Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV – The “What If’s”

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

The fear of the unknown is something that all of us encounter from time to time. Not knowing what lies ahead can be frightening. “If only I could know” has resounded from my mouth. If we’re going to be honest, we’ve all said that. We’ve wanted to look into the future. It’s a trust issue. We don’t want to deal with what might lie ahead especially if it will challenge us. Can you imagine what Jesus’ disciples might have been thinking? Jesus was ascending into heaven to sit on His throne and the disciples would now have to walk in faith and complete that which Jesus commanded them to do. “What if?”

Jesus gave His disciples assurance of where their help would come from. First, Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth. So the power of Christ over all things was established. Second, Jesus gave them a commission; to go and make disciples in all the nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe the things Jesus taught them. And finally, Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, now promised to be with them to the end of the age.

That same assurance is given to us. We, too, have the promise. It’s available to all of us. But, yes, sometimes we forget. The fear of the unknown takes over. What I’ve learned is that when I find myself asking myself the “what if’s”, that’s the beginning of the fear of the unknown. “What if’s” drive me crazy. For the unknown, there are a lot of “what if’s”. When we try to look ahead to the future and realize we can’t, we rationalize the challenge ahead with “what if’s”. What if I just took on another job, then maybe I’ll have enough. What if I worked longer hours, then I know we could make ends meet. If I just do these things, I know God would bless us. Instead, what Jesus is saying is, “I’m right here. You can come to me. I will hear you. My plans will give you hope and a future.”

Jesus Christ’s faithfulness is seen in His character. He is faithful by nature. “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.” (Revelation 19:11 NKJV) Jesus is faithful because He never changes. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV) And Jesus is faithful because He is the truth. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NKJV)

I’m going to be a little transparent again with all of you. Last year at this time I faced a surgery that caused me to ask the “what if’s?” What if something goes terribly wrong? What if they find something worse that they didn’t expect? What if the recovery isn’t like what they said it would be? What if my faith in my healing fails? You see, I tried to justify my fear. I forgot what Jesus said and what He promised. He gave me a commission. He placed a call on my life. He has all the power and authority I need to fulfill His calling. He has told me, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” And yet, there have been times I’ve forgotten. I’m human just like everyone else. So one night just before my scheduled surgery my wife and I prayed.  Then we talked a lot about the “what if’s”. There were questions and even a few tears. And then I was reminded, so softly and gently, that when I find myself fearing the unknown, it is an opportunity to get closer to Jesus and call upon His name. I will find His everlasting love and the power of Christ will rest upon me. “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NKJV)

Dear Lord, thank You for Your strength and Your promise to always be with me. Forgive me, Lord, when the “what if’s” take over my thoughts and I place my trust and faith in my own actions. You Lord have called me to fulfill a unique and special purpose. All authority has been given to You, Lord, and You are my guiding Light. May Your power rest upon me, Lord, I pray. In Jesus Name. AMEN

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Ephesians 3:20-21 NKJV – God is able. Really able.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

God is able.  Our Heavenly Father is truly able.  He spoke and all things became.  That’s pretty awe inspiring.  Now suppose we understood this truth in the deepest areas of our hearts.  Not just our mind, but in our heart.  How much more would we believe for God to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think”?

Exceedingly and abundantly; words I like.  Above ALL that we ask or think. This means beyond our understanding or human capabilities to comprehend.  How?  By the power that works in us, the Holy Spirit.  For whose glory?  God’s glory.  How long?  Forever and ever and ever and ever.  Eternally.  Really, Forever?  Yes.  For all eternity, God makes this promise to us.

Now let me ask you again.  Suppose we understood the truth of our foundational verse in the deepest areas of our hearts.  What would hold us back from praying to the God of the universe, Creator of all things?  I mean really taking hold of the power of the Holy Spirit in our prayers and allowing Him to work in us.  Then believing God hears us and will answer our prayers.  How much more would we see and experience the magnitude, the glory, and the miracles of God.  I believe that we are only seeing a small fraction of what God wants to accomplish for His glory in His Church.

Scripture says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him.” (Psalm 34:8 NKJV) Here the psalmist describes his personal experience of God’s goodness. God is alive. Knowledge that God is alive comes from personal encounter of the goodness of God. You might ask, “When have I had any personal encounter with God?” If you have been saved and renewed by the Holy Spirit, you have had a personal encounter. In me, that encounter was exceedingly, abundantly above all that I could ask or think.

