Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Willing Hearts

"From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering." Exodus 25:2

Via Moses, God instructs the children of Israel to give offerings to Him as they begin to build a sancuary. There are definite requirements for what they can give; however, the critical condition is that they offer these gifts "willingly". God does not obligate us to give, but when we do, He accepts our offerings based on our motives.

It is not to say that obligation is inherently bad. If we love God, we should feel a sense of obligation or responsiblity to give. However, if the offering lacks alacrity or love, then the act of giving is meaningless and superficial. It is not the gift in itself that judges the man's heart, but rather the man's heart that judges the gift. Is the gift satisfactory? Is it good enough for God?

Obviously, God does not need our gifts. Plainly, our gifts will never be good enough for Him; however, when we give, it is a sign that we honor Him. And in honoring Him, we become less important as He becomes more important in our lives. In the case of the children of Israel, they were sacrificing their precious materials, but consequently these items were essential in building them a sancuary to worship God. In our lives, our sacrifice of goods and resources will help us focus more on Him; however, the condition is that we do it out of willingness.

Dear God,

Please help me to give willingly, so that I will be able to focus more of my life on You. Help me to not feel obligated to give, but rather help me to love to give because I love You.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Simplicity of Heart

"So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people." Acts 2:46

As the news about Jesus' resurrection and way of salvation spreads, the church grows. The people, hearing the words that the disciples have to say, receive it and their lives consequently change. In Acts 2, those who make such a commitment are consistently partaking in fellowship with other believers at the temple and at home, and as a result of their dedicated lives, their hearts are described as being in the state of "simplicity".

It seems as if their priorities are uniquely fixated on one goal, one will, and "one accord". These new believers are not struggling with the complications of life; they are not attempting to sort out the confusion of the world; they are not dealing with the chaos of the time. They simply focus their lives on sweet fellowship, pure worship of God, and their lives, subsequently, touch others, "having favor with all the people," which implies even non-believers.

People are always searching for happiness, trying to attain some sort of peace in this life; however, everything aside from God seems to cause more complications. Whether it is a better education, a better job, a better reputation, a better appearance, all seem to entail more than what it initially appears. If our hope, however, is placed in the same One in which the early church believed, then our hearts will likewise be in the state of "simplicity". There should be no reason to fear, worry, or be anxious, because God is in control. The early church understood this concept, and thus, their hearts contained simple faith, simple faith in God.

Dear God,

Please help me to live in one solid accord with You. I want to live my life in simplicity of heart. I don’t want to be plagued by worries of this world. Help me to stay in fellowship and continually praise You daily.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Burning Hearts

"And they said to one another, 'Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?'" Luke 24:32

After Jesus dies, He appears to his disciples, although they do not realize who He is. He spends time explaining to them the importance of everything pertaining to His mission from the "beginning at Moses and all the Prophets" (v. 27). Even though they are in His presence, their doubt and uncertainty blind their eyes; nevertheless, His words "burn" their hearts.

It is the power and truth contained in His words that captivate and stir them. These are familiar stories, as the disciples probably heard them all their lives; however, as Jesus retells them, the thread that ties them together finally is revealed. These words deliver the clear message of Jesus' love and salvation, and the truth penetrates their hearts.

As we delve into God's word, may it also burn our hearts. The disciples did not have to study arduously or be intellectually analytical; all they had to do was merely listen. They were eager to hear what He had to say, and in turn, their hearts were opened and they understood the wondrous meaning behind the Scriptures. Likewise, if we allow the word of God to simply enter our hearts, we may also experience the power of it.

Dear God,

Please help me to listen to Your word and hear what You have to say about Your love and salvation. May my heart burn intensely to know You more.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hardened Heart

"But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the Lord had said." Exodus 8:15

The second plague God allows to occur is the infestation of frogs. Frogs are described to be on and in every possible open surface, including inside the houses, within every crevice of each and every appliance, and even residing on top of people. There is no escape.

If the ten plagues of Egypt is a depiction of sin, the second plague specifically characterizes sin as annoying and pertinacious. Sin invades every part of one's life. There is no escape, aside from God. This realization beckons Pharaoh to relent, and surrender to Moses' request. However, the moment there is relief, Pharaoh's heart is hardened again.

In our lives, sin left untended to will fester and irritate. No matter how hard we try to ignore it, the effects and consequences of sin will continue to infest every part of our lives. However, when God allows a moment of relief, how do we respond? Do we allow sin to return? So often, we take advantage of God’s mercy, and we harden our hearts. We forget the pain of sin because our hearts are so calloused, and we fall again.

