Ernest Gordon tells a story in Miracle on the River Kwai about Scottish soldiers forced by their Japanese captors to labor on a jungle railroad.
Under the strain of captivity they had degenerated to barbarous behavior, but one afternoon something happened.
“A shovel was missing. The officer in charge became enraged. He demanded that the missing shovel be produced, or else.
When nobody in the squadron budged, the officer got his gun and threatened to kill them all on the spot… It was obvious the officer meant what he said.
Then, finally, one man stepped forward. The officer put away his gun, picked up a shovel, and beat the man to death.
When it was over, the survivors picked up the bloody corpse and carried it with them to the second tool check.
This time, no shovel was missing. Indeed, there had been a miscount at the first check point.
“The word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others!… The incident had a profound effect.… The men began to treat each other like brothers.
“When the victorious Allies swept in, the survivors, human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors… (and instead of attacking their captors) insisted:
‘No more hatred. No more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness.’”
Sacrificial love has transforming power
(adapted by Don Ratzlaff, Christian Leader).
Isaiah climaxes his prophecy by describing the servant of the Lord.
His description has sent Bible students scurrying to discover exactly who the prophet had in mind.
The question has been asked at least from the time of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:31-34).
Among the multitude of Old Testament figures nominated as Isaiah’s Suffering Servant are Moses, Joshua, David, Hezekiah, Uzziah, Jehoiachin, Zerubbabel, Sheshbazzar, Cyrus of Persia, Isaiah, Jeremiah, or a person among the exiles unknown to modern readers.
Others look back at earlier Servant Songs in Isaiah 40-55 (42:1-9; 49:1-13; 50:4-11) and decide that Isaiah consistently refers to Israel, or at least a remnant within Israel as the servant.
More traditionally, conservative scholars have seen Isaiah 52:13-53:12 as a special piece of literature giving the most explicit prophecy of the coming of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.
As we wind our way through the most exquisite of Old Testament passages, we will have to see how mysterious the prophet wants to be in describing the Suffering Servant.
God’s zeal for His people is revealed as He sends His Servant to suffer and die for their sins.
(52:1-2) The prophet became a commander ordering his troops into action.
First, he had to wake them up and get them in parade uniforms ready for the great festival procession.
God’s people could junk their mourning clothes forever and put on their Sabbath-go-to-meeting clothes.
On this holy day they must march to the holy city. No longer would they be bothered with the torments from their unclean, uncircumcised and defiled captors.
They could rise from the dust of mourning, sit instead on Jerusalem’s throne, and free themselves from the captive chains.
God had commanded His people to “leave Babylon” (48:20).
Now they should be on their way back to the holy city to again assume God’s calling.
(vv. 3–6) Israel had not been sold as a slave for monetary gain; she will be redeemed without money as well.
The Israelites went down at first into Egypt as guests; but subsequently they were abused.
Later the Assyrian oppressed them without cause, but not for monetary gain.
Now once again God’s people are being tyrannized by oppressors who make no payment to the Lord.
The overlords are delighted, and God’s name is blasphemed.
But He will show Himself strong on behalf of His own, and they will know that He is all that He promised to be.
(vv. 7–10) The next verses picture the return of the Jews from their worldwide dispersion.
As the exiles travel over the mountains… to Zion they are preceded by heralds who proclaim the good news of the Messiah’s reign.
The watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem sing with joy as they see … the Lord returning at the head of the multitude.
Jerusalem itself is summoned to celebrate the Lord’s mighty deliverance.
(vv. 11-12) The exiles are urged to leave behind the pollutions of the land of captivity as they bear the temple vessels back to Jerusalem.
They will not leave in panic or fright; the God of Israel will be their protection both before and behind.
The people did not have to leave in fearful haste because Cyrus, God’s anointed (45:1), decreed that the Jewish exiles could return safely to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-4).
They had the king’s approval and his guaranteed protection.
More important, the Lord would go ahead to point the way and be behind to protect them.
(v. 13) The servant, as the term is used here, is a reference to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
He would be highly exalted because of His sacrifice, described in Isaiah 53.
(vv. 14-15) This servant, Jesus Christ, would be terribly disfigured by His suffering; however, through His suffering, He would cleanse the nations (Hebrews 10:14; 1 Peter 1:2).
Though sinless and perfect, He would be beaten beyond recognition because of our sins.
[NOTE: The closing verses of chapter 52 really belong to chapter 53. They trace the history of the Servant of Jehovah from His earthly life to the cross and then to His glorious appearing.] ____
Max Lucado’s Life Lessons…
Isaiah introduced the purpose of the Servant-Messiah.
Isaiah reminded the Israelites of God’s previous rescue of them and of the Messiah’s future saving work.
God has a long history when it comes to being faithful.
He has kept His people safe for thousands of years.
Christ takes away your sin, and in doing so, He takes away your commonness.
No longer need you say, “No one knows me.”
God knows you. He engraved your name on His hands and keeps your tears in a bottle (Isaiah 49:16; Psalm 56:8).
“LORD, You have searched me and known me,” David discovered.
“You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thoughts afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. . . . You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:1–3, 5).
God knows you. And He is near you!
How far is the shepherd from the sheep (John 10:14)?
The branch from the vine (John 15:5)?
That’s how far God is from you.
He is near.
See how these four words look taped to your bathroom mirror:
“God is for me” (Psalm 56:9).
And His kingdom needs you.
The poor need you; the lonely need you; the church needs you . . . the cause of God needs you.
You are part of “the over-all purpose He is working out in everything and everyone” (Ephesians 1:11 MSG).
The kingdom needs you to discover and deploy your unique skill.
Use it to make much out of God.
Get the word out. God is with us; we are not alone.
(From Cure for the Common Life by Max Lucado)
Meditate on the things God has saved you from: hell, drugs, despair, alcohol, sinful habits, hopelessness, restlessness, and selfishness.
Thank God for this most wonderful gift of redemption.
Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things) ____
Tuesday, July 19 The Spirit Filled Believer Written by Dick Mills
“For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight.” — Isaiah 52:12
The two key words here are HASTE and FLIGHT.
They need to be defined because both words speak volumes to us in understanding the Lord’s leadings and dealings with us.
Haste is a word that implies compulsive action.
It suggests being on the run due to guilt, fear, or anxiety.
A verse that describes the impulsiveness and impetuousness inherent in those who act hastily is Proverbs 28:1:
“The wicked flee when no one pursues.”
You and I, being led by the Spirit of the Lord, never have to make decisions or take actions motivated by guilt or fear.
The way our loving Father leads us is by the reassuring words from His book and by the calm and encouraging workings of the Holy Spirit.
Flight is easily understood by adding a “y” and changing it into flighty.
Webster defines this word as “given to flights or sallies of fancy, caprice, etc.; volatile; frivolous; slightly delirious; light-headed; mildly crazy.”
A flighty person is unstable, always trying to escape reality by trips into the world of the imagination or wishful thinking.
Led by the Lord, you and I will never have to go anywhere motivated by guilt, fear, or nervous unrest.
Isaiah tells us that we will go out with joy and be led forth with peace (Isa. 55:12).
What a difference there is between going with fear, anxiety, or capriciousness and going forth with joy and peace.
Our choice is the latter! I know it’s your choice too!
Source: The Spirit-Filled Believer’s Daily Devotional by Dick Mills ____
The Complete Story of Paul: The Apostle to the Gentiles…
Paul (previously called Saul of Tarsus; (5 BC – 64/65 AD), commonly known as Paul the Apostle, was a Christian apostle who spread the teachings of Jesus in the first-century world.
Generally regarded as one of the most important figures of the Apostolic Age, he founded several Christian communities in Asia Minor and Europe from the mid-40s to the mid-50s AD.
Paul’s original name was Saul of Tarsus, Tarsus in Cilicia [now in Turkey], and was one of the leaders of the first generation of Christians, often considered to be the most important person after Jesus in the history of Christianity.
