Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 1:1-2:30 / Philippians 1:27-2:11 / Psalm 115:1-11
Have you ever had a BA…a Bad Attitude? We all get in moods where our disposition, outlook and tone are negative. Others catch the brunt of our frustration even though they may not be the problem. Our words are sharp, patience is thin and look is deadly. It is amazing that we can at times enjoy having a bad attitude because it gives us some sense of control and domination. Like the saying goes, “If you don’t like my attitude, quit talking to me!”
Paul writes about a different attitude that we are to emulate…”Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) What? Have the same attitude as The Son of God? Paul’s admonition seems to be so beyond our capabilities that we get a “bad attitude” about having a Godly attitude! Strange, isn’t it…
Paul gives us this admonition because a Christ-like attitude cannot be humanly achieved but imparted by Christ’s Spirit working through us. Jesus exemplified a spirit of humility, surrender and servant-hood. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (2:3) One of the most difficult things for selfish and self-centered man to do is humble themself for the advancement and exaltation of others.
Jesus didn’t have to take on the form of a servant and be made in human likeness because He was of the very nature of God. Jesus left the throne room of heaven, exchanged His glory for the fallen nature of man “and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (2:8)
We have difficulties when others get preferential treatment while we are targets of prejudice. It’s one thing to have this happen to us rarely or infrequently, it’s another thing to have this happen to us frequently. “Stick up for yourself…don’t let people walk all over you…Where’s your pride?” We have this human reaction to defend ourselves and fight for our rights and dignity.
If anyone had reason to defend Himself, it was Jesus. He, who was sinless, died upon a cruel, unforgiving and undeserved cross. I remember the old song, “He could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and set him free…but he died alone, for you and me.” Jesus recognized that His desire was to please His Heavenly Father no matter the sacrifice or cost.
God was pleased, exalted Jesus and gave Him the “name that is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (2:9-11) Jesus was not exalted because of His powerful and domineering attitude but because of His humble attitude. God still rewards that same Christ-like attitude today…may it be found in us!
Scripture Reading: Zephaniah 1:1-3:20 / Philippians 1:1-26 / Proverbs 23:29-24:4
I must admit, some of the most creative and compelling television commercials have been alcohol related. Who could ever forget the Budweiser Clydesdales…their beauty, majesty and strength? Many alcohol commercials present a lifestyle filled with community, purpose, friendship and joy. They don’t show us the other side…
Solomon writes, “In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.” (Proverbs 23:32) He is referring to wine (alcohol) and its intoxicating effects upon man. It may go down smooth and promise an escape from the pressures of life but that hopeful scenario is far from the truth. Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, it’s sting and poison is far reaching. When all is said and done, it brings bigger difficulties that dwarf the problems man is trying to escape.
Wine and its abuse began early as Noah became drunk and in a shameful state exposed his nakedness. The consequences of his drunkenness brought judgment upon Noah and his son. Next was Lot, whose two daughters carried out a reprehensible and reprobate plot. Driven by the fear of finding any men to father a child with them, they got their father Lot drunk, laid with him and became impregnated by him. Lot’s intoxication left him completely unaware of his actions and unable to respond in godly judgment.
There are a variety of reasons people are drawn to alcohol but many simply want to escape the pressures of life and drown their sorrows. Those pressures of life will fail in comparison to the woe, sorrow, strife, complaints, bruises and bloodshot eyes of alcohol’s intoxication. (23:29,30) Additionally it says, “Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. ”(23:33)
Intoxication is a dangerous place to be as it leaves one incapable to control their emotions, reactions, balance, judgment and body. Innocent spouses face uncontrolled abuse, families face depleted finances, friends face damaged relationships and sadly, unsuspecting and innocent drivers face an intoxicated driver on the road. Intoxication accounts for 1 out of 10 arrests and more than 1/3 of all traffic deaths are the result of drunk drivers.