Dear God,

Help me not to be like Pharaoh. When sin enters my life, please remove it and help me to never let it return. Soften my heart so that I will be able to resist turning away from You.


"Pray that you may not enter into temptation." Luke 22:40

Before Jesus' betrayal, He urges His disciples to pray. He commands them to do so, in order that they may avoid temptation all together. Though prayer is essential during temptation and for that matter, necessary after temptation, it is also key before temptation even surfaces. In order to be well-prepared for such warfare, we must be spiritually ready before the fight begins.

Jesus anticipated hardships, as He knew His appointed time had come; and so we must also anticipate those rough times, especially when we sense temptation is around the corner. How can we sense danger? We know that Satan is constantly lurking, seeking whom he can devour, therefore, we must be on guard at all times.

Every moment we're on this earth is a possible moment we may be tempted. By praying, temptation will have no effect, no power, no influence in our lives. Our hearts will be so fully entwined with God's will and love that we can overcome such tests. By communing with God consistently, we can avoid entering into temptation.

Dear God,

In those moments before temptation even begins, please help me to wait in prayer and anticipation. Let my prayer be consistent, so that I may be ready for the temptation when it does come.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Heavy Hearts

"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkeness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on your unexpectedly." Luke 21:34

Jesus warns against three types of distractions that might hinder us from being fully prepared for His return. He describes these distractions as a "weighing down" of the heart, perhaps because the heart characterizes where our love and devotion is directed.

The first and second warning point to what appears to be apparent reprobate behaviors because there is a clear involvement with the world. Satiating the flesh by joining in the affairs of this earthly domain both in the sinful festivities and intoxication of drink would result in the weighing down of the heart.

However, it is the last warning, which is more difficult to heed in our daily lives. Especially when we are faced with multiple tasks that seem to shallow us in an abyss of bills, employment, and relationship issues, we can somtimes rule out God and attempt to sort things out on our own. However, the moment we believe we can deal with these issues, whether minor or major, "the cares of this life" are weighing down our hearts.

Worrying will amount to nothing but distance from God. We need to give Him all our cares, in order to alleviate our hearts from the burdens of this life. Our hearts need to be fully free from any weight, so that we can, with preparation and anticipation, wait for Jesus to return.

Dear God,

Please release me from the cares of this life. Help me to be free from any anxiety or worries I have about tomorrow. Let me trust that You have my life worked out, so that I can simply live each moment in total joy, knowing that You are coming back soon.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

God of the Living

"For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him." Luke 20:38

In response to the Sadducees' attempt to test Jesus on the issue of the resurrection, Jesus brings vital clarification to the position of God. He emphasizes the fact that God is the God of the "living." This concept not only describes the resurrection and the hope for eternal life, but it also sheds light on the life a follower should live.

Those who serve God should demonstrate life. All too often we fall into a routine of lifeless monotony. We perform the duties of a Christian, but the dearth of love, joy, and passion really does not dictate "living" at all. The dryness of the service causes us to seem rather dead. We simply wait for the day to end, the time to transpire, and perhaps long for another day or another period of less dreariness. However, the God we serve is not the God of the dead. He desires for us to experience life everyday starting now until eternity. Death for the believer does not exist. Though our earthly bodies may perish, we continue to live forever.

If the life we live seems dead, perhaps it's because it lacks God. It is in this moment of realization that we should evaluate our values and priorities, and perhaps make a change.

Dear God,

Please help me to live my life rather than allow the time to fade and the moment to pass. Help me to actually live. Come into my life and bring the joy I need.

Friday, January 19, 2007

To Seek and To Save

"..the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10

Jesus makes the above statement during his visit to Zacchaeus' house. The remark implies the idea that God has predestined and preselected us even before we ever make the decision to choose Him. He is the one who seeks us and offers us restoration. Our decision oft times is the evidence that He chose us first.

In this passage, Zacchaeus climbs the tree, endeavoring to see Jesus; however, it is Jesus who comes over to Zacchaeus, initially, and says, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." (v. 5) Jesus knows his name, addressing him so, and Jesus is fully aware of Zacchaeus' heart and his intention to receive God's presence.

It's a wonderful thought, knowing that God picks us individually, identifies personally with us, and then desires for us to get to know Him better. It makes me feel completely special, realizing that God takes the time to find me and restore me. Although I may be lost, He wants me.

Dear God,

Thank You for wanting me. Thank You for choosing me. I don't know why, but I am ever grateful.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


"But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance." Genesis 45:5-7

Joseph finally reveals his identity to his brothers, explaining to them the reasons for his hardships. It's interesting that he does not dwell on the past, reminding his brothers of their faults. He does not once blame his brothers for their ill-treatment of him, rather he continually describes the events as an act of God. He portrays the circumstances as an unraveling of a divine plan that was meant for the preservation of his family.

