See The Cross

John 12:3 “Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.” 

My thoughts: Jewish women were not supposed to let down their hair in public. When she cried at the feet of Jesus and wiped away the tears with her hair, it was a sign of humility. However, to her culture it was a sign of disrespect. Real worship lets go of dignity and social acceptance. Real worship is not afraid to look foolish in the eyes of men (2 Samuel 6:20,21). Foolishness is not a lack of proper etiquette. Foolishness is the result of empty living. Obviously Mary was full of something! Whatever she had far outweighed the cost of perfume that is equivalent to $10,000 in our day. How is it that we become comfortable in the house of God? Has our worship become nonchalant and senseless? 
This is not about being proper, but about being reverent. Reverence results in relevant worship. Is our God-inspired and God-wired? How do we adapt when God Himself enters the room? What cultural line will we cross to enter His presence? What are we willing to give to the One who canceled our debt and led us out of bankruptcy? Is God more than a definition in the dictionary to us? Has He redefined our worship? We don’t owe God good manners. We owe Him real passion. God is not looking for political correctness! He is on the lookout for passionate individuals. Our social acceptance does not result in God’s acceptance.

The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume Mary poured out! In the same way, our passionate pursuit of God shifts the atmosphere. It changes the aroma of dead religion to the sweet perfume of Heaven! Pastors- The atmosphere of your church service won’t shift until your passion lifts! Stop expecting God to move when you don’t move a muscle. Many of us are not ready to pay the cost because we do not see the cross. 
Mary poured out expensive perfume because she saw the value in Christ. She did not emphasize the cost because she saw the goodness of God. If we do not understand what Jesus did for us, then we will not give Him everything. Let us return to Calvary, where the blood of Jesus was spilt for our transgressions. Let us humbly pour out a meaningful offering of our affection for all that He has done. Let the selfless act of Mary be an inspiration in your walk with God today.

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Approach God As A Child

John 6:9 “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”

My thoughts: According to the Gospel account of Mark, it was late in the afternoon and the disciples wanted to send the people home where they would buy food in the villages. In response, Jesus said to His disciples “You feed them.” John is the only Gospel account that mentions a “little boy” or “child” as the one with the five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus took the food from the child. The disciples dispersed the food among the crowds of people. This is important to note. I find it interesting that a child held the food that Jesus would multiply for thousands. The boy was willing to let Jesus take his bread and fish. He did not say “Master, that’s my dinner!” No, he let Him take it all. I pray that I am meek like a child. I want God to take everything I have, though it may seem little, and accomplish something great with it! Andrew said “what good is that with this huge crowd?” God loves to take what seems small and do great wonders with it! He is not looking for greatness, but for meekness! In the same way, great numbers in a church service mean nothing if we do not approach God as little children. He cannot use what we have if we do not give it to Him! He uses the lowly to bring Himself glory. Will we give all that we have for all that He is? The five loaves of bread and two fish would feed the multitudes. Everyone, including the child, ate as much as they wanted! If we are faithful to give, God will bless us in return! Some of us hold onto what we have as if it is ours. Is it really our time? Is it really our money? Is it really our schedule? If we live for Jesus, is not everything we have already His? The little boy had enough for himself and was ready to eat a good dinner. Still, he gave. Let us not be selfish and hold onto something God never intended for us to keep. Remember, it was five loaves of bread and two fish that fed the thousands. It does not matter if we consider ourselves to be great. We must only see the greatness of our God to use what seems small for His glory. Don’t underestimate the power of God to use what seems small. Approach God as a little child, willing to give it all! 
Application Questions: Do I let God use everything I am for His glory? Do I give like a little child in love with His father or do I consider myself too “mature” and “wise” to give Him everything? 

More Than Mere Optimism

John 11:4 “When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.””‭‭

My thoughts: Although Lazarus died, death was not his ultimate conclusion. Instead, his death was a platform for God’s redemptive power. Lazarus was dead, yet Jesus brought him to life. Imagine how much more He can breathe life into our seemingly hopeless situations! Praise God that the cross did not conclude the Gospel message! Instead, it was an opportunity for Christ to defeat the grave! When it seems like we have reached the end, God uses our situations to show off His goodness. Give God permission to show up and show off His power. Many people miss the potential of God’s power in a situation because they believe it is God’s will for them to suffer. 

