God’s Power


Luke 3-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Through the way we live, He sees our true repentance.  He gives the power of the Holy Spirit and His Word to counter the enemy’s attacks.

John the Baptist certainly had a unique style of ministry. “When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes!  Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented.” (3:7-8)  Wouldn’t that approach draw the crowds today!  Perhaps he was dining on too many locusts and not enough wild honey, and, of course, camel hair can be so scratchy. (Matthew 3:4)

Actually, this voice in the wilderness, filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, discerned that many had come to hear his message simply to escape eternal punishment, as if he were a lucky charm.  He was looking for true repentance of sins and a changed life. John told his listeners to prove that they had repented by being generous, honest and kind to one another at the very least. (3:10-14) Great advice from the wilderness evangelist!

I’ve always known those who consider church-going their lucky charm, keeping the Big Guy happy with them, but never allowing His power to change their lives.  Because God loves their souls, He often allows challenging situations to occur in their lives to get their attention and to turn their hearts toward Him.  This is when we are able to step in to encourage and undergird them with generosity, honesty and kindness expressed by John in Chapter 3.  Time and time again I’ve seen those out on the fringe of God’s grace turn to a true relationship with Him.

It’s interesting to note that while Jewish Matthew’s genealogy only went back to Abraham, Luke the Greek went all the way back to Adam, proving once again that Jesus, our elder brother, is related to all mankind.  Luke’s love of details blesses me. 

@ Luke 4
I wish I could say that our walk with the Lord is paved only with wonderful moments, but that wouldn’t be true.  Fresh out of the carpentry shop at age 30, Jesus was baptized in water, filled with the Holy Spirit and started His ministry in the wilderness with a full-fledged frontal attack by Satan.  And sometimes we think we’re having a bad day!

The record of this encounter is filled with many truths about the Kingdom of God, but two of them stood out today in my reading.  Satan had been successful in his temptation of Adam and Eve, and the failure of Jesus would certainly have been a plus for him.  However, even trying to tempt Jesus proves one glaring fact:  Satan does not know the future.  Although he often confronts us with fears and outcomes that sound prophetic in nature, he’s just guessing!  He is offering what he wishes to be true; and just like Jesus did, we should resist him.

How did Jesus resist him?  By quoting scripture!  The two-edged sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon in our armor against the enemy. (Eph. 6:17)   When He was under attack, Jesus did not hesitate to bring out His Sword to take down His attacker.  We keep our weapon sharp and ready for use by our daily attention to the Word and its application to our lives.  The enemy knows scripture too, but Satan’s misuse of scripture in his encounter with Jesus left him powerless – knowledge without relationship is futile.

Being the slow learner that he is, the enemy will make many attempts to bring us down just as he tried with Jesus, but armed with our fine-tuned weapon and filled with the Holy Spirit, we are invincible!  “Submit yourselves, then, to God,” is the often neglected part of James 4:7; submit first to Him and to His Word, then, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (NIV)  Armed and dangerous! 

Moving Forward: As I carry with me His Word today, I face the day armed and dangerous against any attacks. With generosity, honesty and kindness – proof of a changed life – I will undergird and encourage those that He is drawing into true relationship with Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 11-13

Luke 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Filled with unexplainable love for us, He sent His Son to us

Details, details, details! Women especially love details, and the Book of Luke is loaded with them.  Because most of the women in Luke’s day were uneducated, I’m fairly certain he wasn’t writing to accommodate the female reader.  His detailed accounts of the life of Christ more than likely resulted from his profession as a doctor.  Luke’s life had been filled with accuracy, details and careful observations, and we are blessed by what he has added to our understanding of scripture because of this. He talked with eye witnesses, many believe he interviewed Mary, and “carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” (1:3) As a Greek, Luke was the only known Gentile author of the New Testament, but his love and devotion to the Lord was evident in both of his books – Luke and Acts. 