I find it difficult to understand Joseph's ability to forget his brother's wrong doing. In a world that demands justice, it's hard to believe Joseph was so willing to look beyond the past. However, the only word that describes Joseph's capacity to forget and forge ahead, without any glimmer of bitterness or anger, is forgiveness. It does not seem like an instantaneous occurrence upon being reunited with his siblings, but rather it appears as if Joseph had already forgiven them.

He did not require an apology or any type of closure. He didn't have to see his brothers face-to-face or belabor the reinactment of the situation. Nor did Joseph have to vent or discuss his feelings, and try to analyze the deep rooted pain. Joseph, it seems, simply had already reconciled in his heart that God was the one in control, and Joseph was at God's biding. Joseph sees himself as an instrument, and he does not question how God uses His tool for His divine purpose.

When wrongs are made against us, it is important to realize that God is the one who allows these events to occur. We can blame and point the finger. We can pity ourselves for the cruelty inflicted upon our lives, but when it gets down to it, we need to understand that God is the one who is planning out our lives, even permitting certain circumstances to exist for His grand plan. With this in mind, it should make it a little easier to forgive and forget because the objective is not centered on us; the goal is not to make us happy, but rather the goal is for His glory. Therefore, like Jospeh, if we can just look beyond ourselves, we can easily forgive and forget.

Dear God,

Please give me a heart that would be just as humble and pure as Joseph's. May I realize that everything that occurs in my life is filtered through Your hands, and that everything is going to come together for Your purpose.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


"Then they said to one another, "We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us." Genesis 42:21

Joseph's brothers, faced with opposition, recall their past mistakes. It seems as if every difficult situation has been a reminder of their ill-doing; every hardship appears to be a judgment of their error. They have been condemned with a guilty conscience, unable to shake themselves from the chains of regret and remorse. Even their description of Joseph, him "pleading" for mercy, is a sad recollection of their cold, evil plot against their own brother, and their failure to make amends.

There are many incidents in our lives, which inevitably have been damaged and marred by our self-absorbed and evil manipulations. The results were perhaps hurtful, but it is their memories, which plague us. Every reminder of the wrongs we did cause us to spiral into a plethora of questions of why we were so ignorant, so selfish, so foolish to err in such a way. We play back the events, desperately wishing we could alter the past, but realizing the impossibilities of it, we are left with nothing but the aching feeling of guilt.

Guilt seems like a life-sentence; however, in Jesus Christ there is no condemnation. By returning to God and seeking His forgiveness and mercy, we can discover that the burdens are not permanent; they can be lifted. We are not meant to suffer incessant pangs of guilt the rest of our lives, but we are meant to be free from the miry depths of our soul's secret past. Jesus offers us peace, not eternal condemnation. As we will later see with Joseph's brothers, God desires to give us mercy.

Dear God,

Guilt seems to stain my heart with such regret and pain, but I know this is not the life you want me to live. So, I pray that You will forgive me entirely for the wrongs I have committed, and help me to surrender my burdens to You completely. Please give me a peace and the mercy I need, and help me to stay in Your will.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

He remembers

"Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him." Genesis 40:23

Joseph gets accused by Potiphar's wife of rape, and is consequently thrown into jail. He remains there for several years, serving a sentence he did not deserve. And even when he helps interpret the bulter's dream and he implores him to remember his case when he gets out, he is forgotten. Despite the fact that Joseph has done nothing wrong, he suffers. Even though he is forgotten and ignored by man, God does not forget him.

Several years seems like a long time to endure in the jail, especially for a crime you didn't commit. But in the scope of Joseph's life, it was a mere fraction. Looking back with hindsight, his hardships are minor in comparison to the blessings and prosperous years that he lived. Although everyone in his life seemed to fail him, God never did. These years of suffering were not a result of God's neglect, but rather they were necessary events to bring him into a place of exaltation. The tears and pain had their purpose.

In our lives, tough moments may seem to linger long especially when strength deplete so quickly. However, we don't know the entirity of our lives. These moments are insignificant in terms of eternity. We do not know the purpose of these times of agony; we simply have to trust that God will never forget us. Though man shall fail us, though we might fall, God will always remember us. We just have to wait for Him to bring all the events of our lives, both good and bad, together in perfection.

Prodigal Son

"Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him." Luke 15:30

In the story of the prodigal son, the father responds with elation at the return of his lost son; however, his other son displays the contrary; he is full of bitterness and jealousy. With obvious sibling rivalry, this son reminding his father again that he has remained faithful unlike his brother, seems somewhat disgusted by his father's unabashed excitement and joy. Despite his prudent endeavor to stay right in his father's eyes, his father seems to delight more in the return of his lost son. Is his love for this son any less? Has it ever been more?

