Stand On The Rock

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, May 25, 2015
Based Upon Luke 6:47–49

It’s one thing to nod, raise our hands toward heaven with our eyes closed as if carried away in ecstasy saying, “Amen” to the Word of God, but it is another thing altogether to bow our heads and lives in humble submission to the Word. The Bible says: “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:47–49).

The Bible is full of examples of people who chose to model their lives after God’s revelation. There are stalwart characters like Abel who heard the command of God, recognizing the blessing of salvation that chose to surrender themselves Him as living sacrifices. There are those like Enoch who loved nothing more than to walk and talk with Jesus and consistently told Him all about his life’s struggles and triumphs. There are those like Hannah who would stop at nothing to receive the richest blessings heaven could offer, and then turn right around and yield the same blessings into God’s care. There are those like Anna whose highest honor and joy was to live in the presence of God and share the message of Jesus with as many people as would listen. There are those like Elisha who would never allow the power of God to be present without receiving all of it by faith. These and others like them are they of whom the Bible says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; That bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; That saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7). These are they who kept the commandments of God and had the faith of Jesus.

Everyday of our lives we are faced with two choices: We can either model our loves after the similitude of wickedness, which is transient and combustible, or we can emulate the rich characters who daily built their lives upon the foundation of the world itself, Jesus Christ.

With the constant threat of hurricanes and other storms around the world in the last days, we can well appreciate the need to feel secure. All that we have and much of what we think is immovable can quickly be swept away. When the waves of life begin to surge steadily toward our spiritual experiences are we safe? Will we be able to stand the earth shattering events that will most certainly test all of our faith? If we build upon the sure Foundation, Jesus Christ, no trial or difficulty will ruin us. No matter how rough things become, if we continually build our lives upon God and His Word, He will undergird us and we will remain faithful until Jesus returns.

Not So Gently Down The Stream

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, May 24, 2015
Based Upon John 6:15-21

I’d like to share an incredible story with you. The Bible says: “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.” (John 6:15–21).

I told you this was an incredible story. Now, what can we learn from it? Let me ask you a question: Have you ever embarked upon a day or some journey in life without Jesus? Or, have you ever been with Jesus at a point in time and then realized along the way that you did not welcome Him into your present experience? Was it a dark hour in your life? Did the winds of life arise against you as you rowed your spiritual boat against the strong currents of trials and tribulations? Maybe you chose a mate without asking God His view of the matter and it became the relationship from the pit. Perhaps you ventured into a disagreement between two other people, thinking you could help without first seeking divine aid, and suddenly it seemed you were the problem. Perchance you entered into business negotiations with some person or entity that became a disaster, because of a technicality in the contract you never bargained for.

It is possible that you got up one morning, and because you thought you had no time for devotion with God, you rushed out into your day planning to catch up with God another time, and everything seemed to go wrong. And, so you rowed-and-rowed your boat some more, not-so-gently down the stream, doing your level-best to get through your day or that complicated problem, only to realize the were are getting nowhere fast. What should you do?

There are times in our lives where many of us neglect our time with God and life has its way with us. We become bogged down, beaten, and bloodied by circumstances that otherwise would have been handled by God’s grace. The trials, though they must invariably come, would have been met with the power of God and His ability to build our characters for His glory, as we are refined as pure gold. In cases like these, what should we do? What can we do?

Look up.

We must look up and perceive the presence of God. But, when we see Him walking effortlessly upon our difficulties, instead of being fearful that He will indict or punish us, we must not fear. We have the privilege of receiving Him willingly into our spiritual ship and immediately, we will arrive at the place where He wills for us to be. When we make it a priority to welcome God into our experience, He will always guide us safely through the trials we must certainly face, and will ultimately carry us to our destination—eternity with Him.

Mindful Mary

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Based Upon Luke 10:38-42

Ladies and gentlemen, get your minds right! So many things in this life vie for our attention that, if we make them our focus, we will never invest precious time with God. Sometimes even noble things can detract from that which is vital. There is a difference.

