The Power of Proclamation

“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.”  Colossians 2:6-7 (NKJ)

“And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Rev. 12:11a (NKJ)

As I was finishing my evening devotions, I asked the Lord why we, as believers, have such a difficult time receiving the power He has given us to live out His purpose.  As I finished my reading, this thought came to mind, “You cannot claim what you do not proclaim!”  In other words, there is an apparent disconnect between what we mentally believe and how we personally walk out that truth in our lives.   We fail to make a personal proclamation.

Our failure to boldly proclaim and claim God’s power in our life may be as a result of choosing to operate independently, outside of God’s direction.  We may opt to follow the path of “diys”—do it yourself.  This may be a good approach in doing home projects but not in the advancement of one’s spiritual maturity.  Failed efforts are reflective of our failure to accept our own human imperfection.  In reality, what seemed to be the “best way” results  in failure to proclaim God’s sufficiency and failure to claim His desired outcome for our lives.  “For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago”       (Ep. 2:10, NLT).

Lack of success in our personal proclamation often stems from a lack of understanding and acceptance of our identity in Christ.  “In Christ, in Him, of Him” was used most often by Paul in his letters to the Early Church.  It describes our special union with Christ and the benefits we can “proclaim and claim” as a result of that union.  We are one with Christ, therefore what Christ has we also possess.  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ep. 1:3).

Satan desires that we remain “spiritually ambivalent.”  If he can silence our proclamation of the freedom and goodness to be found in Christ, he can continue his campaign of deception, disbelief, and disobedience in the believer’s life.  It is the proclamation of believers in Christ that will ultimately lead to Satan’s defeat (Rev. 12:11a).   In Christ, we have “redemption, righteousness and access”, just to name a few.  Once we better know who we are in Christ, we can boldly proclaim and claim His power and presence in our lives.

 Good to the Last Byte…

Using your Bible concordance, find scriptures that include “in Christ”.  Begin to see all the things we have and are becoming as a result of our special union with Christ.

A Call to Authentic Prayer

Power in Prayer“Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the LORD is coming, For it is at hand:  So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.”  Joel 2:1, 13 (NKJ)

On July 1st, Anne Graham Lotz launched a worldwide initiative entitled, “777:  An Urgent Call to Prayer.”   Followers of Jesus Christ are asked to “return to God, rend our hearts, repent of our sin, and cry out to God for mercy on behalf of our nation.”  Pray is the battle cry and weapon!   So during the 7th month (July) and on the first 7 days of July special prayers are lifted to God as we examine our hearts and the heart of this nation through the lens of prayer.

“Calling upon the Lord” in united prayer was frequently done in the Old Testament.  Israel’s kings often sought Jehovah’s favor when faced with threats from without and within (2 Chron. 14:11-12; 20:4-15).  Their prayers included fasting, confession of sin and immediate repentance.  Old Testament prophets not only spoke on behalf of God but also “cried out” (Daniel 9:1-19) on behalf of their countrymen.  Whether experiencing good times, threats of war, or even during times of exile, there was always someone who would pray for the restoration of God’s people.

It’s not unusual for the people of God to unite in prayer in response to national needs. Every year on the first Thursday in May, Christians join together for the National Day of Prayer.  In Kansas City, there are numerous ecumenical groups that lay aside their denominational differences to pray for the city (down to specific zip codes), the state, the nation, and the world.  These groups understand the power and purpose of prayer.  They “come boldly to the throne of God” consistently and expectantly (Heb. 11:6).  During both World Wars, leaders around the world would call upon their constituents to pray for the success of their military efforts.  America, during those times, gladly professed to be “one nation under God.”

Now, this July, believers are asked to respond to this “urgent call to prayer.”  There can be no greater calling!  My concern with Ms. Lotz’s initiative, however, is whether we, individually or collectively as a nation, will genuinely “return, rend, and repent”?  Will we rise from our knees truly repentant and committed to an obedient relationship with the Father or will we return to business as usual?  Are our prayers merely urgent but not authentic?

It is time for believers to undertake the gauntlet of prayer especially as we enter into these final days before the return of Christ (1 Thess. 5:17).  Prayer should not be seen as a last resort but instead the “indispensable necessity” for both spiritual transformation and social reformation.  As we enter into serious prayer we must prepare our hearts through true confession and earnest repentance “for godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10).   If we are to be fruitful in our prayer life, we must enter into it “soberly, humbly, and confidently” (1 John 5:14).   To begin this prayer journey, WordBytes invites you to join us as we focus this month’s teachings on the prayer-filled life.