The father's love is unmeasurable and unbelievable. He never stopped loving his lost son; he never loved his faithful son more. His love was consistent and true. It is the same with God's love for us. When we falter, He still loves us and wants us to return. When we remain true, He loves us, but not any more for our faithfulness. We cannot expect God's love to be altered based on our actions. We have not influence, no control, no affect on the amount of love God has for us.

However, it is important to note the differences in the sons. The prodigal son, despite his mistakes, is humble. He returns with sincerity and genuine remorse. He also seems to appreciate and respect his father more. He makes no demands, but he is content with whatever his father deems as appropriate and fair. The other son, though faithful on the surface, reacts with such animosity and jealousy to the father's exhiliration over his brother's return, that there seems to be an air of pride about him. He points out how much better he is than his brother and complains that his father is wrong in showing such mercy. This son is more concerned about his welfare and what is right and fair for him, that he neglects to rejoice over the fact that his father is happy and his brother is saved.

It is true, God loves us unconditionally. However, in order to enjoy His love, we must always pursue Him with the same attitude of the prodigal son. If we fail and fall, we must return with humility. If we remain in His love, we must be so lost in His love that we can never be swayed by our pride or flesh. And for all those who were once lost and have returned, we must have the same love as the Father has, and rejoice with Him and them.

Dear God,

Thank You for Your love. How good You are! Please help me to be humble and merciful. Never allow me to be jealous because I think You love someone else more. Let me be content with the fullness of love You always seem to lavish me with every day.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Deceitful Words

"But the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father, and spoke deceitfully because he had defiled Dinah their sister." Genesis 34:13

Genesis 34 contains the tragic story of Jacob's daughter, Dinah. A thing that "ought not to be done," is done to her(v. 7). Against her will, she is violated by Shechem. Even though her father is greatly distressed over this issue, he holds his peace and waits for his sons to come home from the field. As a result, the sons, without conferring with Jacob, take matters into their own hands. Through deception, they agree to give Dinah as a wife to Shechem under a single harsh condition: circumcism. However, in reality, their plan is to weaken the men of Hamor and Shechem, in order to easily kill the men, and thus, plunder the land.

It is true that God permited Jacob's sons to inflict this judgment on the Canannites and the Perizzites for their wickedness; however, there were consequences for their deceit. For example, Jacob, their father, was adversely affected by their rash behavior. He said, "You have troubled me by making me obnoxious..." (v. 30). Even though Jacob's sons were only trying to help their sister, they ignored their father's well-being and reputation.

Deceit always has its price. Regardless of all the possible good intentions a person may have, lying always ends up hurting someone else. The lack of integrity, the void of truth, the dabbling in darkness cannot be deemed as a godly attribute, so how can lying be an act of God? It's better to try to stay honest, pure, and open in our lives.

Dear God,

Please help me to be honest in everything I say and everything I do. Let me be holy before You. Even when deceit seems like the best option, help me to trust in You to be true and sincere.

Friday, January 12, 2007


"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke 12:34

Whatever we esteem the most sets up our priorities and dictates what we value. If our objective in life is to accumulate treasure that only occupies earthly space, then it is evident that our hearts carry an inexorable amount of wasted efforts, as all will fade when we pass on to the next life. Yet, if our treasures are stored in heaven, "no thief approaches nor moth destroys." Thus, our storehouse in heaven is a clear depiction of the status of our hearts, whether or not our focus is right before the Lord.

Simply by examining the receipts that have piled up, the materials goods that fill up my closets, and the lessening of shelf space in the house, it is obvious that my current goals in life are very self-centered. Searching for practical sale and clearance items is notable and counting coupons is wise; however, when considering the time and resources necessary, the question remains: was it truly a good deal? Am I getting anything permanent from all my efforts?

I think, especially for the new year, that I need to stop and think about whether or not seeking for earthly treasures has dominated my life and prevented me from gaining treasures in heaven. I really want to challenge myself to have self-control, and instead of purchasing something for myself or trying to get a good deal, I want to stop and pray for a loved one or help someone in need.

