Great Commission


2 Corinthians 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He comfort to us enables us to comfort others and transforms us into His Christ-like fragrance

I love this time of the year when we celebrate Easter, a glorious day!  For Jesus, the week before His crucifixion and resurrection was filled with travel, teaching, great moments in prayer and also with fragrance.  Yes, fragrance.  “While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head…‘She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial.’” (Matthew 26:7,12)

As He prepared Himself for the greatest challenge of His life, the cross, His fragrance permeated His surroundings.  No doubt this fragrance blessed and comforted those who loved Him but disgusted those who were seeking to kill Him.  Because He was victorious on the cross and defeated death through His resurrection, we, too, can be victorious in our challenges and fill our world with His fragrance. 

@ 2 Corinthians 1
Sometimes we wonder why we go through the challenges we face.  Ultimately, God is concerned not so much about why, but with what we do with our challenges.  How do we respond to them?  “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (4-5)  In light of this, I have to admit that my flesh doesn’t really desire to be all that helpful to others in this way – I’ll pass on the trouble, but thank you for offering.

On the other hand, I also know the incredible joy that comes from comforting someone who is passing through a difficult place where I have been.  Solving the troubles of others may or may not be our task, but encouraging them with the hope of moving past their problems through our testimony is invaluable to them.  Acknowledging the presence of the Lord through all of our own troubles offers comfort and strength found nowhere else.  While I’m hesitant to ask the Lord to bring it on regarding troubleI’m confident of the abiding comfort He will give me when I need it most. In the process, I truly desire to share the fragrance of His comfort with others.

@ 2 Corinthians 2
“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.” (15) In the United States, we are excessively concerned about our personal fragrance, our smell.  I’ve visited several countries around the world where I dare say a more conscientious approach to personal hygiene would be welcomed, but Americans are extreme in this.  By the time I have finished grooming each morning, I am wearing no less than eight different scents, which more than likely contribute to my allergy problems.  However, Paul was speaking of a different kind of fragrance.

“But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.  To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom.  But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.  And who is adequate for such a task as this?” (15-16). Only those who are washed by the blood of Jesus, cleansed from the stench of sin’s decay, are adequate to represent Him by wearing His fragrance. To fellow believers, we are a life-giving perfume, but to the lost, we are a constant reminder of their need for cleansing.  Oh, that they would tire of the dreadful smell of doom and instead run to the cross, allowing His fragrant perfume to fill their lives.  I’m forever challenged to smell just like Him. 

Moving Forward: Through the eyes of the Spirit, I will look for those in need of comfort, sharing His comfort with them, wearing His Christ-like fragrance. 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 13-16

Mark 11-12 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He expects our lives to bear fruit for the kingdom

It seems that I have a knack for selecting the best fresh fruit at the grocery store, or at least this is what I’m told by family and friends.  I’m fairly certain this knack developed because I’ve been selecting fruit for about 150 years, but nevertheless, there are a few things that I look for when I’m inspecting fruit.   Weight plays a significant role in the selection – ripe fruit will weigh more for its size than what is expected because sugar increases the moisture content in the fruit making it weigh more.  Smell is important as well – no smell indicates that the fruit isn’t ripe and a moldy smell usually means it is overripe.  Well, I could go on, but much more important than my fruit selection is the lesson that Jesus taught His disciples about fruit inspection. 

@ Mark 11
“The next morning as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.  He noticed a fig tree in full leaf a little way off, so he went over to see if he could find any figs…Jesus said to the tree, ‘May no one ever eat your fruit again!’” (11:12-14)  These were interesting observations for the disciples who were following Jesus that day.  We might think that Jesus was very hungry to be moved to the point of cursing a tree for bearing no figs, but the symbolism speaks too loudly for us to imagine it as only about hunger.  From the fig tree, Jesus moved to the temple and cleaned it out, cleaned out the scam artists and thieves.  Those things not producing fruit that day were addressed.  The temple had lost its function as a house of worship, and the fig tree had lost its function as a food source, and both were rebuked.

In Matthew 7:16, Jesus explained about false prophets, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act…”  We often find ourselves as fruit inspectors of those who are professing Jesus as their Savior.  Through the years I have learned that any process of inspecting should always begin with me.  Am I showing the promise of fruit with my leafy show as a believer, yet bearing no fruit? Do I exhibit the fruit of the spirit in my life as well as the fruit of the harvest of souls?

