You Ought to Live Holy and Godly Lives

Peter 3:10-11
The day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives.
Holiness is that forgotten character virtue that is the Christian’s reflection of God, his or her holy and righteous Father. In a day of cheap grace, when anything goes just as long as we want to be buddies with Jesus, Peter’s words should shock us into reverence – the commitment in life to set our lives apart from the evil and sludge that defiles our hearts and to offer our bodies, hearts, and minds to do his will and reflect his character.
Prayer: Holy and Righteous Father, teach me to do your will and reflect your character while offering your grace. May the movements of my heart, the thoughts of my mind, and the actions ! of my life be pleasing to you and reflect your holiness and grace. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Praying Always

Matthew 6:5-8

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

Don’t pray only when you are with other people; develop your secret, private life of prayer!

When you have a special friend, you love doing things with them in a big group of friends. But the best times in the friendship are the times when it is just the two of you. That is when you go deep. It’s the same with God. He loves to be involved in our meetings, our group times. But it is the inner, secret, private times of prayer that take your relationship to a much deeper level. If you want an intimate walk with God, learn to spend lots of time with Him “in secret”. PRAY, PRAY, PRAY…

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Nothing Is Too Hard For God

Text: Genesis 18:14

The words of our Lord speak loudly to Christians today as they did to Abraham, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (18:14).

What problems are you facing in life? Addictions? God can deliver you! Discouragement over an unbelieving spouse? God is faithful! A wayward child? Nothing is too hard for Him! Despair over debt or marital problems? Nothing is impossible for God. Do you see the importance of this passage for your everyday living? It applies to those with families and those without them. It applies to anyone who feels they are in an impossible situation. Those facing infertility…is your problem too hard for the Lord?

Those facing an overwhelming illness…God is able to meet your needs.Those who look at their rebellious children and feel they are “hopeless”…The problem may seem beyond you…it is not too hard for the Lord. Those who face old wounds that seem impossible to overcome…is this beyond God’s power to mend? Those raised in dysfunctional homes…God can unravel the mess and heal the pain.Those who look at the costs of a college education and say, “It is impossible.” Do you really think it is impossible for the God of the Universe? Those who feel that their marriage is hopelessly over…the God who made you one can renew the love.The list could go on.

I suspect I’ve given enough examples to help you see your own need in the light of these words. The simple laughter of Abraham and Sarah reminds us that we often laugh when we should trust. We often throw our hands up in the air when we should be putting them together in prayer. We are too prone to focus on our lack of strength instead of His sufficient strength.

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Hospitality To Strangers

Genesis 18

Everything Abraham does, he does because he comes from a tradition of hospitality. He’s not expecting God to drop by for dinner. But that is indeed what happens. 

Something like that is happening in this story. Only the Lord didn’t send a representative. He came himself to Abraham in the guise of an ordinary traveler. 

Abraham in Haste 6-8
Everything about these verses speaks of Abraham’s haste. Twice it is said that he ‘hurried” to serve his guests. Verse 7 tells us that the servant “hurried” to prepare the meal. “Quick,” he said to Sarah, “go get the flour and bake some bread” (6).
Why the rush? Because in that culture hospitality was very important. It didn’t matter that Abraham had no clear idea whose these men were. What mattered was that he showed them proper respect.
This text reveals six marks of biblical hospitality:

1. Initiative—He saw them and invited them to stay (3)
2. Honor—He bowed low before them (2)
3. Desire—”Let me get you something to eat” (5)
4. Sacrifice—he chose a choice, tender calf (7)
5. Speed—He hurried to serve them (6-7)
6. Attentiveness—He stood while they ate (8)

We Christians have largely forgotten the gold mine of New Testament teaching on this topic. The Apostle Paul tells us that a spiritual leader practices hospitality (1 Timothy 3:2). What else does the New Testament have to say about hospitality? Let’s answer that question by taking a quick survey of some key passages. The first one is Romans 12:13, which says, “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” That is a command of Scripture. It is a non-negotiable imperative given to every man who claims the name of Jesus Christ. If we are Christians, we are to earnestly practice showing love to those who are strangers to us. It is a non-optional command of God.