Dear God,

Please help me to have heart right before You; help me to seek the treasure that does not perish. May my life be more centered on serving You rather than serving myself and my flesh.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Distracted with Much Serving

“But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him…” Luke 10:40

In welcoming Jesus to their home, Martha and Mary make preparations for His arrival. However, when He shows up, Martha, still “distracted with much serving,” loses sight of the real focus, which is their guest of honor. Mary, on the other hand, immediately devotes her entire attention to Jesus; everything else seems to be secondary. Though Mary's response seems to be sincere and pure, Martha is vexed by her sister’s negligence of the housework. This causes Martha to stop her work momentarily and approach Jesus. However, her approach is not in the same manner as Mary’s. It lacks love and adoration, and sadly, is rather full of complaint and bitterness.

So often, I fall into the same mode as Martha. I get so wrapped up with the duties I must perform, the responsibilities I must keep, and the rules I must adhere to, that I become quite lost in the purpose of existence. In essence, my life begins to become void of love and tenderness. I act as I ought to, but each word I speak is contrived, each move I make is forced, and thus, my way of living is sterile. It lacks passion because I forget the reason that would make me passionate.

In my service to God, I may, at times, fail to welcome Him with the same adoration and anticipation that Mary obviously possessed. The work in Mary's perspective was secondary to her worship of Jesus. Her priorities were right. Like Mary, I must endeavor to seek Jesus first, get to know Him on a personal level, before I get so caught up in the work or in the daily activities that make up my life that I end up not living at all.

Dear God,

May I respond to Your presence in the same way that Mary did. I want to be so anxious to hear Your voice and know You more. Please help me to stay focused on You, and not to be distracted or worried by the things around me.

Remained Silent

“And the man, wondering at her remained silent so as to know whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not.” Genesis 24:21

When the time for Isaac to get wed approaches, Abraham chooses his oldest servant to tend to an expedient task. He calls his servant to return to the land where he once dwelled, in order to prevent Isaac from an unholy union with the Canaanites. Abraham chooses the oldest servant perhaps because this servant once lived with him in the previous land, and thus would be the most experienced; or perhaps he selected this servant for such an important mission because this servant was a distinguished man of much faith. It is not surprising that the servant displayed this quality of trust in God and in Abraham, seeing as he had a good example to follow.

In lieu of the arduous duty the servant of Abraham had to perform, he takes several measures to ensure the fulfillment of his responsibility. First and foremost, the servant prays. His prayer is coated not only with sincerity and humility, but it also contains specific desires, demonstrating his strong communion with God. Likewise, although he makes it obvious that he wants success, he does not demand it. Secondly, upon seeing Rebecca, the servant observes with silent anticipation. He waits, in order to clearly discern whether or not God is working in the situation. Lastly, realizing God’s answer, he immediately responds with worship, not neglecting to show his gratitude to God.

The second measure the servant takes is recorded in Genesis 24:21. The servant is curious to know whether or not Rebecca is the choice wife for Isaac, but instead of jumping to conclusions, attempting to force the situation, or rushing in with expectation, he simply “remained silent.” The servant shows one of the most essential yet one of the hardest aspects in prayer, which is to wait for God’s answer. In doing so, the servant avoids making the mistake of messing up the situation by a premature intervening, or ruining the situation by using an assumption based solely on his own feelings. He relies, however, on God’s timing.

Waiting is one of the most difficult things to do. I find myself the most frustrated, irritated, or upset when I have to wait for long periods of time, especially when I do not know what the outcome is going to be. Whether it’s in line at the grocery store, in traffic, or waiting for someone to make an appointment, I become exasperated because in the instance of waiting, I do not have control. The ball is no longer in my court. Instead, I must rely on someone else’s decision, someone else’s move, or someone else’s arrival. The dependency is really what aggravates me.

However, in my relationship with God, I must surrender my desire to be in control. In essence, I must be fall into a quiet obedience. When I commune with Him and seek Him to do something in my life, if it is at all sincere and if I truly trust that He will perform the best possible outcome, I must relinquish any desire to meddle. I cannot make any hasty assumptions or take any rash actions; instead, I must wait for God to demonstrate His clear will in my life. If I try to interject my interpretation of the situation and I end up making an impulsive measure, I may end up causing more harm to myself. On the contrary, if I remain silent and observant, I can determine God’s plan in my life and act accordingly.

Dear God,

There are so many things in my life right now that I must wait for. And yet, I am so impatient that sometimes end up acting too prematurely without a clear understanding of what You desire for my life. Please help me to wait in quietness of spirit and silent submission for Your plan to happen in Your perfect time.

Bear Fruit with Patience

“But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” Luke 8:15

In Luke 8, Jesus told the parable of the sower. He described the different places the seeds were tossed and the amount of fruit the plant would produce, as an analogy to a person’s response to the word and the consequences of such actions. Leaving the very best and most successful response to the end, Jesus added clarification to the way a person might yield the most fruit. It is not through sporadic determination, but rather a particular, consistent state of being the person must maintain. The heart of the person must be “noble and good.” Jesus, also, emphasized the importance of bearing fruit with patience. The fact that patience is a requirement implies that the actual fruit might not always be evident or salient in a person’s life; however, the process of producing the fruit, even as it is unseen, should always be occurring.