Good to the Last Drop…

Learn more about 777:  An Urgent Call to Pray at the AnGel Ministries website.  It’s not too late to engage in the daily readings which will truly transform your thinking about prayer.

Redeeming the Time

 

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Ephesians 5:15-16 (NKJ)

“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.”  Colossians 4:5 (NKJ)

As a child, I remember going with my parents to shop for groceries.  Upon paying the bill, my mother would be given “redemption stamps” (equal to the grocery receipt) that could be later exchanged for household items, i.e., dishes, flatware, or cookware.  After saving enough stamps, we’d go to a local redemption center and trade in our stamps for our special selection.  My mother felt this was a great way to get the “most bang for her bucks”—groceries AND household items.  While stamp redemption worked well for my mother’s budget, there’s a different kind of redemption believers should pursue as they endeavor to accomplish God’s purpose for their life.  It’s redeeming the time.

The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible translates redeeming the time to mean “making the most of every opportunity.”  The meaning is further illuminated by Bible interpreters to mean “to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good, so that zeal and well-doing are as if it were the “purchase money” by which we make the time our own.”   (Thayer Lexicon)

In our Ephesians text, Paul reminded believers that they were no longer agents of darkness but were to redeem the time by being “light in the Lord” (Ep. 5:8).  Their new identity was to be evidenced by their fruit—goodness, righteousness and truth.  They were to walk “circumspectly, not as fools” (verse 15).  There is urgency in Paul’s message to the church at Ephesus because the “days were evil” meaning there was a general disregard for what was right while embracing that which was profoundly immoral, wicked, and depraved.  The days continued to be evil into the 21st century.

To the church at Colosse, Paul saw an opportunity for the Christian family to redeem the time.  Believers were advised to “walk in wisdom” (sophia).  This wisdom was very special in that it described a “skill and discretion in imparting Christian truth”.  It required “devout and prudence communication with men who were not disciples of Christ.”  The NIV rending of Colossians 4:5 states it more clearly, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”  In other words, Paul was speaking about “life witnessing” where the believer became the “living testimony” as to the life changing power available to individuals who enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Titus 3:4-6).

Today Paul’s use of “redeeming the time” draws attention to believer’s solemn responsibility to proclaim and practice Christ-centered principles in their home and in their community.  While society exchanges moral absolutes for what seems “right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6), believers must be “committed to God’s truth in every element of our lives as the separation between light and dark become apparent in the world and in our society.”  We are to redeem the time by renouncing world system standards and boldly proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ.  By redeeming the time, believers will become viable change agents” for Christ until He returns (2 Peter 3:11-12).

A Trilogy of Faith

“Then he touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.” Matthew 9:29 (NLT)

We live in a world of skepticism—doubt as to the truth of something.  Our skepticism is reflected in the phrases we often use to reflect our disbelief:  “If it seems too good to be true, it usually is”; “nothing is free—everything comes with price”; “if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck!”

Skepticism is not unique to the twenty-first century.  During Jesus ministry, many refused to believe He was the Son of God and the promised Messiah.   Doubt about Jesus was expressed in a local colloquium of that day:  “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)   Although all His actions supported who He was, there were those with hardened hearts who refused to believe.   Skepticism operates on the theory that certain knowledge is impossible.  Let’s explore three (3) situations where faith and belief defied both skepticism and the impossible. 

Matthew 9:18-29 records the healing of three individuals by Jesus—the ruler Jairus’ daughter, the woman with the issue of blood, and two blind men.    Three separate stories—a dying daughter, a decade of disease, and life lived in darkness.  Three situations viewed from man’s vantage point as impossible, irreversible, and hopeless.  The ruler and the woman, entered into their encounter with Jesus believing He was able to solve their dire situation; the blind men simply requested “mercy”, dependent on the integrity of the promised Messiah—His genuineness (He was who He said He was), His veracity (He could do what He said He would), His faithfulness (He would do what He said)—to make their healing a reality.   And how did they make their requests known?  The father humbly yet confidently asked Jesus to come.   The blind men called out and followed Jesus into the house.  The woman, disregarding the risk of discovery by the crowd (death by stoning) simply “reached out and touched”.  Jesus’ reaction was predictable, for no one will He ever turn away (John 6:37).  In response to Jairus, “He arose and followed Him” (verse 19); later Jesus cautioned Jairus to, “Be not afraid, only believer” (Mark 5:36).  To the woman with the issue of blood, Jesus gently spoke, “Thy faith has made thee whole” (verse 22).  To the persistent blind men, Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it (your healing) will happen.”  And their eyes were opened (verses 29, 30).

