Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Relevant Worship Musters Powerful Warfare Against Satan

Scripture: 1 Peter 5:8-9
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

Insights:  Today’s verses reveal to us the cosmic spiritual battle that is going on around us.  We have an enemy and he is the devil.  Notice with me that this adversary is prowling around like a lion seeking someone to devour.  If you have ever watched an animal documentary on lions, you can visualize how they prowl around.  They are sneaky and quiet.  They wait for the most opportune time in which to pounce on their prey and their attack is vicious and fierce.  It is for these reasons that Peter warns us to be sober and alert.  We need to understand that we are on guard against this foe, but this foe has no real power over us if we are firm in our faith.  The way we remain firm in our faith is by drawing near to God and I would add the words “in worship” to that idea.  The reason I would add this qualifier is because as we have been discussing worship over these past many weeks we have learned that real worship gets our focus off of ourselves and onto God.  There is a second truth I want you to recognize from these verses.  The fact is that these attacks from satan often result in our experiencing suffering, but we ought not be surprised by these difficulties.  The reason we ought not be surprised is because our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing the same kind of assaults as we are presently undergoing.  I will give you a clue as to how we resist the devil and draw near to God.  The clue can be found in yesterday’s Thoughts by Scott blog—we pray!  Seek the Lord in prayer and run to Him in the battle.  If you will do this, then satan will have to flee from your defenses in Christ.  To God be the glory!

1.  Are you aware that you are in the middle of a cosmic battle and that you have an adversary who hates you?
2.  How well do you resist this enemy?

Prayer: Father, in my own power I am incapable of resisting the devil.  In Christ, however, I am strong and able to stand firm in the faith with which He gives me my His grace.  Help me to walk valiantly for You.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Relevant Worship Maintains Prayerful Worship for Others and Self

Scripture: 1 Peter 5:6-7
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

Insights:  These verses continue the necessity for one to be humble of heart that we learned about yesterday.  In today’s verses we find Peter admonishing these believers also to be in prayer to the Lord.  Now it is true that no where in these verses is the word prayer actually used, but the concepts is clearly being communicated.  Taking these two ideas, humility and prayer, let’s look at what happens to one who is truly humble under God’s mighty hand.  What we find is this person is able to trust God to exult them at the proper time.  Until that proper time, however, this humble believer is commanded to cast their anxieties or concerns on to the Lord.  I think the last part is the most significant in these verses and here is what I mean by that statement.  The last part tells us that God cares for us.  In other words, because God cares for us and He is always faithful, we can trust Him with our concerns, worries, anxieties, doubts, fears and whatever else we might bring to the table.  God is a trustworthy God.  It is with this premise, Beloved, that I admonish you to develop a strong and healthy prayer life.  As we pray to the Father and see Him work in the midst of our lives as a direct result of our prayers, our faith is strengthened.  As our faith is strengthened we are able to trust Him even more.  The more we are able to trust Him the more we talk with Him.  The more we are talking to Him the more we are truly worshipping Him because our focus is completely on Him.  There are seasons in our lives when talking with God is harder than at other times.  Let me encourage you to pray even in those difficult times when it seems that God is not listening to you.  I promise you, because He is always faithful, He is listening.  He is evening answering your prayers His way and in His time.  Learn to trust Him because often times in those moments of silence God is preparing to reveal more of Himself to you and it is worth going through those seasons of silence.  Trust Him, cast your anxieties on Him, and watch Him amaze you.

1.  How well do you cast your cares on Jesus in prayer?
2.  Have you come to realize the significance your prayer life has on your worship of the Lord?