An example of this is in Genesis 22, when Abraham is put through the ultimate test of faith and obedience. Here, he is asked to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. It was not a sudden act of faith or a random act of obedience that leads Abraham to the right decision, but rather it is the product of Abraham’s constant walk with God. His heart was in a state of being “noble and good.” By having the right attitude and perspective, he was able to act in full submission.

Even though he acted in obedience, regarding God more important than his son, the fruit of his obedience was not revealed until after he had gone through all the steps to perform a sacrifice. He had to gather his supplies, make the trek, and prepare the altar; however, Abraham trusted fully in God’s plan. He trusted so much so that he was willing to wait, excruciatingly so, for God’s redemptive powers to come to fruition. He didn’t know what God was going to do, but he knew God would do what was best. Therefore, Abraham was consistently obedient and completely patient, and as a result, he was able to bear the fruit.

Likewise, in our lives we must not only maintain the right heart and attitude, we must also be patient. First and foremost, it is critical that we consistently seek God, in good and bad times. We must believe in Him even in circumstances that do not seem clear. We must be always diligent in acquiring a “noble and good heart.” Although we cannot obtain such a state on our own because our hearts are deceitfully wicked, we can ask God daily to cleanse us from our selfish ambitions and evil ploys.

Secondly, we need to be patient. This is hard because we have a tendency to want to see the results of our labors immediately. However, God will place us in certain events that will test our patience. Though the steps seem like many, each one is crucial in the process of producing the final fruit. We must, like Abraham, simply be obedient to the tasks and duties God has given us, and trust that He will help us to be fruitful in the end.

Dear God,

Please help me to be continually in Your will, maintaining a right and pure heart before You. Help me to be patient with whatever You are doing in my life, even though the end results may not be clear at the moment. May each step I take be in obedience and submission to You.

Monday, January 8, 2007

I Cried to the Lord

"I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill." Psalm 3:4

In this psalm, David troubled by his enemies, desperate in his trials, and looking for help, can do nothing but cry out to Lord. Interestingly, God heard David's agonized voice and was faithful to come to David's side; however, God had to first allow the circumstances to climax to such a level of painful intensity. As a result, David would succumb to the humble state of crying out to God.

In Luke 3, a similar idea is presented when Jesus met a widow whose son had just died. Although it is obvious that Jesus was able to prevent the son from dying, as he had recently healed a centurion's servant in the first part of the chapter, Jesus allowed the son to die, and consequently allowed the widow to weep. He allowed the widow to cry out before He performed the miracle. The widow was not the only one who cried, Jesus also did not stop Mary from weeping and wiping His feet with her tears.

There are so many times in this life when the tears do not seem to cease. The heart, overflowing with hurt and pain, explodes in the emotional catharsis of the tears. Though the frustration and aching is overwhelming, God does not intervene or interrupt these moments of desperation; instead, He waits for us to fall into humble weakness so that we might call out to Him to succor us. He allows these times of darkness, in order that we might cling to Him.

We cannot expect to be free from tears on this earth. It is inevitable that we should fall into such a state of humility. However, by knowing full well that not only is God completely in control as He is permitting this trials to exist, but also that He is going to hear our cries from His holy hill.

Dear God,

In times of desperation, may I cry out to You in sincerity and hope. Knowing that You hear me and yearn for my love in return, I pray that I would seek You for help and turn to no other.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

But New Wine Must Be Put into New Wineskins

"No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, "The old is better." Luke 5:36-38

Jesus used the illustration of the wineskins to describe the necessary lifestyle change of someone who has become a new creation. Although the heart of the believer has been transformed once he accepts Jesus as his savior, the contents being poured into it must also be scrutinized. Like the impracticality of using new wineskin to hold old wine and vice versa, the christian must filter the things that go into his heart, adjusting the contents of it to fit who he has chosen to become; as a result, this allows for preservation. Otherwise, a believer who continues to conform to the lifestyle of the world is apt to fall and damage his relationship with God.

