And He prayed

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:20-26 NKJV)

Jesus knew what was before Him. Every detail from His arrest to the Cross. He knew what He would suffer; all of the pain and agony. But He stopped and prayed. He prayed for “those who will believe in Me through their word”. The word of His disciples. Jesus was praying for His Church. The Church He knew would be established by His shed blood and the power of the Holy Spirit and through the words that would be given to His disciples. Jesus was praying for you and for me. Jesus prayed that “they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me”. He was praying for His Church, to be one in Christ, so the world would know the Name of Jesus. He saw the greater need.

I’m reminded that my life at one time was headed to eternal suffering and death. I’m reminded of the man whose name was Mark, who set aside what he was facing; his suffering, his cancer, his daily challenges and how he took me by the hands in his office, in the middle of a busy day and prayed for me. And two days later, I’m reminded of when I knelt before Jesus and asked Him to forgive me. The single most important day of my life when I called upon the Name of Jesus and was saved. This man lived out every day demonstrating the love and compassion of Jesus and took time for me because he, too, saw the greater need.

Who will we encounter? What will we need to set aside? Will we demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus as Mark did for me? Will we see the greater need? Will we pray?

Oh dear Jesus, thank You for praying for us. You knew what You would be facing, but yet again, You set that aside and saw the greater need. You saw those whose lives would be trapped under the burden of sin and You prayed. You prayed that we too, would believe. That we would be one with You. Oh thank You Lord. May others see Jesus in me and know that You love them with an everlasting love and desire for them to call You Savior and spend eternity with You. In Your Holy Name. AMEN

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Mark 11:25 NKJV – Forgiven so I can forgive

And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.

God’s forgiveness of believers’ sins leads them to pray for His forgiveness of others and to be forgiving to others. This is a command and not a choice. “Whoa! Wait a minute. You don’t know what he/she did to me.” No, I don’t, but Jesus is very clear with this command. Jesus said, “anything against anyone, forgive him”. Being forgiven is dependent on forgiving others.

I know that I struggled with obedience to this Scripture even after I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Though I would tell you that my heart and mind were changed, I still had deep hurts from my past. Some of the hurt was actually bitterness that I refused to let go of. Bitterness is a bad seed. I’ll tell you that it eats at your life and endeavors to consume you. It’ like the worst kind of killing weed. The enemy uses bitterness to keep us from forgiving others. But our God is greater. The enemy is of the world, but God is not. “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 NKJV)

I had to learn that forgiveness begins with love for that individual. Loving those who hurt you. Loving those who persecute you. Loving those who scorn you. Loving those who tell lies about you. Loving those who others say are unlovable. “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8 NKJV) Jesus was very clear about loving your enemies. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45 NKJV)

Being changed and delivered from bitterness in my life gave me a freedom that cannot be adequately explained. A freedom of extreme joy. The change and the deliverance came after long hours and many days of being discipled from many brothers and sisters in the Lord and prayer. It was a process that was nurtured and fed with every moment I sought God in prayer. To love like Jesus loves, you need to have a relationship with Jesus. Man cannot love as Jesus loves without the power of His mercy and grace. Man cannot love as Jesus loves without an active relationship with love Himself, Jesus. Jesus is love!

Friend, our forgiveness of others is to be without limits. We are to forgive as Christ forgave us. Jesus went to the cross to pay the price for mankind’s sin. He suffered and died because of us; our sin nailed Him to the cross. The good news is, Jesus forgives. He rose from the grace to defeat sin and death once for all and forgives those who come to Him in faith and belief. Jesus forgives unconditionally when we humble ourselves and submit our lives to Him based on His mercy and grace. Our forgiveness of others must be as unconditional as Christ who forgave us. So where do we start? We start with prayer, seeking God for the mind and heart and compassion of Jesus. Jesus prayed for those who persecuted Him when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34 NKJV) You can choose to carry the bitterness of unforgiveness or you can choose to forgive those who have hurt or persecuted you. Make the right choice and go to God in prayer.