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving to me the gift of prayer.  To think that You, the Creator of the universe, desires to communicate with me is often times overwhelming.  I am grateful beyond compare.  Thank You, O Lord, my Savior.  Amen.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Relevant Worship Dismantles Proud Worship

Scripture: 1 Peter 5:5
You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Insights:  As you read today’s verse I want you to keep in mind the context of this verse.  When Peter is writing about these elders over the young men he is not talking about people with gray and white hair.  In the first four verses he has informed us that he is referencing the church leadership, and like with Timothy, that leadership is often young men who are full of faith.  The point, however, is not who the elders in the verse are, but rather the attitude of the heart.  The issue is about one having a humble heart.  To those who are proud and unwilling to be submissive, God stiff arms them and keeps them at bay.  When we worship the Lord, however, our focus is turn off of us and turned onto Him.  When our focus is correct we are able to truly be humble at heart and not proud in our own estimations.  When we are humble and no longer proud of ourselves, then we are able to subject ourselves to the leadership the Lord has placed us under.  When we are able to submit in this fashion it pleases the Lord and He helps us to be more joyous in our exuberance of His grace and glory.  When we experience His favor and pleasure it helps compel us into a heart of worship and the cycle then continues.  Beloved, if for some reason you are not willing to humble yourselve, then let me challenge you to start looking at those individuals with which the Lord has placed you under and begin actively seeking the good attributes these individuals possess.  Even the worst of leaders possess some good trait.  It could be as insignificant as they at least take a shower before coming to work and they smell nice.  From this simple beginning begin asking the Lord to open your eyes to the other positive traits about these leaders.  Begin asking the Lord to change your heart about these leaders and as you do these two things, you will be amazed at how the Lord changes you.  Before you know it, you will be more humble and submissive at heart.  May you then point to God and His glory for all He has done in your life and in the life of the leader with whom you have submitted.

1.  Do you do well at humbling yourself before authorities in your life?
2.  If not, what do you think is the cause of this haughty spirit that prevents submission?

Prayer: Father, all too often I am arrogant and proud.  Forgive me for this proud attitude and grant me Your grace to humble myself before You and those in authority over me.  Amen.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Relevant Worship Models Proper Worship for Others

Scripture: 1 Peter 5:1-4
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Insights:  This week we wrap up the book of First Peter.  We have been learning the practical side of worship in every aspect of our lives.  We titled this practical worship as being relevant.  As we come to this final chapter in some ways it is a summary of the meaning of the entire book and the in this first part of the chapter we find Peter addressing the leadership of the church specifically.  It is true this section is written to the elders, shepherds, overseers or pastors.  These terms are often interchangeable in the New Testament.  I explained to FBCBG that even though these verses deal specifically with this positional leader, the principle being taught is true for us all.  Peter was telling them they need to be examples or models for those weaker than they in the faith.  In other words, these leaders needed to mentor and help younger believers to grow in their faith.  Another word we use for this process is called discipleship.  Unfortunately, somewhere in recent history, discipleship became a class and not a lifestyle.  We need to return to the days in which ministry was not done alone or in a class room, but in everyday life with a younger believer watching and observing a more mature believer live out their faith.  Then at some point the younger believer doing what they observed in the more mature believer and the more solid believer giving instructional feedback to the younger believer.  Eventually the younger believer would be able to do the work properly and the elder believer would encourage them along the way, but would have them go and model the very same principles to a new younger believer.  Beloved, look for ways and ask for the Lord to put someone in your life that can be a mentor to you.  At the same time, pray for the Lord to put someone in your life with whom you can invest and help them grow in their faith.  To God be the glory!

1.  Do you have a mentor in the faith?
2.  Do you have someone with whom you are personally mentoring?

Prayer: Father, thank You for those individuals You have placed in my life that have helped mature me in my faith.  Grant me the grace and wisdom to know the best way to mentor those with whom You have placed in my path.  Amen.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Have You Embraced the Lord Personally?

Scripture: John 20:17-18
Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’ ”  Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.