Friend, you and I are only one defining decision away from a totally different life. One decision. Will we choose to believe in the power of God to answer prayer or not? The size of our prayers should be relative to the size of our God. And if God knows no limits, then neither should our prayers. God is able to do more, provide more, heal more, equip more, restore more, renew more, and to save more than ALL that we can ask or think.  Let’s just believe.  Hallelujah!

Great and mighty God.  You are above all things and You desire to answer our prayers beyond our ability to understand or comprehend.  May we, Lord, fully take hold of this promise and allow Your Holy Spirit to work in us so that we can experience the magnitude of You.  Help us with our unbelief, God, that You are truly able to do the impossible.  In Jesus Name.  AMEN.

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Psalm 59:16 NKJV – God is our defense and refuge

But I will sing of Your power; Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.

I cannot even count how many times I have shouted the essence of this verse at the top of my lungs to the Lord. I may not have said the exact words, but I have thanked the Lord time and time again for being my defense and rescue when I’ve gotten myself into something I shouldn’t have. And each and every time, the Lord has accepted me into His fortress and protected me from further injury or damage (both physically and spiritually).

I have learned that God is my absolute protection. He is my Rock on which I stand. His Word is the truth and my sword against the enemy. God is worthy to be praised. But above all, I speak about numerous times I’ve shouted praise to God for again defending me against the enemy. Some of those times, I’ve found myself ensnared in a trap left by the enemy that I didn’t see. And God lifted me out of that trap and covered me with His hand of protection. Those are the kind of situations where we are “blind-sided” and we don’t see it coming. But I have to admit there were times that I chose to step off of the path that the Lord placed me on and got stuck in the miry clay and began to sink. It was my choice. I made the error or mistake in trusting in my own devices and not on the faithfulness of God. I’ve cried out to the Lord and repented and found that His mercy and grace was made available to me. Praise the Lord!!!

God the Rock is our security. “The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my Savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Samuel 22:3 NKJV) Although we know this, how often do we find ourselves walking in our own ways and our own security? For me, I find myself making the wrong choices more than I would ever want to. Please don’t judge. I’m human and so are you. Sanctification is a process and I am a work in process. All of us are being molded by the Master Potter. It takes time for the piece of clay to be made perfect. It takes time to mold and remold and remold and then put in the fire, only to find that there are still some things wrong. I am so pleased and thankful for God’s eternal mercy and grace He gives to me and to all of us. God will never give up and He will complete what He has started. “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 NKJV)

Friend, all of God’s people should honor God in every aspect of our lives. And part of honoring God is giving Him our worship and praise for the things He accomplishes in our lives. We are undeserving of anything from God, yet His grace and mercy is poured out on us time after time after time. It is never ending. Will we sometimes make mistakes and find ourselves in trouble and in need of God’s assistance? I know I probably will. I think you will as well. But thanks be to God that we can come to Him. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV)

Remember, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 NKJV) I will sing of God’s great power and mercy over my life every day for He has been my defense and my safe refuge. He has never left me and is as close as my call upon His name.

Dear Lord, thank You for being my refuge and strength. I will sing praises to Your Name. Your mighty and glorious power is new for me each morning. Forgive me Lord when I walk outside of the path You have placed me on and find myself in trouble. Thank you for not turning away from me in my cry for help and rescue. Thank You for Your mercy and grace that is applied to me when I come to you humbly and repent. Teach me Lord through Your Word to recognize the traps of the enemy and to be aware of the snares that are left to capture me. I give You the praise, in Jesus Name. AMEN.

Don’t believe me, believe God!

John 5:46-47 NKJV – Believe

“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

Unbelief is defined as “incredulity or skepticism especially in matters of religious faith”. In this verse, Jesus debates the Jews regarding His relation to the Sabbath and to God. Jesus does not argue with His opponents about whether they understand the Sabbath legislation correctly. His interest is whether they understand who He is.

The Jews were expressing their unbelief regarding so many things; unbelief towards who Jesus was, unbelief in His miracles, unbelief of His claims, rejection of His words, and unbelief expressed towards God’s messengers. My questions are “Where does our unbelief lie?” “Do we really believe when we pray?” Yes, we too, have unbelief. There’s no condemnation here. There are times we place our trust in our own capabilities and not on God and His Word; times when we pray by simply going through the motions.