As believers it is important that when we approach God we come with an expectation of belief that He is the solution for whatever our impossible situation.  He will never turn us away. “He who comes to Him must believe He is (God, the Great I AM) and is a rewarder of those who diligently (sincerely) seek Him “(Heb. 11:6b).  These desperate characters in Matthew’s trilogy of faith earnestly sought Jesus knowing He would reward their belief with healing.  

As believers let us enter every personal encounter with God believing He can do the impossible.  Because of the integrity of God, we need never doubt nor fear.   Because of the love of God—His benevolence, grace, mercy and persistence—our faith in Him will enable us to stand fast in the most difficult of circumstances.  The characters in Matthew’s trilogy of faith exchanged their impossible situation for the God of possible (Mark 10:27).  That exchange is available to each of us who believe.  For with God nothing shall be impossible Luke 1:37). 

Stone of Help

 

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.  1 Samuel 7:12 (NKJ)

Although I have never considered myself a history buff, I must admit as I listen to hymns, I often wonder what the writer was thinking as they pinned words of encouragement and resolve, which is often the nature of hymns.  One of my favorites in time of challenge is “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson.  The challenge can be one externally generated or an internal struggle that I am facing.  Verse two is especially reassuring. 

“Here I raise my Ebenezer, Here there by Thy help I come

And I hope by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home

Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God

He to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood.”

In our study text we find Samuel, exercising his priestly role by raising a particular stone—Ebenezer which means “stone of help”.  Since the loss of the Ark of the Covenant, Israel had been intimidated and cowed by Philistine might.  Typically they reacted with fear to the news of impending warfare (v. 7).  But instead of taking flight, they solicited the aid of Samuel.  Samuel prayerfully “offered up” a burnt offering as atonement for Israel’s sins (Ps. 66:18) and then “cried out unto the LORD for Israel; AND THE LORD HEARD HIM” (v. 9).   The result of God’s intercession was victory.  Samuel then set up a stone reminiscent of other commemorative markers erected by Israel (Gen. 35:14; Josh. 4:9; 24:26) to pay tribute to God, apart from whom victory would have been inconceivable.  Samuel knew that the LORD would be Israel’s source of protection and defense, regardless of the enemy. The expression, “Thus far the LORD has helped us” means that the Lord was the one responsible for getting Israel to this point.  Would God not continue to do so?  Is this not also true for our lives?  Has it not been God who has safely brought us to this place today?   Will God not continue to do so as we repent and cry out for His deliverance?

Raising our “stone of help” is critical as we face the challenges of the 21st century.  In times of trouble, we tend to focus on the enormity of the problem rather than the greatness of God; we forget our true identity in Christ and transfer our trust to the fleeting security of a world that is fading away (1 John 2:17). We, like Samuel, must remember not only the things which God has delivered us from but also celebrate the place God has transported us to.  That place represents “God’s grace” for our life in that moment of need—peace, love, joy or provision and protection. 

Raising our “stone of help” will result in renewed confidence in the worst of circumstance; our confidence lie not within ourselves but in God.  Our God is dedicated to our well-being because we are His beloved children (1 John 3:1) and are of great value to Him (Luke 12:6).    Let us continually lift praises to God, our Stone of help, for His unfailing love and protection.  Thank you Father God for it is “Here by Thy help I come.”

Confusing Maturity for Complacence

Is He continually calling you out of sin (elementary) or is He empowering you to remain pure and lead others ill to holiness (maturity)? Is He continually telling you to increase your faith (elementary) – or are you using the faith you have to step out in the area of miracles, signs and wonders (maturity)? Is He continually reminding you of the infilling of the Spirit of Jesus you received at your baptism (elementary) – or is the Spirit in you collaborating with Him to change the world (maturity)? Is He continually reminding you of His resurrection power (elementary) – or are you living in it every day (maturity)? Is He continually reminding you that there is a judgment that will be eternal (elementary) – or are you living your life open before the throne of God (maturity)?