Insights:  On Monday I indicated that we would discuss God’s standard a little more this week.  In today’s verse we see that standard come to light.  God’s standard is perfection, which is why He required a perfect sacrifice to be made for us and that sacrifice was His Son, Jesus Christ.  The reason God was willing to pay such a price for our salvation was because of His love for us and His desire for us to have an intimate relationship with Him.  At the hearing of her name, Mary understood this reality in her life personally.  She clung to Jesus.  She did not want to let Him go.  I believe she would have been content to spend the remainder of her days holding Jesus with no food or water, because He was sufficient to meet all of her needs in and of Himself.  She recognized her absolute dependence upon His mercy and grace.  She knew He was the only One with the words of life to transform who she had been into the person of faith she had become.  One of the statements I made Sunday was that this salvation experience is personal.  In other words, your parents or your grandparents or your best friend can not enter into this relationship with Jesus for you.  You have to personally relinquish all you have and personally appropriate the gift being extended to you.  You receive this gift by faith.  You ask Jesus to come into your life and to forgive you of your sin and to save you from an eternity in the Lake of Fire.  If you have never made that decision, then let me encourage you to stop right now and pray to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  Let Him take your broken, dark and lonely life and make it full of the joy we see Mary expressing in the verses today.  Let your praise be given to Him for the salvation He has given to you.

1.  Have you embraced the Lord personally?
2.  Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior?

Prayer: Father, thank You for the new life I have in Your Son, Jesus.  Thank You for taking me from my place of sin and transforming me in an instant into a new creation with a new eternal destiny in front of me.  Thank You for my salvation. Amen.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Do You Recognize when the Lord is Speaking into Your Life?

Scripture: John 20:12-16
and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.  And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”  When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).

Insights:  In the verses today we read about two separate dialogues that Mary has between angels and Jesus.  In neither case does she truly understand with whom she is speaking, nor does she comprehend what they are telling her.  It is not until the Lord Jesus says plainly to her, “Mary,” did she comprehend.  Beloved, I can not speak for you, but I will speak for myself when I say, “I identify with Mary.”  All too often in my life the Lord and His messengers are speaking words of life into me and I am too preoccupied or too dense to recognize God’s voice.  Yet, I am told in John chapter ten that the sheep know the Shepherd’s voice.  Now, when I am speaking of myself in this way, please understand, that many times I do recognize and understand what the Father is telling me, but there are far too many times in which I am mute to the voice of God.  I think, at least for me, it is because of the urgencies of the now that prevent me from hearing Him.  I also believe that many of these things I perceive as urgent, really are nothing more than Satan’s attempts to distract me from what is really important, which is intimacy with my Lord.  Beloved, let us strive this day to be still enough to recognize the voice of God.  Let us examine those urgent tasks from an eternal lens and evaluate whether they really are urgent or not.  After slowing down and determining the truth of our situations, let us ask the Lord to speak life into our lives and let us live victoriously for Him.  All to Him be glory and honor and praise!

1.  Do you recognize when the Lord is speaking into your life?
2.  When you hear Him, how do you respond?

Prayer: Father, I am so often hard headed and slow to hear.  Lord, I do not wish this to be true of my life.  Transform me by Your grace and grant me the ability to discern when You are speaking into my life. Amen.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Have You come to a Place of Brokenness before the Lord?

Scripture: John 20:11
But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;

Insights:  I have already told you about the emotional, psychological, and spiritual darkness Mary is experiencing at this moment in her life.  What I have not shared with you is her absolute state of brokenness.  She is paralyzed with grief and pain.  You must keep remembering the scene.  Other ladies had been with her, Peter and John had been with her, but at this moment in the history, she is utterly alone.  All of the others have returned to their homes, but she is still at the tomb.  There is no where for her to go.  She is broken.  I am purely speculating her condition on some aspects, but I sense it is not too far of a fabrication to say she feels that life is no longer worth living with the absence of Jesus.  He was the one who rescued her from demon possession, if you hold to the notion that she was the Mary mentioned in that telling of the gospels.  She walked with Jesus and learned from Jesus and she loved Jesus, but now He is gone.  Where does she turn now for hope, comfort and encouragement.  Those with whom she has confided have all left her.  She is spent and alone.  There is no way out of the hole in which she has found herself.  Here is the beautiful part about grace: these words about Mary are true of all of us.  We all need to be broken before the Righteous One.  We all need to be spent and desperate for His grace and mercy.  It is at our point of utmost need that we are capable of seeing our Savior and being made whole and redeemed.  The problem for many is they are deluded by the enemy into believing that they can crawl their way out of their situation.  They become convinced that it is not as bad as they know it to be in reality.  They turn to all the wrong sources for deliverance; and as a result, their strength keeps getting weaker.  Let me encourage you to stop your rebellious self-reliance and turn to Jesus in complete brokenness and let Him heal your soul.