When we face trouble, even when we face insurmountable trouble, we need to place our trust in God’s Word and the promises of God within it. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6 NKJV) The times that I have faced where things really fell apart were the times when I trusted in my own judgment and effort. When I am the most discouraged is when I don’t remember who is in charge. When I find myself struggling with joy, it’s because I have forgotten where my joy comes from.  When I’ve simply forgot that God hears and answers my prayer and He is above all things. All of these things point back to Him. Will I believe that God is my all in all? “For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:27-29 NKJV)

Simply stated it’s a matter of choice. I know that in the midst of things, sometimes we feel we can’t stop and take a breath and think about Jesus. But we need to. I have received my greatest encouragement when I have stopped. God already knows what we are facing. And when we stop, He is there. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me,” (John 14:1 NKJV)

Friend, I post this devotion today because I have trouble with unbelief. I am a work in progress. We all are. Praise the Lord for His mercy and grace and being slow to anger. But I know, that I know, that I know, that if I “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV) Trusting in the Lord takes away all the guess work.   The Lord will direct our path and His path is straight. “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them.” (Isaiah 42:16 NKJV) Each time. Every time. Never failing. Always for our good and God’s purpose. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24b NKJV)

Precious Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness. Forgive us Lord when we doubt and place our trust in ourselves. Forgive our unbelief. Help us to always stop and seek You and pour out Your Holy Spirit upon us. Teach us to walk in Your ways and place our belief in You and Your Word. In Jesus Name. AMEN

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Luke 22:31 NKJV – We will be sifted – Part 1

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.”

The term “sifting” is an agricultural one and its meaning is based on the knowledge of how grain is threshed. A sieve was used to separate the kernels of grain from the trash and junk they had mingled with in the threshing: pebbles, twigs, etc. The sieve would allow the farmer to sift the useful kernels into a sack. The farmer would have to shake the sieve back and forth to complete this process.

When Jesus addressed Peter, He said, “Simon, Simon”. This repetition identifies an intimate and personal relationship Jesus had with Peter. Jesus wanted Peter to know something very important.  Satan wanted to shake the disciples. Shortly, Peter and his fellow apostles would experience the unthinkable – the Man they believe to be the Messiah, the Son of God will be arrested, tried, condemned, and crucified in the space of less than 24 hours. Their own lives will be at risk, and their loss will be utterly devastating.

But wait there’s more. In verse 32 Jesus says, “But I prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” In other words, Jesus wanted Peter to know that He had prayed for him because out of all of the disciples, Peter would be in the most danger. Jesus prays for Peter because He knows that Peter is the natural leader of the disciples. Peter is the key. Jesus knew that his faith would fall apart. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him. Jesus prayed for Peter so that when he had come through the trial, he was to strengthen others.

The enemy knows all about you. He watches you and will use whatever you do and say against you. The enemy wants to shake you up. He wants to sift you. The sole purpose of the enemy is to keep those who don’t know Jesus as their Savior away from ever making that choice. And to those who call Jesus Lord and Savior, the enemy distracts, discourages, and places stumbling blocks in their paths. He will do anything and everything he can to keep you from demonstrating the love of Jesus and that Jesus lives in your heart. He seeks to exploit our weaknesses in order to deflect them from obedience to God. When believers experience difficult days, some fall away, while others gradually get their bearing and recover, and usually become stronger.

Friend, when we are sifted there is a time of weakness. Sometimes, a time of extreme weakness when we feel we can’t even breathe. But there is recovery; there is healing; there is restoration; there is hope. “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:19 NKJV) God bestows help and strength sufficient for every occasion and need. We, too, can come to the Lord in prayer that our faith will not fail when we face the sifting of the enemy. We can pray for others, that God would increase their faith as well. For believers, the ability to face the future with confidence is possible because of our knowledge of God. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NKJV) Hope means more than a vague wish that something will happen to rescue us or restore us. Hope is a sure, confident expectation in God’s faithfulness and His presence in our situation. Confidence comes with an intimate relationship with God through daily prayer and the study of God’s Word. As we walk through difficult times, God will use us to encourage and lead others through the same thing.

Holy and Almighty God, thank You that You give us hope when we face the sifting of the enemy. That we can call upon Your Name and You will restore us, renew us, and strengthen us. Lord, the enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy. But You Lord give us life. Thank You, Lord. Use us to encourage others who may face the same trials we do. Help us to see that our peace comes from You when we trust in You. In Jesus Name. AMEN

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Luke 11:1 NKJV – A daily encounter with God

“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

I’ve written about many aspects of prayer and the power of God in prayer. I’ve written about this particular scripture in the past; how the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. But today, I use this scripture to make another point about prayer. The point is that a daily encounter with God in prayer is vitally important. There is a necessity of connecting with God Almighty on a daily basis.