We all have become content with far less than what God has for us. It is no wonder that so many people approach Christianity as an obligation or even as boredom. We have lost the excitement of exploration with God in His Kingdom. When did spiritual maturity begin to mean that you don’t dance and leap for joy in His presence? Or that you must not show any physical signs of surrender and delight in worship? Or that you must only whisper in church? Who made these rules? Surely not God! Instead, He encourages His people to praise with abandon, with extravagant worship, with shouts, singing, dancing, demonstrations of love and adoration.

When Michal, David’s wife, saw him worshiping God exuberantly, she scornfully criticized him, embarrassed by his lack of dignity. The last word the Bible says about Michal is that she was barren the rest of her life. Besides the fact that she bore no children, there is a spiritual principle here. Our scorn of exuberant worship causes something to die within ourselves. Each time we criticize, we put to death our child-like capacity to be fully present with the Lord, without self-consciousness and without fear of man.

Question Him in your quiet time today. Ask Him what more He has for you. Ask Him to show you open doors. Ask Him to give you that child-like heart to live in awe and wonder at what He is and what He does. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) Ask Him for the desires of your heart!

What did the Lord say to you today?

  1. Is God speaking to your heart?
  2. Are you inviting Him to change your life and make you whole?
  3. What new potential blessing has He been prompting you to taste spiritually?
  4. What opportunities to be in His presence have you neglected?

Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)

Signa Bodishbaugh from Divine ConversationsThe Art Of Meaningful Dialogue with God

 

In God We Trust

“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. 

In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear.

What can flesh do to me?”  Psalm 56:3, 4 (NKJ)

There is much to fear as we look around today.  The daily news is replete with things that cause us to be “fearful”.  We face “tribulation and distress, persecution and famine; nakedness, peril, and sword” (Rom. 8:35); not to mention “pestilence that walk in darkness” (Ps. 91:6).  How are we to respond?  I offer you an alternative to fear—put your trust in God. 

The background for today’s Psalm can be found in 1 Samuel 21:8-15, where we are told of David’s escape to Gath, the stronghold of the Philistines, arch enemies of Israel.   The Philistines were well acquainted with David for he had championed the killing of Goliath of Gath when he was only a young shepherd boy (1 Sam. 17).   Since then, he had been anointed by Samuel the prophet as the heir apparent to the throne of Israel receiving praises from the people for his many conquests (1 Sam. 18:7).  However, those praises had resulted in a death wish from King Saul who now sought David’s life.  Now this young man runs for fear of his life to a place of even greater peril and sure death.  He now stands captured by his worst enemy, the king of the Philistines. 

Psalm 56 is identified as a song for the distressed.  We would agree that David was in distress.  We sometimes describe it as being “between a rock and a hard place.”   Like David, we sometimes find ourselves wedged between many rocks and brutal hard places.  Sometimes this happens as a result of others, like Saul, and other times it is the result of our own disobedience and waywardness.  In those times of distress and fear, we are to call out like David—“In God, I have put my trust.” 

I have put my trust” is translated in Hebrew, batach, which means “bold and confident”.  The description means to literally “throw oneself down, extended on the ground, upon his face.”    Can you imagine that picture?  David, literally throwing himself on the mercy of God, fully confident and bold; defiantly proclaiming, “What can flesh do to me?”  I wonder if his mind reflected back on God’s mighty hand of deliverance in his earlier battle with fear as he faced Goliath.  Did he recall the many times God intervened on his behalf as King Saul sought to capture and kill him?  His eye was not on the source of his fear but on the Deliverer of his soul. David’s spirit was humbled, cast down in full confidence and trust in Almighty God for his life—not the Philistine king.

As we face the many challenges of life that tend to shake the very foundation of our faith, let us “put our trust” in the one who is able to deliver us from all harm (Ps. 46:2). Remember those times that God stepped in to deliver you and bring you to a point of safety.   Exchange your fear for bold confidence (Ps. 20:7). Stretch out on “mature” faith, like David, and expect miracles, signs, and wonders.   Although we flippantly have inscribed on our coins, “In God we trust”, it’s now time to write upon our hearts the Psalmist’s words, “I have put my trust in God.”

 

The Subtlety of Sin

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“…And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”  Genesis 4:7 (NRS)

They say that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out to escape the danger. But, if you put a frog in the same pot filled with water that is cool and pleasant then gradually heat the kettle until it boils, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late.  Sin is like this illustration; unrecognized and underrated it will grow in strength until it’s too late. This week’s Lenten study will examine the subtlety of sin.

