Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – September 23, 2016

Your Sons and Your Daughters will Prophecy

FOCUS VERSES

Joel 2:28 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.   Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 32 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved;

If you’re preaching the very first sermon ever to the new ‘church’… what would you use as a sermon text.  That was the ‘dilemma’ for Simon Peter.  The Holy Spirit had just arrived in glorious splendor in the Upper Room.  Pentecost— the beginning of the church age— was minutes old.  And you were called upon to speak to the thousands of gathered onlookers, trying to figure out what just took place.  The rushing wind, the flames of fire, the joyous explosion of unknown languages being spoken by unlearned common people— what is this all about!!

Of course, there is no New Testament ‘text’… because there is no ‘New Testament’.  So Peter, undoubtedly led by the Holy Spirit, chooses a passage from the Prophet Joel to explain the ‘goings on’.

Friends… this is a new day. These people are not drunk… they are immerse in God’s Presence.  The Spirit has come!  Heaven is open! Son and daughter alike will ‘hear from God’ and share his Truth.  Old men, you men, woman and children can now receive what Jesus died to give them:  His Spirit poured out on all who will take.

That morning, more than three thousand people committed to be followers of Jesus.

Friends, the revival is coming.  What began at Pentecost 2000 years ago is about to intensify.  History reveals to us that every great revival begins with a unique and mighty move of God’s Spirit.  The focus is mostly on the young.  Signs and wonders begin to manifest.  The heavenlies are stirred and shaken, bringing anxiety to those who know Him not and heart-pounding expectation to those who are longing for His Presence and Coming.

 

Are you excited, expectant?    What happened at the church’s beginning will happen again at the end.  Revival!  Come Holy Spirit!!

 

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – September 22, 2016

The Magi Who Came to See Jesus

Matthew 2: 1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  …and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh

The Magi (or Wise Men) are such a familiar part of the Christmas story.  More than that, though, they remind us how God makes the connections in our lives, how He stirs passion in the hearts of the seeking, and how He brings provisions from the strangest of places.

Who were they? Like a lot to subjects and people in the Bible, we don’t know a great deal about the Magi.  Traditions suggest there were three because of the three gifts mentioned but it is probable that more than three made the dangerous 800 mile trip to Bethlehem.

Which brings us to the second question:  Where were the Magi from? The East is all Matthew tells us.  ’The East’ could mean many things but it is fairly safe to assume that the Magi came from Babylon or Persia.  This makes sense on a number of levels. The Babylonians and Persians were meticulous in their preservation of books.  The Babylonians and Persians were students of nature and the stars.  Most importantly, as we have seen in previous devotions, there was a tremendous interaction and influence by the Jews on the Babylonians and Persians during the 400 years before baby Jesus arrived in Bethlehem.  God gave the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar a vision which Daniel interpreted.   Persian kings like Darius, Cyrus were also profoundly influenced by Daniel.  The prophet Ezekiel wrote his book in Babylon.  King Xerxes was moved to faith by his wife Esther.  Nehemiah was the friend and cupbearer for Persian King Artaxerxes. Beside all this… the Temple treasure were kept in Babylon and eventually return to the Jews by Cyrus.   The Magi almost certainly had read the revered Old Testament prophecies… and followed them!

The Lord see our needs before we do… he provides in mysterious ways.  For you, it might be a broken car or unexpected bill.  For Mary and Joseph, it was a hurried trip to Egypt. No doubt the gold and spices from some Persian Magi sure did come in handy for the trip!

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – September 21, 2016

A Heart Like Philemon’s

FOCUS VERSES

Philemon 1:4 I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers,…  7 For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

Hopefully you have in your life people who have sown seeds of joy and comfort into your spirit.  Or, as Paul says of in the passage above… people who have ‘refreshed the hearts of the saints’.   I know I have.

As a young man whose father had just passed away, I was awaken one morning to the sound of hammering in the back yard.  Ralph, one of the men from our church, was busy with boards, a telephone pole and a brand new, bright orange basketball goal.  Before he left, a hole was dug, the pole in the ground, the basketball goal attached to a backboard… and 4 thankful boys had themselves a backyard basketball court.  Our hearts were ’greatly refreshed’ by this saint!!

So who has ’refreshed’ you?  Think back over the last week, month, year or lifetime.  Have you taken the opportunity to say ‘thank you’.  Of all the things we do as Christians, recognizing the kindnesses extended toward us… and then making the effort to acknowledge those kindnesses with a ’thank you’ is one of the most holy disciplines we can develop.   Remember the story of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed.  Only one came back to say thanks.  Are you like the ‘nine’ or the ‘one’?  Be the One!  Be… the one who ’came’ back.