There is a wide acceptance and encouragement of alcohol in our society. Yet Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” The results of these two influences (wine and The Spirit) are completely different. Alcohol intoxication leaves one without control and under the influence/control of alcohol’s evils. Intoxicated with The Spirit leaves one under the influence/control of The Spirit’s righteousness. We have a choice to either follow the appetites of the flesh or present our bodies as instruments for God’s glory… it all depends upon what we are drinking.
Scripture Reading: Nahum 1:1-3:19 / Ephesians 6:1-24 / Psalm 114:1-8
I love looking at pictures of my childhood, family and children. It’s amazing how things have changed…especially fashion. Senior graduation pictures have changed since my high school graduation in 1977(so long ago). I wore a light blue leisure suit with an open collar silk shirt. It was cool…well at least back then!
Some people are fashion conscious and usually it isn’t males…my wife likes to remind me of this. Regardless, we all dress according to the events of our day. Old clothes for work, comfortable shoes for shopping, dress clothes for special events and leisure clothes when we are staying home.
As important as our physical clothes are, Paul reminds us of the importance of being spiritually clothed. Paul calls us to dress ourselves with the armor of God. I haven’t seen that many suits of armor lately but during Paul’s time, they could make the difference between victory and defeat or life and death. Like a natural suit of armor, Paul speaks of a spiritual armor that is so needed for followers of Jesus Christ.
We face spiritual conflict as satan battles us on a daily basis. The only way to defeat him and defend our faith is to, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11) The battles we face are not birthed in the hearts of man but from the schemes of the enemy of our soul. Spiritual warfare is very real and often is dismissed by man as nothing or the result of a wild imagination.
I don’t believe there is a demon behind every bush but there is the real presence of evil. That belief is founded upon Paul’s words, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (6:12)
It’s one thing to be enlightened to spiritual darkness, it’s another thing to defeat it.
Victory is secured as we put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit.
We need to conscientiously and deliberately put on God’s armor. Truth will govern our actions, words and motives. Righteousness will cover our heart’s desires and motives. Peace will guide our steps and pathway. Faith will quench doubts, intimidation and fears. Salvation will protect our thoughts and conscience. God’s Word will defeat and destroy the works of the devil!
God clothed Adam and He provides clothing for us today. As you put on your physical clothes, make it your practice to put on God’s armor at the same time. You will be powerfully dressed and very fashionable...God guarantees it!
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 65:17-66:24 / Ephesians 5:8-33 / Psalm 113:1-9
Tina Turner recorded the song, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” in 1984 and it became a #1 hit. The song reflected a love deficient and failed marriage with her abusive husband Ike Turner. Love had evaded her as a young child and as a married woman. Aretha Franklin made the song, “R.E.S.P.E.C.T” one of the greatest songs of the Rock and Roll era. The song was written and originally sung by Otis Redding in 1965. He wrote the song as a man’s plea for respect and recognition from a woman.
These songs are steeped in worldliness and sensuality but there is a truth that cannot be overlooked. These two songs speak about a woman’s desire to be loved and a man’s need to be respected. They didn’t have original thoughts as the Apostle Paul writes about the need for love and respect to be the foundation for marriage.
Paul speaks of a wife submitting to her husband and a husband loving his wife. He summarizes his thoughts by saying, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) These foundational marriage elements are not man made but God inspired.
Husbands are to, “Love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (5:25) The world has no concept of this divine love because this type of love is not found in a promiscuous and lustful society. This world loves in order to get whereas Christ’s love – loves in order to give. As Christ gave himself for us who were undone and undeserving, a husband’s love is not to be given to his wife based upon a merit system. A husband’s love is not to be conditional but unconditional.
Wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. God is not requiring them to enslave themselves to a life where they lose all sense of identity, voice and purpose. God knows that her identity, voice and purpose is important and a wife is not a second-class citizen. Yet a wife will never know her full and valuable potential until it is developed within her husbands protective, nurturing and loving care. God designed man to provide the very best and to bring out the very best in his wife.
When a husband loves his wife the way Christ does, she will submit and respect him with great joy. She knows her husband will protect and care for her at all costs… even if it means the sacrifice of his own desires, wishes or life. When a wife submits and respects her husband in a way where Christ is honored, he will love her with complete devotion. He knows his wife believes in and is totally committed to him.