A merciful Jesus may not curse me for my lack, but what have I done that marks me as a believer when I pray for anything in verse 24?  “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.  But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”  Forgiveness – the precursor to answered prayers! Having inspected myself with an honest heart, I can then evaluate the actions of others, and their legitimacy as a believer should the need arise – are they good fruit or bad fruit? 

@ Mark 12
With clearing out the temple and remarks after that, Jesus upset the religious folks that day. The Sadducees believed only in the Pentateuch, Genesis through Deuteronomy, and did not believe in the resurrection because it was not addressed in those scriptures.  After the Pharisees failed to trap Jesus about taxes, the Sadducees attempted to catch Him regarding marriage in Heaven.

Jesus’ response was our perfect example of how to handle what I call professional unbelievers.  These individuals attempt to dilute our message with questions regarding what they consider inconsistencies in the Bible or difficult passages we may not fully understand until we get to heaven.  However, just like Jesus, we are wise when we go directly to the heart of the matter.  He knew their real hang-up was the resurrection – His resurrection.

Regardless of the arguments presented to us, in reality, we are addressing the struggles that unbelievers have with accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Our best response is to sidestep the rhetoric and share the truth of the Gospel first.  We should never forget that there is an innate power to John 3:16 that convicts men of sin much more effectively than all of our debating or bloviating. When the dust settles, the Gospel will remain. 

Moving Forward: May I bear the fruit of the spirit as well as the fruit of the harvest, never disappointing my Jesus. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 1-3

Exodus 9-12 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Our merciful God offers us many opportunities to turn our hearts towards Him.

I’ve known some stubborn people in my life, but none the likes of Pharaoh. After the snake-swallowing event with Moses, I’m reasonably sure that I would have given in and let God’s people go! Bloody water, frogs, gnats, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness – obviously Pharaoh wanted to keep his cheap labor.

For a long time, I didn’t understand the scripture that said God hardened Pharaoh’s heart because this would definitely put Pharaoh at a disadvantage even if he had wanted to let God’s people go. However, I have come to understand that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God’s actions. I know many individuals who experience trouble in their lives because of their sins; and in blaming God for it, their hearts are hardened towards Him and His people. Jesus came to soften their stony hearts and bring healing and deliverance.

@ Exodus 12
The instructions the Lord gave to Moses regarding the Passover dinner preparations and the blood on the doorposts were detailed and non-negotiable. God was about to deliver from bondage all those who followed His instructions to the letter, and through their obedience, the sons of Israel were spared. “Pharaoh and all his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died.”(30) With the death of his nation’s firstborn sons and the wailing of his people, stubborn Pharaoh finally acquiesced – Israel was free to leave.

The story of the Passover dinner paints an interesting picture. “These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover.” (12:11) Dressed for dinner! How appropriate! With the wailing of the mourning Egyptians in earshot, the Israelites were told to dress for dinner and eat quickly as if ready to leave at any moment. And they did.

I view the church today in somewhat the same position. We are dressed for dinner with our lamps full, with His blood on our heart’s door and waiting for the coming of the bridegroom. We are expecting to leave at any moment! But within earshot, if we really listen, we hear the wailing. We hear the wailing of the lost souls of our world expressed in so many different ways, needing deliverance too.

The blood on the doorpost was only for the Israelites, but it was replaced at Calvary by the blood of the perfect lamb, the perfect sacrifice, and this blood is for everyone! How can we ignore their wailing, their cries for help? Better we roll up the sleeves of our dinner dress, seek out the lost and bring them to the table. Maître d’? Table for….all!

Moving Forward: With a soft heart this day, I listen for the wail, the cry of the lost, and invite them to come and dine with me.

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 26-31

Mark 9-10 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He welcomes all who minister in His name

When I’ve worked hard on a project from the beginning, knowing all the ins and outs of it, I tend to take ownership – it’s my baby! Others may come along to work on the project with me, but they always seem to do things differently. I have the tendency to think that without following my expertise, everything could be ruined. Most of us have felt this way at one time or another, and we’d almost rather go it alone. Because of this, we can somewhat understand the disciples’ hearts when newcomers on the scene started preaching about their Jesus.

@ Mark 9
“Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.” (38) He wasn’t in our group sounds cliquish and juvenile, but the disciples were more than likely concerned about protecting the name of Jesus. Perhaps they were questioning why this man wasn’t in their group? What group was he representing? What if he prays in a different style than ours? How will this affect our Lord?

