Something Out of Nothing

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Friday, February 27, 2015
Based Upon Psalm 33:6, 8–9

If He can create the world out of nothing, what can He re-create in your life?

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all their host by the breath of His mouth. Let all the earth fear the Lord [revere and worship Him]; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:6, 8–9, AMP).

What kind of power must the Most High possess in order to create the worlds? How awesome must He be to speak the existence of things that did not before exist? The earth was without form and was void, and as the Spirit hovered above the face of the deep, God began to speak! Everything He commanded came out of the nothingness. Where there was no light, He commanded and there was light. Where there was no dry land, He commanded and the vast waters abated for dry land to appear. Where there was no color, He commanded and the verdant vegetation appeared in rich profusion. Where there was nothing animate, He commanded and the seas teemed with fish, land activated with beasts having various numbers of legs, and air fluttered with winged creatures. So much more that happened during the creation of the world will continue to amaze the most learned scientists until Jesus comes. And all was accomplished at His command.

Is it possible that the One who created all things can also recreate you? So many of us have realized over the years that we have very real issues. Our families are dysfunctional. We have unhealthy addictions. Some have committed murder, and all have at some point in time, entertained evil thoughts. We need help! But, here’s the thing, the Most High is still in the business of calling something out of nothing. To those who need His intervention, He speaks. To those who confess their sins, He says He will forgive and never bring it up again. To those who want to have a new life in righteousness, He says He is able to keep from falling. To those who feel powerless against addictions, He says you can do all things through Christ. To those who feel abandoned, He says although a mother may leave her nursing baby, He will never leave you.

Be encouraged today as you contemplate the love of God and His power to create. The One who called the earth out of nothingness, can also speak vibrancy into your pallid, discontented existence. Open your ears and hear Him speak. Here Him say: “I have loved you with an everlasting love. Therefore I have drawn you with loyal love” (Jeremiah 31:3, LEB)

 




Worried Wait?

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, February 26, 2015
He has the word you need, just when you need it.


“I wait for the Lord, I expectantly wait, and in His word do I hope.” (Psalm 130:5, AMP)

One of the most difficult things in the world for which to wait is someone to finish a conversation. Have you ever been in a situation where a friend or loved one said, “We need to talk” and then you spent all day wondering what was on their mind? You may have wondered if everything was all right with them. You may have wondered whether your relationship was in jeopardy somehow. And, depending upon the circumstance, the wait was either worth it, or became your worse nightmare. I have experienced both situations.

The psalmist painted a picture of his expectant waiting upon the Lord’s word. Passionately, he said, “My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning” (Psalm 130:6). For what word was he waiting? He said, “Out of the depths I call to you, O Yahweh. “O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If you, O Yah, should keep track of iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you is forgiveness, so that you may be feared. O Israel, wait for Yahweh. For with Yahweh there is loyal love, and with him there is abundant redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all its iniquities” (Psalm 130:7–8, LEB).

It was a word of forgiveness for which the psalmist waited. He wanted to be reassured of the mercies of God, although he was not in doubt. Sometimes we need a keener sense of that which we already know of God. When we are without comfort, we want to feel Him comfort us. When we are lonely, we want to hear Him reiterate His promise, “I will never leave nor forsake you.” And, when we sin, we want to confess and hear Him say, “I forgive you and will not bring your faults to mind again.”

Whenever we await the word of God to our hearts, it is always worth it. He is always making ways to encourage and strengthen us. For what word are you awaiting from the Lord?




When Beauty Gets Better

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Based Upon Isaiah 64:4



Do you ever just let your mind wander? Do you aspire to do great things with your life? Do you dream of becoming a musician who leads the minds and hearts of people into the heavenly portals? Do you situate yourself among the poor, suffering, and needy in order to bring a sense of relief and well being? Do you wish to make some grand impact upon your society that makes this world a better place?

Have you considered the many amazing beauties in nature like the giant sequoia trees of California that have grown to as many as 311 feet tall? Perhaps you have observed New Zealand’s tui bird, which sings its wonderful songs with two voice boxes. It might be said that you have not lived until you have experienced the Victoria Falls located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, whose highest recorded flow was 452,000 feet.