In prayer one day a man thought he heard the Lord say to write a note of ‘appreciation’ to the Sunday School teachers who had invested in his young life.  Remembering each one, he wrote a note to them— all now decades older— thanking them for sowing seeds of encouragement and God’s Word into his life. Some years later that same young man attended the funeral of one of those teachers.  At the funeral, the teacher’s son pulled him aside and took him up to the casket.  Reaching in, he pulled his dad’s Bible from the teacher’s now still hand.  Turning the pages, he gently removed a yellow piece of paper from the Bible.  There is was— the ‘thank you’ note written ten year’s early.  “Dad kept it in his Bible every day’ he said… ‘and now it goes to the grave with him.’

Take a moment today!  Be a ‘Philemon’! Is there someone the Lord is bringing to YOUR mind that you might ‘refresh’.

 

 

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – September 20, 2016

The Rank and Territory of Demonic Influence

FOCUS VERSES

Daniel 10:10 A hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees… 12 “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13 But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. 14 Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

Mark 5:6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” 9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

Any time a discussion concerning the reality and activity of demonic forces comes up, sides begin to form. One ‘side’ or theological persuasion says that demons might really exist— but in our world today, with medicine, understanding of mental disease and our psychological advancement, demons don’t have any impact on behavior or society.  The other side or ‘persuasion’ would say that demonic forces are very real, very active and very present in our world today.  Please place me in this ‘latter’ group.  The Bible offers many insights and stories of encounters with the ‘demonic’ entities.  Certainly Jesus spent a good portion of his ministry ‘freeing’ people who were under the influences of these evil forces.  He also gave us power to ‘trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19).  Today’s Scripture passages gives us an understanding of the ‘spiritual warfare’ going on in the ‘atmosphere’ around us as well as the rank and territorial nature of demons.

Daniel was a man of prayer.  We know that!  When Daniel prayed, heaven was stirred.  But so was the underworld.  We should understand the prayer is one of the most powerful of spiritual weapons we can us against these ‘spiritual forces of evil’.

As Daniel prayed, the angel Gabriel was dispatched from heaven to give him insight concerning his prayer request.  As Gabriel departed with the ‘answer’, the ‘Prince of the Persian Kingdom’ met Gabriel… and it was on!!  For 21 days, an angelic battle raged in the heavenly realms.  Did Daniel know what was going on?  We are not told.  But it does remind us to continue in prayer, for sometimes the answer is ‘one the way’ but the enemy is running interference.

Ultimately, this high ranking demonic power— this prince in charge of watching over the Persian Kingdom— is overcome, but only with the assistance of another powerful angel (Michael) ‘tag teaming’ into the match.  We can only imagine what the fight must have looked like or where it actually took place.  Can demons be wounded?  Do they use spiritual swords’?  Are some demons more powerful than others?  These and many other questions may come to your mind… We don’t know for sure.  But some things we can infer about demons and their influence!

  1. Demonic forces are aware of our prayers! As happened in Daniel’s case, demons often interfere with our prayers. This could include ‘clouding our mind, distracting our focus, wearing us down or simply intimidating us to stop our praying. Don’t!!.
  1. There are ‘ranks’ in the demonic realm! Notice in both of the focus passages the reference to ‘rank’.  In the Daniel passage, the demonic entity was a ‘Prince’, a rank of great stature, perhaps indicating the power this spiritual force could muster.  Or the number of demons under his control.  In the Mark 5 passage, our Lord Jesus asks for the name of the demonic force.  ‘Legion’ the demon replied.  What exactly that means, we are not sure but a Roman legion usually had approximately 5400 soldiers in it.  Could this demonic voice been the leader of a large contingent of demons? Maybe!  We know that 2000 pigs went over the ‘cliff’ and died that day— perhaps indicating how many forces were at the control of ‘Legion’. Regardless, we do see in both these passages and inference to rank among the enemy forces.
  1. Demonic forces are ‘territorial! Demonic forces seem to be assigned to certain areas or territories. Persia was a recognized empire with boundaries.  The ’Prince’ that moved to interfere with Daniel was given the ’title’ of ruler over that area.  Jesus is conversing with ’Legion’ when ’Legion’ has a ’strange request.  Over and over again Legion begged Jesus ’not to send them out of the area’.  This seems to indicate that Legion and his band of imps had been assigned a certain territory to patrol.  Perhaps Legion did not want to have to go back to His commander in chief Satan for ‘reassignment.  Who knows… but this much is certain:  Whenever Jesus shows up, demons flee!  Whenever we pray, hell trembles!

 

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – September 19, 2016

Who Do You Think You Are?!?

It’s an important question:  Who do you think you are?  As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7 KJV).  So… how do you view or see yourself?  Below is how the Lord sees you.  These Bible verses describe a trait, power, position, ability or privilege you have RIGHT NOW!  When we understand WHO we are in Christ and WHAT Jesus has given us, maybe we will think ’differently’ about ourselves!