Here’s a story to illustrate the point: Jesus went to visit His friends Mary and Martha as He often had. Martha, being the worker-bee that she was, buzzed about performing a multiplicity of duties. Perhaps she was tidying the place, cooking, making the place more comfortable for her divine Guest, and other things. She wanted everything to be just right. As is the case with many women who love to entertain, Martha began to get tired and burned out.

Meanwhile, Mary was sitting with Jesus, hanging on every word He spoke.

Martha’s working. Mary’s sitting. Jesus is watching this all unfold. Once Martha had enough of her sister’s apparent laziness, she implores Jesus to correct her lazy sister and make her help out, instead of just sitting around. However, Jesus taught a simple, pointed lesson in His response: “And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41–42).

Jesus’ response was brilliant! More than that, it was very instructive. Both sisters had the incredible privilege of having Jesus around. One sister chose to make herself busy working for Jesus, and with whatever leftover energy she had, she intended to enjoy His company. The other sister decided to enjoy Jesus’ company first, and then all else would be handled. So, here’s my question: What is your priority? Are you burdened by the many noble duties you need to perform for the Lord? Do you awaken every morning weary, because you need to feed the hungry, visit the sick, clothe the naked, or some other very important thing? If so, learn a lesson from Mary. She was not lazy. Mary understood that the vital connection with Jesus was in higher priority than the noble activity of working for Him.

Mary understood that the vital connection with Jesus was in higher priority than the noble activity of working for Him.

When these two are out of order, we become disgruntled actors who criticize the actions or inactions of others. But, when we put ample time in the presence of Jesus first, we are then energized by His Spirit to do good service for others.

So, ladies and gentlemen, get your minds right. Place God in first priority, every single day, and in His strength, go forth and be of service to your communities, and to the world.

Judging Private Praise

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Based Upon Luke 7:36-50

Picture the scene: Simon the Pharisee has a get-together at his home and Jesus is invited. Jesus probably lounges in the customary manner on something like a chaise lounger with his left arm or elbow resting on the table. A woman with a sordid past obviously came to the gathering with an agenda–to honor Jesus. So, with all of her heart she unsealed the container of precious perfume oil and began doting on Christ. I can imagine that every moment she passed while in Jesus’ presence must have felt as though weights of oppression, bad choices, shame, pain, fear, and weakness were falling off. Her tears must have flowed with the relief of a prisoner set free from a mandatory life sentence with all charges dropped. She worshipped; she cried; she reflected; all that was around her was lost in a haze of loving commitment to her King.

As the sweet aroma of this woman’s worship wafted into the air, a competing miasma of hypocrisy also permeated the house. The host, who should have been elated that his guests were well-entertained, chose rather to criticize a lowly woman’s worship.

Whenever we choose to rate someone’s private worship experience, we are on the wrong path. Not only do we position ourselves in the worshipper’s business, but we also blasphemously elevate ourselves into Almighty God’s business.

The Pharisee thought, “…This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39). Of course, Jesus dealt with this man’s pride as he set himself up as a judge of this woman, and as a judge of his Creator. You can read Jesus’ response in our theme text.

I would like to say, what many have left unsaid: This same proud Pharisee, supposedly of the elite class of religious leaders of his day, somehow forgot from whence he had come. This is often the case when power-drunk men choose to subjugate women. Let me let you in on two not-so-little secrets: This woman was the same Mary whom God honored to be the first at the tomb on resurrection morning. She was the one given the first charge to preach a risen Savior. How ironic! Now, Simon the Pharisee is none other than Simon the leper! That’s right, folks! The man who proudly wore religious garb as a covering of his sepulchre-like heart was once relegated to a colony of unclean lepers. Like all of the others who were unfortunately despised and rejected due to their horrid, contagious state, the Pharisee knew what it was to be judged, maligned, and outcast. Hence, the reason Jesus needed to deal with Him so directly in His parable. Simon forgot how to be thankful. Simon forgot the joy of being healed and forgiven. Consequently, he chose to set himself up as judge of a worshipful woman, rather than supporting her gratitude. When we forget how good God has been to us, we are in danger of telling others how to, and how not to use their fragrant gifts in honor of God.