There are amazing spectacles of architecture like India’s historic Taj Mahal, Dubai’s 7 star hotel, Burj Al Arab, and New York City’s One World Trade tower that stands a symbolic height of 1,776 feet tall.

Yet, with all of our lofty aspirations, observations of the beauties in nature, and incredible spectacles in architecture, the Bible says, “For from days of old they have not heard or perceived by ear, Nor has the eye seen a God besides You, Who acts in behalf of the one who waits for Him” (Isaiah 64:4, NASB95).

Our God is a consuming fire and full of mercy. His love is all encompassing and leads us to life everlasting. He said, “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore. Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness. Her people will be a source of joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and delight in my people. And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more. “No longer will babies die when only a few days old. No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life. No longer will people be considered old at one hundred…In those days people will live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of their own vineyards” (Isaiah 65:17–21, NLT).

As you meditate upon the goodness of God, remember that He will make all things new very soon. Why not let Him begin today with you?




The Humble Mind of Christ

Message Magazine’s Devotional for Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Based Upon Philippians 2:5

If I were pressed into a corner and forced to pick one, and only one way to express what God’s plan for us is, I would have to say, to have the mind of Christ. This is an all-encompassing reality. No matter in what situation we find ourselves, if we receive the essence of Jesus’ mind and character, we are always safe. There is no dark corner in life, or trial that can force us outside the safe zone of aligning perfectly with Him, if we assume His attitude by faith.

What example does the Bible give us concerning the mind of Christ? Paul said, “Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5–8, AMP).
Jesus, though the Son of God, and verily equal with God Himself, could not see our predicament and allow His exalted state to hinder Him from saving us. It was an infinite humiliation for the King of kings to become a servant and be born into our human form. It was an infinite humiliation for the King of kings to walk and live among us for 33.5 years knowing that most would reject Him. It was an infinite humiliation for the sinless King of kings to become sin for us, in order for us to become the righteousness of God through Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus always put us first. He took the low road, so we could be exalted. “Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9, AMP).
Now we can understand why having His mind by faith, we are safely nestled within His will. “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed” (1 Peter 2:21–24, NLT).




Rogue “Righteousness”

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday February 22, 2015
Based Upon Acts 24

Affairs of conscience have always been at risk in the hands of civil authorities and the overzealous religious. When will we recognize God can vindicate Himself?

I’m not naïve. I do realize that not all matters purported to be of faith should be excused by civil society as some spiritual “diplomatic immunity.” There are times when fringe groups do things that endanger the lives of others or in some way impact the larger society in ways that are a detriment, which even God would condemn. Yet, world history and prophetic prediction both attest to the danger of allowing civil authorities to meddle in the affairs of conscience. Concerning the first four commandments, we must be free to exercise our right to worship, or not, according to conscience. Concerning the last six commandments, just and sensible, laws should be drafted and enforced to benefit the larger society.

Interestingly, Paul is being shuttled from place-to-place, judge-to-judge, under heavy guard because religious zealots who think they know everything want to execute him due to his beliefs. Notice I used the word, “beliefs.” That of which Paul spoke concerning his beliefs, had zero potential as a public safety risk or upset of just government. He simply shared that Jesus was Messiah, and the he looked forward to the resurrection. Why in the world were the religious so-called authorities so bent out of shape?

If we don’t learn much else from this fiasco, we must recognize that, whether for good or for ill, history has a history of repeating itself. I could cite countless examples where civil governments have attempted to compel conscience and the negative consequences of such. Here are a few: Did not Nebuchadnezzar attempt to compel (false) worship, and when three Hebrew boys refused, did he not cast them alive into a fiery furnace? Did not king Darius allow his advisors to swindle him into enacting a law to compel everyone to worship him as a god? Was not Daniel caught in the dragnet when he was discovered praying to the God of heaven, and then thrown in to a den of hungry lions? Were not so-called religious people allowed to employ the rack, stake, and many other unmentionable atrocities to compel assent to certain dogma during a savage 1,260 year massacre including time in the Dark Ages (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 13:5-7). Does not prophecy predict that civil authority will be (mis)used to govern matters of conscience right before Jesus returns (Revelation 13:15-18)?