Jesus set an example with His disciples on the importance of prayer so that they might become more like Him. For us too, this is our goal; to be Christlike in everything we do. It’s called sanctification. We are being set apart or sanctified from the entire world so that we embody in mind, body, and spirit the image of Jesus Christ. And in regards to prayer, we need to be like Jesus.

It was customary that religious leaders of that time were expected to teach their disciples how to pray. Prayer is based on God’s love for believers. Through God’s grace, He provides things we do not deserve, while through His mercy, He shields us from those things we do deserve. Hallelujah! A vital aspect of our prayer is its purpose; to allow the will of God to be accomplished in us for the glory and honor of Him alone. God promises to hear and to respond to the prayers we offer. “O You who hear prayer, to You all flesh will come.” (Psalm 65:2 NKJV)

I believe that if I am to be called a believer in Jesus Christ I must reflect my longing after Him. I must demonstrate that I long to be like Jesus. Scripture accounts for this longing. “Then you will call upon Ne and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13 NKJV) What this verse is saying is our restoration is predicated on our seeking God with our whole heart in prayer.

Friend, access to God is a privilege. We have access to God through Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9 NJHV) The disciples wanted to know how to pray because they witnessed Jesus’ access to His Father and wanted that. The disciples wanted the connection that Jesus had. Believing in and declaring Jesus Christ as Savior, draws us to be in His presence and to have a relationship with Him continually. To know God is not merely to know things about Him. That’s head knowledge. But to know God is also to experience His presence and power. To know God is to be transformed by Him. Prayer brings us this knowledge. The more we have conversation and intimacy with God in prayer, the more God reveals Himself to us. Prayer along with the study of God’s Word equips us for what He has called us to do. God gives knowledge of His greatness and grace through the experience of Him, submission to Him and in answer to prayer.

Precious Lord, thank You that we have access to You through Your grace and that when we call upon You in prayer You listen. Open up more time in our lives to spend time with You. Forgive us Lord when we set You aside to accomplish other things that could wait. You alone are our only hope. May we search for You with all of our heart. In Jesus Name. AMEN

Don’t believe me, believe God!

Matthew 19:26 NKJV – All things are possible with God

“But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Do we pray believing all things are possible with God? When I look at this verse that’s the question that I have to ask myself. Do I believe in the sovereignty of God? God reigns over all creation and He is free and able to do all that He wills. So why would there ever be any doubt in God’s ability to make the impossible, possible?

God’s sovereignty extends over all created things. “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11 NKJV) God is sovereign over human life. “Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.” (1 Chronicles 29:12 NKJV) God is sovereign over the minutest details of life. “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:29-30 NKJV) God is sovereign over the sufferings of believers. “For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:17 NKJV)

So where does the doubt set in? We go through periods of doubt and indecision, especially on account of our difficulty in trusting God or accepting certain aspects of His will for us. “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NKJV) It happens to all of us. Scripture emphasizes the importance of putting our trust in God. This trust, which is nurtured by an understanding of God’s Word, finds us living out our life according to His purpose. “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until the Day.” (2 Timothy 1:12 NKJV)

Doubt and a lack of faith feeds unbelief and it blinds us to the truth found in God. The nature of faith is a confidence in and a commitment to God and to Jesus. True faith is seen in obedient action, love, and continuing service to God.   A life of faith is the way believer’s journey through this world and into the life to come. It is the confidence expressed in the life of a believer, worked by the Holy Spirit. It derives from reliance upon God and His promises alone and results in boldness, strength, and steadfastness no matter what we face or what we need.

So I ask again, do we pray believing all things are possible with God? Or should I ask, should we pray believing all things are possible with God? Yes, I say. Again I say, Yes. God’s power is released through faith. “So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20 NKJV) Even a tiny grain of true faith and belief, rooted in submissiveness to God is effective.

Friend, when you pray, expect the impossible to be answered. “Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible for you, they are insulting to God. Why? Because they don’t require divine intervention. There is nothing God loves more than keeping promises, answering prayers, performing miracles, and fulfilling dreams.” (an excerpt from “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson)

Heavenly Father, thank You that nothing is impossible with You. You are God and You are all powerful and Sovereign. You commanded all things into existence and You can answer my boldest prayers. Help my unbelief Lord. Bring me into a complete understanding of the truth and promises of Your Word. Guard my heart against doubt and unbelief and turn me towards complete trust in You for You are my Lord and King. Thank You, God for being my All in All. In Jesus Name. AMEN.

Don’t believe me, believe God!