What God Has Joined Together

How “asunder” can be nothing but painful.
Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Thursday, November 20, 2014
Based Upon Matthew 19

God’s standards are so much higher than ours in every possible way. This is a good thing. For instance, how would you feel about amputating a part of your own body? Some of you may have had this done, due to unfortunate accidents or disease. But, imagine the amputation happened without anesthesia, and you had to perform it yourself, not a doctor. Banish the thought!

Divorce is like amputating a body part without anesthesia. Now, that’s graphic. Scripture says that what God hath joined, people should not amputate. “Put asunder” is so much more vague and palatable since we don’t use that phrase in our daily way of speaking, but we must not miss the point Jesus clearly made:

 

The two people, become one flesh. The only way to separate part of one’s flesh is to cut it off, and that is a painful process.

 

He was clear that there is a cause for biblical divorce, but He also made it clear that it was not so from the beginning. It was only allowed, because of the hardness of our hearts.

When we really think about it, marriage is most spoken of in context of our relationship with God. What is the ideal for that relationship? What picture of that relationship would God be pleased that we portray if our marriages are to be representative of it? Should we choose to be at odds with our God? Should we cheat on our God? Should we lie to or abuse our God? Should we break our vow to Him and just up and abandon our God? Should we be disrespectful of His feelings? Should we neglect to invest quality time with Him? Should we say things to Him that we wish we could take back? This puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

All that the Bible teaches are ideals for our benefit. All that the Bible teaches for us to emulate can be our experience, if we surrender our will to Him. The same God who created the worlds with the breath of His mouth and powerful commands, can restore our marriages. Remember, it is God of whom we speak. Will we have trials? Yes. Will we have disagreements? Yes. Are we stubborn sometimes? Yes. Is God able to keep that which we have committed to Him until He returns? Yes. What God hath conjoined (in marriage), let no man (or woman) amputate.




The Focus Behind Real Forgiveness

If you can’t see past a trespass, you’re looking at the wrong thing.

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Based Upon Matthew 18

There may be more people locked away in prison than any of us think.

What kind of life does one have who cherishes an unforgiving spirit? In some ways I feel hesitant to continue this thought, because I know so much is at stake. But, perhaps that is the very reason this issue must be discussed. Think of the worse thing anyone has ever done to you, or someone you love. Is it fixed in your mind? Now, ask yourself whether you have forgiven that person. I mean, have you forgiven the person who stole your identity and emptied your bank account? Have you forgiven the murderer who cut your child’s life short? Have you forgiven the woman who trifled with your heart, just to get ahead? Have you forgiven the man who violently ignored the fact that, “No!” means no? Have you forgiven your deadbeat dad? Have you forgiven that police officer who was supposed to protect and serve, but destroyed to self-serve? Have you forgiven your cheating, lying spouse? Have you forgiven the racist bigots who are ignorant enough to think they are better than you? I think you get the point. Oh, and notice I did not ask whether any of these people “deserve” to be forgiven.

I must admit that these are impossibly difficult questions. I must also admit that it is easy to hide behind a keyboard and type these high and possibly philosophical questions, unless the one writing has to contend with these issues too, which I do. The fact is that all who cherish an unforgiving spirit are imprisoned and have swallowed the key to the outside world. I am not going to suggest that forgiving people, especially those who seem calloused is easy, because it is not. It is impossible, unless of course, our God works a miracle in our souls.

The truth about forgiving people who have deeply wounded us is that we must not focus on them. We must consider the reality of our relationship to God. We must ask ourselves, and be honest about it, whether we have ever offended God. We could say that we have never murdered or raped anybody (unless we have). But when we recognize that any sin we have committed required the life of Jesus on the cross, things get surreal really quickly. How must God view a person whose sins caused the death of the spotless Lamb of God, when we choose not to forgive people as sinful as we are? It boggles the mind.

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14–15). Today can be the day we all are released from our prisons of unforgiveness. We may need godly counsel to get the healing process started, but the more we meditate upon the incredible gift of forgiveness Jesus purchased with His life, it becomes a little easier. Lord help us all. Amen.-




Patient in Trials

While you wait, the Spirit will be there with what you need.
Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Based Upon Matthew 17

When trials come, what is a surefire way to experience relief?