Love and respect can work when only one is present and active. But God has designed that both of these flow together in order to bring purpose, strength and joy in marriage. God’s desire is that a man and woman discover the complementary and completing component in their life… a marriage of love and respect.
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 63:1-65:16 / Ephesians 4:17-5:7 / Psalm 112:1-10
Deceit – “When one causes another to believe something that is not true, typically in order to gain some personal advantage.” Man was deceived by satan in the Garden of Eden and discovered the consequences of their actions were more than they could ever imagine. They believed satan’s lie and rejected God’s truth.
That scene has been played out in every person’s life since then and the results are always the same… deceived by sin while dismissing truth. Satan is a master deceiver as he appeals to man’s lust and pride. He presents sin as an acceptable, profitable and desirable addition to man’s life.
Jesus came to destroy the deceitful works of the devil and to open man’s eyes to God’s divine love and truth. Through Christ’s redemptive work, we find forgiveness and newness of life. We are called to live differently, under the direction and Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Paul writes, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” (Ephesians 5:3) There is no room for immorality, impurity, or impropriety. We may say that God’s standards are impossible to attain. In one respect, that is true but they are possible through the transformational empowerment of The Holy Spirit and the forgiving power of Christ.
Paul says we are to, “be imitators of God” (5:1)… 100% holy and pure. Would you drink a bottle of water whose label reads, “99% pure spring water, 1% sewage water”? I don’t think anyone of us would drink polluted and bacteria filled water. Why then would we want to forsake the pleasures and joys of Christ for the fleeting and passing lusts of the world? The answer is deceit.
Deceit is designed to lead us down a path of destruction. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” (5:6) We are deceived into believing that a little bit of sin is acceptable. Small sins will be overlooked because they are not great sins. There is the thought that God gives us a pass on “insignificant” sins.
Sin is not to be excused but confessed. Our sin will be forgiven when we repent but sin will be judged when we embrace it. Anyone who believes otherwise is deceived. Like Adam, no matter how effectively we try to cover our sin, we stand exposed before the all seeing and knowing God. Remember, Eve sinned when the serpent deceived her but Adam sinned with his eyes wide open. Both of them were without excuse. Keep your eyes wide open, your mind filled with God’s truth, your heart tender to Christ’s love, and your life transformed by Gods Spirit…do not be deceived!
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 60:1-62:12 / Ephesians 4:1-16 / Proverbs 23:19-28
Amy Grant recorded a fun but pointed song back in 1991 (a long time ago!) about the stunted spiritual growth of a Christian, called “Fat Baby”. Here are some of the lyrics, “He knelt at the altar, and that was the end. He's saved, and that's all that matters to him. His spiritual tummy, it can't take too much. One day a week, he gets a spiritual lunch. On Sunday, he puts on his spiritual best, and gives his language a spiritual rest. His daily devotions are stuck in the mud. I've always wondered if he'll grow up someday. He’s just a faaa… he’s just a fat little baby!”
If we believe salvation is simply a spiritual “get out of hell free” card, we have lost the significance of redemption. Christ is not just interested in our eternity; He died for our yesterdays, todays and tomorrows! He does not become our Lord in a future heaven; He is our Lord now. He doesn’t just give us a glorified body for eternity; He gives us a transformed life for this world.
Some believe ministers and spiritually passionate people are the only ones who are required to be “super” spiritual. Lesser degrees and depths of spirituality are required for “ordinary or common” Christians. The Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians about God’s standards for spiritual maturity and growth.
He writes, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13)
God has designed those called to the office of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip believers for works of service. In other words, every Christian is to be active and do the work of the ministry. It is not just the responsibility of those who preach behind a pulpit but also those who sit in a church pew. All of us are to grow in faith, know Him personally and reach a full maturity level of Christlikeness. No one is exempt.