In his own day, although he was a major figure within the very small Christian movement, he also had many enemies and detractors, and his contemporaries probably did not accord him as much respect as they gave Peter and James.
Paul was thirty years old when he was an official witness at the stoning of Stephen.
His Pharisaic zeal for God’s law and dedication to stopping the early spread of Christianity knew no bounds.
After seeing Stephen’s life taken, he leads the first great wave of persecution against the early church.
On reflecting on his pre-conversion days Paul says the following.
“For you heard of my (Paul is speaking) former conduct when I was in Judaism, how I was excessively persecuting the church of God and was destroying it; And I was advancing in Judaism far beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more abundantly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” (Galatians 1:13 – 14, HBFV)
Owing to Paul’s anti-christian beginning and his persecution of the church, he was compelled to struggle at first in order to establish his own worth and authority after his conversion.
How bad were the persecutions of Paul against the early New Testament church?
His dedication to eradicating those believing in the teachings of Jesus led him to take bold actions, such as going from house to house in order to find believers (Acts 8:1, 3)!
After his efforts to stop the spread of early Christian beliefs in Jerusalem, he sets his sights on achieving the even more audacious goal of removing any Christian influence in the synagogues of Damascus.
He receives written permission from the temple’s High Priest to rid the city’s synagogues of any who believe in “the way.”
His intention is to arrest those who believe Jesus is the Messiah and escort them back to Jerusalem for punishment.
It is during his trip to Damascus, however, that the pivotal event in the life of Paul occurs.
A spotlight from heaven shines on him (Saul) during his travel and the voice of Jesus asks “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” (Acts 9:4)
God strikes him blind and his traveling companions must lead him to the city.
These events lead to his total repentance and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.
God also heals him of his blindness.
After his conversion, the same zeal and single-minded dedication Paul had against Christianity transforms into a hyperactive-like quest to spread the gospel worldwide.
His amazing ministry lasts thirty-five years until his death at the age of sixty-six.
His accomplishments are astonishing given the rudimentary (by today’s standard) level of transportation and other difficulties that exist in the first century.
Paul is personally taught by Jesus, for three years, while living in Arabia.
During his ministry he resurrects at least one person from the dead and is resurrected himself after being stoned to death.
Paul carries out at least five evangelistic journeys, visits more than 50 cities in his travels and preaches the gospel to Emperor Caesar and his entire household.
He also writes no less than fourteen books (epistles) of the Bible (the most of any author), trains other evangelists and gospel preachers like John Mark and Timothy, and endures a total of more than five years in prison.
The apostle Paul, whose life was cut short by the Romans in 68 A.D., is easily the most influential Christian in the New Testament short of Jesus himself.
The Pauline epistles, also known as Epistles of Paul or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen books of the New Testament attributed to Paul the Apostle, although the authorship of some is in dispute.
Among these epistles are some of the earliest extant Christian documents. They provide an insight into the beliefs and controversies of early Christianity.
As part of the canon of the New Testament, they are foundational texts for both Christian theology and ethics.
Most scholars believe that Paul actually wrote seven of the Pauline epistles (Galatians, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philemon, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians), while three of the epistles in Paul’s name are widely seen as pseudepigraphic (First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus).
Whether Paul wrote the three other epistles in his name (2 Thessalonians, Ephesians and Colossians) is widely debated.
According to some scholars, Paul wrote the questionable letters with the help of a secretary, or amanuensis, who would have influenced their style, if not their theological content.
The Epistle to the Hebrews, although it does not bear his name, was traditionally considered Pauline (although Origen, Tertullian and Hippolytus amongst others, questioned its authorship), but from the 16th century onwards opinion steadily moved against Pauline authorship and few scholars now ascribe it to Paul, mostly because it does not read like any of his other epistles in style and content and because the epistle does not indicate that Paul is the author, unlike the others. ____
Monday, July 18 The Winning Walk by Dr Ed Young
A BASKET CASE
The apostle Paul was not an instant hit as a Christian apologist.
In fact, he spent ten years virtually in exile after his dramatic Damascus Road conversion.
For three years, he was in Arabia studying the scriptures-using his scholar’s mind to piece together the prophecies of the Messiah contained in the Old Testament with the Messiah who called him by name on the road that fateful day.
Then he returned to Damascus, bursting with insight and no doubt ready to set the world on fire.
But a funny thing happened. The Jews didn’t want to listen…they wanted to kill him.
So Paul went out of town in a slightly more humble way than he must have arrived: he was lowered over a wall in a basket!
Through disappointments and setbacks like this, God showed Paul that, although he was imminently qualified to preach to the Jews, he would become the primary evangelist to the Gentiles!
He had perfect credentials to win the Jews, and absolutely no common ground with the Gentiles.
After he was run out of Jerusalem as well as Damascus, Paul went away to Tarsus-literally “home to mama.”
Soon ten years had gone by, and Paul had failed in every effort at preaching the Gospel.
Have you ever felt like that?
Does it seem that, in spite of all your giftedness and willingness to serve, God has placed you on the shelf?
If so, take a lesson from Paul. What he discovered in his “decade of failure” was that, at best, he was a “basket case.”
The secret of the victorious, Christian life is NOT found in impeccable credentials or innate abilities.
Rather, it is found in this: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Nothing more. Nothing less.
II Corinthians 11:33 And I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall… ____
Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want for any good thing…
David describes the Lord’s loving care for His own people as a shepherd’s devotion for his flock and a host’s provisions for his guests.
The psalmist represents his relationship to God as a sheep to his shepherd, not lacking any rest, guidance, or safety.
(23:1a) David begins this psalm by introducing the first metaphor that describes the relationship between the Lord and His people with the tender analogy of a shepherd and his flock.
During his youth David had been a shepherd watching his father’s flock (1 Sam. 16:11,19; 17:15), so he was very familiar with this picture.
Transferring the image to God, he declared, “The LORD is my shepherd.”
The word my emphasizes how deeply personal and close was his individual relationship with God.
Everything in the next four verses flows out of this shepherd motif.
What is so amazing is that in ancient Israel, a shepherd’s work was considered the lowest of all work.
A shepherd would actually live with his sheep twenty-four hours a day with unwavering devotion, day and night, both in fair weather and bad, to nurture, guide, and protect his sheep.
The shepherd would assume full responsibility for the needs and safety of his flock, even risking his own life for their protection.
This is what God has chosen to be to His people (cp. Pss. 28:9; 74:1; 77:20; 78:52; 79:13; 80:1; 95:7; 100:3).
He is their everything, their constant protector.
(v. 1b) Because of the greatness of God and His constant, loving care over His flock, David concluded, I shall not be in want.
Left to themselves, sheep lack everything, being totally helpless and defenseless animals who cannot care for themselves.
But under the shepherd’s care, all their needs are abundantly met.
So it was for David, as well as for all believers who are under the watchcare of Him who is all-sufficient, inexhaustible, and unchanging.
All God’s sheep, precious to Him, shall not be in want.
They will lack nothing that is good and necessary for enjoying life to the fullest.
(v. 2) Continuing the shepherd’s theme, David boasted, He makes me lie down in green pastures.
Sheep are fearful animals, easily panicked and, when scared, will not lie down to rest.
Only the shepherd can provide the calm assurance to make them lie down in green pastures or grassy meadows.
This speaks of the peace and true satisfaction that only God can provide His sheep.
What is more, David said, He leads me beside quiet waters.
Literally, this refers to waters that have been stilled, further expanding this peaceful scene.
Weary and worn sheep need a long, refreshing drink from the rapid stream.
But being instinctively afraid of running water, the shepherd must pick up a few large stones and dam up a place, causing the rushing stream to slow its current and create quiet waters.
Then the flock may drink with no fear. God gives true, abiding peace to believers who abide in Him and drink of His grace.