Precious Jesus, thank You for Your forgiveness. Lord, there have been times when bitterness has overtaken our hearts. Thank You Lord that You give us Your love that transcends our bitterness. We can love our enemies because Lord you love them. Teach us how to love as You love. Bring us to our knees as we seek You to understand the depth of Your forgiveness and love. In Jesus Name. AMEN.

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Ephesians 1:7 NKJV – Redemption

Ephesians 1:7 NKJV – Redemption

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.

Redemption simply means deliverance, as from slavery or captivity, by paying a price or ransom. Now racial slavery was abolished after the Civil War. But slavery continues to exist today in many other ways and horrors. This devotion will not be discussing that issue, but I will say, “Lord, have mercy on us.” The slavery I will discuss is the slavery and bondage to sin. God alone has the ability to save us from sin and bondage. It’s through His redemptive power in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection that we can be free. Jesus Christ paid the ransom for all of humanity. His payment for us defines the “riches of His grace.” When we didn’t deserve the grace and mercy poured out by His suffering and death, Jesus continued in obedience to the Father because God loved us so much. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV) A very familiar Scripture verse and probably most of us have heard since early on in our life. But the verse not so familiar is John 3:17. You really see the everlasting love of God even more. John 3:17 says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Bondage and slavery are a byproduct of condemnation. Any way you look at it, when someone is bound and held captive (bondage and slavery) they have been condemned of something. Jesus came not to condemn you but to save you; to break the power of bondage and slavery to sin by defeating sin and death once for all. His act of love by dying on the cross and rising from the grave (the Resurrection Event) enables us to live eternally. It’s by His undeserved grace we are saved. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV) What Jesus accomplished by His death and resurrection could never have been accomplished by us. Never! It’s only through our belief and submission to Him that we can freely receive His perfect grace to free us from every chain that binds us and every sin that ensnares us.

Jesus is our Redeemer. And we have complete access to Him. Our time with Him in prayer and praise is so important. Jesus gave His life for us. Jesus paid it all. The world gives us nothing and death is certain. But even though our physical bodies will die, we have life in Christ and that life can be more fulfilling the more we spend time with Jesus in prayer.

Let me ask you some things? If this applies to you, I just want you to think about it. Before you were married and you believed that you had found the spouse that you wanted to spend your entire life with, was it not important to get to know them? Was it not important to know their personality, their likes, their dislikes, etc? How important was that for you? I don’t believe there are too many folks who didn’t want to get to know their spouses before marriage. (I may be naïve, but I don’t think so) So knowing that you pondered on the questions above about your spouse, how much more important is it for you to ponder about establishing and having a relationship with Jesus and then spend time with Him getting to know Him, listening to Him, learning about Him in His Word, talking to Him. “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13 NKJV)

Friend, this may have been the first time that someone has placed Jesus Christ in front of you this way. Jesus wants to redeem you and set you free from all slavery and bondage. Remember, redemption simply means deliverance, as from slavery or captivity, by paying a price or ransom. Jesus paid the price for you. Jesus simply asks “Will you accept my grace?” The choice is yours. Prayer is the beginning to the process by humbly submitting yourself to Him and talking to Him. It’s not something that needs to be elaborate; it just needs to be spoken with humility and truth. The choice is yours, my friend. Will you make that choice today?

Dear Jesus. I am a sinner in need of a Savior. Will you be my Redeemer today? The world had bound me up with chains and slavery that I cannot free myself from. Deliver me, Jesus, as I humbly submit myself to You and commit my life to You. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the grave to defeat sin and death for me. Come in to my life today Jesus and be my Lord. In Jesus Name. AMEN

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Ezekiel 18:31 NKJV – Change of heart

Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?

Ezekiel recognized that a new heart and spirit were gifts from God and not the product of any human effort. Ezekiel pleads with his audience to seek these gifts not through their own merit but by repentance. God’s justice displays His righteousness as it conforms to His moral law “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13 NKJV) and is seen in His perfect will. “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10 NKJV)

The Holy Spirit comes to take residence within a believer’s heart, renewing them and directing their hearts toward a greater love for God. “I will give you a new heart and put a spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 NKJV) The Holy Spirit transforms the human heart, enabling it to love and obey God.

