Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Receive Power

 

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

This power Christians receive, about which Jesus spoke and Luke wrote, is nothing they can manufacture for themselves. Notice the verb “will receive.” The power comes from the Holy Spirit (God). God gives it freely to Christians. This power is part of God’s power and provides believers with the ability to do what God tells them. God gives the ability to do what He commands. This power is part of God’s ability; He can do anything and everything.

With the power of God in them given by God Himself, what was Jesus’ command to His followers? Jesus said Christians are to be witnesses. Witnesses see and hear what God does and says. Witnesses can attest to God's actions and words. Their statements—testimonies—give credence and more power (more punch) so people are more inclined towards believing about God and believing in Jesus.

In Acts 1:8, Luke recorded when Jesus said the Holy Spirit will give Christians the power and ability to serve Jesus by testifying about Him. God expects and empowers believers to hear, see, obey, and then tell other people about Jesus. He compels them by the Holy Spirit, who lives within them, to tell other people. As Christians grow closer to God, it becomes harder to disobey God—His conviction through the Holy Spirit and power within them—and their love for Jesus. Love for God (Father, Son, and Spirit) compels Christians to obey, act, and say what Gods commands, compels, and empowers them to do with His ability.

Understanding that the command, compulsion, and power to obey comes from God makes it easier for the believer to tell whom and go to wherever He leads easier. Love for God makes it easier each day to go further from our safe space, from family, and from friends. That love for God and from Him makes it possible to go far to be a witness about God and the gospel. It helps believers realize no matter where they are, God is already there and always with them. Going far away is easier when your love for God is greater than your love for yourself, your dreams and plans, your parents, siblings, grandparents, and your friends. When God is your everything, He becomes closer to you than these people and things; He becomes mother, father, brother, sister, and friend in your heart. A Christian does not leave these behind but finds that love for God fulfills the love you need.

This means going to your city (Jerusalem), your state (Judea), your country (elsewhere in your country, like Samaria), and the world are easier because of your love for God and His for you. Going and telling is easier because God empowers you with His ability. Witnessing about God is easier because no doubt exists in your mind that God compels and sends you. Obeying is easier because God’s love in you causes you to love the people you have not yet met. God’s love in you gives you immeasurable concern for their spiritual eternity and their lostness—lack of salvation and lack of relationship with God.

Christians’ love for God and people is immense due to their relationship with God and belief in Jesus, making sharing the gospel a necessity. You will stretch yourself so that all people listen to testimony about Jesus. Your relationship with God fulfills you completely, so you lack nothing - family, friends, home, power, purpose, hope, and future. God fulfills each of these needs; He becomes your everything.

What excuse do you allow to keep you from a greater relationship with God, a relationship that comes from obeying Him by being filled with His power and ability?

What excuse do you give for not witnessing about Jesus to people?

God wants to be everything you need. Do not let a human excuse keep you from the abundance of God and from God. Believe and bear witness about Jesus.


Thursday, May 16, 2024

Fruit or Fire

 

“He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes to make it even more fruitful.” John 15:2

This metaphor of pruning branches that Jesus used has an overarching idea most people would understand. God removes unfruitful people. He grows fruitful people so they will become more fruitful. God enables fruitful people to advance His purposes more.

To understand this verse better, we must understand why a fruit farmer would cut tree branches. Jesus plainly explained the first reason. Farmers cut off dead branches from a tree to cause healthy growth of the rest of the tree. Without cutting off the dead branch, the tree will continue to send nutrients toward the dead branch instead of extending its nutrients to parts of the tree that will grow. Cutting off dead branches leads to more growth in other parts of the tree. This illustrates the metaphor's beginning.

Pruning the healthy parts of a fruit tree has several benefits. First, it strengthens the tree. Where before the tree’s sap was to grow fruit, pruning allows the tree sap to make the branch harder and stronger. Instead of sap going to grow fruit, it goes toward growing the branch. Going through hardships can cause a person to grow stronger in his faith and relationship with God.

Second, pruning a healthy branch can improve fruit production and fruit quality. Pruning stimulates new growth—offshoots—so more branches grow. As a result, each of those branches produces fruit instead of just the unpruned branch growing fruit. God’s pruning of His child causes that person to grow in many areas, so new spiritual fruit and Christian offspring grow from that believer. Pruning grows a person’s relationship with God. The deeper relationship with God causes growth of spiritual fruit, like patience, wisdom, compassion, joy, and peace. The deeper relationship with God grows the quality of that fruit, causing a deeper faith, greater peace, etc. Growth from a closer relationship with God leads to sharing the gospel and a personal testimony about God more. These lead to other people believing in Jesus and His saving them. Pruning may cause brief pain mental, heart, and/or physical. This pain is worth it to see more people saved by Jesus and experience a deeper relationship with God.