(v. 3a) Moreover, this good shepherd restores my soul.
This statement is subject to different interpretations.
It may picture the straying sheep being brought back to the fold (cp. Isa. 49:5; Ps. 60:1).
In Hebrew vernacular these words can mean “brings to repentance” or “brings to conversion” (cp. Hos. 14:1-3; Joel 2:12).
Psalm 19:7 uses this same wording to picture the spiritual renewal or revival of a believer.
But since the word for soul (Heb. nephesh) is accurately translated “life,” this may mean that the Lord restores the psalmist to physical health.
Either interpretation is certainly true.
(v. 3b-c) Furthermore, David wrote, the Lord guides me in paths of righteousness.
Unlike other animals sheep lack a sense of direction and can become easily lost, even in the most familiar environment.
They easily go astray as they are prone to wandering.
The shepherd must continually guide them to paths of righteousness, or “the right path,” if they are to be moved from field to field without falling into deep crevices or off ragged cliffs.
Likewise, God by His Word and Spirit guides His flock effectively in the right way.
All this God does for His name’s sake, meaning for the honor of His own glory, which is the highest of all His motives.
Even when believers sin, God is committed to leading them back to the right path.
(v. 4a-b) Taking this image a step further, David portrayed the shepherd as being able to protect His sheep in their moments of greatest danger.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, David stated, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.
The shepherd would lead His flock from one grazing place to another, a move which would often involve passing through a narrow valley between high jagged cliffs, often filled with potential dangers such as wild animals.
The sun would be obstructed from shining into the valley, creating darkness or a shadow.
Such a shadow in the valley would often become a place of death for wandering sheep, hence a “shadow of death.”
Yet even in such danger, the Lord was present to guard and guide His flock, dispelling all fear of evil as He led them into paths of righteousness (v. 3).
(v. 4c) Keeping with this shepherd imagery, David declared, Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
The shepherd’s rod was usually an oak club about two feet long.
It was used to defend the flock against wild animals such as lions or bears, as well as for counting, guiding, and protecting his sheep.
And the shepherd’s staff was his crook. Bent or hooked at one end, it was used to pry sheep loose from thickets, to push branches aside, to pull fallen sheep out of holes, to lead them along narrow paths, and to drive off snakes.
Such tools were sources of comfort for fearful sheep and for David.
He lived his life often surrounded by multiple dangers, yet God’s Word and loving hand were the most effective means of guiding and guarding his faithful servant David.
(vv. 5-6) The psalmist represents his relationship to God as a guest to a gracious host, not lacking any provision, goodness, or eternal blessing.
(v. 5a) David shifted metaphors from the shepherd/flock motif to the host imagery.
As a gracious host would attend to the needs of his guests, so David said to God, You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Though surrounded by many enemies who sought to harm him, David recognized that God was with him for his good, supplying his needs as a host would care for a guest.
Again, the same central theme of this psalm is reinforced.
Even under the most adverse circumstances, in the face of threatening enemies, David would lack nothing (cp. v. 1).
(v. 5b) It was the custom of a loving host to provide oil for the head of his honored guest to refresh him after his travels.
Thus David added, You anoint my head with oil, speaking of the Lord’s ministry to revive his heart, especially when surrounded by many foes who threatened him.
The presence of God invigorated him, renewing him for all the demands of life.
(v. 5c) Further, David testified, my cup overflows, referring to the constant supply of drink provided by an attentive host.
His cup was always more than filled to the brim, overflowing with the most satisfying drink imaginable.
This pictures the abundant supply of divine grace in David’s life which was more than sufficient to strengthen and sustain him in the most dangerous circumstances.
God is an infinite source of all that believers need to live victoriously in difficult situations.
(v. 6) Finally, David concluded, Surely goodness (Heb. tob, that which is pleasant, beautiful, i.e., God’s presence and grace) and love will follow me all the days of my life, even when he found himself in life-threatening situations.
Through thick and thin, in every extremity of life, God’s blessings were chasing David.
Thus, on a triumphant note David wrote, I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Even death would serve David’s greater good, which would usher him into God’s immediate presence where he would enjoy the goodness and love of God forever, or literally “throughout the years.”
Nothing can separate the believer from the love of God, not even death (cp. Rom. 8:38-39).
David describes the Lord’s loving care for His own people as a shepherd’s devotion for his flock and a host’s provisions for his guests.
Everything We Need
The sufficiency of Christ in the life of any believer is astounding, a matter of great comfort and encouragement.
Whenever a person has Christ in His life, he has everything he needs because Christ is everything.
Christ is able to meet every need. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Creator and sustainer of all, the infinite God who can meet whatever needs we may have.
This is the central theme of this psalm, which is a source of grace to every believer.
Because of the indwelling of Christ in believers’ lives, they will never lack anything they truly need within the will of God.
Christ is their peace and protection in every situation, their guard and guide in all they do.
What a blessing it is for every believer, pictured here as a weak sheep and weary traveler, to know that Christ, the Good Shepherd and gracious host, is sufficient to meet every need.
Christ is the full source and abundant supply for meeting every need we have.
God, we declare our dependence on you for our spiritual and physical needs.
You are the Lord and Shepherd who has provided all that pertains to our life and godliness.
For this we bless your name. We know that when death’s dark shadows cover us, we have nothing to fear because you are with us.
Lord, like a host you provide above and beyond all we could ask or think.
Continue to saturate our lives with your goodness and love.
In Jesus’ name. Amen. ____
Sunday, July 17 Beliefnet
HOW TO PRAY THROUGH PSALM 23
Wherever you are at in your life’s journey, Jesus Christ is waiting for you in Psalm 23.
Psalm 23, also known as The Lord is My Shepherd, is one of the most well-known psalms in the Bible.
“Come!” Jesus says to us. “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
“I am the good shepherd,” Jesus assures us.
“I know my sheep and my sheep know me… My sheep listen to my voice.
I call them by name and lead them. They follow me because they know my voice…
I am the good shepherd. I lay down my life for my sheep.” (John 10:11, 14-15)
In Psalm 23 we meet Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), face-to-face wherever we are at in life.
Whatever you need, however you might be struggling, wherever you are at in your life’s journey, Jesus Christ is waiting for you in Psalm 23.
He will lead you through the seasons of the soul that we all go through.
He will care for you and guide you in the steps of grace that are embedded in the Psalm 23 journey.
Watch this video to learn how to pray through Psalm 23.
“In the master there is a servant, in the servant a master.” — Cicero
This is what Mark is saying to the Gentiles, especially those who are Romans,
According to prophecy, John the Baptist got people ready for the Messiah’s ministry by preaching a message of repentance and forgiveness.
Jesus appeared and was baptized by John at which time He received “the commission and blessing” from His Father to start His ministry.
Jesus then confronted His greatest enemy— Satan—and defeated Him.
After passing the “wilderness test,” Jesus began His ministry of “servanthood.”
After Jesus is presented by John the Baptist and empowered by the Spirit, He begins His ministry, preaching the good news. Then He calls His disciples and performs various miracles.
Mark Chapter One
Jesus is the unique servant of God
(1:1) Mark wastes no time in telling us the theme of his book.
It is the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Since Mark is writing to a Roman audience, he has no need, like Matthew or Luke, to establish Christ’s lineage to prove His credentials as the Son of God to his readers.
There are two reasons the Romans did not need such information.
First, the Romans had the same attitude as those who are from Missouri—”show me.”
They were not so much interested in qualifications as they were in actions.
Second, since Jesus is being portrayed as a “servant” or “slave,” there would be no need to show his genealogy since, from a Roman’s standpoint, slaves do not have genealogies.
Finally, Mark makes it clear about Jesus’ uniqueness.
Jesus is a personal name; it was common among the Jews, being the same as “Joshua” and meaning “the salvation of Jehovah.”