Spiritual growth and maturity is to be a natural process in our lives. When a child fails to physically, mentally or emotionally grow; we look for disabling reasons. Apathy, complacency and compromise will stunt our spiritual growth and bring about spiritual anorexia or worldly obesity.
Weight watchers or lean cuisine won’t fix our spiritual deficiencies. Discover the hope of His Word, the joy of His presence, the power of His Spirit and a life of purpose as you passionately serve Him. You were meant to grow…don’t let anything stunt your growth!
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 57:14-59:12 / Ephesians 3:1-21 / Psalm 111:1-10
I remember when my children were young and they thought there was not a problem I couldn’t solve or a difficulty I couldn’t fix. They brought me their broken toys and broken hearts. I tightened bicycle handlebars, adjusted bike seats and reattached chains on pedal sprockets. I assured them there was no “boogieman” and held them when they were afraid.
They believed I could buy anything they wanted just because I had a check. They did not have to pay the bills or maintain the vehicles. That was not their concern or worry. All they knew was the provision and protection of a loving home. My children had great faith in me…they had childlike faith.
Jesus exemplified childlike faith and He said this type of faith was needed to enter the Kingdom of God. We think childlike faith is simple to attain but it is difficult when we have adult size knowledge and experiences. Life size challenges and struggles seem like invincible giants, as they dwarf our childlike faith. But never underestimate what God can do. We have limitations in our lives but God has no limitations. He is not governed by the laws of nature...He established them. Time does not restrict Him…He has always been and will always be.
God doesn’t expect us to ignore or minimize life’s challenges; He calls us to measure them against God’s presence, provisions and power. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)
God desires to reach into the riches of His glory and reveal Himself to us. He longs to display His miraculous hand in our lives and His divine presence in our hearts by His Holy Spirit. God wants us to know Him personally and experience the depth of His love. When God’s love is personally experienced, it surpasses our understanding and creates a fullness of childlike faith in us.
Paul concludes his prayer, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (3:20). God does immeasurably more than we can ask, more than we can imagine and more than we can ever know. The next time life reminds you how intimidating it is, seek a God who is immeasurably greater than life itself. And the next time the devil tells you how big your problem is, remind him how big your God is!
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 55:1-57:13 / Ephesians 2:1-22 / Psalm 110:1-7
“Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day!” As a young boy, I remember saying that as I watched the rainfall outside our kitchen window. I wanted to go outside and play but couldn’t because of the rain. The rain wasn’t my friend but spoiled all of my plans and always disappointed me. Little league baseball games were rained out, picnics were canceled, and Mom wouldn’t let me go outside and build my fort.
It didn’t take me long to find out that our grass really liked the rain and needed to be cut more frequently…another reason why I didn’t like the rain! But after a few years of maturity and experience, I realized rain was a necessity and great blessing. The rain brings needed water for agriculture, animals and all of nature. Parched land longs for a soaking rain and thirsty plants vibrantly respond to a life quickening rain.
The effect of rainfall is significant but God wasn’t simply giving us a lesson in botany or meteorology. Isaiah writes, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish… so is my word that goes out from my mouth…” (Isaiah 55:10,11) God’s Word, like rainfall, has a divine purpose to bring transformation in this world and in our lives.
God spoke all things into existence at creation…”And God Said!” The greatest of powers to the smallest cells, aligned themselves at God’s command. Light appeared, the earth was made and man was created…all because God spoke them into being. God didn’t stop speaking after the universe was created; He continued to speak blessings, promises, judgments, covenants, condemnation, and direction to His creation.
Every situation, obstacle and power subjects itself to God’s Word. God declares, “It (My Word) will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (55:11) God does not need to “flex His muscles” but simply speaks and brings all things into the alignment of His will.
The promises of God will be fulfilled and His Word is eternal. No principality or power can alter God’s divine plan or stand against God’s power. What a comfort to know that God has all things under His control! He still speaks peace and promises into our lives. His written Word gives us great hope, strength and assurance. Like the song says, “It’s beginning to rain, hear the voice of our Father. Saying whosoever will come drink of this water.” May God open the floodgates of heaven…Let It Rain!