There have been many times throughout Bible history, when God revealed Himself, in order to bring comfort to His people. When Hagar was distraught because her mistress, Sarah had her removed from Abraham’s house, the Lord blessed her son Ishmael. When the people of God had suffered affliction many years at the hands of their Egyptian captors, God appeared to Moses in the burning bush. When the three Hebrew boys were cast alive into a fiery furnace, Jesus came and air-conditioned the place. When King Uzziah died, God gave Isaiah a vision of heavenly worship with God exalted above all others. When Zechariah faced perplexity, God revealed that all that we do must be accomplished through His Spirit, not our own strength. God never leaves His people comfortless. We must learn to watch and wait, as He prepares us for deliverance.

Jesus had revealed the stark reality of His impending death to His disciples. Of course, this was quite distressing, not to mention, unbelievable. How could the One sent from God, who demonstrated authority over all principalities and powers, be about to suffer an ignominious death at the hands of sinners? But, He rebuked their unbelief, and forecasted one of the most incredible miracles ever. A few of them would see Jesus in His glory, as a foretaste of the Second Coming! Then it happened: “And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” (Matthew 17:1–2). There were events in their spiritual lives that shortly followed, that would severely test the disciples’ faith. Had they embraced the revelation Jesus had given of Himself, and lived in that reality by faith, victory would have been a certainty.

The simple lesson for today is that trials will come, without doubt. But, we must be patient through affliction, and be ready to receive the revelation of Jesus Christ. He will not leave us comfortless. And having received this blessing of God’s presence, we can face any other trial, if we continue in Him by faith. This seems like a good deal to me




Who is Jesus to You?

 

 

Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, November 17, 2014
Based Upon Matthew 16

Who is Jesus to you? There are few people anywhere in the world who have not at least heard of Jesus. Most, whether they have respect for Him or not, do have an opinion. Some consider Him a public figure that religious people talk a lot about. Others say He was one thought leader among many in history. Still others refer to Him as a prophet or a good man. Who is Jesus to you?

I know it is difficult sometimes to grasp the idea of Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus is God [the Son], who divested Himself of the comforts of His eternal throne, to become clothed with human form, so as a representative of humankind, while retaining His divinity, He could die in our place so those who believe in Him could have eternal life. This is a basic tenant of the Christian faith.

While all I have said is true, somehow I sense the need for more. Not that the expression of the gospel is lacking, but Jesus wants to be more in our lives. Even as I type this, I yearn for a deeper connection to the One who loved me so much that nothing in the universe could hinder Him from doing His level best to save me. As you read, all of heaven is astir, because God [the Father] has commissioned holy angels to guide and protect you; God [the Holy Spirit] to lead you into all truth and empower you to have victory over self and sin; and the Son’s agreement with His Father’s love that makes this all possible.

Gone are the days, if ever there were such days, when we should be satisfied with merely knowing that Jesus died 2,000 years ago, is written about in history books, or is the Head of the Christian church.

 

Gone are the days, if ever there were such days, when we could be satisfied with surface reading about Bible facts and figures.

It is our privilege today, no matter at what station in life we are, to prayerfully meditate upon the Scriptures, fixing each principle in our minds. It is our privilege to have close encounters with God as we are directed by the Spirit. If we search the Scriptures as those seeking hidden treasure, we will be amazed by our connection to the living Christ depicted there. As we receive this blessing, our lives with become closely aligned with His, and we will welcome others to experience the same.

Who is Jesus to you? Hopefully, though He is high and holy, He is your new found Friend.




Radiant Faith

It is Jesus who gives us the faith we need.
Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sabbath, November 15, 2014
Based Upon Matthew 14

What kind of faith do you have? Now, that’s a great question! No, really, it’s a great question. It is a spiritual self-inventory question we all must answer regularly. Do we have the kind of faith that falters and drowns, being overcome by life’s winds and waves of strife? Do we have the kind of faith that surrenders our little to God, so He can multiply it for His glory? Do we have the kind of faith that, though downcast with affliction, we muster just enough to touch the virtue of character He makes available to us as we pursue Him with all our hearts? Do you have the kind of faith that gives all, even your mortal life for service to God? What kind of faith do you have?