Christ is an official title; it is the Greek equivalent of the term “Messiah.”
It declares the “anointed one” who is coming to save us from our sins.
The Son of God expresses the divine nature of our Lord.
Mark wanted to make it clear that this was no ordinary servant or just a good man—this was the Son of God, who had come to take away our sins.
When we experience the excitement of a big event, we naturally want to tell someone.
Telling the story can bring back that original thrill as we relive the experience.
Reading Mark’s first words, we can sense his excitement.
Picture yourself in the crowd as Jesus heals and teaches.
Imagine yourself as one of the disciples.
Respond to His words of love and encouragement. And remember that Jesus came for us as well as for those who lived 2,000 years ago.
Mark was not one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, but he probably knew Jesus personally.
Mark wrote his Gospel in the form of a fast-paced story, like a popular novel.
The book portrays Jesus as a man who backed up His words with actions that constantly proved His identity as the Son of God.
Because Mark wrote His Gospel for Christians in Rome, where many gods were worshiped, he wanted his readers to know that Jesus is the one true Son of God.
Without God’s revelation, our finite minds cannot comprehend the infinite.
But because of what we know about Jesus (thanks to writers like Mark), we can understand what God is like.
Mark gives the “punch line” of his Gospel in the very first verse, but both Jesus’ enemies and His disciples would not get it until Jesus’ resurrection.
For us who read Mark today, the message is clear that we must not ignore or reject Jesus Christ.
(vv. 2-4) Hundreds of years earlier, the prophet Isaiah had predicted that John the Baptist and Jesus would come. Isaiah’s words comforted many people as they looked forward to the Messiah.
Knowing that God keeps His promises can comfort us, too.
As you read the book of Mark, realize that it is more than just a story; it is part of God’s Word.
In it God is revealing to you His plans for human history—and offering the Good News of His salvation to you.
Isaiah was one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament.
The second half of the book of Isaiah is devoted to the promise of salvation.
Isaiah wrote about the coming of the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and the man who would announce His coming (John the Baptist).
John’s call to “clear the road for Him” means that people should give up their selfish ways of living, renounce their sins, seek God’s forgiveness, and establish a relationship with God by believing and obeying His Words as found in Scripture (Isaiah 1:18-20; 57:15).
(vv. 2-3) Here in these two verses, we find a composite quotation, taken from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3.
John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus.
People who do not know Jesus need to be prepared to meet Him.
We can prepare the way by explaining their need for forgiveness, demonstrating Jesus’ way of life by our conduct, and telling them how He can give their lives meaning.
We can “clear the road for Him” by correcting misconceptions that might be hindering people from approaching Him.
Someone you know may be open to a relationship with Jesus. What can you do to prepare the way for this person?
(v. 4) Why does the Gospel of Mark begin with the story of John the Baptist and not mention the story of Jesus’ birth?
Important Roman officials of this day were always preceded by an announcer or herald.
When the herald arrived in town, the people knew that someone of prominence would soon arrive.
Because Mark’s audience was primarily Roman Christians, he began his book with John the Baptist, whose mission was to announce the coming of Jesus, the most important person who ever lived.
Roman Christians would have been less interested in Jesus’ birth than in this messenger who had prepared the way.
John chose to live in the wilderness, likely for several reasons:
(1) to get away from distractions so he could better hear God’s instructions;
(2) to capture the undivided attention of the people by calling them away from the distractions of their everyday lives;
(3) to symbolize a sharp break with the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, who preferred their luxurious homes and positions of authority over doing God’s work; and
(4) as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that said John would be a voice crying out in the wilderness (see Isaiah 40:3).
In John’s ministry, baptism was a visible sign that a person had decided to change his or her life, giving up a sinful and selfish way of living and turning to God.
John took a known custom and gave it new meaning.
The Jews often baptized non-Jews who had converted to Judaism.
But to baptize a Jew as a sign of repentance was a radical departure from Jewish custom.
The early church took baptism a step further, associating it with Jesus’ death and resurrection (see, for example, Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21).
(v. 5) Jesus came at a time in history when the entire civilized world was relatively peaceful under Roman rule, travel was easy, and the people shared a common language.
The news about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection could spread quickly throughout the vast Roman Empire.
In Israel, people were ready for Jesus, too, and they flocked to hear this wilderness preacher.
There had been no God-sent prophets for 400 years, since the days of Malachi (the writer of the last book of the Old Testament).
Anticipation was growing that a great prophet, or the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament, would soon come (Matthew 17:10-13; Luke 3:15).
The purpose of John’s preaching was to prepare people to accept Jesus as God’s Son.
When John challenged the people to confess sin individually, he was signaling the start of a new way to relate to God.
What changes do you need to make before you can hear and understand Jesus’ message?
People must admit that they need forgiveness before they can receive or accept forgiveness.
Thus, repentance—genuine sorrow for and turning from sin—must come before a person can have true faith in Jesus Christ.
If you have not yet done so, turn away from the world’s dead-end attractions, sinful temptations, and false promises, and turn to God. He will give you a new start.
(v. 6) John’s clothes were not the latest style of the day!
He dressed much like the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8) in order to distinguish himself from the religious leaders, whose flowing robes reflected their great pride in their position (Mark 12:38).
John’s striking appearance reinforced his striking message.
(vv. 7-8) Although John was the first genuine prophet in 400 years, Jesus, the Messiah, would be infinitely greater than John.
John was pointing out how insignificant he was compared to the One who was coming.
John was not even worthy of being His slave.
What John began, Jesus finished.
What John prepared, Jesus fulfilled.
John said that Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit, sending the Holy Spirit to live within each believer.
John’s baptism with water prepared a person to receive Christ’s message.
This baptism demonstrated the person’s repentance, humility, and willingness to turn from sin.
This was the beginning of the spiritual process.
When Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit, however, the entire person is transformed by the Spirit’s power.
Jesus offers us both forgiveness of sin and the power to live for Him. ____
Summary of Mark chapter one:
Jesus was baptized, demonstrating Him to be the beloved of God with the authority of God.
We can only understand Jesus rightly by seeing Him at this place of beginning, by seeing Him in relation to God, not only as God’s child, but as His beloved child.
Like Him, we also are baptized.
At the moment of baptism, we give witness that the God who called Jesus His beloved child calls you and me to be His beloved children, too.
Apart from the witness of baptism, we aren’t fully comprehensible as human beings, for it is baptism, not biology, that tells us who we really are.
After Jesus was baptized, He was tested.
The test showed Him capable of living the unique and demanding life of the Christ.
We can only understand the inner dimensions of this life by knowing something of the context in which it was lived out — in the context of difficulties.
Like Him, we also are tested. The moment we become a Christian, we enter a new dimension of existence.
Is our character strong enough for this demanding of a life?
The test provides the evidence.
Testing, not talk, shows what’s inside us.
After He was tested, Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God.
He told people that the world was not the way they thought it was — a place where they were merely making a living or making war or making money.
Instead, it was the place where God was making salvation, where every person was a creature loved by God and chosen by Him for the grandest of purposes.
Like Jesus, we also preach the good news of the kingdom of God.
We tell people by our words and our actions that the invisible God is working out His purposes in our lives.
Everybody wishes for this good news, everyone longs for it, even has moments of believing it.
But our task as Christians is to be deliberate about living out this conviction so that our words and actions give evidence of its reality.
Are we up to it, you and I?
Only by the POWER of the Spirit . . . the same Spirit that empowered Jesus.
“But you will receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things) ____
Friday, July 15, 2022 God’s Holy Fire ‘JESUS WILL BAPTIZE WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT’
[John the Baptizer:] “I baptize you with water, but [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” — Mark 1:8
Key Thought Jesus was and is directly involved in sending the Holy Spirit to His followers.
He did it when initiating the dawn of the church with the coming of the Spirit that first Pentecost (Acts 2:33-39).