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 51:17-54:17 / Ephesians 1:1-23 / Psalm 109:21-31
One of the greatest discoveries of Old Testament ancient texts were found in the Qumran caves, near the Dead Sea, by a young Bedouin shepherd in 1946. He and his cousins initially found 7 ancient texts in 7 clay jars. Over the next 10 years, a total of 972 texts were found. A sect of Jews known as the Essenes wrote these manuscripts between 150BC and 70AD. They wrote them in order to preserve Hebrew Bible texts, prophetic writings and ancient rules.
One of the most significant finds among the texts was a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah. There are more Messianic prophecies in Isaiah than any other Old Testament book. The Jews cherished this find yet ironically, they did not recognize Jesus as The Messiah who fulfilled every one of the Isaiah Messianic prophecies. The odds of any one person being able to fulfill the Messianic prophecies in Isaiah has been calculated to be 1 in 100 quadrillion!
One of the greatest Messianic chapters is Isaiah 53. It is known as the “Suffering Servant” prophecy. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3) Isaiah speaks of Christ’s suffering, His atoning work, His death, His victory and His reward. This entire chapter undeniably supports and confirms Christ’s divine work.
It is amazing to “connect the Messianic dots” and discover they are talking about Jesus…the One in whom we place all of our faith and trust. Jesus is not only seen in prophecy, He is seen throughout the Old Testament in types and shadows. Christ is at the center of every book of the Bible. He is the seed of Adam who would crush the serpent’s head in Genesis. He was the rock that followed and brought forth water for the Israelites in the wilderness.
Jesus fulfilled the Law by becoming our sacrificial Lamb. We can say with Isaiah, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (53:4,5)
Jesus Christ fulfilled every demand of The Law and established a new covenant of redemption. Abraham looked for, prophets foretold, and saints longed for the coming Messiah. Our lives are forever changed by His divine grace and we testify with all of scripture…it’s all about Jesus!
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 49:8-51:16 / Galatians 6:1-18 / Proverbs 23:10-18
One of my favorite movies is “Finding Nemo”. I love the scene when all of the fish get caught in a fishing net and as they are hoisted up to the boat, Nemo instructs all of them to swim down together. “Swim! Down! Swim! Down! Swim down! Swim down!” They relentlessly swim and just when it looks like they lost the battle, their swimming begins to defy the powerful wench and slowly they descend. The fish repeat in unison, “Keep swimming, keep swimming!” Finally the cable snaps, the net breaks and all of the fish are free!
What a great lesson on the power of unity, determination and perseverance. If we just keep on swimming against the powers that entrap us, we will gain victory and freedom. Yet this is not always the case…sometimes we experience defeat and disappointment. That scene is designed to inspire us and compel us to watch with greater intensity. Remember, Finding Nemo is an animated movie, designed to entertain us and make Disney millions of dollars.
I still like the movie and love that scene but I find greater inspiration and a sure promise in Paul’s words, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) God’s Word was not written to entertain us but was inspired by God to be the infallible, authoritative rule of our faith and conduct.
This world does not encourage us to righteousness and faith. In fact, it does the opposite by feeding our sinful and selfish nature. Living as light in a dark world is challenging and we are susceptible to discouragement. We are all vulnerable to weariness and tempted to “just give up”. We wrestle with the age long question, “Why try?”
Paul answers the age long “why try” question with an eternal “we will reap” promise! In due time, in the proper time we will be rewarded…just don’t give up. God is never late but always on time and faithful to respond to our commitment, obedience and faithfulness.
So the next time you find yourself trapped in the net of spiritual discouragement and simply want to give up…don’t! May your faith rise to the challenge and hang on for God’s intervention. Nemo would encourage us to “Keep swimming”. Paul tells us we will make it if we just…“keep believing and keep doing”.
Pastor James Clark has pastored Calvary Assembly since 1985. He is blessed with his wife Yvonne, six children, two son-in-laws, a beautiful granddaughter and hopefully many more grandchildren to follow!