When Jesus said “this happened for God’s glory”, I don’t believe He meant that God initiated the sickness. Although He could, there are not many biblical accounts of God sending sickness for the sake of accomplishing His will. As for today, I do not believe God is searching for people to strike with disease. In the Bible, Jesus never said to anyone “You must suffer this sickness because of your many sins” or “God is sending sickness to your home!” No. Instead, He healed everyone. Many Christians conclude “It is God’s will for you to be sick” because their faith is really in the current circumstances, not the redemptive power of Christ. 
When Jesus said “it happened for the glory of God”, I believe that He is talking about a perspective of faith. He saw the good in every bad situation. This is not mere optimism. This declaration is the result of a faith filled life! He did not say “There is no hope for Lazarus.” No, He understood the readiness of God’s power to invade at any given moment. His life was not dominated with anxiety, but with a faith that worked miracles. What if we had faith like that?
During times of hardship, let us say- “this happened for the glory of God.” Don’t give the devil any credit. Keep declaring “I will give God all the glory!” This kind of faith scares away darkness. Let God take what the devil intended for evil and turn it around into something beautiful. God is notorious for His mysterious wonders! Don’t talk as if the devil is winning! Remember that God has already won the war. Proclaim this over you life- “This situation will not end in my spiritual death! God will receive all of the praise.” Let every situation be for the glory of God so that when the bad ones come you have already developed a natural response to Him in the midst of chaos. What is our perspective during difficult times? Do we believe that God can take our bad situations and turn them into something good? How will we give glory to God in our circumstances?

Most People Know The Problem. What Is The Solution? 

Genesis 9:22,23 “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and went outside and told his brothers. Then Shem and Japheth took a robe, held it over their shoulders, and backed into the tent to cover their father. As they did this, they looked the other way so they would not see him naked.”
My thoughts: While literal nakedness is the absence of clothes, spiritual nakedness is a place of deep shame and exposure. Most people don’t want exposure. My prayer is that the American people would be stripped of their selfishness and clothed in righteousness. Ham saw the nakedness of his father, but didn’t take the initiative to clothe him. I do not believe his sin was in seeing the nakedness, but in telling his brothers. He could have taken the same robe his brothers used and covered his father alone. His brothers never needed to know about the situation. Shem and Japheth did something about their father’s nakedness. Ham merely pointed it out. Scripture does not tell us Ham’s intents when telling his brothers. However, we can assume that he was comfortable pointing out the problem without providing a solution. I praise God that He didn’t look at my spiritual nakedness and tell the world about it. Instead, He covered me with His blood and washed away my filth. Notice how Shem and Japheth did not look at their father. In the same way, when we surrender our lives to Jesus, He doesn’t see us in our spiritual nakedness anymore. Instead, He clothes us in new life from Heaven! It is our responsibility to lead the shame ridden people into a place where God can transform them forever! Most people know where they have gone wrong. Very few people know the way out of their wrongdoing. Instead of pointing out the shame of others, let us love unconditionally and lead them to redemption.

Chase Away The Vultures

Over Christmas Break, I met with the Lord on top of a beautiful hill, in a cul de sac surrounded by large trees. When I went to read His Word, I came across this verse and could not go any further. Here is what God revealed to me.
Genesis 15:11 “Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.” 

My thoughts: A kettle of vultures can pose a threat to the unaware. The carcasses Abraham cut in half would be the birthing ground of God’s covenant with Abraham. God would lower himself and move through the split carcasses in the form of a “smoking fire pit and a flaming torch” to confirm His covenant with Abraham and His people. If Abraham had not brought the sacrifice, God would not have made the covenant with Abraham. This agreement was completely on God’s end. Vultures feed on the hurt and sick. Vultures rarely attack animals in a healthy condition. Because Abraham cut the animals in half as a sacrifice, the carcasses were exposed to the birds of prey. The exposure appealed to the birds, so they swooped down to eat the carcasses. If we are not careful, the enemy will use our vulnerability and desire for God as a feeding ground to our self destruction. The enemy likes to pursue our sacrifice unto God and distract us from right fellowship with Him. The enemy wants us to focus our attention on the sacrifice and not on relationship. He does this by diverting our passion for God into a system of religious legalism. This will cut us away from an intimate relationship with God. Without intimacy, our relationship with God lacks clarity. Do not let the vultures take a bite at your sacrifice. Do not let the enemy twist your radical abandonment to God into a miserable system of rules and regulations. This leads us away from perfect fellowship with our Father! 
The enemy wants to interfere with the agreement between man and God. The first covenant God made with Abraham did not have requirements. We are living in a new covenant with requirements. In order for our relationship with God to be effective, we must obey the terms of the covenant. The terms are consistent throughout the Word of God. It is only by God’s Spirit that we can carry out these commands. If our emphasis is on the rules, then we will never obtain authentic relationship. We must remember that in a relationship with God, we are given empowerment to accomplish His commands! Our security is not in following rules, but in sincere relationship with our Father! 
The truth is, the rules should not be our focus. God should be our focus. If God is our central focus, then we will naturally respond to Him, not the rules. Legitimacy in our relationship with God comes from loving Him, not loving the methods used to reach Him. What seems like a requirement to one will be a natural response for others-who are in love with their Father! Our methods of devotion cannot substitute reconciliation between us and God. We are made right with God through faith in Him! The precious blood of Jesus is not something we can work for. His blood covers the sins of those surrendered to Him. 