Jesus also poured out the Spirit into the hearts of everyone who came to Him in faith and baptism (Titus 3:4-7).
Paul taught that the gift of the Spirit is the seal of our belonging to God and of our salvation (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14) and the proof that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16).
The presence of the Spirit is crucial, as evidenced by the fact that Paul re-baptized people who had not received the Spirit when they were baptized (Acts 19:1-7).
The Spirit is the promised blessing of belonging to Christ (Acts 2:33; Galatians 3:14; Ephesians 1:13-14).
The blessing comes from Jesus’ own promise that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to those who asked for the Spirit to be given to them (Luke 11:13).
The Spirit’s presence is our source of “living water” flowing from within us (John 7:37-39).
We live as followers of Jesus because the Lord has given us this great gift of grace!
Today’s Prayer Dear God, thank you for Jesus and all that He did to give us life and bring us to you as your holy children.
Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit, your holy presence within us.
We praise You and thank You for Your abiding grace in us and for us, and we pray that we can share this grace with others who need to know your love.
The following message highlights the importance of our learning to pray from God’s perspective and what He is wanting to accomplish…
This is very important, especially as we consider the magnitude of the Demonic evil that has entered into our nation, going back over 150 years (these problems didn’t just start yesterday), in how many Christians during that time abdicated their responsibility to maintain our de jure (lawfull) government, as a Constitutional Republic; and how Satan came in and illegally filled that void with his forces, to compromise, corrupt and took over the politics, our public education system, the colleges and universities of our nation, and the media, with its anti-God humanistic/progressive message, all of which has served to program the American populace and our children into drinking the Kool-aid and accepting and not questioning this fickle – changes with the weather – political correctness nonsense that seems to run our society’s morals today.
Then when you consider the unspeakable and horrendous crimes that have been perpetrated upon the most defenseless of our society (namely our children, both born and unborn) I believe this message below is important, because it gives us some spiritual insight into how we should be praying, from God’s perspective.
PROPHETIC DREAM FOR THOSE LOCKED IN THE MATRIX by Wanda Alger
In this latest dream, the Lord is highlighting a certain group of people that do not have the capacity to receive some hard truths.
They think they don’t care, but in fact, they are so sensitive to the suffering of others, they don’t know how to handle some of the horrendous crimes being enacted against humanity.
The Lord is telling us to pray for them so that our collective faith will be strong enough to move forward.
What we need most right now is a paradigm shift in our spiritual atmosphere over this nation.
We need to see a grassroots Spiritual Awakening and repentance among the general populace of our nation; and we need to see Revival in the churches across our nation.
Come join the Adventure (starting on our knees) and let’s take back our country!
Satan is a cruel taskmaster, and he doesn’t want us to know who we really are in Christ…
The following film clip from the movie Roots (which is referenced in the devotion below) gives us a graphic illustration of the enemy’s cruelty and determination to keep us in bondage.
Satan is a liar (Jesus called him the father of liars) and he is always putting us down and holding us back.
Never let the “Turkey” define who you are!
This is who the Bible says we are, along with some of the benefits that accrue to us because of our position in Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:15 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Ephesians 2:6 And raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Galatians 3:26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
Romans 8:17 And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
1 Corinthians 6:17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
1 John 5:18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
Romans 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Colossians 3:3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Ephesians 1:4 Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love.
Colossians 2:10 And you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.
Ephesians 3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with
1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.
1 Corinthians 2:16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Philippians 1:16 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 1:4 By which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
Ephesians 4:24 And to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 1:5 “He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…”
1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Psalms 139:14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
2 Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Romans 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
Colossians 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:
1 Corinthians 1:30 “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…”
1 Thessalonians 1:4 “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you…”
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”
Colossians 2:7 Rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”
2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
1 Corinthians 6:20 For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
And remember also what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:20,
“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are all “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things) ____
Monday, July 11 The Living Walk by Dr Ed Young
A TIME FOR BOLDNESS
Alex Haley in Roots wrote these words:
“Through his sorrow Kunta was surprised to hear that the old gardener had been called Josephus. He wondered what the gardener’s true name had been, the name of his African forefathers, and to what tribe they had belonged. He wondered if the gardener himself had known. Most likely, he had died as he had lived, without ever learning who he really was.”
Can you think of a greater tragedy than that? To die and never really discover who you were, or for what purpose you were created?
King Solomon wrestled with that question his whole life long. “Who am I?” he wondered. “Why am I here?”
Finally, at the end of life, he gained the perspective he had sought all along.
And when he did, he shared his wisdom through a series of life-teachings we call “proverbs.”
His teachings can be summed up with one imperative, expressed in several ways.
“Be bold,” he exhorted his readers. “Live boldly, exuberantly, passionately.
Don’t just punch in… really live.”
I read a while back of a guy named S.L. Potter in LeMesa, California, who bungee jumped on his 100th birthday!
His four children, ages 68 to 74 were against it-but in spite of their reservations, S.L. climbed a 200-foot tower and flung himself off.
Do you know what his first words were when they unstrapped him from his bungee cord?
“Give me back my teeth!” No one should live more boldly than the Christian, because no one has more assurance of God’s love and leading.
Don’t live never knowing who (and whose!) you are. Live boldly!
Ecclesiastes 11:1 Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days. ____
See, I have set before you today life and goodness, as well as death and disaster…
We are either in God’s kingdom by choice, having been born again, or we are in Satan’s kingdom by default, whether you believe in him or not.
Like Bob Dylan once said, “We Gotta Serve Somebody,” so choose this day whom you are going to serve?
The most eloquent, well spoken street preacher I’ve ever heard! | Preaching Times Square, NYC.
What comes to mind as I view this video is what Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 (JB Phillips NT)…
The Narrow Way
“Go in by the narrow gate. For the wide gate has a broad road which leads to disaster and there are many people going that way. The narrow gate and the hard road lead out into life and only a few are finding it.”
It’s sad how callous and blasé so many people are when it comes to the gospel message. ____
Jesus’ followers make choices each day that lead to life, not destruction.
Jesus finished His sermon (in Matt 7) with a series of challenges to wise choice and obedient action.
He provided no new ethical teaching; rather, He challenged the disciple to obey what had already been taught.
These warnings that Jesus gives emphasize the same message: Choose!
Then throughout the conclusion, the basic choices are laid before us.
We see contrasts between two choices: life or destruction.
This passage is the New Testament equivalent of the blessings and curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 11:26-29; 28.
We also see a strong parallel to Moses’ parting challenge:
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him” (Deut. 30:19-20a; cf. Matt 16:24-27).
We each have a choice, whether to obey the gospel message, or to reject or ignore it, and in so doing we are either receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior, or we are ignoring or rejecting Him.
There is a White Throne Judgment coming (see Rev 20:11-15) and all those who have either rejected or ignored Jesus will stand before the judgment seat of God, without the benefit of a Savior.
The point is this, the only time we have to get right with God is sometime between the time of our birth, and when we pass from this life into eternity.
We are each spirit beings and our spirit will live forever, either with God or separated from Him for all eternity.
If you lived your life here on Earth either ignoring or rejecting the gospel message and Jesus, then you have made your choice, and after you have passed from this life that choice is cast in stone.
That is why the road is so wide that leads to destruction and narrow that leads to life, because unfortunately most people are choosing to live their lives only for themselves, for their own pleasures and appetites, and they completely ignore God the Father’s offer of reconciliation that can ONLY happen through the propitious sacrifice and poured out life and blood of His Son Jesus, on Calvary’s Cross.
Jesus clearly says in John 14:6 that,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
God does not force Himself upon anyone, and this Salvation, which He is offering, comes as a gift, by grace through faith, and in order for anyone to benefit from it, they must receive it.
To do otherwise is to seal your eternal fate in eternity, separated from God.