A good example of a follower who tried to change his ways, in order to adapt to his transformed life, was Abraham. Though he was given the opportunity to take the route into Sodom and Gomorrah, which was clearly more desirable according to the world standards, he refused to compromise. Instead of being absorbed in the wicked culture of the world, he chose the different path. Also, Abraham demonstrated his refusal to compromise to the world when he was offered gifts from the King of Sodom. This is conveyed in his response: "I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, 'I have made Abram rich'-" Genesis 14:22-23

Abraham's choices to not compromise demonstrated how much he valued his relationship with God. By choosing to follow God, he had made a convenent that would urge him to "take nothing" of the world. He would be sanctified and set apart for the sole purpose of glorifying God. In essence, his successes and triumphs would be the reflection of God's faithfulness, and his victories would be a testimony of God's glory.

As christians, we are new wineskins, new creations. The content we allow to enter into our minds, hearts, and souls should constantly be monitored. We should ask ourselves whether or not our lifestyles really glorify God. And if anything is determined to be contraditory to that, it should be avoided and immediately eliminated from our lives. The difficulty is the fact that temptations wrought by our pride and flesh are constantly obstructing us, disabling our abilities to discern what is right and what is not. We find ourselves often time trying to placate our desires through compromise, but this is actually only pouring old wine into our new wineskins.

It is critical that we filter out not only the apparent wrongs, but we also refuse to compromise in the minor things. Because the minor compromises will only defile and so damage our senses, leading us to worst circumstances in the end, we must be fully resistant to such. By standing steadfast in our determination to be sanctified for God's glory, we, like Abraham, will "take nothing" from the world. By walking alongside God, through true and sweet fellowship, we will be able to filter the content entering our new lives.

Dear God,

Help me to be aware of the content I allow into my life. Please allow me to be wise and not succumb to compromise, even in the smallest of circumstances. May my life and the decisions I make glorify You.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

An Opportune Time

"Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time." Luke 4:13

During Jesus' time in the wilderness described in Luke 4, He was tempted with "every temptation" that the devil was able to concoct. Satan did not have one mere trick to play, but rather he was armed with a variety of schemes. His ploys dealt heavily with the flesh and pride, but Jesus combated his attacks with an armament consisting of items beyond any human defense; Jesus sought the spiritual to overcome the temptations. And despite Jesus' amazing resistance, Satan did not give up upon his departure, but rather, Satan is said to have waited for "an opportune time."

With this in mind, it is important for the Christian to be not only equipped with the necessary spirtual armor to wage the battles victoriously, but it is equally important for the Christian to realize the cunning nature of Satan. Satan is well- practiced in his art of deception. He has many tricks in his bag, he is strong-willed and determined to corrupt and conquer, and he is surprisingly patient, waiting for the perfect moment to attack. Therefore, the Christian must always be ready to fight and defend himself against the wiles of the devil.

The only successful defense for the Christian is the Word of God and prayer. If the war waged against us is not of flesh and blood, we cannot expect to use physical weapons. Human knowledge, wealth, and works is useless in this type of battle. On the contrary, it is the pure and flawless essence of God's words that defeat, as Jesus demonstrates this idea when He overcomes the temptations set before Him using scripture. Also, prayer is critical for the believer, as one becomes more conscious of God's will through communion and fellowship.

Despite our successes in spiritual warfare, perhaps one of our weakest moments exist after the battle has subsided. After a hard trial or difficult situation, we sometimes allow the mundane to set in again. Victory allows the every day routine to once again continue in our lives. Yet, in these times of normalcy, we may neglect to realize Satan's plan to attack at the "opportune time." We should never let our guard down; we should never rest from prayer or keeping God's Word in our hearts!

Dear God,

Please help me to always be equipped with the spiritual weapons needed to fight the good fight. May I be so close to You, in Word and prayer, that during these battles, I will have the strength and courage I need. The temptations will come. The warfare will continue until the end. However, please help me to be always on guard.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Thoughts of His Heart

"Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:5

In Genesis 6:5, it states that "the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." The implication of this statement is that the very core of mankind's nature is evil. Within his being, there is not only the absence of goodness but a continual progression toward the things which are perverse. In a later verse in chapter 8, his inherent state of evil is described as "the imagination of man's heart." This would point to the idea that man is constantly plotting wicked plans.

When man is left to his own devices, there is destruction, revealing the natural effects of sin. Sin corrupts the soul of man, holding captive his every thought and intention to the submission of evil, while deceiving him into to believing that he is enpowered. Sin controls his life, without him even realizing it. And without him knowing it, it ruins it to the point of death. Nevertheless, that which was destroyed can still be repaired to a certain degree.

In the story of Noah, God displays His grace as he permits Noah and his family to repent of their sins and follow His ways. By allowing God to enter their hearts and permeate their souls, they enabled Him to halt the infestation and corruption of sin. However, had not Noah and his family determined to accept God's grace, they would have been destroyed like the rest of the world.