1.  Have you come to a place of brokenness before the Lord?
2.  Are you trying to make it through the dark situations in your strength?

Prayer: Father, I am truly broken and desperate for You.  I recognize my absolute dependence upon You for my salvation and any grace given me to pursue a life on this side of eternity.  Your will be done in my life, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Are You Running Toward Jesus or Away from Him?

Scripture: John 20:3-10
So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb.  The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in.  And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.  So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed.  For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.  So the disciples went away again to their own homes.

Insights:  As the scene unfolds we find Peter and John running to the tomb after hearing Mary Magdalene’s report.  John is the younger disciple and he outruns Peter, but he does not enter the tomb.  He waits for Peter to arrive.  Peter goes in first and then John enters.  The passage tells us John saw and believed even though they did not understand the Scriptures as of yet.  These two men literally ran to the last place they knew Jesus was.  Now in a spiritual and figurative way I ask the questions you see below about Jesus.  Are you running toward Jesus or away from Jesus?  All too often in this world we run away from Jesus.  He is the only One that can help us and save us, but we pursue every possible option but Him.  We try money, power, relationships, substances, work, recreational pleasure and the list could go on and on and on.  All of these things with which we run toward will leave us empty and unfulfilled.  King Solomon called them vanity of vanities.  In other words, there is no long lasting satisfaction in these pursuits.  At the end of the day Jesus is the only One who will never let us down.  He is the only One who can fully satisfy the longings of our hearts.  He is the only One who can save us from ourselves and our greedy sinfulness.  Beloved, run to Jesus and let Him be your all in all.  Let Him fill you and satisfy you.  As He does this miraculous work in your life, may you respond like John and see Him and believe Him for all of His promises to you.  You will never be sorry that He was the One who you ran toward.

1.  Are you toward Jesus?
2.  Are you running away from Jesus?

Prayer: Father, no matter how dark my situation or how poorly I am reading my life situations, please draw on my heart and let me run to You.  You are my only hope and in You I do not have to despair.  Amen.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Are You Living in the Dark and Have You Misread Your Situation?

Scripture: John 20:1-2
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.  So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

Insights:  This week we are going to look at six provoking questions from the tomb.  Today we are going to ask two of them and they are found below in the questions section of this blog.  To understand the questions let me explain the historical scene that is unfolding before us in today’s verses.  Verse one tells us that it is before sunrise when Mary Magdalene arrives at the tomb and specifically it tells us that it is still dark.  Not only is it physically dark, but Mary is also in a dark place emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually as well.  Often times in this world we find ourselves in dark places and we do not see any hope or escape from our present situation of pain and hurt.  Mary is currently in that kind of place.  The second thing we notice about Mary is that after she looks into the tomb she takes off and tells Peter and John that Jesus’ body has been taken and she does not know where it has been laid.  She has misread the empty tomb.  Again, we, just like Mary, look at situations in our lives and misinterpret the eternal scheme of things.  One of the major areas in which we misread or misinterpret eternal things is in our thought processes regarding what it takes to enter into heaven.  For many people they think if their good deeds out way their bad deeds, then they will enter into heaven.  The problem is that they don’t understand the standard for entering heaven is perfection.  I gave an illustration that Tony Evans preached to help our audience Sunday understand this point.  I told the congregation to imagine that the standard for getting into heaven was jumping and touching our ceiling from the ground floor.  You need to understand this jump is an impossible jump and no one is going to reach our churches ceiling with a single jump from the floor.  I informed them, however, that some would jump higher than others jumped, but all would miss the objective.  We need another source in order to reach the standard and that is the perspective we need to read correctly.  We will discuss this standard later on throughout this week.

1.  Are you living in the dark?
2.  Have you misread your situation?

Prayer: Father, all too often I get overwhelmed with my life situations and as a result misread what is actually going on around me.  Lord, help me to walk in the light as You are in the light and to read my situations from Your lens of eternity.  Amen.