Click on the link below if you are ready to make your decision to accept and follow Christ:
“If He governs all, then nothing but good can befall those to whom He would do good… He will so govern all things that we shall reap only good from all that befalls us.” — B. B. Warfield
Be patient when you suffer, for your trials will produce a quality you must have—perseverance.
If you lack insight into your suffering, ask God for it.
You will get a crown of life after your trials are over.
Don’t blame God for your being attracted to evil. God is the source of everything good.
Be sure you don’t merely hear God’s Word. Do it!
Overview of the Epistle of James:
Josephus says James was killed in 62, so the Letter must predate that.
Since the Epistle says nothing of the decisions on the law made at the Jerusalem Council (A.D. 48 or 49) over which meeting James presided (Acts 15), a date between A.D. 45 and 48 is widely accepted.
While this may be the first book of the NT to be written, and thus has a strongly Jewish flavor, its teachings must not be relegated to another age.
They are applicable to us today, and very much needed.
To achieve his goal, James draws heavily on the teachings of the Lord Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
Read James 1:2-4:
James 1:2-4 The Voice
2-4 Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing.
(1:2-4) We can’t really know the strength of our character until we see how we react under pressure.
We may find that being kind to others is easier when everything is going well, but will we still be kind when others treat us unfairly?
God wants to develop us into complete human beings, not simply insulate us from all pain.
Enduring through trials generates a whole person—seasoned, experienced, well developed, and fully trained.
It gives us the life skills to see our blind spots and anticipate mistakes before we make them.
Instead of complaining about our struggles, we should see them as opportunities for growth.
Ask God for wisdom to help you solve your problems or to give you the strength to endure them.
Then be patient. God will not leave you alone with your problems; He will stay close and help you grow.
Thank Him for walking beside you in rough times.
(vv. 2-3) James doesn’t say if trouble comes your way but when it does.
He assumes that we will have troubles and that we can profit from them.
We should not pretend to be happy when we face pain, but we can have a positive outlook (“consider it an opportunity for great joy”) because troubles can strengthen and develop our character.
James tells us to regard our hardships as times of learning and growth.
They build our endurance.
(For other passages dealing with endurance, also called patience and steadfastness, see Romans 2:7; 5:3-5; 8:24-25; 2 Corinthians 6:3-7; 2 Peter 1:2-9.)
(v. 2) Joy springs from a deep sense of well-being that can coexist with the full range of human emotions—sorrow, happiness, anger, pain.
Joy born out of our troubles is more of an attitude or a decision than a feeling. We can choose to live with joy while not denying our normal emotions.
God’s faithfulness teaches us to respond to all of life’s circumstances with joy. It helps us be grateful in all circumstances and to delight in the goodness of God.
Joy brings contentment when we realize that “nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
There is a silver lining to every crisis and trial we face in life and the Bible teaches us that God enters into every situation and that he works it for our good (Rom 8:28).
Learning to deal with uncomfortable and unpleasant situations in our personal life – in our work, ministry or wherever is where the rubber meets the road for all of us.
Getting Sick for the Glory of God
Dottie and Ed Powell came to a small village in Burkina Faso, West Africa, as a part of their orientation to African culture.
They were beginning translation and literacy work among largely animistic people.
They lived in a village of fifty-five people, all members of an extended family.
They were to remain there for a limited time as they learned the rigors of living at the tip of the Sahara Desert.
Two in the village could speak French.
The rest only knew the local tongue.
Daily temperatures reached above 100 degrees.
The Powells kept the door of their house open for light and air. Livestock traffic and a stream of curious Africans poured through their living room.
Several days after arrival in the village, Dottie became ill with dysentery.
The heat and the difficulty of adjusting to native food sapped her energy.
Tears of anger and self-pity flowed frequently. Then one day, she asked the Lord in desperation,
“Lord, what can I do?”
Back came the answer, “Be sick.”
Dottie Powell felt relief in accepting that task because she judged that she could handle it.
She was already sick, and she determined that she would do a fabulous job of performing that role.
At the time she did not realize the excruciating events she would face in her sickness.
The day after determining that she would honor God in her sickness, she and her husband received a fax from America telling of trouble for her married daughter.
Doctors could no longer pick up the heartbeat of her unborn child.
When villagers learned of the concern the Powells had for their daughter, one man borrowed a motorbike, loaded Dottie Powell on it, sickness and all, and carried her to the nearest telephone.
Dottie was relieved to talk to her daughter in a hospital delivery room and to learn that mother and child were doing well.
Back home in the village, Dottie Powell complained to God,
“Lord, I want to go home. I want to see my daughter and hold my grandchild. I can’t stay here.”
God’s love responded to her during this outburst, and she stayed. She made the commitment, “Yes, Lord. I’ll be sick for you.”
The chief elder of the village grew concerned at Dottie’s inability to retain her food.
He called for two Christian men to come from an evangelical church nearby and pray for her.
The elder was an animist. People in his village had actively persecuted the little church.
The men came and prayed. She recovered.
The Powells requested permission of the village elder to take the two French-speaking villagers with them to the church.
Surprisingly, he agreed. That day the two villagers heard the gospel.
One of them became a believer.
After the Powells completed their orientation time in the village, they still maintained contact with their friends.
Letters frequently come from the two French-speaking villagers to them.
One letter told of the conversion of the brother of the village elder.
Dottie Powell learned that God wanted her to be faithful to Him in her sickness.
He did not require that she be strong or effective.
She was to live in complete faithfulness.
He would compensate for her weakness.
She learned afresh through her weakness. She also understood more richly God’s provision.
She learned that God only wanted her commitment.
She was reminded that God Himself had assumed a nature of weakness for the purpose of reaching the world with His saving message (Phil. 2:6-11).
She learned how to be true even though tested and tried.
She understood the truth that the testing of your faith develops perseverance (Jas. 1:3). ____
From Max Lucado’s Life Lessons…
James knew that Christians scattered all over the world would face challenges to their faith.
If they were to remain faithful, their beliefs needed to be not only intellectual, but also very practical.
He urged his readers to put their faith into action.
God allows tough situations in our lives in order to refine us and bring us closer to Him.
We should approach these times with a right attitude and seek wisdom from God.
When a potter bakes a pot, he checks its solidity by pulling it out of the oven and thumping it.
If it “sings” it’s ready. If it “thuds,” it’s placed back in the oven.
The character of a person is also checked by thumping.
Those are thumps. Thumps are those irritating inconveniences that trigger the worst in us.
They catch us off guard. Flat footed.
They aren’t big enough to be crises, but if you get enough of them, watch out!
Traffic jams. Long lines. Empty mailboxes. Dirty clothes on the floor . . .
Thump. Thump. Thump.
How do I respond? Do I sing? Or do I thud?
Jesus said that out of the nature of the heart a man speaks (Luke 6:45).
There’s nothing like a good thump to reveal the nature of a heart.
The true character of a person is seen not in momentary heroics, but in the thump-packed humdrum of day-to-day living. (From On the Anvil by Max Lucado)
So how do you respond when you are “thumped” by people at work, school, family, or people at the grocery store?
Your initial reaction during these times reflects who you are.
Whatever responses need to change? Make the changes today.
Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things) ____
Saturday, July 9, 2022 Anchor Devotional
“Consider it pure joy , whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete.” — James 1:2-4
I recall my first encounter with seasickness.
I was on a two-day fishing trip and became so ill that I couldn’t eat, drink, or even sleep.
My entire trip was spent either groaning in misery or praying for mercy.
I vowed to never go out to sea again! Much later, I found the courage to give it another go and discovered I was slowly adjusting to the constant motion.
In time I became resistant to seasickness.
The process, although painful at first, produced endurance in me.
The apostle James wrote about perseverance.
He addressed Christians who were suffering as a result of being followers of Christ.
He even referenced the doubts of life, comparing them to waves of the sea whose wind blows us and tosses us about.