Likewise, we need to accept God's grace, in order to be delivered from our own sinful nature. John the Baptist called the people to repentence, conveying the reality of man's being. John made it clear that man needs to turn from his wicked ways, as a first step to salvation. We need to recognize that we are not in control, and that we need God to come into our lives, in order to restore and renew our heart and thoughts.

Dear God,

I pray that You would remove all the wicked thoughts that defile and corrupt my soul. Please come into my life and dominate my heart so that everything I produce, whether in my imagination or in my actions would be pure and pleasing in Your sight.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

She Took of its Fruit and Ate

"So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6

I find it fascinating that Eve was led to disobedience through such an extensive process. It was not an immediate or instantaneous surrender to the temptation, but rather a series of steps that led to the sin. First there was an examination of the situation, in which the severity of the circumstance was reduced. Then, there was a logical approach, in which the decision was justified, using arguments that would approve the decision. Finally, perhaps by guilt, perhaps motivated by fear, there was the desire to have peer involvement and support, lest she be alone in the judgment.

Like Eve, when we find ourselves in the midst of temptation, it is often our first reaction to shrug our shoulders and dismiss the gravity of falling for such a temptation. She questioned whether it truly could be that bad to do such a thing. After all, she convinced herself, it really could be helpful, and after all, it really is not hurting anyone. Likewise, we often lessen the potency of the sin by our endeavors to see the possible benefits, despite the fact that we are only deceiving ourselves by our attempts to look for the good in our disobedience. Similar to Eve who studied the tree and found the good parts of it, we can sometimes be so self-absorbed and so busy manipulating the situation to fit it to our desires that we quickly find ourselves entangled in sin.

The second step after Eve tried to see the positive side of eating from the tree was that she provided logical reasons for committing the disobedience. Her reasons were feeble, but she, like many of us, needed to have an excuse. She claimed that the tree was not only good for food, but pleasant for the eyes and perhaps possible in making her wise. However, her first argument, though the most logical in some ways, is weak. Though the tree would be good for food, it is clearly noted that food was plentiful. Therefore, it is in the latter two arguments that her real motives are revealed. Her intentions were to satisfy the flesh; she wanted the pleasure of seeing the tree and the glory of being wise. However, no matter how well Eve tried to logically justify her sin, the underlying reasons were wholly for self-gratification and pride. Likewise, we can have the tendency to give excuses for our behavior and attitude, but when it comes down to it, we do what we want because we are selfish.

Lastly, Eve's process in disobedience includes the fact that her sin must be shared. She did not want to experience the shame, guilt, or fear by herself. Thus, she was able to convince Adam to partake of the fruit with her. I think this is one of the most tragic aspects of sin; it is the contagious, infectious element that affects more than just one person.

Dear God,

Please help me to resist temptation. Help me not to come up with excuses or reasons for disobedience, but rather help me to remember Your instruction and commandments. I want to be pure and pleasing in Your sight; please remove my desires for self-gratification.

For with God Nothing is Impossible

"For with God Nothing is Impossible." -Luke 1:37

Though this verse has had a cliche-like implementation, although it seems almost overused, its constant usage cannot diminish the power behind the very meaning of its words. Upon delving deeper into this verse, it is made apparant that God is the source of this power; the impossibilities cease at the foot of the Almighty, while the potential for anything rest soley in His hands. God is not restricted or limited to any element or factor; His plan will unfold despite events oft considered by humans to be mishaps and misfortunes. Like Mary and Elizabeth whose circumstances seemed to be the least ideal, God used them for His plan of salvation. In a way, the less ideal of the circumstance, the more glorious the effects.

Likewise, our lives can also be a display of the glorious effects of God's plan. Despite the consequences of life's tragedies, God continues to perform the impossible. There are no boundaries, no hindrances; there is nothing that will stop Him from victory. Therefore, even though the situation may appear bleak and beyond repair, it can never be beyond God's power. The question is however, where we stand and which preposition we would elect to apply to our lives. Are we "with" Him or "without" Him?

Mary and Elizabeth clearly determined to be the former, and even though their choice was initially wrapped in apprehension, and even though their choice would lead to sorrow and hardship, they knew that "with God nothing is impossible." This implied that their lives, though from a human standpoint were not ideal, would be used to glorify God. In that same way, we must choose to trust that God is more powerful than any obstacle, more wise than any failure, more victorious than any pain.

Dear God,

I pray that I would be able to completely surrender my life to You. Despite all the hardships and frustrations I encounter, I want to always be reminded that with You nothing is impossible. Your divine plan will not be defeated, and thus, I must not quiver nor quake at the slightest failure or hurt that I experience on this earth. May all the least ideal situations in my life be used to glorify You even the more.