Keeping Your Eyes on the Mission

Daily Devotional | Day 273

“And He [Jesus] said to them [the Apostles], ‘Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs not bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece’” (Luke 9:3, NKJV).

God will not send you where He will not provide for you. He will not send you where He will not protect you. That is why the best place to be is to be where God wants you. If you are where he wants you, you will know. If you are not sure, seek the spiritual guidance of a mature Christian whose judgment and discernment you value.

At the beginning of Luke 9, Jesus sent the 12 Apostles to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. Part of the instructions for the assignment is what we read in today’s opening passage. Jesus begins by saying, “Take nothing for the journey.” To make sure the Apostles heard Him right, He specified the things they couldn’t take with them: no staff, no bag, no bread, and no money. They could, however, take a tunic, but only one piece.

When you read this for the first time, the question which comes to mind is, “Did Jesus really mean that?” You know the response: If Jesus said it, then He meant it. One wonders if any of the Apostles protested. The Bible is silent about that. How could Jesus send 12 men on such an important mission and command them to take nothing for the journey? There are a couple of reasons. But let’s talk about one, for now.

For God, the mission to preach the Gospel is the single most important mission. Why? Because what is at stake is the eternal salvation of precious souls. If you’re not convinced, think about the fact that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance (Luke 15:7). Every soul is precious in God’s eyes.

When the Lord commanded the 12 to take nothing for the journey, He was telling them that He needed them to focus completely on the mission. People get distracted by money and the cares of life. When that happens they lose focus and become compromised. When God sends us, He wants our full attention to be on the mission. He wants us to focus on Him and the assignment. Let’s leave everything else to Him. He won’t send us, if He won’t take care of us.

Today, let’s pray that the Lord will deliver His messengers from whatever can be a distraction to their calling. Amen.

For further study:  1 Kings 17:1-15 and 1 Corinthians 7:25-40

 

Why It Is Important to Overcome Resentment

Daily Devotional: Day 229

“For John [the Baptist] had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not . . . But an opportunity came . . .” (Mark 6:18-19, 21, ESV).

Today’s message is related to yesterday’s, which was about praying for those who don’t deserve it. We briefly touched on hate and grudge. But today, we want to give a little more attention to why it is important to entertain good thoughts and overcome resentment. The story in today’s passage about John the Baptist and Herodias will teach us valuable lessons about this subject.

John the Baptist was known for his fiery preaching. He confronted Herod Antipas over his illicit affair with Herodias, who was the wife of Herod’s half-brother. John most likely based his rebuke on Leviticus 18:16 which prohibited a person from marrying his brother’s wife – whether the brother was alive or not. The only exception was if the brother had died without leaving any children. In that case, the Law required that the brother of the deceased should marry the widow for purposes of providing progeny for the deceased (cf. Deuteronomy 25:5-10; see also Luke 20:27-40). John had just stirred up a hornet’s nest.

Herodias did not take John’s rebuke kindly. According to the Bible, “Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death.” Now Herod had already put John in prison for the latter’s condemnation of Herod’s behavior. John, therefore, posed no further threat to the unholy affair between Herod and his paramour. One would think that at this point Herodias would let it go. Her enemy, after all, was locked up in prison, possibly for life. But she held so much grudge in her heart that she desired to kill John.

She couldn’t, the Bible says. But one day, the opportunity came, and she swiftly unleashed her wrath on John by suggesting to her daughter that she ask for John’s head (cf. Mark 6:21-29). Several lessons can be drawn from this story, but let’s focus on just one: the importance of entertaining good thoughts and avoiding grudge.

Herodias’ problem involved three stages: first, she held a grudge; then she desired to kill; and finally, she killed. We can see this pattern in the events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion by his enemies. A further example is what happened between Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-11), as well as what ensued between Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37:1-36). 

Your thoughts are like the steering wheel of a vehicle. Where you turn the steering, that is the direction you go. Likewise, your thoughts give direction to your life. Where you turn your thoughts, there your life will go. Bad thoughts will lead you in the wrong direction, but good thoughts will take you in the right direction. This is why it is important to entertain only good and positive thoughts, especially regarding yourself and other people.

No matter what people have done to you – whether they are wrong or right – it is important that you don’t entertain grudge or resentment against them. The reason is, when grudge persists, someone always gets hurt. Resentment is just the first step in the process. Over time, resentment breeds hate. Then, when hate matures, it begins to wish serious harm (even death) on the person (or people) resented. 

There is enough evil in the world. When you get an opportunity, do something to make this world a little more brighter. In Romans 6:12-19, God tells us to yield the members of our body, not as instruments of unrighteousness, but as instruments of righteousness. Satan needs an instrument to propagate evil. Don’t let that instrument be you.

Be an instrument in the hands of JesusLet Him use you to bring peace where there is no peace; to bring purity where there is impurity; to bring healing where there is hurt; to bring salvation where people are lost; to bring truth where people are deceived; and to bring freedom where people are bound.                

May the God of peace let His face shine upon you today, in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: Genesis 37:1-36

Who Is this Who Forgives Sins?

WHO IS THIS WHO FORGIVES SINS? |Devotion Day 207

“And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” (Luke 5:20-21, KJV).

Jesus was like us in all things, but did not sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15). But Jesus was also unlike us. He functioned as a man and also as God, being the Son of God. At times this confused some of the people who followed Him. In today’s Scripture passage, a paralytic is brought to Jesus to be healed. When He saw the faith of those who brought him, Jesus said to the man, “your sins are forgiven.” The people who followed Jesus’ ministry had seen (or at least, heard) Jesus cast out demons, heal the sick and perform other miracles. These miracles were astonishing enough. But this time, Jesus took His ministry to a whole new level. In the minds of the audience, Jesus crossed the line. Healing the sick is one thing, but absolving people of their sins?