His encouragement to them and to us is not to let the struggle of suffering for Christ discourage us.
Rather, we must focus on what God is doing in us.
The Lord promises to build perseverance in us.
When we walk by faith, we show the world what true faith is and give testimony to the power of salvation through Jesus.
INSIGHT When facing hardship, focus your heart and mind on what the Lord is doing in you, rather than what is happening to you. ____
“When belief in God becomes difficult, the tendency is to turn away from Him; but in heaven’s name to what?” — G. K. Chesterton
What Does History Prove?
David Hume, the Scottish skeptic, defended his skepticism quite dramatically.
He wrote: “Were a stranger to drop suddenly into this world, I would show him a specimen of its ills—a hospital full of diseases, a prison crowded with malefactors and debtors, a field strewn with carcasses, a fleet floundering in the ocean, a nation languishing under tyranny, famine, or pestilence.
Honestly, I don’t see how you can possibly square [that] with an ultimate purpose of love” (quoted by Zacharias, p. 63).
Israel stood on Hume’s side. Jerusalem was destroyed.
The majority of the Jewish population lived in exile in Babylon.
Yahweh, the God of Israel, appeared to have gone down to defeat by the Babylonian army and their gods.
What hope did Jews have?
Time to forget God and get on with life the best they could.
But God was not finished. He had a message for exiled Babylon, a message from the prophet of old.
This message featured a courtroom confrontation between Yahweh of Israel and the images of Babylon.
Who was the true God?
Yahweh set the agenda—show what you are doing in history and what is going to happen in history.
Or at least show that you control history because you created the universe.
Babylon’s gods remained silent. They had no power of speech, much less power to control history.
You can list with David Hume the problems you face and the insurmountable difficulties that blight your life.
You need a word from God to show that He is still your God and that He will lead you to a new life with new hope.
This lesson should help you learn to wait in hope for God the comforter.
Isaiah 40:31 explained:
Judgment was not God’s last word for His people.
Having laid out the reason for judgment and exile, He came to them with a word of comfort, calling them to prepare to leave exile in Babylon, march with Him on a highway through the wilderness back to Jerusalem.
To convince them to make the journey, He set up a court trial against the gods of Babylon and showed they were false, mere creations of human craftsmen, unable to predict anything about history or do anything in history.
The true God announced the coming of Cyrus to defeat Babylonia and send exiled Judah home.
The Comforter and Creator Comes to Court
The historical focus changes dramatically with chapter 40.
We begin to breathe the air of 545 B.C. Cyrus of Persia occupies center stage politically (41:2; 45:1,13; 48:14-15).
Israel was living in Babylon, not Jerusalem (42:24; 47:1).
The prophet’s declarations of disaster disappear.
Only hope from heaven appears.
The whole section is a call of comfort to the captives, joined with arguments trying to convince them to accept the comfort that God has offered.
The prophet had spent the first thirty-nine chapters of the book preparing for life in Babylonian exile.
Now he turned the corner to show the way of escape from such exile.
Unlike many of the oracles in chapters 1-39, these messages of hope and comfort do not give us clues about the time and place where the prophet delivered them.
However Israel’s Shepherd, the only God and Creator, cares for, comforts, and acts to save His people.
The Call to Comfort (40:1-11)
Military chain of command:
The divine Shepherd reveals His glory by fulfilling the promises of His eternal Word and comforting His people.
Isaiah’s call to condemn his people appears in chapter 6.
By contrast, chapter 40 is a call to comfort.
This call appears like a military order passed through the troops, occurring in four stages:
1. The command apparently began in the heavenly council (see ch. 6) with a call to its members to go to the aid of my people. As in chapter 6, so here, the prophet was present in the council.
2. The prophet reported to the people in verse 3, relaying the call to action from our God.
3. The prophet continued to report in verse 6, but then realized that the new command was no longer in the plural to the people but in the singular, addressing him personally. He reacted with a question, expressing his inability to fulfill the assignment, as occurred so frequently in the prophetic experiences (6:5). His complaint received a blunt answer (v. 8).
4. The prophet relayed the message to Jerusalem—that is, to the people of Judah now in exile in Babylon but claiming Jerusalem as their hometown.
Jerusalem was to become an army messenger bringing the news of victory back to the towns of Judah (v. 9).
(vv. 1-2) The prophetic task has now changed from the hardening of God’s people (ch. 6) to comforting them.
Such comfort was God’s reaction to the lamentations of His people, who had cried that they had no comforter (Lam. 2:13).
Human strength could provide no comfort.
The people were reminded that your God—not Babylon’s god, but Yahweh, the God of Israel—could provide comfort.
The content of such comfort became clear. Her “period of service” (NJB), hard service (NIV), “warfare” (NASB), “term of bondage” (REB) had ended.
The captivity in Babylon was interpreted as work that a prisoner of war had to do for his captor.
God announced unexpectedly that the prisoner had been pardoned.
Outwardly, Judah appeared to be a captive of Babylonia because she was the weaker party militarily.
Seen from a higher perspective, she was Yahweh’s prisoner because she had sinned against Him.
Yahweh was ready to release Judah.
Babylonia was not.
Yahweh proclaimed that Judah had taken double punishment from the hand of Yahweh.
This was in line with the Israelite law that required reimbursement plus payment for damages in certain crimes (Exod. 22:1,7,9).
As Israel first experienced salvation by escape into the wilderness, God planned a new wilderness experience.
To prepare for this, He called for a highway to be built.
This imitated Babylonian practices in which a highway was built for the great religious festivals so the images of the gods could be paraded before the people.
Yahweh’s highway was not to show off His beautiful artwork and clothing. It was to deliver His people in a moment of historical crisis.
Such a highway was to be level so God’s people would have no trouble crossing it as they followed their God to freedom.
This historical act would reveal the true glory of God to the entire world, because God would accomplish what Babylonia was not ready to do.
God would show His historical power over the majestic kingdom of Babylonia.
Such news seemed unbelievable to a people so far from home.
The prophet said it was certain to happen, because its Source was God Himself.
(vv. 6-9) Even with such assurance, Isaiah was taken by surprise.
He sounded the common complaint of his people.
Humanity had lost its meaning, being no more significant than grass, which springs up only to be mowed down.
The sense of the Hebrew of verse 6 is not conveyed by “beauty” (NLT, NJB) or “constancy” (NRSV) or glory (NIV) or “goodliness” (KJV), or “loveliness” (NKJV, NASB), but no other English word is better.
The original expression (Hb. chesed) is often used for the grace or steadfast love of God to human beings (e.g., Exod. 20:6) and of the devotion people should show to God and to one another (Hos. 2:19; 6:4).
In this text, the term apparently indicates all the grace and graces of humanity. It is that for which people may be trusted and relied upon.
God’s breath (which could also be translated “wind” or “spirit”) had destroyed all that humanity had to offer.
So the prophet complained, Why preach to people whose reactions are meaningless?
God answered! Comfort comes not from mankind but from God.
His word is reliable, and He promised comfort.
The prophet finally fulfilled his mission, calling upon Jerusalem to take up her high mountain watchpost and relay the news of victory.
Victory was won because Here is your God.
The coming of God is the content of comfort!
God is coming with power. No one can stand against His arm.
He comes not in vengeance (34:8) but with a reward for His people, probably reflecting the practice of bringing spoils of war and tribute back to the people.
Israel does not have to rely on their military trophies. God brings all they need.
But He comes to His people not as a military warrior but as a caring shepherd, often an image for a king.
He knows those with special needs and treats them as a new mother and her baby.
He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.
This is the comfort we need.
The holy, eternal Creator is the One, unique God who brings renewed strength to His people.
(vv. 12-17) The prophet took his audience to court and brought legal arguments to prove the incomparable nature of the God of Israel over against the claims of all other gods, especially those of Babylonia.
Only the Creator knows the earth’s measurements.
