark presence of the enemy. Just flip on the spiritual light switch and darkness will flee…along with fear!
Scripture Reading: Exodus 39:1-40:38 / Mark 9:2-32 / Psalm 26:1-12
There is a reason why our judicial system operates on the foundation of “innocent until proven guilty”. It is an atrocity for the guilty to go free but even a greater injustice for the innocent to be convicted as guilty. We have all personally experienced times in life where we have been misjudged, misunderstood, and the subject of rumors. Man’s motives are not always pure and are susceptible to envy, jealousy, prejudice, pride and hatred.
King Saul falsely accused David of treason, rebellion and disloyalty. David had many opportunities to overthrow Saul’s kingdom and even take his life but he refrained from harming Saul. David honored the office of the king and revered God’s divine selection. Instead of fighting and defending himself against Saul, David fled for his life. David asks of God, “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have led a blameless life, I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.” (Psalm 26:1)
David was falsely accused and desperately desired God to clear his name, justify his life from blame and declare him innocent. He was confident that his life was blameless before God and man. David claimed he was a man of integrity and pleaded his case before God. Some may think David was a bit prideful, arrogant and self-righteous to say he was blameless. Yet David was confident his heart and motives were pure before man and God.
Often times in life it is difficult to discern true motives and hearts. We do not have the ability to measure or look within a persons soul. Our perceptions can be skewed and knowledge limited. Some believe passing judgment upon others is a duty and in a strange way, a privilege. We, like David, must understand that God alone is able to pass true, just and authoritative judgment.
David refrained from vindicating himself and faithfully submitted himself to the authority of King Saul. His life was chaotic and troubled yet he did not lay a hand nor speak against God’s anointed. David was willing and desirous to have God pronounce sentence on his life and pronounce him innocent. He knew what others said about him; he now wanted God to speak on his behalf and vindicate him.
David did not ask God to blindly vindicate him but said, “Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” (v.2) He desired God to examine him and determine his “realness” and integrity. David wanted God to “prove” him and validate his life as either pure or impure.
Like precious gold that is refined and tested in the fire, David asked for the same proving process. We can’t ask God to defend us if we are unwilling to have Him examine our hearts, thoughts, motives and actions. After all, it doesn’t matter what others may think about us. We need to covet what God thinks… and what He knows!
Scripture Reading: Exodus 37:1-38:31 / Mark 8:14-9:1 / Proverbs 6:1-11
The economy of the United States has undergone tremendous changes since I graduated high school. In 1977, The Federal Debt was $706,400,000,000 (billion). Today the Federal Debt is $17,268,697,697,000 (trillion). Spending has spun out of control and prices have increased dramatically. For instance, postage stamps were .13 and bread was .32. A gallon of milk averaged 1.44 and a gallon of gas was only .77! New cars averaged $4,317 and a new house cost $55,473.00.
Still, the United States is very affluent and our lifestyle is immaculate compared to people in other countries. We have the best and the most of the world’s luxuries. Americans do not deny themselves the finer things in life even though the price tag may be high or more than they can afford. In 1977, the credit card debt of all Americans was $39 billion, in 2012, the credit card debt was $845 billion.
We struggle with undisciplined lives and saying “no” to our desires. This is not only a struggle for Americans; every person wrestles with the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Jesus addresses this “live for self” lust and pride when it comes to following Him. He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
Following Christ is not a life of self-denial but a life of denying self. It’s not a matter of giving up or denying “things” but denying and surrendering our will to Him… our plans for His plans and our lives to His control. Nothing says denial like a “cross”. The disciples knew that a cross was an instrument of shame, torture and death. When a person took up a cross, he was carrying the instrument of his own death. Following Christ meant to give up your life entirely… not part of it but all of it.
So what does the life of denial and cross bearing look like? When you see others attain goals you fail to reach and see others receive rewards and recognitions you would like to have without being envious… When you share your faith knowing that you may be insulted or put down… When you choose to serve your spouse or your children and put their needs ahead of yours… that’s dying to yourself.
When you can accept interruptions that God places in your schedule and patiently bear with irritations… When you tell the truth, even at personal expense… When you are content to let God settle the score and content to wait for your reward in heaven… that’s bearing your cross.
Jesus made abundant and eternal life possible because He humbled Himself, left heaven, was born into a world of sin, submitted His will to the Father and died upon a cross for our redemption. He is the supreme example of denying self and bearing His cross. So, what is the cost of discipleship and following Him? The price tag hasn’t changed…it will cost you your very life.