@ Luke 1
“Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.” (6-7)  Gabriel, an angel of the Lord, appeared saying, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.”(13)

I’ve tried to imagine a visit from the angel Gabriel, and I would like to think that after I picked myself up off the floor, I would believe all that he had to say.  Zechariah, however, doubted the angel’s message because of the sheer impossibility of it all. This obviously offended Gabriel and he made Zechariah mute, temporarily.  Physical limitations clashed with the power of the living God.  I’ve often wondered if it offends the Lord when we pray for something to come to pass, and when it does, we are completely shocked.  Thankfully, He forgives our faltering belief and does the extraordinary any way.

On the other hand, Mary’s reaction to Gabriel and his news that she would bear God’s son was different.  News that she would be an unwed pregnant teenager was not met with resistance.  As a virgin, Mary must have been confused by Gabriel’s message, but she responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (38) The miracle pregnancy of her relative, Elizabeth, did more than provide the forerunner to Jesus, but also added credibility to the miracle that Mary was experiencing and must have encouraged her in the weeks ahead.  “For nothing is impossible with God,” declared Gabriel. (37)  Nothing is impossible with God!

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the meeting between Elizabeth and Mary.  Two miraculously pregnant women – emotional, joyful, wondering, and awestruck – bring out the tissues!  Two observations have always blessed me in this meeting.  “When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.”  Now, how could a soul-less, unborn, useless fetus be filled with the Holy Spirit (15) and respond with such emotion?  David explained it so beautifully, “You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.  You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:15-16)  As a society, how can we be so bold to tamper with God’s plan?

Then came Mary’s beautiful Song of Praise.  Knowing she would face ridicule, disbelief and disdain for her explanation of this pregnancy, Mary submitted herself to God with a song of praise on her lips.  “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (46-47) Jesus left heaven’s splendor and came to this world for us. I can’t help but rejoice with Mary at His goodness.

When Zechariah was finally able to speak, he eloquently expressed, “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (78-79)  And I sing with Mary, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” 

Moving Forward: How can I do anything today without praises in my heart for His amazing love and grace?  He came, He conquered, He reigns in my heart. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 9-10

Job 35-36 (NLT)

Discover His heart:   He uses our challenges to teach us and help us grow

Shortly after surviving the terrible twos when raising our children, we enter the world of Why?  Why do I have to brush my teeth? Why do I have to eat my broccoli? Why do I have to go to bed?  Why do stars shine? Why, why, why?  When my grandson, Kai, entered his twos (not terrible in the least bit) his inquisitive mind jump-started right into the world of why.  Is it ever okay to say that I just don’t know why? It was a long year, but we loved every minute of it.

This ritual seems to be the way we accumulate knowledge in our early years, and sometimes that nagging why continues to plague us even into adulthood. We just can’t seem to get past why things are happening to us.  Most of the great leaders in the Bible asked God why at one time or another, but Job seemed to be stuck there. At some point along the way we all learn that the real question is not why, but what. 

@Job 35
When we’re making every effort to live right, resisting things that we would like to do in order to remain pure yet pain and suffering come our way, we’re attempted to share Job’s dismal outlook.  What’s the use of it?  If we continue to wallow in this opinion, we give the impression that we are more correct about our circumstance, more righteous than God in how it should be handled. Not good. Just like Job, we may not have the full picture of our situation, but God most certainly does.

Elihu raised an interesting point, “If you sin, how does that affect God?  Even if you sin again and again what effect will it have on Him?  If you are good, is this some great gift to Him?  What could you possibly give Him?” (6-7) Elihu was right in saying God is neither damaged nor improved by our behavior, but He failed to say that God is blessed by our praise and grieved by our disobedience. 

@ Job 36
“God is leading you away from danger, Job, to a place free from distress.  He is setting your table with the best food.  But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged.” (16-17) In his dissertation, Elihu was attempting to stop Job from focusing on why he was suffering and why other, more evil people, were not.  Self pity never serves us well.  He wanted Job to learn what God was trying to teach him through his suffering.