Third, pruning a branch helps a tree become more pest and disease resistant. Pruning causes growth in strength and resilience. Like a person’s health, outside influences can cause a tree to grow stronger so the tree can withstand forces that would cause it to shrivel, produce less fruit, and/or die. God allows a person to confront challenges for growth, not destruction. By going through trials, like the burnishing of metals, God removes impurities from His children. His strength alone is how they withstand adversity. Christians can progress despite adversity. James, Peter, and Paul wrote about perseverance, endurance, testing, patience, and building Christian character in James 1, 1 Peter 1, and Romans 5:3-5. Trials, though unwanted, have benefits just like pruning healthy branches has benefits.

Fourth, pruning trees opens the tree canopy so sunlight can reach more limbs and fruit. For this reason, fruit trees are wide and not very tall. More sun causes more fruit to grow on the tree. Also, by pruning the canopy, fruit does not grow higher in the tree. This makes it easier to reach all fruit during harvest season. A person who knows the Bible can only withstand some storms or temptations. A person whom Jesus saves and who grows in his relationship with God through daily prayer, Bible study, meditation, worship, and obedience to Him has a faith that has grown deep and wide. Temptations, trials, storms, and disease might assail a believer and might cause him to stall in his growth, but these can cause growth in his relationship with and faith in God. These occurrences can strengthen a believer, cause new growth on branches, and result in the growth of new and larger fruit. The outcome of God's gospel is evident in one's life. People see the gospel’s impact on people around the strengthening and growing Christian as he shares his testimony and God’s gospel.

Without removing dead limbs on a tree, diseases and/or pests kill the tree or cause it to become stunted and produce minimal fruit. By pruning healthy branches, trees become stronger and produce more and better fruit. Pruning stops the spread of diseases and pests that could harm the fruit or the sap (testimony) in the tree. It allows more sunlight, which causes more fruit to grow and makes the branches more accessible to harvesters.

When we face trials and hardships, we can grow stronger and produce more and better fruit. Instead of growing stronger through trials, we can freeze up and then get hurt or killed. God prefers us to grow stronger and bear more and better fruit. He allows or causes things to grow our relationship with Him and our trust in Him. God allows hardships to confront us to prune the dead branches from our lives. We should aim to grow, so we ask God what He wants us to learn from our situations. God wants us to grow to trust Him more, to have a deeper relationship with Him, and to become more Christlike. He will send you through fires to remove impurities and strengthen you. When strengthened by God, you, too, can say, “No weapon formed against us will prosper” (Isaiah 54:17).

Fruit or Fire.

Faith or Fruitlessness.

Which do you choose? I pray you choose to grow in your relationship with God and to produce more and better fruit within you that leads to more fruit—Christians—for God’s kingdom.

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 54:17)

 (Bible verse picture from You Version Bible app)

Monday, May 6, 2024

EVERYTHING

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

Everything God has given us can and should be used for godliness and to grow us closer to godliness. How do we become godlier and do godly acts by using everything God has given us? We do it through knowing God who called us to be His children. God calls us by His glory and excellence.

Through these things, which can be tangible or intangible, like spiritual growth, mental understanding, and heart renewing, we have God’s precious and magnificent promises. We can see and experience God’s promises through His gifts of “everything” when we recognize that everything we have comes from Him. When we recognize this, we realize we are “partakers of the divine nature.”

Recognizing God’s hand in our receipt of what we have and are should lead us to gaze upon God, worship Him, and thank Him. Then it’ll cause us to grow into being more like Christ and using everything God has given us for His purposes so others will know about God and to give glory to God.

We can be partakers of God’s divine good gifts in everything He has and is giving us. We can escape the corruption of the world caused by evil desires because we are divine partakers of God’s gifts—everything—when we believe in Jesus and He saves us.

Be a partaker of God’s promises. Believe in Jesus and be saved.


Monday, April 29, 2024

Compassion and Reward

“Be careful not to perform your righteous acts before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven…But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1, 3-4)

Be careful not to perform supposed godly acts with manufactured and false compassion so that people will perceive you as righteous. If you act with false godliness, you will have no spiritual reward from your Heavenly Father. Your reward will be people's praise.

What did Jesus mean when He said, “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing?” Your left hand, in some Jewish teachings, denotes weaknesses. The right had, in some Jewish teachings, denote strengths. Jesus’ phrase here means do not let your baser intentions and emotions attach themselves to your intention of giving to help someone in need. Instead, let honorable intentions and emotions be your motivator. When honest intentions to motivate people occur, the glory and honor go to God. When baser intentions motivate giving charity, the desire of the person is to take the honor and glory for himself, not God. Do charity secretly, to avoid people putting you on a pedestal and not to become prideful. Instead, give honor to God, who told you to help the person and gave you the means to help him.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned against seeking greatness and receiving adoration. People should focus on God. Instead of seeking personal adoration, Jesus taught people to give secretly. Help a person discreetly. The heavenly Father, who sees what someone does in secret, will reward him. God’s rewards are heavenly and eternal.

Jesus taught how to give:

·       In secret, privately

·       With righteous intentions, to help the person and not highlight oneself.