One definition of subtle is “to operate deceptively.”  Dr. Karl Menninger of the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas, wrote a book titled Whatever Became of Sin? In it he discusses from a psychiatrist’s point of view the tendency in our society to ignore sin, calling it by many euphemisms rather than recognizing sin for what it is.  By using this technique, sin becomes “socially acceptable.”   Therein is the subtlety of sin.

Sin is a riddle, a mystery, a realty that eludes definition and comprehension.  Perhaps we most often think of sin as wrongdoing or transgression of God’s law.  Sin, also includes a failure to do what is right.

From Judges to Kings, we see that Israel failed to do what was right and forsook the Lord who had brought them out of Egypt and established a covenant with them.  They first followed and worshiped the gods of the nations around them (Judg. 2:10-13). The water was cool and pleasant.  Sometimes they conceded to religious idolatry and paganism in exchange for political favors, agreements, and alliance.  The water was comfortably tepid.   Solomon attempted to serve both God and the Baals at the same time. He built high places for his “strange wives” (whom God told him not to marry).  Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant” (1 King 11:11).   Solomon failed to do the right thing.  The water was boiling and the frog was dead.

Like the frog caught in slow boiling water, mankind is currently exposed to sin deceitfully hidden in language and life style choices that will result in both alienation from God and spiritual death.  Like the kings of the Old Testament, believers are being tempted to accept sin under the banner of the “new normal” when in reality, it is nothing more than the same “old sin.”  Let us strive to combat the subtlety of sin by doing what God has told us is right!

 Good to the Last Byte…

The story of the frog in the boiling water is a warning against acceptance of social trends and values that are outside the will and plan of God.  Sin left unchallenged and unopposed will ultimately lead to death.   Let us “not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).

The Details of Redemption

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“Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

Colossians 1:12-14 (NKJ)

 

During my personal devotions this Lenten season, the scripture texts that resonate in my spirit deal with God’s gift of salvation.  Many times we quickly define salvation as “Christ’s death for our sins” but we would be better informed by understanding “the details behind His death.”  This week, as part of our Lenten season studies, we will explore the “details of redemption.”

Redemption (apolutrosis) is the purchase back of something that had been lost, by the payment of a ransom.   In the God’s plan of salvation, man was lost as a result of the entrance of sin into the world.  (Gen. 3)  Why was redemption required?  God’s holiness required that sin be “dealt with.”  God’s justice required a ransom to “redeem” for wrongdoing.  How was redemption to be accomplished? “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Heb. 9:12)  Who would redeem us?  “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself (Jesus Christ) likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”  (Heb. 2:14-15)

To further illustrate redemption, I offer this personal story.  I remember my parent’s “patient and tireless” love for me.  I especially remember their offer to assist me with my finances as I began my new career as an elementary teacher.  Like most young adults establishing themselves, I was indebted “to credit.”  My parents, after seeing me struggle would “pay off” my debt with my promise to limit my use of the credit card.  Well, a year later, I was back in debt.  My parents again, “made the offer to pay, I promised not to stray, but the debt would not stay away.”  This happened on many occasions, I’m embarrassed to say.   I finally had to decline their generous offer and learn to better manage my monies.  The point of this illustration is that my parents were willing to pay the debt to the creditors—my debt—a debt that they had no part in creating.

Likewise, God, our Heavenly Father, through His Son, has provided a way to eliminate our sin debt.  “Christ, who knew no sin, became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21) The debt against us is not viewed as simply cancelled, but paid in full. Christ’s blood is the “ransom” by which the deliverance of His people from the servitude of sin and from its penal consequences has been secured.   Why would God want to redeem man?  Because of His great love for us—we are His children and heirs to His kingdom.  He “patiently and tirelessly” loves us and desires that we would be free to realize all He has promised to and for us.  Just like my parents desired for me.

Good to the Last Byte…

Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians, that God “had delivered him, was delivering him and would deliver him” from all hurt and harm. (2 Cor. 1:9-10)  While Paul was speaking of God’s acts of protection and provision, He also acknowledges God’s ultimate victory over the power of sin.  God not only defeated Satan and sin but He annihilated it.   (Col. 2:15)

Celebrating Lent 2014-Barna Update

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Lenten celebration began on Ash Wednesday (March 5th) marking the beginning of a 40-day period of fasting, repentance, and spiritual discipline.  So what do people really do during the Lenten season?  Is this still the best way to prepare for Easter?  We’d like to offer you new insights into this holiest of seasons from the Barna Research Group.       Check it out  and let is know what you think in the comments below.   Hope you find it “insightful”.