But you might be saying, “But how can that happen? How can something change my heart?” Fallen man has a mind that is in conflict with the mind of God. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV) Nevertheless, the mind of man is capable of knowing God and can be changed and renewed by Him. “For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6 NKJV)

Not having a relationship with God leaves us morally and spiritually without life. But we are rescued from spiritual darkness by God through salvation. He brings union with Him through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. In the above foundational scripture, Ezekiel was pleading with house of Israel to turn around, about face, turn from sin and turn towards God. It is the same today. We must turn away from sin, throw it overboard, and break all identification with it.

God loves us so much that He gives us a choice. We can choose to seek the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, and will all our mind or we can choose not to. Repentance opens the way for blessing. God loves you so much. He desires that all people should repent. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV) God is patient and not willing that anyone should die in sin. He loves you that much! That is what Ezekiel was pleading about. (Get the point about God’s love for you)

Friend, how does the process start for a new heart and a new spirit? It starts with a humble prayer. God hears and answers prayer. You have access to God and His presence through the work of Jesus Christ. Humbly ask God to create in you a new heart and a new spirit. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 NKJV)

Dear Lord, I humble myself and ask for Your ear, Your presence. I know Your name, but don’t really know You. I am sinful but don’t want to die in my sins and be forever separated from You. Create in me a new heart and spirit to follow You and call You Lord and King. Forgive my sins and my old way of life and begin Your work in me. I believe in You, Jesus and how You died for me. You defeated my sin and death by Your resurrection. I rejoice because You did it for me. Pour out Your love on me, Lord, as I turn away from sin and turn to You. In Jesus Name. AMEN.

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Psalm 86:5 NKJV – God is Good

For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

God is ready to forgive those that go to Him in repentance. This demonstrates God’s steadfast love; a special love of God toward those He calls His own. All of God’s perfect qualities are made freely available to everyone. But God alone is good. “So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is God.” (Mark 10:18 NKJV)

God demonstrates His goodness in His actions. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38 NKJV)

God demonstrates His goodness in His work in creation. “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving.” (1 Timothy 4:4 NKJV)

God demonstrates His goodness in His love. “For You, Lord are good and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” (Psalm 86:5 NKJV)

God demonstrates His goodness in His gifts. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17 NKJV)

God demonstrates His goodness in His promises. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)

God demonstrates His goodness in His commands. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7 NKJV)

When we call upon God to act, we are demonstrating our dependence upon Him in our time of need. Calling upon God in prayer is an act of worship by those who depend and proclaim His name. “Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; make known His deeds among the peoples!” (Psalm 105:1 NKJV) God promises to hear and respond to the prayer of His people. We need to pray in confidence that God hears and will answer according to His promises. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

Friend, Bold prayers honor God and God honors Bold prayers. David prayed in confidence proclaiming what he believed and what God demonstrated to him. God is good and ready to forgive those who come to Him. It’s not because we deserve anything. It’s all because of God’s grace. Call upon God in confidence and He will demonstrate His goodness through His actions, His work, His love, and His promises.

Gracious God, thank You that we can come to you boldly in confidence that You will hear and answer our prayers. Thank You for Your grace that forgives our sins and makes available all of Your promises. We are not worthy to receive anything, but thanks be to God that by Your mercy and grace all things are made available in Christ Jesus. You alone God are good and we give You all the praise. In Jesus Name. AMEN

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Isaiah 9:6 NKJV – Unto us a child is born

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”

The good news is the birth of Jesus Christ. These names express His divine and human qualities, giving assurance that indeed He is Immanuel, God with us. Jesus Christ mission included many things; most important was His work of salvation. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10 NKJV)

Friend, today we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Today we rejoice with the angels of heaven. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (Luke 2: 14 NKJV) God’s work of salvation is accomplished. Jesus Christ, the promised Savior, has come. Jesus Christ has the power to save and protect and through His power He has defeated both sin and death. And this power remains effective today. “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25 NKJV) Jesus’ eternal life and priesthood make possible His eternal intercession for those who draw near to God through Him, leading to their complete and eternal salvation. “Uttermost” refers to comprehensive salvation (meeting our every need) especially as it is grounded in Jesus’ always living to pray for us.