Scripture Reading: Exodus 35:1-36:38 / Mark 7:31-8:13 / Psalm 25:16-22
In our economy today, it is important to make our money “stretch”. Buying sale items, using coupons or purchasing generic products are some ways that can help our food budgets go further. For example, one 16 year-old British teenager collected hundreds of coupons and purchased close to $1,000 worth of groceries for about $6 and donated the food to charity. The young man, Jordan Cox, diligently searched websites and magazines gathering 470 supermarket coupons to make the food purchase possible.
In Mark 8, we read of a crowd of people who could have used the resources of Jordan Cox but they had a better resource…Jesus! Large crowds often gathered around Jesus and they would stay, all day if needed, in order to hear and see Him. This crowd had been with Jesus for 3 days and they had no intentions of leaving. Jesus wanted to dismiss them but had compassion for them and said, “If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” (Mark 8:3)
The disciples answered Jesus, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” (vs.4) This was a large crowd of 4,000 men, not including women and children. They were in a rural area and finding food for thousands would be virtually impossible.
Life is filled with a lot of “not enough’s” and “too much’s”. Our resources are often not enough to meet our needs that are too much. Even when we are financially wise and prepared, the unexpected demands of life can stretch us to our limit. Panic and apathy (often a mask for fear) often leave us depressed and defeated. During those times, we need to look beyond ourselves to Jesus who has compassion for us. He is not shaken by the overwhelming needs because He is the overwhelming provider!
Jesus asked how much bread the disciples had and they told Him 7 loaves. Those 7 loaves of bread were insufficient to meet the needs of the people but when they were placed in the hands of Jesus, they were more than enough! They also found a few fish so Jesus took them as well and added them to the menu. Jesus blessed, broke and gave the bread and fish to the disciples to distribute to the people.
Jesus took the lunch and multiplied it. Those 7 loaves of bread and few fish were miraculously multiplied to feed the thousands and afterwards, the disciples picked up 7 baskets of leftovers! Man is into addition but God is into multiplication! God’s math: 1 meal (7 loaves/few fish) X Jesus = food for 4,000+… and 7 baskets of leftovers! Don’t be afraid to give God control and possession of the “little” or “much” that you have in your hands. God rewards faith and obedience; He is faithful to multiply whatever you place in His hands. God will provide for your every need…plus give you leftovers!
Scripture Reading: Exodus 33:7-34:35 / Mark 7:1-30 / Psalm 25:8-15
What do you do when you are in the middle of the wilderness, leading more than 3 million people and your all-in-one guide, navigator, financier and provider quits? This is exactly what happened to Moses when he was leading Israel to the Promised Land. The Israelites blasphemed and rebelled against God several times but the golden calf stirred God’s anger and he refused to continue the journey with Israel.
Moses depended upon God to direct his life and lead him step by step along his journey to bring deliverance to Israel. He was so reluctant but God neutralized his fear by promising to go with him. Moses is now desperate and asks God for direction, to know God’s ways…he needed a roadmap. God’s reply to him, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)
Moses had broken the tablets of stone, destroyed the golden calf and executed the offenders but he could not rest until God’s grace was fully restored. Moses was not interested in an angelic guard’s protection but requested of God, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” (vs.15) Moses could not and would not continue on without God’s presence.
God promised to guide, even though Moses did not know the way. God assured Moses of His presence to go with and before Moses in the journey. Some are like Moses, looking for a roadmap instead of the mapmaker! We can rest in His presence to lead, guide and direct all of our tomorrows. God takes care of our future by directing us everyday…the steps of a righteous man are ordered by The Lord! We can journey through a complex and challenging life, trusting Him at all times.
Moses was further encouraged when The Lord told him, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and know you by name.” (vs.17) He encountered God in powerful ways – through the burning bush, on Mt. Sinai and in the tent of meeting yet Moses wanted more. He requested of God, “Now show me your glory.” (vs.18) The more Moses experienced God; the more he wanted. He wanted to draw nearer and closer to God. The passion of Moses…“Show Me Your Glory! I Want It All! Take Me Beyond A Mountain Experience!”
God responds to Moses’ request by telling him, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you…” (vs.19) God would reveal His glory by showing Moses all of His goodness! The glory of God was manifest in God’s everyday, every minute and His every moment goodness. If we want to see God’s glory, we need to only look upon His mercy, grace, love and faithfulness. We don’t have to look long or hard because His glory is clearly seen and very evident in our lives all the time! God is willing and ready to lead you by His presence and show you His glory... Just Ask.