Jesus was not terribly concerned about His reputation in His response. “Don’t stop him!” He said with emphasis. “Anyone who is not against us is for us. If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.” (39-41) To spread this Gospel, to reach the lost around the world, the disciples were going to need all the help they could get. Many of their encounters had been met with much opposition to the message of Jesus, but this man appeared to have faith in His very name.

We face this same issue in spreading the Gospel today. We need all the help we can get! The churches down the street or other ministries so often have a different style than we do in reaching the lost. Some are hard-sell, some are soft-sell and some, like us, get it just right. While we can appreciate the humor in that statement, why would we ever criticize a genuine move of God just because the method is different than to what we are accustom?

The criterion, according to Jesus, is not the style or method we use, but in whose name we are ministering. (39) Rest assured, He knows who belongs to Him and exposes charlatans and cons in due time. We all answer to Him directly, bypassing the opinions of others, and it’s His acceptance of our methods and results that have eternal value. So, I relinquish any ownership to the message of the Gospel and pray for all who minister in His name.

Moving forward: I’m thankful today for all who minister in the name of Jesus with pure hearts, regardless of style or method.

Tomorrow @ I Corinthians 15-16

Jeremiah 1-6 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He fills our mouths with words of hope for the lost

Artists are generally sensitive individuals. Having dabbled in oil painting through the years, I know that my best work is done when I’m not distracted and when I stay focused on the scene I’m painting. When I allow the beauty of the landscape or the drama of a scene that I’m painting to touch my heart, the feelings that are stirred end up on the canvas. They tell a story while leaving room for the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks, and that is the goal of any artist.

We begin the Book of Jeremiah today, a book filled with warnings and judgments from God for Judah and Israel through His prophet, Jeremiah. Fortunately, Jeremiah was a sensitive guy and an artist of sorts in the way he delivered God’s word. By using word pictures throughout the book, Jeremiah painted many pictures of warning for the Israelites, but sadly, they didn’t appreciate his work.

At only 20 years old, Jeremiah received this word from the Lord, “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.’ ‘O Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!’ The Lord replied, ‘Don’t say, “I’m too young,” for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!’ Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said, ‘Look, I have put my words in your mouth!’” (1:5-10) And so, the painting began…

“The heavens are shocked at such a thing…For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me—the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (2:12-13) Picture a dry and thirsty nation leaving a life-giving fountain of water for cracked empty pots in the ground, forsaking the true and living God for dead, useless idols. Jeremiah’s illustrations showed the shocking foolishness of Judah’s behavior.

Jeremiah painted pictures of the unfaithful wife, the thief, the crooked road and wayward hearts, stalking lions, destroyed vineyards, storms, playing children, plowed ground and so many more vivid pictures. All were painted by a yielded artist who used the words that God had placed in his mouth to tell the story of judgment that would come if Judah did not repent. Each picture was worth a thousand words, but at the moment, Judah wasn’t into art.

“My heart, my heart—I writhe in pain! My heart pounds within me! I cannot be still. For I have heard the blast of enemy trumpets and the roar of their battle cries.” (4:13) We would expect this anguish from the heart of one so tender towards God. Jesus had much the same response to the condition of Jerusalem in His day, “But as He came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, He began to weep. ‘How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.’” (Luke 19:41-42) However, all those who accept Him today joyfully celebrate the way to peace during this Easter Season.

Reading about the life of Jeremiah should be a wake-up call for us. For over 40 years he faithfully spoke the message God had given him although no one responded to it. Ever mindful of the task set before me, I am challenged to paint the picture and tell the story of Jesus to a world that is in much the same shape as the world in Jeremiah’s day. Will I be faithful regardless of the response? Am I so broken by all that I see around me that I weep for those without hope and those in need of a Savior? Before it’s too late…

Moving Forward: I pray today that I will share His message from a broken heart, painting a picture of hope for each lost soul. And as the Lord was with Jeremiah, I know He will be with me.

Tomorrow @ Mark 5-6

Isaiah 56-61 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has anointed us to bring Good News

Several years ago I was waiting in my car for my daughter to finish her music lesson and reading my scripture portion for the day that happened to be in Isaiah.  I was going through a difficult time, dealing with some minor health issues and also with some ministry challenges, and I remember saying, “Lord, can’t we do better today than Isaiah.  Come on!”