For very good reason, the Holy Spirit had holy men to record this story. It is a lesson for us all. When God has been so good to us that He would condescend to forgive us of our sins, it is our privilege to give Him our all, and take two steps back to allow others to do the same. Amen.

Weep Not: A Word For The Woman In Ruins

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, May 4, 2015
Based Upon Luke 11:11-17

Weep not! Can you imagine hearing those two, seemingly insignificant words from the mouth of Christ? If someone says, “Don’t cry” after you break a favorite vase, stub your toe on a chair leg, or accidentally scrape the paint of your new car, then OK. But for a widowed mother to hear that when her only son is dead, that must have been difficult.

There are times in our lives when it seems things cannot get any worse. You have had those experiences. You lose your job two weeks before you close on your dream house, which you have waited 20 years to buy. You find out your cousin has stage-four metastatic breast cancer. You find out that your precious daughter has been keeping a secret: she’s pregnant and is not sure which one of the four men she has been sexually active with over the past few months is the father. You realize that your husband has been seeing another woman. Oh, and that other woman is your best friend from the graduating class of 1976. Many are the trials we endure while living on this renegade planet. But scarcely can it be described when the trial is the death of your only beloved son!

Can you imagine the scene? You are a widow whose only son is about to be buried. Jesus comes by and tells you not to cry. How do you feel in that moment? Do you wish He would go away and allow you to mourn? Do you recognize that it’s Christ who’s speaking and immediately have hopes of a miracle that will change your life forever? Fortunately, this woman did not need too much time to think or feel. The Master immediately spoke to the mind of a dead boy whom He had created, and the same effulgent power emanated through His command that spoke the worlds into existence, and the boy came to life again. The One who would not many years later give His life for us on a cruel cross, commanded that this boy receive his life and that joy would return to a grieving mother.

Though trials must certainly come, take courage that the Lord always has a word to speak into your life. His word is power.

His word is strength. His word is love. His word is holiness. His word is rest. Embrace His word and expect the miracle of grace to unfold in your life

Encouraging Expectations

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, May 3, 2015
Based upon: Luke 1:39-45

Women are known to be very body aware. They often know when something is going very wrong inside, and even know when something is going quite well. Sometimes the sense of what might be going on inside can alert her to the need to see a doctor. At other times, these feelings drive euphoria and give a general sense of wellbeing; that something great is happening.

Not long after the angel visited Mary with great news of the Messiah’s conception, she travelled to Juda to see her cousin, Elisabeth. She entered the house and called to Elisabeth, who was then miraculously six months pregnant. As she heard Mary’s salutation, something unusual and invigorating happened inside. Elisabeth’s baby leaped! I have been told how amazing it feels when a child moves inside the womb. While it can be painful at times for women with fibroids or other complications, most movements, I am told, are amazing. To have a little life moving around inside is indescribable.

However, in this case, baby John’s movement was much more. There was a spiritual exchange that God created here. Mary, who was filled with the Spirit and pregnant with the Son of God spoke. Elisabeth, who was pregnant with the forerunner of Christ’s earthly ministry and much more, heard Mary’s voice. As the sound waves traveled through the air and entered Elisabeth’s ear canal, her eardrum began to vibrate. Those vibrations were handed off through three little bones to her inner ear via tiny hairs, which were then picked up by a nerve that signaled her brain that there was a message for her. Her brain distinguished, deciphered, and recognized those electrical impulses, and as she heard the voice of her dear cousin, the boy leaped inside, and she was filled with the Holy Ghost. Did you get that? She heard the voice of her dear cousin, the boy leaped inside, and she was filled with the Holy Ghost. What an amazing sequence of events. What an amazing experience for these women of God to have that they could share with generations to come! In kindred spirit, they both experienced their God at the deepest of levels, and knew without doubt that He was present.