His Spirit, not the counselor of the Babylonian king, has all wisdom and knowledge.
In His measuring scales, the heavyweights among the nations weigh no more than the dust that collects on scales.
He deserves sacrifices and offerings beyond measure.
The famous forests and grazing hills of Lebanon could not provide enough firewood or enough sacrificial animals to give God what He deserves.
Isaiah declared that God is beyond compare.
The other gods are images, only creations of human hands; they did not create the universe.
Exactly how Isaiah described this is questionable, since the Hebrew text of 19b-20a is almost impossible to read.
The main concern of the builder of an idol is not whether it is a god who can deliver on promises but whether the image will topple.
The god does not have power even to stand on his own two feet.
News about God’s power is not new. It has been available since the earth was founded.
Earthly rulers and kings are grasshoppers when viewed from God’s heavenly throne.
They are weak plants which God’s whirlwind blows away.
Yes, He is beyond compare. He has no equal.
God is so powerful that He created the hosts of heaven and so intelligent that He knows each by name.
Isaiah describes God’s power to create, His provision to sustain, and His presence to help.
God is almighty and all-powerful; but even so, He cares generously for everything and everyone.
“No person or thing can be compared to God” (40:25).
We describe God as best we can with our limited knowledge and language, but we only limit our understanding of Him and His power when we compare Him to what we experience on earth.
This passage is similar to Job 38:1–41:34.
When we feel overwhelmed by life’s struggles, these bold statements about our Creator God can remind us that He is in control and that His loving rule will ultimately prevail.
He guides and sustains the universe and the circumstances of our daily lives.
We can rest in the knowledge of that truth and find peace.
Don’t limit God’s work in your life by underestimating Him.
(vv. 29-31) Even the strongest people get tired at times, but God’s power and strength never diminish.
He is never too tired or too busy to help and listen.
His strength is our source of strength.
When you feel life crushing you and you cannot go another step, remember that you can call upon God to renew your strength.
Part of trusting in the Lord is expecting that His promise of strength will help us to rise above life’s distractions and difficulties.
Do you believe God loves you and wants the best for you?
Can you relax, confident that His purposes are right?
Are you convinced that He has the power to control all of life—and your life as well?
Though your faith may be struggling or weak, hold on tightly to it, and you will begin to experience the strength you need. ____
From Max Lucado’s LifeLessons:
God promised to remain faithful to His people.
The Jews felt that God had ignored them, but God would rescue them from captivity.
Because He is perfect, all-powerful, and knows everything, God transcends nature.
Mysteriously, though, He still concerns Himself with our lives.
“To whom then will you liken God?” the prophet invites (Isaiah 40:18).
To whom indeed?
“Human hands can’t serve His needs—for He has no needs” (Acts 17:25 NLT).
You and I start our days needy.
Indeed, basic needs prompt us to climb out of bed.
Uncreated and self-sustaining, He depends on nothing and no one.
Never taken a nap or a breath.
Needs no food, counsel, or physician.
“The Father has life in Himself” (John 5:26).
Life is to God what wetness is to water and air is to wind.
He is not just alive but life itself.
God is, without help. Hence, He always is.
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (Psalm 90:2).
God never began and will never cease.
He exists endlessly, always.
“The number of His years is unsearchable” (Job 36:26 NASB).
Even so, let’s try to search them.
Let every speck of sand, from the Sahara to South Beach, represent a billion years of God’s existence.
With some super vacuum, suck and then blow all the particles into a mountain, and count how many you have.
Multiply your total by a billion and listen as God reminds:
“They don’t represent a fraction of my existence.” (From 3:16 by Max Lucado)
Is anything in your life guaranteed? Is your career unshakable, your family immortal, your money eternal?
Do not base your comfort and enjoyment on what could be gone tomorrow.
Only God and His Word will last for ever—let these be the basis of everything in your life.
Selah (let us pause and calmly think about these things) ____
Friday, July 08 Beliefnet
WHY ARE WE TOLD TO WAIT ON THE LORD? Waiting can sometimes mean protection. by Lauren McKeithen
Isaiah tells us,
“But those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary.” — Isaiah 40:31
As humans, we spend a lot of time waiting. We wait for email responses, Amazon packages, our paychecks, and many other things.
We wait on these things, but what does it mean to wait on God? What are we waiting on Him for?
Psalm 27:13-14 says,
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
We wait on the Lord to act, save, avenge, answer our prayers, provide our needs, renew our strength, show His glory, and do what God does.
Even the young and fit will experience fatigue, and their strength will end.
Everyone needs to rely on God and wait for His help.
Isaiah 40:31 talks about waiting on the God who sits on a throne about the earth, watching us, knows the weight of all the hills, islands, and mountains, and brings out the stars every night by calling their name.
Simply put, we wait on Him because He is God. He can achieve things we can’t. We have to wait on Him because we’re helpless without Him. Here are some reasons why we’re told to wait on the Lord.
God has a different concept of time.
Waiting is only possible within the time.
God, who created time, isn’t limited by it.
While waiting for Him to act, He’s already fixed our issue.
2 Peter 3:8-9 says,
“With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you.”
God is always patient with us and understands waiting. His concept of time doesn’t compare to ours, but His timing is perfect.
He uses waiting to show His glory.
In John 11, we learn about Lazarus, one of Jesus’ friends.
Lazarus fell very ill and his sisters, Martha and Mary, got word to Jesus.
You would think that Jesus would drop everything to help His friend, but He delayed His arrival intentionally.
Unfortunately, Lazarus died. When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been in the grave for four days.
Jesus planned to raise Lazarus from the dead, uncovering His glory.
Jesus knew that Lazarus would be sick before he developed symptoms.
Psalm 139:16 reminds us that our lives were ordained and recorded by God before they came to be.
Our days are numbered, just like Lazarus’.
Jesus already had a plan before Martha and Mary sent for Him, a strategy that involved making them wait.
A God who knows the name of the stars isn’t surprised by our life’s circumstances.
He knows always known. Waiting is a component of His plan for us.
Waiting can be good for us.
We tend to think of waiting as a bad thing, but waiting can be good.
If God immediately sprang into action every time we called Him, that would mean we’re in control, not Him.
We’d be the head honcho, but we don’t have His wisdom.
Waiting makes us learn to trust Him and His timing.
How good are you at waiting on God?
While you’re in the waiting room, don’t waste your time. Ask God to transform you while you wait.
You should also ask Him to give you perseverance, character, and hope and strengthen you.
Bible verses about waiting on the Lord.
While waiting for the Lord to answer your prayer, it can be good to study specific verses.
These verses can comfort you in your times of waiting and reassure you that He will answer your prayer.
Here are some Bible verses about waiting on the Lord.
“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him.” – Lamentations 3:25
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:33
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” – Micah 7:7
“Show me your ways Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” – Psalm 24:4-5
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways when they carry out their wicked schemes.” – Psalm 37:7
“I remain confident of this; I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” – Psalm 27:13-14
Confident and patient trust in the Lord is the main idea of the appeal to waiting on the Lord.
Psalm 27 is an example of a prayer to God for help.
It shows the true meaning of waiting on the Lord.
Throughout this prayer, David shows courage and faith in God based on his expectation that God will save him when he needs Him.
Sometimes, we feel like God doesn’t hear us, and He’s purposefully not answering prayers.
We have to put our trust and faith in God in these moments.
We must wait on Him with eager anticipation and understanding that He’s in control and always with us.
He will keep His word and save us.
When we don’t feel He’s around, He’s always working for our greater good.
We can learn to wait on the Lord through active trust and prayer.
Waiting is never easy, especially when you’ve been waiting for a long time.
We’re told to wait on the Lord because He knows what’s good for us.
Even when we don’t see Him, He’s always working in His children’s lives.
Perhaps God is making us wait because He’s preparing us for something bigger. For that, we should be grateful. ____