Today, I will pray. Today, I will intercede for those who celebrate this day without the thinking about Jesus; without an expression of thanks and without the knowledge of His name; Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. The Holy and exalted Lord came so that we could receive eternal life. God the Father sent His beloved Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish in eternal death, but instead have everlasting life. (John 3:16) Do you know where you will live out eternity? Are you sure you will forever be in the presence of God? I know how you can be sure. His name is Jesus and He is waiting for you to call upon Him.

Lord Jesus. I desire to live eternally with You. Lord, I am a sinner who needs Your mercy and grace. I believe Lord that You came to seek me and to save me. I believe that You suffered and died for me. That when You were on the cross, I was on Your mind. I believe Lord that You defeated my sin and my eternal death when You rose from the grave. I believe that You have salvation waiting for me and it’s my choice. Lord, come into my heart and my life. I submit everything to You. Be my Savior, Jesus, right now. Thank You Jesus. I receive Your grace and celebrate this day. Today is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation. In Jesus Name. AMEN

Don’t believe me, believe God!

John 15:12-14 NKJV – Greater love has no one than this

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”

I am persuaded that I will not love like others love. I will love like Christ loves me. Such love is an outgrowth of a life that has witnessed the dramatic quality of God’s love. Jesus died on behalf of those He loves. Such love requires that we also love God with our entire heart, soul, and strength.

How a person loves is formed early on in life. Some people love as they saw their parents and family love. This can be a warm and genuine love, or it can be a static love. If you came from a home where warm genuine love was displayed, you may find it easy to love someone else. But if you came from a home where love was really just a word and not demonstrated, you may find it more difficult to love.

Some people came from homes where they witnessed their mom and dad split up and their love for each other vanished. If you came from a home where you witnessed this, you may find it difficult to trust anyone with your love as you don’t want to be hurt. And then some may have come from a destructive home where they witnessed fighting and pain and violence. If you came from a home which was destructive, you may find it impossible to love.

The love demonstrated by Jesus Christ by His suffering and death on the cross reveals God’s amazing love for all mankind. Jesus Christ’s love stems from His Father. “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” (John 3:35 NKJV) The love given by Jesus to all of us when He freely gave His life for us on the cross inspires us to believe that there is no greater love. No matter what we have seen or what we have lived through, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life. When Jesus suffered and hung on the cross, you, my friend, were on His mind. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NLJV) He gave up His life because He desired that you be able to spend eternity with Him.

Eternal life is a gift of grace and mercy. “So that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:21 NKJV) You may believe that no one can love you like this. I remember thinking “If you really knew me, you wouldn’t love me.” But that’s simply not true. Jesus loves with an everlasting love. “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” (Jeremiah 31:3 NKJV) This kind of love is shown in God’s character by which He is compassionate, accepting, and generous. He shields us from His wrath and forgives us. We can be confident that the Lord loves us. It’s His unchanging and faithful nature. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39 NKJV)

Friend, Scripture offers an understanding of what true love is and it is based on the nature and character of God.   God’s love is not static nor is God’s love untrusting. God desires and intimate relationship with you. That relationship is fueled by a daily commitment to prayer. In time of prayer, you can partake in the fullness of God’s love because as you speak to Him, He returns an answer. Prayer is two way communication with the desired outcome to be closer to God each and every day. And you can be confident that God hears and answers every prayer you pray.

And you can trust in God’s love for you. That is why I can say that I will love others as Jesus has loved me. Faithfully, never changing, and with His full mercy and grace. Would you like this kind of love in your life and then be able to love others just like Jesus loves you? Do you wish to have a relationship with Jesus? You can receive this. Just simply pray.

Lord, Jesus, I want to know and experience the love that You have. I’ve not lived a life that is filled with genuine love. I am seeking love that is never ending, that is full of mercy and grace and is accepting no matter who I am. I’m told You have this love for me. I confess that I need You in my life so that I can experience Your love and demonstrate it to others. Come into my life Lord Jesus and be my Savior. Teach me Your ways and pour out Your love on me. Help me be a light to others. Thank You Jesus for dying for my sins and bringing me new life when You rose from the grave. There is no greater love than this. I commit my life to You. In Jesus Name. AMEN.

Don’t believe me, believe God!