Yet, history also records that the Almighty is able to vindicate His name and honor in these situations. The three Hebrew boys received a blessed visit from the Son of God who nullified the flames. Daniel came forth from the den of lions completely unscathed. Those faithful ones whose early lives were taken because of their faith in God, will soon receive a crown of life. And, those who refuse to receive the Mark of the Beast in the closing moments of earth’s history, will be sealed and, by God’s grace, soon receive the reward for which Jesus paid with His life on Calvary. It’s cool to examine the details of Paul’s journey, but it is imperative that we not simply gather facts. We must dig deeply, in the power and mind of the Spirit, in order to make application for our day. I believe we have done just that today.




Seen In a New Light

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Thursday, February 19, 2015
Based Upon Acts 21

Paul’s encounter with Christ turned him and everything else around.

Yes, it’s true! The same wretched Saul of Tarsus, who became the devoted apostle of Christ, Paul, has come full circle. He, who once imprisoned believers, has himself become a prisoner in honor of that same Jesus who set him free.

Paul’s story reads like a wonderfully written novel, except it’s all true. Here’s a man who was as zealous for his cause as a man could be. He was convinced beyond doubt that Jews who defected from Jewry and embraced the message of Christ must be punished, and that it was his job to make sure they understood the dire ramifications of such heresy. After all, they were bringing the honor of Moses into question. But now, after having a startling encounter with Christ, he realizes that it was Christ’s honor that Moses defended. He recognized that it was Christ who spoke to father Abraham on Mount Moriah, to spare his promised son, Isaac. It was Christ who spoke from the burning bush at the beginning of Moses’ ministry. It was Christ on Mount Sinai who wrote the Ten Commandment Law on those sapphire tablets. Christ was the Pillar of Cloud by day, and Flame of Fire by night, leading the children of Israel out of Egyptian captivity. He was their Rock and Water in the desert. Therefore, it was in His honor that the now transformed Paul would be bound, imprisoned, and possibly killed as Agabus prophesied. His loved ones would weep at the prospect of this horrible fate, but he would rejoice for the privilege of living, or dying, for his Lord.

As he was violently dragged from the Jewish temple by religious zealots to be murdered, the town was in such an uproar that the authorities were called in to see what was going on. They even had to carry him away from the mob while things got sorted out. Then he asked for permission to address the crowd of murderers, zealots, and oblivious onlookers. What does a man, who is about to die for Christ’s sake, say in the moments before his execution? We will examine this question tomorrow as we highlight Acts chapter 22. Whatever he says, you better believe it will be life changing.




Rousing the Drowsy

Sleeping saints are at risk.

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Based Upon Acts 20

I must admit, my crazy schedule has me on the grind working at a frenetic pace. By the time I get to the end of the workweek, sometimes all I want to do is sleep. The Bible says that we should labor for six days, and rest on the seventh, right? Well, I’m sure the rest on the seventh day is far more than sleeping.

Last Sabbath, I was a member of a panel that discussed the parable of the 10 virgins of Matthew 25. Remarkably, there was somewhat of a disagreement on whether their natural slumber, due to their weariness during the bridegroom’s delay was quite fine or a bad thing. I was one of the few who believed it was uncategorically a bad thing. Yes, becoming weary is natural. Yes, rest is necessary. Yes, they all slumbered and slept. However, in the context of awaiting our Lord, we are implored to be sober, vigilant, watchful, alert, and awake. One cannot be any of those things and be asleep too. For in a time that we think not, the Lord will come. The Bible says, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” (Romans 13:11–12). It also says, “Behold, I am going to come like a thief! Blessed (happy, to be envied) is he who stays awake (alert) and who guards his clothes, so that he may not be naked and [have the shame of being] seen exposed!” (Revelation 16:15, AMP). Once the cleansing of God’s people, including those who find faith in Him during the 11th hour, is complete, He that shall come, will come, and not tarry.