The cool thing about true faith is that while we come face-to-face with the kinds of questions I just asked, we also have the privilege of answering the question, “What kind of faith does Jesus have?” Or, better phrased, we might ask, “What kind of faith does Jesus give?” The good news is that Jesus is the Originator of faith. He is the One who completes our faith. While we take a self-inventory, we always come up short, even in the best of circumstances. Even our all is not good enough, but God has made Himself responsible for allying Himself with us. Thus it is that our tiny little, insignificant faith can reach across the gulf of impotence, to the Omnipotent One. Our faith, enfeebled though it be, is simply a conduit through which the power of God flows into our lives. And, anyone who consistently asserts faith in this way, cannot fail.

What kind of faith does Jesus give? He gives the kind of faith that embraces all that God is, and then becomes like Him. One day, those who continue in this brand of faith, will see our God in His effulgent glory. Let those who have this hope in Him, be pure, just like Him.




God: You’re Not the Boss of Me

touch of God

Broaden your horizons. Actually trust God to do as He sees fit.
Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Thursday, November 13, 2014
Based Upon Matthew 12

People are funny sometimes. I don’t mean, like, “Ha-ha” funny. I mean we can be absurd at times. Can you imagine standing before the King of the universe and writing Him a prescription as though He’s ailing and in need of your expert advice?

Oftentimes, we tell God how things should run. We tell Him how the Sabbath should be kept (or not). We tell Him that we need a certain car, and in how many days. We tell Him we must have a spouse by the time we are age [fill-in the blank]. We tell Him that if He will perform this certain deed in our lives, then we will serve Him (as though we are being so gracious to honor Him with our worship). This is insane! He is so patient with us. I cannot imagine how He must view enfeebled, puny little humans who can barely decide what to eat in the morning, much less seek to offer Him our “brilliant” advice.

I’d like for you to try something today: Try to speak to God as though He is as worthy as He really is. Tell Him how much you love Him and realize that you have been missing the mark in certain areas of your life. Although it is perfectly fine to be specific in our praying, experiment with something like this: “Lord, I know you love it when we bring our petitions to you. I know you welcome our thoughts and specific requests, but today I’d like to ask you to do for me whatever you have in mind. I am curious to know what that is in every area of my life. I trust you, sir. I trust you to manifest your will for me, because you want me to seek your face. I really don’t even know what to expect here, Lord. But, please, will you let me know that you are answering this prayer today?” This is going to be difficult for some, because you may think I am writing you a prescription too. Really, I am simply encouraging all of us to broaden our horizons of trust. Become as little children and go out with this sort of prayer on your lips knowing that God will do everything He wants to do in your life today, whatever that is. Try it out in faith and see how the Holy Spirit impresses you. This should be fun.—




Drop the Heavy Load

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Don’t fret or lose hope, but continue in God’s strength.
Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Based Upon Matthew 11

There are times when even the most faithful among us need a word of encouragement. When you really think about it, we have been through a lot. We were born in sin, and from the moment our little faces appeared from our mother’s womb, we have fought an uphill battle. We struggle against both inherited, and cultivated tendencies toward evil. Once we have been delivered from sin and have begun to experience the newness of life, our faith gets tested in the crucible. But, we are not alone. Our Savior remains ever close, as long as we wish to continue in His strength.

Yet, the years of intense struggle may cause us to temporarily lose focus. We may not entirely forget the goodness of God in our lives, but during the most difficult trials, we might entertain doubt. It is in those times that we must determine to cling to our God even more.

We must remember the times the Lord impressed us with His love.

We must remember the times our hearts burned within us as we heard His words. We must, in our darkest moments, open our eyes and see the ways in which God is continuing to be faithful in our lives. While it is natural for us to doubt, on occasion, we must not be satisfied to embrace those doubts. God has been too good to us. As we pass through those dark corridors, we can be of encouragement to others. They can see our troubles and note our resolve to follow the Lord without wavering. Yes, we can be witnesses, even when we feel that we cannot handle another moment of difficulty.

Let today be the best day of your life, friends. Renew your commitment to work with God in whatever way He decides. As we accept this calling, the calling of putting His will before our own, our burdens become lighter. Why? Our burdens will become lighter because it will be no more us who carry them, but God. He promises us an uneven exchange—our burdens for His. And we know, He is well able to bear our burdens. Things will not always be easy, but with God, all things (good and holy) are possible.