As I reflect upon this story I’m enraptured, and it occurs to me that we must never underestimate the special ways God communicates His love and essence to women. Does He speak to men? Yes! Does He manifest Himself to us? Yes! Yet, we must not fail to realize that as different as men are from women, so are some of our experiences with our God. Just as my wife has a womb and I do not, so does she have experiences with God that I do not, because we were designed differently.

For me, the unsung moral of this story is that I would do well to support and embrace the experiences of holy women and their special encounters with God. In the same way we have the record of these women’s experiences to give us courage thousands of years later, we can take courage in the testimonies of women in our day. Relish those testimonies, and then God for them.

Sabbath: Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Friday, May 1, 2015
Based Upon Exodus 31:12-13

As the Lord communed with Moses in the mount, He outlined His will for His people. He shared very detailed instructions concerning the commandments, judgments, and the building of the sanctuary. The sanctuary was of particular interest, because it was to become a catalyst by which the people of God would look to the coming Messiah as their only way into the presence of God. They were to see clearly through rites and ceremonies, how God would save them. It was the gospel preached to them in the wilderness for many years (Hebrews 4).

As God continued speaking to Moses, He unfolded a brilliant truth to him. God did not do it as though Moses was oblivious, but He did put emphasis on the matter. “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you.” (Exodus 31:12-13). In order to distinguish the Sabbath to which He referred from those ceremonial days instituted because of sin, He continued. “Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” (Exodus 31:15-17). In Ezekiel chapter twenty, the same truth is shared and is associated with the deliverance of God’s people from Egyptian slavery.

God’s seventh day Sabbath sign is a blessing, because it demonstrates His power. The One that sanctifies us is also the One who created everything. The One who created everything demonstrated His ability to deliver us from the bondage of sin in the exodus from Egypt. If God can create the worlds from nothing, He can certainly sanctify His people by delivering us from the slavery of sin.

Another great blessing is that all of the rites and ceremonies, including ceremonial sabbaths were completely eradicated at the cross of Jesus. He was the fulfillment of all of these things. He is the genuine article. Just as we are able to receive the blessings of the New Covenant made with the house of Israel, we are blessed to receive the sanctification demonstrated in God’s eternal seventh day Sabbath. You see, as we have faith in Christ, we are heirs according to the promise God made to Abraham. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29).

The sign of God’s exclusive power to create, sanctify, and deliver from sin is still in tact. He is calling people all over the world to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Will you receive His sign? Will you be known in these last days as one who believes He still sanctifies? Pray that the Lord will teach you what His sign means and why it is important in these days

How the First Family Spent the First Sabbath

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Thursday, April 30, 2015
Based Upon Genesis 2:1-3

The creation of God was perfect in every way. He moved out into the darkness and commanded light to appear, and it was so. His essence breached the darkness since the heavenly bodies had not yet been created. The next six days would prove to be nothing short of astounding. From His emanating light would erupt creative power. All that we see now and more would be called into existence. Vegetation, dry land, water, every species of creature, and all of the heavenly bodies would obey His command and assume their positions.

Once all of this was complete, God crowned His work as Creator and molded humankind. The man Adam was created from the dust of the ground, and God shared His own breath with him making him a living being. After Adam agreed with the names God had in mind for all of the creatures, God caused him to fall into a deep sleep. He took a rib from Adam and made a woman, the mother of all living, and brought her to him (Genesis 2:21, 22). Adam called her woman, because she was taken from man. She was indeed created for man.

Finally, the holy couple was ready. They had all of the things they needed in order to live blissful lives, except one. The Bible says that God rested on the seventh day, setting it aside as holy. He prepared a special time for His children to come aside from their everyday activities for something special. Truly, God set this time aside for the benefit of man, that is, humankind.

“And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:” (Mark 2:27).

Four thousand years later, when humankind forgot the purpose of Sabbath time, Jesus reminded them.

Can you imagine what the first Sabbath must have been like? I imagine the Creator coming to His new children and opening many of the mysteries of the universe to their prefect minds. I can see them in awe of the One who loved them so much that He provided everything they needed, and then set them in the midst to enjoy it all. The songs that they sang together must have been glorious. How does a voice untouched by sin sound? Their gratitude must have been pure and sincere. They had no need of a pastor. God Himself was with them face to face.