When it’s all said and done, I’ve found it’s always better to ask the Lord what rather than why when I am going through a challenging situation because it usually shortens the length of my discomfort.  What can I learn through this suffering?  What lesson will help me move forward to the other side?  Job’s what was right around the corner in Chapter 38.

Look, God is all-powerful. Who is a teacher like Him?  No one can tell Him what to do, or say to Him, ‘You have done wrong.’  Instead, glorify His mighty works, singing songs of praise…Look, God is greater than we can understand.” (22-26)  Some good advice from Elihu at this point.  When I am in that holding pattern, with few answers and little direction, one thing I can do is glorify His mighty work in my life, thanking Him for all His blessings in days past.  I can sing songs of praise to Him, expressing my love for Who He is and for His power to deliver. 

Moving Forward: I will praise Him today through my circumstances, opening my heart to what He is longing to share with me.. 

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 27-31

 

2 Samuel 5-9 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His Holy Spirit dwells in us

When I read the story of Uzzah and the Ark, I always think of the first Indiana Jones movie.  Indiana’s arrogant archaeologist rival opened the Ark of the Covenant and then melted into the floor because of the power it contained.  The hero was spared because he respected its power and refused to look on it.  No doubt the author and filmmakers had read some scriptures and took some liberties, but the story does give us pause to consider the unfathomable power of God. 

@ 2 Samuel 6
“…the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God…God struck him dead because of this.” (6-7)  Frightening.  Uzzah’s motivation was to be helpful, but his action was careless, as was David’s.  Had David followed God’s law in moving the Ark, on poles carried by Levites, Uzzah would never have had to make the choice he did.  It seems that both men in their enthusiasm to move the Ark to Jerusalem failed to reverence its power source.

After Uzzah’s death, David understood the power connected to the Ark and was afraid to have this power source with him in Jerusalem.  Had I been present in the procession that day when David was determining what to do with the Ark, I’d like to think I would have been waving, jumping up and down and calling out, “I’ll take it!  I won’t touch it!”  Can you imagine the very presence of God dwelling in your home?  Blessings for your entire household?

Oh!  That’s right!  His Spirit does dwell with us!  Once we are purified by the blood of Jesus, we house the very Spirit of God, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” (I Corinthians 6:19)  We are not reduced to puddles on the floor in His presence because without this purification, we could never host the Holy Spirit in our homes and experience His wisdom and power in our lives.  But do we really understand the Power within us?

Sometimes I forget the magnitude of hosting the Holy Spirit in my home, and wonder how often I fail to reverence its power source.  Today it’s not a problem of reaching out to touch it as with Uzzah, but it’s more a problem of failing to touch it.  So often I face a challenge, fix this or that problem and carry its stress all by myself when the power source of all Heaven is dwelling in me. “And the Holy Spirit [dwelling in us] helps us in our weakness…pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” (Romans 8:26-27)

Perhaps our lack in trusting and using this powerful Source within us is a form of disrespect as well.  Because of God’s grace through Jesus Christ, we may not experience a physical meltdown, but we may go through an emotional or spiritual meltdown even though this great power to overcome all challenges is available to us.  With a purified heart, we have no need to fear an Uzzah experience.  The Spirit is on our side and waiting to help us.  Go ahead, reach out and touch Him! 

Moving Forward:  Unafraid, my heart sings for more, “More Love, More Power, More of You in my life. I will worship You with all of my heart…” (J. Del Hierro)  Blessings for my entire household! 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 51-53

Exodus 13-16 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Remember His power to deliver

Several years ago my uncle did a great favor for me and my siblings and cousins.  As a gift to our grandparents, he officially documented their passage through Ellis Island to the United States when they arrived from Italy over a century ago.  Because of this, I was able to visit Ellis Island a few years ago and view the record of their entrance and see their names inscribed on the American Immigrant Wall of Honor.  It was a touching moment for me as I remembered the courage of my young grandparents as they embarked on a journey of new discoveries that certainly affected the course of my life.  It’s good to understand and to remember our heritage. 