While Isaiah seems to be mostly about judgment, my reading that day happened to include Isaiah 61.  As I began to read the first verse, I felt His Spirit fill my little car, and before I knew it, I was singing the Word, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.  He has anointed me to preach Good News, Good News. To bind up the brokenhearted, to set the captives free, to deliver the prisoners from darkness and to comfort those who mourn.”  I sang it over and over again until my spirit was soaring with His.  I believe He gave me a song that day to highlight His mission and to remind me of my mission. 

@ Isaiah 61
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.  He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come…” (1-2)  These words in Isaiah repeated by Jesus in Luke 4 sent a shock wave through those gathered in the synagogue of Nazareth in Jesus’ day when, “He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them. ‘The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!’” (Luke 4:20-21)  This was how Jesus announced His earthly ministry.

Jesus did not complete the scripture in Isaiah which continued, “…and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.” (2) Most feel he stopped because the day of God’s judgment had not yet come, and the next time He came to earth would be the Day of Judgment.  Today we are living in the time of the Lord’s favor, the time the Lord has given to save the lost, the acceptable year of the Lord, the year of Jubilee!  This was His mission.

What did Jesus come to do?  Anointed by the Spirit of Adonai Yahweh, the Sovereign Lord, His mission was clear:  He came as Prophet to preach the good news, the gospel of the Kingdom, to all those who would humbly listen.  He came as Priest to heal the brokenhearted, all those who were broken and sought healing for body, soul and spirit.  He came as King to deliver, as only a king could do, all those who were held captive by sin and sinful enemies.  He came as Comforter to comfort all those who mourn.

This was His mission, and so it is ours as well. As Jesus was leaving this earth, He told His followers, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21-22)  Isaiah prophesied that those who accept the One who sends us will receive “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” (3, KJV) How can we help but share this good news!

On that day so long ago when the Lord gave me His song, He was reminding me of His mission, my mission.  He was encouraging me to not get bogged down with the challenges or heaviness of the mission, but to allow Him to breathe on me and receive help from His Holy Spirit.  We are not alone in our mission; He has anointed us to bring Good News. 

Moving Forward: All I can say today is, Holy Spirit, breathe on me and pour on the oil of joy. 

Tomorrow @ Mark 1-2

Job 17-18 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He put up security for our redemption

I have a friend who is a bail bondsman.  Being the gentleman that he is, he has never gone into great detail about his work, but needless to say, it is not a typical nine to five job.  When a defendant is in jail on criminal charges and desires to be released until trial, a hefty fee or bail is required as a deposit to ensure that the defendant will not skip town.  When the defendant is unable to pay this deposit and family and friends refuse to do so, a bondsman is contacted to pay the bail and serve as a guarantor that the defendant will appear in court.

It’s a risky business and some defendants jump bail, leaving the bondsman holding the debt, and we can understand why he or she tracks down the defendant. After all, the bail has already been paid! Poor Job understood this practice and was looking for a bondsman to free him from his jail of affliction and suffering.  Job was looking for his get out of jail free card. 

@Job 17
“Give me, O God, the pledge you demand.  Who else will put up security for me?” (3, NIV)  Job called on God to act as his guarantor, to pay what was necessary to free him from his miserable situation.  Who else will put up security for me? We certainly know that it wouldn’t be his friends who had already tried and convicted him, case closed.

While God abundantly blessed Job over the next many years, Job’s cry for a bondsman, for the everlasting bondsman, was answered some 2000 years later when Someone paid Job’s bail, not with money but with His very blood, Job’s guarantor. “For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time.” (Romans 3:25-26)  Amazing!

This reminds me of the old song, “He paid a debt he did not owe.  I owed a debt I could not pay.  I needed someone, to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song ‘Amazing Grace.’  Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay.” (G. McSpadden) These words sum up the freedom Jesus gave us at Calvary – we’re out on bail awaiting eternal judgment where the Judge will declare innocent all those who have received Jesus’ payment.

However, not everyone has honored Christ’s generous payment – there are so many bail jumpers. Just like the bondsman for the courts, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8)  Some would say it was risky business sending His Son to die for us, and we can understand why God has sent us to round up those who are running from their day in court.  Don’t they understand that the debt has been paid for them?   “And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation…We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)  My heart cries with Paul, “Come back to God.” 

Moving Forward: I can never thank the Lord enough for taking a chance on me!  I will, at the very least, help Him capture with His love all those who are running from Him. 

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 45-50

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