Out of Harm’s Way

mother helping

 

 
Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Based Upon Matthew 10
If you were walking across the street while texting as so many do these days, and a large dump truck approached your intersection without your notice, would you want me to tell you about it, or keep it a secret? What if the text you were just about to send was of utmost importance to you? Would you see it as a disturbance or inconvenience if I ran toward you, shouting and flailing my arms to alert you to imminent danger? What if you still did not notice and I abruptly pulled you to safety, and your phone fell facedown into a puddle of water? Would you be angry with me as the speeding truck just barely missed you and we fell breathless to the ground?

Amazingly, there are many in our world who find it offensive when God’s people attempt to pull them to spiritual safety. They are so uptight that no matter the dangers being averted, or the noble intentions of the one who had their best interest at heart, they find fault with their rescuer. Whatever is so engrossing at the moment of their rescue attempt seems to be of much more importance than their own safety. Yet, God’s people are commissioned to be on the lookout for those facing looming danger. This is often a thankless work. Many times the only reward is the satisfaction of knowing God is pleased.

Whether you are among God’s rescuers or those whom they have helped, give thanks. Give thanks for the fact that God is willing to stop at nothing to provide a way of escape from eternal death.

 

 

Give thanks for the fact that Jesus’ life was not too precious to Him to give in place of yours. Give thanks that God does not see preserving your soul, at all cost, as an inconvenience.

 

The truth is, that all, at some point, need to be delivered. Therefore, all have good reason to give thanks. Whenever anyone reaches out to you with a hand of good will, give thanks to God and bless them with your utmost appreciation. Amen.




Jesus Specializes in Hopeless Cases

Live
Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Monday, November 10, 2014
Based Upon Matthew 9

Cheer up! There is no confessed sin for which we cannot be forgiven. There are no soul shackles Jesus cannot break if we submit our wills to Him.

Not even the half has been told of the number of people Jesus healed during His earthly ministry. Blind people received their sight. Paralyzed people were released and leaped with joy, praising God. Sick children were raised up to the vigor of life. And those with other debilitating conditions that destroyed their peace were completely made well. All of this was done so that the poor sufferers, along with generations of people would understand the power of God to heal our awful sin diseases.

Oftentimes, we just don’t get it. God wants to do marvelous things in our lives that would demonstrate to the world that “He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25). As a result, some lay paralyzed on our beds of affliction or grope about in darkness, blinded to the blessing that stands directly before us.

Fortunately for us, Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:18). If there ever was a time we could use an encouraging word, it is now. Jesus has never broken a promise! The same God who opened the blind eyes of a man, raised up a tragically sick child, and healed the hopelessly hemorrhaging woman, stands ready to obliterate any sin sickness that binds you. Jesus specializes in giving hope to the hopeless and mending the broken. We need simply to give Him our tiny little faith and He will do wondrous things in our lives to bring eternal lie.




A Tree Is Known By Its Fruit

Thoughts in Worship
Message Magazine’s Online Devotional for Sabbath, November 8, 2014
Based Upon Matthew 7

Upon close examination, fruit shows from what tree it comes. Obviously, apples are not products of mango trees. Cashews are not products of eggfruit trees. Cherries are not products of rambutan trees. When we see a fruit, we can become immediately aware of its origin. This message has been sponsored by…Nature.

I wonder why we are so keenly aware of the obvious in nature, but not as much in the things of the Spirit. Like, why are we sometimes confused about condemning people to hell for having babies out of wedlock, but give ourselves a free pass into heaven while cherishing pride? Or, why do we sometimes think that our love is not suspect when we do things to others that we would loathe to have done to us? This is curious, and hypocritical. But, then again, there are many among us who are false prophets. They look like gentle sheep on the outside, but their sharp teeth are secretly awaiting an opportunity to rip others limb-from-limb. By our fruits shall we all be known. If we live the fruits of the Holy Spirit, we have been born of the Spirit. However, if we live the rotting fruits of wickedness, well, you know…

There is great news! God loves us much more than even the most loving father. He is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him, than a great father is to give good gifts to his children. So, our encouragement for today is to keep asking; keep seeking; and keep knocking. Everyone who pursues after God’s heart, will find Him. And, in finding Him, we are “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” Philippians 1:11. That is a promise.

Happy Sabbath from all of us here at Message!