The second passage is I Peter 4:9: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling”. That’s crucial because it is all too easy to open your home only to those who are your close personal friends. Peter isn’t talking about having your pals over for a game night. That’s good and you ought to do it, but Peter isn’t thinking along those lines. He’s thinking about those times when you show kindness to people you don’t know very well. How easy it is in those cases to mumble and grumble and gripe under your breath. And when you do that, you miss the blessing God wants you to receive.

We’ve all done that. We meet some new people and say, “Drop by any time.” So one night we’re eating supper and a knock comes at the door. Who can it be? We open the door and it’s those new people–all six of them!–standing on the porch with big smiles. So what do we do? We smile right back and say, “Good to see you. Come on in.”But in reality our fingers are crossed when we say it and in our hearts we don’t mean a word of it. God knows whether we mean it or not. We aren’t fooling Him a bit. That’s why He said our hospitality must be done without grumbling.

Angels at My Door

The third passage offers us a very unusual encouragement to practice hospitality. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” The word translated “angels” simply means “messengers.” It could mean the literal angels of God or it could mean a human messenger. In this case, the writer to the Hebrews is thinking about the possibility that the literal angels of God might come to visit us. In the back of his mind is this story in Genesis 18 where Abraham welcomed three strangers who came to visit him. Without knowing their identity, he served them veal and milk and curds and fresh bread. One turned out to be the Lord himself and the other two turned out to be angels. The writer is suggesting that such a thing might someday happen to us.

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Divine Visitation

When God visits, people’s priorities are quickly laid bare. Lives change…for the better!

In Genesis 18:1-15, Abraham experiences intimacy with God and once again discovers that God is a loving and patient God that reaffirms His covenant. We will learn from Abraham and Sarah’s reactions the proper way to react to God.

Our passage begins with the following account: “Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men. The text says that the Lord appeared to Abraham “in the heat of the day”. Abraham did not see his three guests walking from a distance, they just appeared.

Abraham responded by running to meet them and bowing himself to the earth (18:2).Abraham responds with one of the greatest lines in Scripture: “My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass your servant by”(18:3). He was eager to encounter and experience God. He wanted God to remain with him so he said,“Please do not pass your servant by.” This is precisely how the church should respond when Jesus knocks to be invited in for fellowship (Matt 25:31-46; John 6:53-58; Rev 3:20; 19:7).

We ought to be receptive and responsive to His visitation. God is sovereign. He does visit His people. He fulfills His plan and programme. The only question is: Will He pass us by or will He come down and visit us? Typically, God only stays where He is wanted. He wants to visit those that seek Him and desire Him.

Today, can you honestly say that you long for God’s appearing? In 18:4-8, Abraham responds to the Lord with great zeal. …So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes…Abraham jumps to provide service and care for his guests. There is a striking emphasis on worship. These principles are also relevant to hospitality. Abraham demonstrates worship in three ways: speed, selection, and service..To be cont’d