Scripture Reading: Exodus 31:1-33:6 / Mark 6:30-56 / Psalm 27:1-7
Just before Thanksgiving holiday, a college chemistry professor would always lecture against prayer. He was sarcastic, funny and all the students would laugh. He would always end his tirade with a challenge, “Is there anybody here that still believes in prayer and in God? Now before you answer, I’ll tell you what I am going to do,” as he held up a 2 quart flask, “If you believe in God, I am going to ask you to stand and pray that when I drop this flask it won’t break.”
He had done this for 15 straight years and no one ever challenged him. The professor would drop the flask on the concrete floor and laugh as it shattered. An incoming freshman enrolled in this chemistry class and heard how Dr. Lee would challenge prayer, God and everyone’s faith. He decided to stand up to Dr. Lee and asked others to pray with him for courage and for the flask not to break.
The day arrived for Dr. Lee’s lecture on prayer and he concluded with, “Is there anybody here who still believes in prayer?” The freshman stood up and said, “Dr. Lee, I believe in prayer.” The surprised professor was amused and said, “My, my isn’t this great. You believe in prayer. All the prayers of your friends, and family, will make no difference. There is no God.” Laughing he asked, “Are you ready?”
Dr. Lee continued, “Students, this is really great. Let’s all bow our heads and let him pray.” The young man prayed, “Dear Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ I thank you that you have heard me. For your honor and Christ’s name sake and for the honor of your servant, who puts his trust in you, don’t let the flask break. Amen.”
The professor held out the flask at arm's length and dropped it. The flask fell at a curve, hit the top of Dr. Lee’s shoe and it rolled around on the concrete floor. The flask did not break! Disbelief flooded Dr. Lee and his face turned pale and white as he experienced a revelation of the power of God. The whole class of 300 students laughed hysterically and then stood to applaud the young man who had the courage and conviction in a God who did not fail.
David prayed, “Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.” (Psalm 25:2) He understood the ridicule and jabs of the enemy. David’s life and faith was constantly challenged, leaving him confused, embarrassed and dismayed. The roar of the world is at times so intimidating that we retreat to the place of doubt and fear. It is difficult to battle the enemy with a broken spirit. What is the answer?
Resolving to put our trust and hope in God, unconditionally! Fighting every human emotion with the promises and truth of God’s Word. Putting our faith on the line and trusting Him to come through. We don’t need to hang or hide our heads in shame because, “No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.” (vs.3) God is all-powerful, present, and knowing. Give Him room to work…God will win!
Scripture Reading: Exodus 29:1-30:38 / Mark 6:6-29 / Proverbs 5:15-23
Undoubtedly you have heard the phrase, “Often imitated but never duplicated.” This slogan has been around a long time and advertisers have used it for more than 80 years to sell everything from cars to tennis rackets. The earliest use was in 1928 by an English tailor but it also is used to introduce the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders at Dallas Cowboys home football games.
The message conveyed is that the advertised product is coveted and even produced but never up to the original’s high standards and immense quality. There are few things in life of which that can be said but God speaks of His anointing that far surpasses anything of this world. If duplicated, the judgment of God would result, “Whoever makes perfume like it and whoever puts it on anyone other than a priest must be cut off from his people.” (Exodus 30:33)
God gave Moses a recipe for making the sacred anointing oil. The anointing oil was not just ordinary oil. The ingredients were to be pure and exact. Four different spices of varying amounts and olive oil were to be mixed by a perfumer. Moses was instructed to anoint the tabernacle and its furnishings - the ark, mercy seat, golden and brazen altars, table of showbread, candlesticks, laver and all the vessels. They were to be set apart for the work of the Lord.
In the Old Testament, everything in ministry was to be anointed with oil. God also instructed kings and priests to be anointed. The priests weren’t just dabbed with oil, it was poured out on their heads, ran down their beards and onto their clothes. It was a powerful display of consecration and sanctification. They were set apart for God’s glory and honor.
The purpose and significance of God’s anointing is so powerful that man can never duplicate it. Nothing can compare to the call of God, His divine gifting’s and His empowering Spirit. God does anoint people for specific calls and ministry but He also anoints all of His children with His Holy Spirit! Paul tells the Corinthians that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Not only are we anointed; we are vessels of the Holy Spirit and carriers of His divine presence!
He sets us apart for Him and like the anointing oil; the fragrance of the divine oil was sweet and precious. We are called the pleasing aroma of Christ’s love and eternal life. On February 8, 1998, our congregation anointed the steeple that was to be placed on top of our newly constructed sanctuary. As we poured oil over it, we asked God to use it for His glory. As it reached towards heaven, we desired His Spirit to anoint our church as a powerful anointing place of His presence, healing and sweet fragrance. God has anointed all of our lives with His Holy Spirit to be reflective of His glory and power. You are the aroma of His love, peace, gentleness and beauty. You are anointed for His good pleasure!