What if brother Paul were preaching such a message, well into the night the fateful Sunday referenced in our theme chapter? What if the state of the people was such that, a quick-bite message of only a few minutes would not cut through the slumber of the church at that time. What if, as the clear message of repentance and preparation for the coming King was just about to reach its climax and, in weariness, you fell asleep? And what if, instead of your head nodding, like it often happens in church, you were seated on a windowsill and you fell out of the window on a couple of story drop to your death? That would be tragic, wouldn’t it? Well, as we can see in the story, that is exactly what happened to Eutychus.

Now it’s time to wrap this story up and apply it to our times. Many, many people are in such a state, that we are not capable of enduring strong doctrine. Some recite little palliating ditties like, “Stop preaching doctrine! Preach Christ!” But, is not doctrine a Bible teaching by which we must all live for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16)? Some say of their Christian fellowship, “It’s not a religion. It’s a lifestyle.” But, did not James say that there is pure and undefiled religion that is about serving and helping those who cannot help themselves (James 1:27)? The point is that far too many of us who profess to be awaiting our Lord’s return use the natural impediments of the flesh to excuse slackness. And to make matters worse, if there is no immediate consequence, some of us take it to mean that we are doing just fine.

I thank God for His mercy, friends. God understands our weaknesses and has made provisions to deliver us from them. Eutychus may have simply been sleepy, but his story really helps to keep things in perspective. In patriarchal fashion, Paul took up the young man and raised him from the dead. In mercy, God gave him another opportunity to live life to the fullest. Much in the same way, our God is raising sleeping saints today. He has dear ones mounted upon the proverbial walls of Zion to blow the trumpets, making the call, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh!” Jesus will soon be done cleansing those who have faith in Him, and getting them all arrayed in white in preparation for His arrival. This is our chance to join the final movement to embrace and share the message of Christ and soon enjoy the grand culmination of His blessed work of salvation. Wake up, and don’t sleep!




Dead Wrong

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, February 16, 2015
Based Upon Acts 18

Have you ever experienced people who always need to be right, even when they are dead wrong?

There are people who seem to say the opposite of what you say, just to be anti. And many times these unreasonable people disagree with no evidence to support their cherished points of view. This is horribly annoying, at worst, when it comes to the mundane, but what if there were spiritual implications? My question today is, “Is your need to be ‘right’ greater than your need to be ‘righteous’”?

Ironically, Paul, who once was a part of the so-called religious elite among the Jews, seemed to have overwhelming numbers of deep discussions regarding Jesus and the Law of Moses. Following the resurrection of Christ and the numerous accounts of His power and miraculous ascension, having taken the keys of hell, death, and the grave from Satan, there were still elite Jews who refused to believe. They were bent on being purveyors of the Law, but so rigid that the Holy Spirit could not even convince them of their error. They simply would not see that the Law of Moses pointed to Christ. They were in agreement. Their fastidious opposition to the truth of Christ, was no mere annoyance without foundation. It was their undoing. Their pride and abject refusal to accept the hundreds of prophetic proofs of Jesus’ messiahship, placed them firmly outside of God’s ability to deliver them from sin. Some were so headstrong, that even the Holy Spirit could not penetrate since love cannot overrule volition. Pride is antithetical to faith.

 

Pride is antithetical to faith.

I met a young man at the bus stop one day. He was there with his pregnant girlfriend. They were quarreling about all sorts of nonsense. He asked my opinion because, as he said, he likes to listen to what older people have to say. I congratulated him for respecting maturity, but I asked him why he was disrespectful of his younger girlfriend’s views. He happened to be smoking a cigarette. I asked if a child at three years of age told him that smoking was bad for his health, whether he would accept the fact from someone so young. Pensively, he responded, “You are right, sir.” The point is, humility says that we should be willing to listen to wise counsel, no matter from where the counsel comes. Holding on to our own views at all costs, despite principled evidence to the contrary, could be even more detrimental to our spiritual health than the cigarette was to this young man’s physical health.