@ Exodus 13
“And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’  Then you will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery.’” (13:14)  Immediately after the escape from Egypt, God gave to Moses some instructions for the Israelites in light of their new-found freedom:  give your first-born sons to God because He spared their lives in the escape from Egypt and buy them back through the sacrifice of a young lamb or goat.  I would imagine the children in the future would certainly want to know what that was all about.  It was about remembering, remembering all God had done, “This ceremony will be like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. It is a reminder that the power of the Lord’s mighty hand brought us out of Egypt.” (16).

This story causes me to wonder if I have adequately shared with my children the story of my deliverance from slavery, the slavery of sin, and the day the Lamb was sacrificed in my stead.  What happened that day to draw me to Him?  Where did it occur?  How did I feel?  Remembering…forever marking their hand or forehead in remembrance of His great power to deliver, and one day passing it on to their children and their children’s children along with their own stories of deliverance.

“The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and He provided light at night with a pillar of fire.” (21) A pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire to guide their every step!  Come on!  How could they go wrong?  But they did.  We may think that if we had a visible guidance from God like this we would never take a misstep. But then, we do have His guidance.  We hold in our hands the Bible, the tangible Word of God that brings guidance and direction through the work of the Holy Spirit to direct our lives and keep us on the right path. How could we go wrong?  But we can.

Just like the Israelites, we may take for granted the wonderful gift of His direction regardless of how it comes to us, or we may look for a new word, possibly a word with a face.  But for certain, remembering how He has directed His people in the past through the living Word of God and remembering how He has led us will help to keep us on the right path.

@ Exodus 14
As the 2 million Israelites stood wedged between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, panic ensued.  In verse 11 they cried, “Why did you make us leave Egypt? We said, ‘leave us alone!’”  Huh?  Had they already forgotten the miracle night of their escape?  “But Moses told the people, ‘Don’t be afraid.  Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.’” (13)  And of course, He miraculously rescued them that day, split that sea wide open and they crossed on dry ground.

What wonderful words for us today!  Regardless of how tightly we are wedged between our challenges with no obvious way out, we can remember, “Don’t be afraid.  Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today.” 

Moving Forward: Today I remember the story of my deliverance, retelling it to my children, and look to my pillar of cloud and fire for guidance – the Living Word.  Unafraid in my circumstances, I will just stand still and watch… 

Tomorrow @ II Samuel 1-4

Job 25-26 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He captures our attention with His Almighty power

The other night I heard the loudest and longest rumble of thunder I had ever heard, loud enough to jolt me to my feet out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night. It took quite some time for me to relax back to sleep, but in the process I remembered a little dog we had at one time who was terrified of thunder. At the first clap, he was under a table, behind a sofa or under my feet, and he shook so badly that he could have been used for a back massage. Poor thing.

Thunder in and of itself doesn’t hurt us, but it definitely gets our attention. It announces the presence of storms that are sometimes powerful enough to change the landscape around us. Thunder is mentioned many times in the Bible, most often in respect to the most powerful entity in the Universe – the power of God.

@ Job 26
After being compared by Bildad to a maggot and worm in his insignificance, Job still had the presence of mind to deliver a beautiful portrayal of the God of creation and the earth’s reaction to His power. “God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. He wraps the rain in his thick clouds, and the clouds don’t burst with the weight. He covers the face of the moon, shrouding it with his clouds. He created the horizon when he separated the waters; he set the boundary between day and night. The foundations of heaven tremble; they shudder at his rebuke.” (7-11)

The eternal – always was and forever will be – God accomplished all of this in just a blink of His time, “These are just the beginning of all that He does, merely a whisper of His power. Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of His power?” (14) Earth, sky, moon, oceans, day and night, animal, mankind – merely a whisper of His power. Job was asking, “Who could even imagine His thunder?” There isn’t a place hidden enough, deep enough or safe enough to stop our trembling at the thought of the thunder of His power. In light of this, I am sometimes in awe that I would find it necessary to advise the Lord on how He should handle any given situation. I mean, really.