Scripture Reading: Exodus 27:1-28:43 / Mark 5:21-6:6 / Psalm 24:1-10
A man visited a jewelry store that was owned by a friend. His friend showed him magnificent diamonds and other splendid stones. Among them, was one that seemed to be dull and lifeless. He remarked, “That has no beauty at all.” His friend put it in the hallow of his hand, closed his hand around it and then in a few moments opened his hand.
To the man’s surprise, the entire stone gleamed with all the splendor of a rainbow. He was amazed and asked his friend what happened. The jeweler answered, “This is an opal. It is what we call the sympathetic jewel. It only needs to be gripped with the human hand to bring out its wonderful beauty.”
In Exodus, we discovered Aaron and Hur had helping hands for Moses. Their hands provided strength for Moses and victory for Israel. David had a heart for God yet his hands revealed the struggles and waywardness of his heart. David loved to worship in Jerusalem and understood the importance of his heart and hands in worship. “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart…” (Psalm 24:3,4)
God regards hands as spiritually, relationally and physically significant. A person’s hands tell a lot about them as they often reveal their profession, lifestyle and age. A mechanic’s hands are rough and calloused whereas a doctor’s hands are smooth and clean. When we age, our hands become weaker, brittle and dry.
Hands are busy with carrying out our desires and will. They express our love, care, compassion, mercy, discipline and even displeasure. Just as the tongue is expressive of the heart, so it is with our hands. People in love, both young and old, enjoy holding hands. Their hearts beat just a little faster and their souls are energized. Our hands have a direct connection to our hearts.
Spiritually, the effects of a sinful and unclean world will cling to our hands. The priests were required to wash their hands in the laver when they entered the tabernacle. It was a reminder of the need for cleansing before approaching God in the Holy Place. David’s hands were stained with the blood of murder and the sin of adultery. The same for us…what has been in our hands? A remote control, magazine, computer mouse, another hand, sin?
Pilate washed his hands, as the Jews demanded Christ’s crucifixion saying, “I find no fault in him!” Peter who refused to let Jesus wash his feet, repented of his pride and requested, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” We need clean hands to approach a holy God. Ask God to clean your heart and your hands. Let go of your grasp on the world…lay hold on the things of God!
Scripture Reading: Exodus 25:1-26:37 / Mark 4:30-5:20 / Psalm 23:1-6
A story is told about a Christian army officer who was at sea with his family. A great storm arose and everyone was terrified but he was calm. His wife chided him for not showing concern for her and the children, let alone his own life in the face of danger. He did not reply but left and returned with his sword drawn.
With a somber countenance, he pointed the sword at her heart. She was not a bit alarmed and looked into his eyes with a smile. He questioned, “What, are you not afraid of a drawn sword at your heart?” “No, she replied, “Not when I know it is in the hands of the one who loves me.” He responded, “Then why should I fear the tempest when I know it to be in the hand of my heavenly Father who loves me?”
The disciples found themselves in the midst of a great storm as they crossed the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had just finished a long day of ministry and crossed the Galilee to escape the crowd for some rest and peace. The Sea was 600 feet below sea level and subject to violent winds and storms would sweep down over the cliffs. While crossing the water, the winds howled and the boat rocked. The disciples were fearful but Jesus slept.
Water began to pour into the boat and the brave disciples were paralyzed by fear while the weary Jesus remained asleep. When the storm had reached a point of sure destruction, the frantic disciples woke Jesus from His slumber and asked, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38) It is amazing that the storm, howling winds and crashing waves did not stir or wake Jesus but He arose to their cry of panic and distress. Jesus is always aware of our condition and plight in life.
He was about to calm the storm and also calm their souls. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” (vs.39) Nature bowed to the authority and rebuke of Jesus. The howling wind became a gentle hush; the crashing waves became still and serene.
When we are on the ocean of life, it is a comfort to know that Jesus is on board. The world may laugh at Christianity when the sun is shining but their attitude changes when tempests arise. In order to have Jesus with us in the midst of the storm, we need to seek Him and welcome Him aboard when the sun is shining. When Christ is with us, it isn’t always “smooth sailing”. Life and satan will rise up against us yet His presence always calms and overcomes every storm.
At times, we think Christ is sleeping and indifferent to our pain and suffering. Like Peter, we can question His care, love and control. He asked, “Don’t you care if we drown?” Years later he wrote, “He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) We don’t need to fear or panic, even if Jesus sleeps. Many of His silences we can explain, others seem to be unresolved but someday all will be understood…He won’t let us drown!