The scribes and the Pharisees who heard Jesus were shocked. They reacted, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” The scribes and Pharisees, in a sense, were right to complain. God alone forgives sins. Anyone else who absolves others of their sins is usurping the authority of God, and is consequently, guilty of committing blasphemy. But we must ask, “Was Jesus usurping the authority of God? Was He guilty of blasphemy?” According to the scribes and Pharisees, yes, Jesus was.

They arrived at this conclusion based on their assessment of who Jesus was. In their view, Jesus was a man and nothing more. But, this is where they erred. They saw one side of Jesus – his humanity; but they missed His other equally important side – His divinity. While on earth, Jesus functioned both as a man and as God. When Jesus told the man, “your sins are forgiven,” He was essentially speaking like the God of Israel – JEHOVAH. Jesus forgave sins during His earthly ministry because He was God. Therefore, He was not blaspheming. He was just being Himself.

Dear friend, know that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He was God then, and He is God now. He forgave sins then, and He forgives sins today. No human being can set you free from your sins. Whatever situation you are in, go to Jesus in prayer. By faith, cast upon Him every burden on your heart and let Him set you free. Amen.

For further study: Luke 7:36-50

Where the Holy Spirit Leads

Daily Devotional: Day 151

“Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them” (Acts 16:6-7, NKJV).

Paul, Silas and Timothy traveled together, delivering the decision of the Apostles and Elders in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:1ff) to the believers in several cities. Today’s passage tells us that at one point, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word of God in Asia. The Holy Spirit further prevented them from going into the Roman province of Bithynia. Instead, the Lord directed them to go to Macedonia; and they complied (cf. Acts 16:8-10).

Why would the Holy Spirit forbid God’s servants from preaching His word in certain places? After all, God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4). On the surface, the Holy Spirit’s decision doesn’t make sense. But if we look at things from a spiritual perspective, it should make sense. We need to understand and respect the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Jesus left Him in charge of the Church. To borrow a term from the corporate world, we might call the Holy Spirit, the Director General of all ministry tasks undertaken by the Church. Knowing this, we will do well to discern the will of the Spirit in all our ministry endeavors.

When Paul and his team were forbidden to preach in Asia and Bithynia, they didn’t fight it. They didn’t blame it on the devil. They humbly submitted to the Spirit’s will. How did they know that the Spirit didn’t want them to go to Asia and Bithynia? They discerned. Today, discernment is one of the critical areas of need in the Church. Without discernment, we would be operating in the dark, thinking we are working for the Lord, when in fact, we are on our own.

Some ministry decisions may appear right in our eyes, but to the Holy Spirit we would be operating against God’s will for us. Additionally, some things may appear to us as ministry opportunities, but to the Holy Spirit, that ‘opportunity’ may not be God’s will for us. At times we are so determined to do what we assume (without discernment) to be God’s will, that we fail to notice the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Bottom lineThe fact that you see an open door does not mean you must walk through it. Not all open doors are meant for you to enter. Some open doors are traps, not opportunities. Learn – by prayer and study of the Bible – to discern what the Spirit is saying in any given situation. Go where the Spirit wants you to go; don’t go where the Spirit doesn’t want you to go, even if you see opportunities; and finally, do what the Spirit wants you to do, according to the timing of the Spirit.

May the Father bless and increase you! Amen.

For further study: Matthew 10:1-15

God Does Not Save People Against Their Will

Daily Devotional: Day 132

“[God] will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4, KJV).

Grace to you! Today, I’d like us to build upon yesterday’s message; seeing that many of us will be sharing the Gospel with people at some point in our life. The main point of yesterday’s message was that some people do not want to be saved.

Look at today’s Bible text. It says that God wants all men to be saved. That is true. But the question is: “Do all men want to be saved?” The answer is, “No.” God will not save people against their will. Throughout the Bible, you’ll see examples of this. You’ll also observe that God does not pursue people forever. Knowing this helps us to be more discerning and effective when presenting the Gospel to people. Let’s look at two examples from the life of Jesus.

In John chapter 5, Jesus healed a sick man who had sat by the pool of Bethesda for thirty-eight years. Following the healing, a heated conversation ensued between Jesus and the Jews, because Jesus had healed the man on the Sabbath. At one point, Jesus told the Jews, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40, NKJV; emphasis added). Did you catch that? Jesus says they were not willing to come to Him that they may have life. Jesus was willing to save them, but they weren’t. Therefore, He left them to live with the consequences of their choice. Jesus didn’t push, manipulate or coerce them into believing in Him for salvation. We all need to learn a lesson from this when we present the Gospel to people.

The next example is from Luke 13:34, where Jesus lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” (bold emphasis added). Again, you see evidence of people not willing to be saved. Did Jesus insist that Jerusalem accept Him? No. He grieved over the city, but He respected their choice and He moved on.

God does not pursue people indefinitely, as some suppose. If they reject His love and truth, at some point He will turn away. When people’s hearts are hardened, there’s very little anyone can do. After a while, God lets them do as they please, handing them over to a reprobate mind (cf. Romans 1:27-28). At this point, it becomes nearly impossible for them to be saved. I pray the Lord will give you discernment and understanding regarding these matters as you share the Gospel with people. When presenting the Gospel, respect people’s free will at all times, no matter how strongly you feel about your views. 

The peace of Jesus Christ reign in your heart today! Amen.

For further study: Matthew 13:10-15