I believe God has manifested to us the thunder of His power on this earth to a measure. And even still, I can’t comprehend it; I can’t grasp the enormity of it. “At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’…Then Jesus shouted out again, and He released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart and tombs opened.” (Matthew 27:45-52) The thunder of His Redemption power! I think I hear a rumble…

“Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it…‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as He said would happen.” (Matthew 28:2-6) The thunder of His Resurrection power! His thunderous power has rumbled through the centuries to save our sinful souls and to give us eternal life with Him. And with His thunder He captured not only our attention, but He has captured our souls!

Moving Forward: I can’t understand the power that changed my life and enables me to sit in His Presence, but it is as real as the earth spinning through the Universe and the moon hanging in the sky – so thankful today for the power of the cross.

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 1-6

Mark 3-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He speaks peace to the storms of life

The thing I remember most about the movie The Perfect Storm is the irritation that started to build in me as I watched it.  Anytime money and/or greed determine the destiny of an individual, life takes a bad turn in one way or another.  I was irritated that the storyline made me care for the willful crew of the Andrea Gail and for the loss that would occur.  Commercial fishing is a fickle business, dependent on weather, sea and fish, all of which are out of the fisherman’s hands.

The Captain and crew didn’t know about the catastrophic storm that was brewing when they started out.  When they learned of it, they chose to put themselves at the mercy of the storm in hopes of saving their catch instead of seeking safe harbor.  Grrrr….  Some fishermen in our story today found themselves in the perfect storm, but instead of riding it out alone, they ran for help. 

@ Mark 4
“They took [Jesus] with them in the boat…A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’  He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.  He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’  And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (36-41, NRSV)

Several years ago I happily found myself in a boat on the Sea of Galilee…without a storm.  It was hard to visualize a treacherous storm as I sat on the calm water, but our host described the nature of this Sea.  Encircled by mountains and hills, the Sea of Galilee sits at 680 feet below sea level with somewhat shallow waters for a body of water this size, making it aptly conducive for a sudden, perfect storm. This was the situation the disciples found themselves in that night.

It was no small rowboat that carried the crew across the Sea.  It was large enough to hold 12 men and provide space for Jesus to stretch out for a nap, and most on board were not novices at sea – they were seasoned fishermen.  To find them in a panic speaks to the fierceness of the storm they were facing, but they soon learned that no storm was too fierce for the Lord.  Although their fright revealed a lack of faith, as least the disciples knew where to go to for help!  “The disciples went and woke Him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’” (Matthew 8:25)

We may find ourselves in a situation that feels like the perfect storm, out to destroy us; but as with the disciples that night in the boat, our storm is never too fierce for the Lord to save us.  When we follow the Lord, we are never at the mercy of the storm.  We are at the mercy of Jesus, the peace speaker.  And when we run to Him in our storm with its raging winds and torrential rains crying “Lord, save us!“, we will not drown.  He will speak peace to our storm, and if we’ll let Him, He will fill our hearts with peace as well.

We may sense the storm still raging around us, but it’s as if He places us in the calm of the storm, the eye of hurricane, if you will.  Our hearts are filled with peace, and we are in a place of safety until the storm dissipates.  When we’re facing life’s storms, it’s easy to forget that we are not alone in the boat.  Right there with us is the peace speaker who will speak to our storm, Peace! Be still!” 

Moving Forward:  Who then is it that even the wind and the sea obey him?  “I know the Peace Speaker, I know Him by Name.  I know the Peace Speaker, He controls the wind and the waves.  When He says, ‘Peace, be still,’ they have to obey. I know the Peace Speaker, Yes, I Know Him by Name.” (Geron Davis/Meadowgreen) 

Tomorrow @ I Corinthians 9-10

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