Will you join me for a spiritual gut check today? Will you ask the Lord to help you to always cherish a listening ear and a humble heart? Your life just might depend on it




Source And Legacy Of Understanding

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sunday, February 15, 2015
Based Upon Acts 17

What is the basis of your belief system? Is it based upon historically held thoughts? Is it what your grandparents passed on? Do community organizers in your area inform your worldview? How about television preachers? Are they your source of understanding?

I come from a body of believers who, as of June 2013 recorded almost 18 million members, worldwide. We believe in the Bible as our only rule and guide to life. We embrace the blessing of salvation through Christ alone, the loving care of God the Father, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in each of our lives. There are many truths we hold dearly in these last days that knit us together in unity such as: Jesus, who is well acquainted with the feelings of our infirmities, ever lives in a most holy ministry to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, and to seal us in that state before He comes. We believe that our deceased loved ones are resting in the grave, awaiting the resurrection, and not floating around, disembodied either in torment, or having to watch the events of earth unfold as they are supposed to be in paradise. We believe that Jesus is able to keep us from falling, no matter how many years we cherished our darling sins, once we live in submission to Him. We look forward to the day that we, with the faithful ones of them, will hear the blast of Jesus’ trumpet, and we will be caught up to meet Him in the air. We believe that our Father has preserved a special appointment on the seventh day of every week for us to come aside and culminate all of our worship experiences from the week, on the only day He has called holy, as a sign of His power to deliver all who trust Him, from sin. We believe that one day the enemy of us all will ultimately be destroyed, with all of his sympathizers, and sin will never show its ugly head again. We believe that God will finally have the satisfaction of welcoming countless people who rest their faith in Him, from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people into His presence, nevermore to depart. I could go on-and-on about the precious truths we love, but why do so many of us believe?

Our theme chapter highlights a small group of Bereans who distinguished themselves in Christian history for one reason—they did not center their beliefs upon the words of people. They heard the teachings of God from the apostles, and searched the Scriptures to see whether those things were so. They were only satisfied when they knew that the foundation of their hope was Christ in His Holy Word. That is our lesson for today. No matter how your legacy of understanding has been passed on to you, always revel in the privilege you have to search the Scriptures for yourself in the power of the Holy Spirit, and hold fast to that which is found there, and steadfastly refuse that which is not. In this we find safety and assurance as we await our Master’s return.




God’s Nighttime Deliverance

…and beauty of being a part of His providential plans

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sabbath, February 14, 2015
Based Upon Acts 16

Today’s theme chapter has so inspired me that I am compelled to paraphrase certain parts of the story.

As usual, Paul and Silas were preaching the great news of salvation through Jesus Christ. They had plans to go to one city, but the Lord rerouted their trip (there are great lessons in this). Eventually, their heels were dogged by a woman who was demon possessed. For several days, her mouth said “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation,” but her life was still under the control of demons. After a time, the Lord used the apostles to cause her testimony of the men’s mission, and her lifestyle to match. She was delivered from her bondage to Satan.

As they continued preaching the gospel, Paul and Silas were accosted, stripped, flogged in the streets, and imprisoned. The message they taught crossed the self-serving economy of those making money on the girl who was demon possessed. While they were in prison, they began to worship, sing hymns, and pray. At midnight (search the Bible for things that happen at midnight), the Bible says that the earth began to quake! Then every single prisoner was miraculously set free! Their chains fell off and the gates were opened. Hallelujah! It get’s better: The jailer heard the commotion and tried to commit suicide, because he thought everyone escaped, but Paul stopped him. The jailer was reduced to a puddle of tears and cried saying, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you and your whole household will be saved.” The apostles preached the message of love and peace to the jailer’s household, and they were all baptized. Then the jailer mollified the wounds of the apostles and the story continues.

Did you see how many people were set free in this story, because God’s people allowed Him to direct their paths? Suppose they chose to chart their own course those few days? How many people would have missed out on deliverance? This lesson illustrates the beauty of surrendering all of our plans to the Lord, and allowing our lives, even through trials, to be a praise to magnify His kingdom. Are you willing to be used by God to set others free?