Instead of listening to fruitless religion, let us be completely sensitive to our Father in Heaven. God was not coming to consume Abraham’s sacrifice, but to move through it. He would lower himself, as Hittite tradition demanded, and make a covenant with Abraham. In the same way, God is moved by our sacrifice of devotion and wants to come and dwell among us! God’s all-consuming love wants to pass through our passionate sacrifice. Let us pursue the wholehearted love of God through complete devotion! This beautiful relationship with our Father will yield satisfaction in Him and a life abundant with peace. 
When the enemy comes to attack our intimacy with God, we must chase him away with resistance. After all, the imposter is afraid of resistance (James 4:7) Yes, we owe God everything. However, do not let a sense of “forced service” become a substitute for the limitless allowance of God’s presence. We don’t serve God to love Him. We should serve God because we love Him! Let us understand the devotion needed to serve God. More importantly, let us get to know the One we are devoted to. 

 

Come A Little Closer

Genesis 27:21 “Then Isaac said to Jacob, ‘Come closer so I can touch you and make sure that you really are Esau.”
My thoughts: Jacob’s mom, Rebekah “covered his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skin of the young goats” (Genesis 27:16). He used manipulation to position himself for a blessing never intended for him. Pursue authentic devotion, not manipulative apparel. God created us in His own image, not so we would dress like our brother, but so we would be a reflection of Him! Unlike Isaac, God can see behind our disguise. We must remember that God does not love us for who someone else is. He loves us for who we are. Do we fear intimacy with God because it might expose the position of our hearts? Are we really who we say we are, or do we wear a disguise as someone we think we are? The greatest men and women of faith allowed God to mold them. They didn’t pursue the apparel of people devoted to God, but pursued a real relationship with God! Their close walk with God resulted in great works! We look a certain way because we eat a certain way! People wonder why Smith Wigglesworth performed great miracles. It was because he always ate of God’s Word and prayer! He did not look for a shortcut to success. He pursued God! Through his pursuit of God, he discovered his purpose in God. Most Christians want the plans and purposes without the sincere pursuit. Purpose is found on our knees, in a place called surrender. Purpose is found at the end of ourselves, when all we want is God! God is calling us to come closer. He sees us for who we are and wants us to know Him for who He is! Our position before God is based on our nearness to Him. Jacob dressed us as his brother to receive Issac’s blessing. We don’t have to play “dress up” around God to receive his approval. We should only come as we are. God does not take pleasure in pretend Christianity. He is looking for authenticity! Yes, we must “work hard” to receive God’s approval (2 Timothy 2:15)! Leonard Ravenhill once said “Everyone wants to have my mantle but nobody wants my sackcloth and ashes.” We cannot be someone great in God unless we are willing to pay the price of surrender. Without sincere devotion and closeness to God, our attempts to know Him are in vain! It is time that we let God expose all of the deadness inside. Do not be afraid of transparency before God. We can’t hide from Him anyway. He saw Adam and Eve hiding in the garden. He sees the people that hide behind their brother’s clothing. Can you not hear the Father calling “Come closer so I can touch you”? 

The message “Born to Be Wild” by Damon Thompson was an inspiration to me while writing this devotional. If you are interested in watching it, here is the link:

https://youtu.be/SMPKXEq3R8Y

This is one of the most life changing, powerful messages I have ever heard. I encourage you to give it a listen!

In Position for God’s Promises 

Numbers 23:19 “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”

My thoughts: Please do not let current circumstances dictate your perspective of God. God is not your earthly father. He is your Heavenly Father! God is not a man that He should lie. Satan is the father of lies. God is trustworthy! The devil cannot promise anything that is true. His lies will always appeal to our sinful nature. Without sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, we will confuse the lies of Satan for the truth of God. Remember, God does not appeal to our feelings. Don’t let the extent of your feelings interfere with the fullness of God’s promises in your life. Do not accuse God of lying because He does not give you what you want. God never promised to give us what we want. He promises to give His servants everything they need! It is important that we understand what God, our Father promises those who love Him. All of God’s promises are true, but not everyone is in position to experience them. God does not promise success and prosperity to people who live outside of His will. God loves us all, offers forgiveness to us all, and gives everyone equal opportunity to have a relationship with Him. However, God does not deal the same way with professing Christians as He does His faithful followers. Do not expect the promises and provision of God when you live a life that contradicts His Word! The promises of God without Biblical context fascinate the spiritual harlots. These halfhearted individuals say “I can live how I want! God will give me what I want”. Do not say “I’m holding onto His promises” if you are still consumed with lust for the world. If this is the case, you are really holding onto a false gospel inspired by the father of lies! God does not change His mind like we do. We do not have control over the ultimate verdict of God. All we can do is tap into His unconditional mercy and love through heartfelt prayer and intercession (I will expand on this truth in a future devotional). Do not accuse God of lying because He didn’t act when you expected Him to. Our expectations are not God’s limitations. His perfect plans and purposes are what matter most. He does not need our assistance in deciding a time or date. He is looking for people with willingness to participate in the beautiful adventure of complete surrender to His perfect plans! Today, let us remember His promises and position ourselves to receive them.