If the perfect pair needed the blessings of the Sabbath, how much more do we, during this time in earth’s history? Sabbath is a special time for us to be re-energized by God. As we worship Him daily, we look forward to the seventh day, which He made holy, to worship Him on a higher level. We are able to worship without the burden of ordinary, everyday thoughts. We truly come aside and rest. I praise the Lord for that rest. How about you?

The Secret to Good Rest

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Based Upon Exodus 20:8

As time rapidly spirals into the future, our lives become cluttered with so much activity that many of us are completely burned out. We sometimes suffer from diseases related to overwork with far too many things competing for our attention. God knew that humans would be so bogged down with everyday life, that we would need a respite; a reprieve. Simply taking a vacation or several breaks throughout the day is just not enough for this machinery to be well-rested and prepared to meet the rigors of everyday life. With wars and rumors of wars, fear of the unknown, and incurable diseases pressing in on our psyche, we need supernatural rest.

The Lord in His great wisdom devised a plan to give us the rest that we need.

Jesus bought our salvation on Calvary and is now putting the finishing touches on the gift in the way of intercession in heaven in order for us to enter the salvific rest of God. We do not labor for our salvation. Rather, we rest in the perfect work of Jesus Christ.

In order to remind us of the great work of creation and re-creation, God has a commemorative time, week after week, for us to rest. The command to rest says that we are to labor for six days and on the seventh, which is Saturday, we rest. This rest is worshipful in nature. This rest recognizes God as the only Creator and Savior of the universe. This rest is for the people of God to consummate their growing love and relationship with God. No other time than the time the Lord has set aside will satisfy that need, because no other time was specifically blessed and sanctified by Him. We daily worship the Lord during the week leading up to the only day that God has sanctified as holy when we can focus on His goodness, uninterrupted by the mundane chores of life.

Isn’t it wonderful that God has the answer to our need for spiritual and physical rest? Please do not forget what God said to remember. Enter into God’s rest.

Set Free On The Sabbath

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Based Upon Luke 4:31-37

Among the scariest things that could ever happen to a human being, is to be under the complete control of the devil. For millennia, we have seen the destruction he leaves in his wake. We have seen mass suicides, horrendous child abuse, prison riots, spousal abuse, genocides, cannibalism, heinous acts perpetrated under a religious guise, frothing fits of unintelligible recklessness, and more. Many times, it seems that the devil has been given the green light to cause havoc on earth. He seems to run to and fro, and up and down on the earth, doing whatever he pleases with only destruction in his wake.

While Jesus was living on earth, he encountered people who had been overcome by the enemy of souls. On one such occasion, Jesus was teaching His message of salvation in the synagogue and evil spirit who possessed a man caused a disturbance. He cried with a loud voice “Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.” (Luke 4:34). Not willing to allow the devil to divert the people’s minds from eternal life He said, “Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.” (Luke 4:35). And when the people saw how easily Jesus handled the situation, “they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.” (Luke 4:36).

You see, demon possession represented the worst-case scenario of hopelessness to the people. And when the enemy sought to terrorize the minds of the onlookers with his exhibition of control over this poor man during worship service, it was an opportunity for Jesus to exhibit His best-case scenario. With the authority of Godly prerogative, He simply commanded the devils to release the man, and they were compelled to do so. There was no fight. There was no back-and-forth, show of force between good and evil. No! Jesus commanded, and the man was delivered!

Is there any problem in your life wherein the enemy causing havoc? Are you overcome with temptations or trials? Are your children out of control? Is your marriage on the rocks? Have you lost your job? Is your health failing? Continue to cry out to God in the name of Jesus and let Him loose you from the enemy’s grasp. Let Him release His best-case scenario into your life today. I don’t know what the answer to your prayers will be, but I am confident that the God who created and redeemed you will take care of you, if you continue to rest your faith in Him