·       Not to grow one’s reputation or receive honor.

Why should you give this way?

·       If you act intending to make yourself known as great, then earthly honor is all you will receive.

·       If you act in compassion, which comes from God and is good, and you shine the resultant thanks towards God, the One who gives all good things, then other people see God more than oneself and God receives the honor.

What will occur if you act godly?

·       God will reward you. Jesus doesn’t say in verses one through four what the reward will be. Verses thirty-three and thirty-four do. People, God’s creation made in His image, who revere and follow Him, can be certain that their good God will provide for their needs. Remember, God is always faithful to His word.

·       The reward for God’s people is His care now and forever. This promise is for everyone who believes in Jesus as their Savior and Lord.

Jesus concludes Matthew 6 with a promise. This promise tells of the reward for those who “do not let their left hand know what their right hand is doing.” He said,

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things (your needs) will be provided to you. So do not worry about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:33-34a).

Do godly acts of charity to help a person and honor God. God gives you the motivation in your new heart. He gives you the resources to help the person. Understand that God will provide all your needs, so follow as He leads you to love others, just as He loved and loves you.

 

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Tired Heart Seeking

 

“O unbelieving generation!” Jesus replied. “How long must I remain with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to Me.” Mark 9:19

When Jesus returned from the Mount of Transfiguration, he became exasperated with the people. He spoke with exaggeration and frustration. His words, “this generation,” referred to the people of that age. Jesus said that generation would never believe in him.

“How long must I be with you for you to have faith in me? No matter how much I prove myself or how long I stay with you, you will never believe. Lest the boy never experience freedom from his torment because you do not believe in me, bring him to me. I care about him because of his torment and because your faith will never be enough to lead to his healing.” This was the spoken and unspoken meaning of Jesus’ words.

The amazing thing in verse twenty is the contrast between the beings—human and spirit. In both Mark’s and Luke’s recording of this event, even before Jesus spoke, the demon thrashed the boy to the ground. The demon recognized Jesus as being the Son of God, who has authority and power to command and control him. The demon's belief about Jesus contrasts with the generation's lack of faith in Him.

In verse twenty-two, the boy’s father’s words to Jesus showed the lack of faith by that generation of people. He said to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion for us and help us.” A desperate father grasping for the last straw, the least possibility in his mind, for his son to have freedom from the evil spirit. This man may have exhausted his funds to see every doctor, the priest, and spiritual medium. Another chance for his son’s healing walked into town. This father heard whispers of a man named Jesus. He sought those who could direct him to Jesus, but he found only his disciples. With a loud sigh and deflation of hope, the father may have despaired. Then Jesus walked up to the clamorous crowd. The father’s hope rose. His eyes opened wider, and he sought Jesus’ attention. This father said to Jesus, “If you can, help us...”

Jesus’ response? Incredulity. Spoken and unspoken, Jesus said and may have felt, “How long must I keep showing miracles for these people to believe and be in a right relationship with God? Forever will not be enough time. They have hardened their hearts against me as the Messiah. They must choose to open their hearts and choose to believe in me. Anything is possible to him who believes!”

The boy’s father heard Jesus’ incredulity and exasperation. His hope increased, and he wanted to trust in Jesus. Jesus was the father’s last hope. The man acknowledged his small faith, yet desired belief. He was desperate for his son to be freed from the demon. The father said, “I do believe. Help my unbelief.”

Jesus rebuked the demon and demanded it leave the boy and never re-enter him.

Jesus clarified to the disciples that only prayer can expel such entities.

Jewish scribes argued with the nine disciples who didn't go with Jesus to the mountain. Nothing written in the Bible states these nine disciples had been communing with God. Instead, they stayed in town and became distracted by argumentative people. The disciples focused on defending against the scribes, not on the source of healing and wholeness.

The father, desperate and grasping at his last hope, wanted to believe. His cry, “Help my unbelief,” was his crying out to God for faith, who gives faith to all who ask of him. This father was praying. He recognized Jesus as his only hope and begged God to give him faith.

Jesus said, “This kind can only come out by prayer” (Mark 9:29). The father’s recognition of his own lack of faith led to his desperate cry of wanting faith. God gave him faith to believe in Jesus. God gave faith to the father when he opened his heart to him.

That day, Jesus did more than cast out a demon and make a boy well. He provided faith and hope to a man who had given up hope. This father and son met and experienced Jesus, the divine Son of God and Messiah. The disciples grew in their knowledge of, understanding of, and faith in Jesus. Mark omitted the scribes’ and crowd's faith in his gospel account. In his view, the crowd merely watched and listened.

Today, we each are part of one of these three groups: a growing disciple of Jesus, a desperate seeker of hope and faith, or a hardened and combative person.

Will you choose to grow in discipleship with Jesus?

Will you cry out to God to give you faith to believe?

Will you harden your heart more against Jesus and the salvation he offers to you each day?

It’s your choice. God will never force you to accept him or His forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life in his kingdom.