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Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – September 16, 2016

Comfort Those Who Mourn

FOCUS VERSES:  2 Corinthians 1

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ…. 7 and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

 In the midst of a tragedy we often make statements that don’t really help the situation.  Perhaps the most ill-conceived is ‘I know how you feel’!  Be careful uttering those words, no matter how well-intentioned, if it just isn’t true.  On the other hand, if it IS true… that you have been down the same road of loss, suffering or disappointment, God can use you as a genuine and powerful instrument of healing.

Suffering is all around us in this world.  It’s guaranteed.  Jesus himself said that ‘on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.’ (John 16:33)   We certainly don’t enjoy the afflictions… but we need to see their value!

Look again at the passage above.  Notice the underlined section ‘to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.’  Your pain can very well be someone else’s gain.

If you have never, say, suffered the loss of a child  you can’t say ‘I know how you feel’.  But if you have survived this horrendous loss, YOU have the power to comfort someone with the comfort that you yourself have received.  Or if you have endured the agony of chemo fighting cancer.  Or fought, fasted and prayed for a marriage when the other spouse had given up and moved on.  Or received the dreaded call from an officer that …. There’s be an accident.

 Here is the tragedy.  All around us— especially in the church— are people with ‘scars’.  Most are emotional!   Perhaps YOU!.  But we don’t reach out to others who are going through what we did.  The Lord didn’t cause your pain or loss— but He does ask you to comfort others.  You have insight.  You can tell people what to expect as they process this particular hardship.  We were ‘comforted’ so that we could ‘comfort’!  Use your experience as a ministry tool for Jesus.  Look around… someone hurting and ‘You know how they feel’!

 

 

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – September 15, 2016

Haman the Agagite, Saul’s Disobedience and Jesus

FOCUS VERSES

 1 Samuel 15:3 Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”… 8 He (Saul)  captured Agag the king of the Amalekites alive,…9 Saul and the people spared Agag  (1000BC)

 Esther 3:3 … King Xerxes honored Haman… the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. 2 All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor….  Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew. 5 When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. 6 Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.

If you have never had opportunity to watch the movie ‘One Night With the King’— the story of Esther and her heroic effort to save the Jews— I would encourage you to do so.  It provides a excellent backdrop to this story… and to why it is always best to obey the Lord.   But for our devotion today, we need to understand WHY Esther had to save her people at all.  It all began 400 years earlier— back in Israel!

Saul, King of Israel,  was commanded to strike the Amalekites.  The Amalekites were the tribe who had attacked Moses and the Children of Israel without cause.  There reputation was of a godless, ruthless people.  As the passage above states, King Saul was to ‘strike’ and ‘spare no one’.  In blatant disobedience, Saul instead allowed some to live— including the King of the Amalekites, King AGAG, and according to tradition, his pregnant wife.    Though the details of history are murky, the Agagites… family of King Agag… escaped.  Because of this disobedience, the Kingship was taken away from Saul and given to David.

palace-of-xerxes

Engravings from Palace of Xerxes

The escape of the Agagites was a ‘minor’ detail, some might say.  ‘Big deal— a couple got away!’  We must remember, however, that the Lord sees the ‘end from the beginning’.  God could see the danger Saul’s disobedience would cause 400 years later to the Jews in Persia… and potentially to the planned birth of the Messiah Jesus!

Fast forward now 400 years to Queen Esther and the plight of the Jews in Persia.  Haman was a royal attendant in the court of King Xerxes.  He was a man of power.  He was also an Agagite… a descendant of the King Agag.  He hated the Jews… with a passion.  His desire:  to eliminate these ‘Jews’ from the face of the earth.  All of them!  Shortly, an opportunity would come about to do just that.  (Read, if you will, the Esther 3 passage again in the Focus Verses.)

Mordecai, Esther’s uncle and a Jew, would not bow before Haman the Agagite.  Enraged, Haman schemed a plan to eliminate the Jewish race in every province of Persia. Had it not been for the courage of Esther to put her life at risk to save her people, the genocide of the Jewish race would have happened.  Every Jew— man, woman, and child— was to be hanged.  Instead, when the King was apprized of the plot of Haman, it was Haman’s family— the Agagites, that were hanged.  And so… what King Saul refused to do 400 year’s earlier, God did through a ‘pagan’ king and the bravery of a beautiful young queen named Esther.

Can you see the importance of trusting and obeying God?  We need to gain two insights from this story.  One: Even when we may not be able to make any sense out of His commands to us to obey, there is ALWAYS  a purpose and a BENEFIT to us.  It was no small things— this disobedience of King Saul.  God is not interested in our ‘sacrifices’ until He has our ‘obedience’.  Saul’s failure to act put an entire race of people in very real danger.

Which brings us to the second insight:  the Messiah and Savior of the World, the one who would eventually pay for our sins is…. JEWISH!  He had to be, according to prophecy.  What would have happened if the Jewish race would have been wiped out by Haman the Agagite?  There would have been no Savior.  God’s plan (at least in theory) would have been ruined.  Of course it wasn’t… but do you see the importance of obeying our Lord in the details of life.