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Developing Your Character

Genesis 39

Isn’t it a blessing to know that all the events of our lives are part of God’s plan for us?
While the events of Joseph’s life appeared to be out of control, every thing that occurred was controlled by God. Joseph was being protected and matured by the Lord. Notice how God developed him.
•  By God’s presence – Gen. 39:2
•  From a bitter spirit – There is no hint that Joseph was angry about his difficulties.
•  By God’s providence – The dreams God gave Joseph in Gen. 39:5-11 had not been forgotten. They were being fulfilled, in God’s time and in God’s way. Those dreams surely sustained Joseph during the dark days of his suffering and slavery.
You and I have the same protections that Joseph enjoyed.
•  We have His presence – Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20
•  We have His help to deal with our past, our problems and our pain in His way – Eph. 4:29-32. We do not have to become bitter, angry or succumb to an unforgiving spirit. We can display a sweet spirit, even during the most trying of times with our Lord’s help!
•  We have God’s promise that all “things work together for our good”, Rom. 8:28. A lot of what happens in life does not make sense, but it does not change the fact that God is in control of everything that happens to us, Eph. 1:11; Isa. 46:10; 2 Cor. 4:17-18; Rom. 8:18.
•  God’s purpose in our trials is not to harm us, but to develop us. We can trust Him to protect us and grow us amid the hardships of this life, Jer. 29:11.
In everything Joseph faced, he was being developed for the glory that was waiting for him down the road. His character was developed in his father’s house, in his relationship with his brothers, in the pit, in Potipher’s house and in his prison experience. God used every good day and every bad day to shape Joseph into the person God wanted him to become. Joseph was in God’s University, and he was taking an advanced course in character development.
By the way, when the Lord sends us through storms, trials, times of suffering and abuse, He does so to develop our character.
•  He is in the business of transforming us into the people He saved us to be.
•  He is in the business of transforming us into the image of His Son, Rom. 8:29; Eph. 4:13-14.
•  He is preparing us for the glory that lies ahead, Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17.
The character of Joseph was developed in the cellars of pain, heartbreak, misunderstanding, betrayal and separation. So is ours! Your time in the cellar is not in vain if it makes you more like the Lord!

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Desiring The Truth of The Word

2 Timothy 4:1-3 (NIV) 1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

Paul knew the anointing and calling upon Timothy’s life. He also knew Timothy could be timid and hesitant to share. That may be why he gave him this charge while declaring that it was before God the Judge and the soon to appear Christ and His kingdom.

He entrusted Timothy with the duty of preaching the Word of God, not only when it was in his schedule, but whenever there was opportunity. He said it was his responsibility to use the Word in all the ways it was meant to be used, for correcting, rebuking, and encouraging. As a timid person, Timothy would probably enjoy encouraging others, so Paul put correcting and rebuking before encouragement in his list. When we know there is a weakness or something we avoid because of our personality, we need to make the effort to put it first.

He also told him to use the gift of preaching with great patience and careful instruction. Preachers can become very impatient while watching their flock’s slow progress. Careful instruction will help them progress more rapidly, but it is still a job in which patience must be exercised.

He warned that a time was coming when people would pick and choose those they listened to by the criteria of whether or not the preaching was what they desire to hear. We are in that day. Sheep will run from the shepherd that corrects and rebukes to find those that won’t challenge them to forsake their sin. They have pet doctrines that they emphasize above the command of Jesus to love one another. They can find them on the radio, TV, and in the pulpit. Notice it says “a great number”.

Prayer: Lord help us desire the truth of the Word, especially when it convicts us.

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Fight The Good Fight and Cling to Your Faith

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NIV) 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

This letter was the last that Paul wrote. He knew his time had come. He compared his final days to being poured out like a drink offering. Under the Old Covenant, one of the offerings to God was wine poured out upon the altar. (Genesis 35:14; Exodus 29:40) It was usually offered with the body of an animal. Paul was ready to lay his life one final time upon the altar of God. He was beheaded shortly after writing this letter in Rome.

He could declare three things about his ministry. He fought a good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. Life is going to be a fight no matter which course you choose. Paul had chosen the good fight. He chose to fight for the kingdom of God. He chose to fight for what is worthwhile.

He finished the race. He didn’t go part way and give up because of difficulty, and Paul faced some of the greatest difficulties man can face. He endured. We can’t say that until we are at the end as Paul was. By faith we can say that we will finish the race.

He kept the faith. What is the difference between finishing the race and keeping the faith? Some may have their lives cut short because they are losing their faith. Though they finish the race, their faith was faltering. Paul kept the faith alive in his heart even when he did not understand his circumstances. He walked by faith and not by sight to the end. He knew that a crown of righteousness awaited him and all who long for Jesus’ appearing. He knew the reward was worth enduring the battle.

Remember: Fight the good fight and cling to your faith. The reward is well worth it. Endure to the end. Finish the course He has laid out for you.

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Let The Word Live In You

2 Timothy 2:14-15 (NIV) 14Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

We can become so technical and precise that we are constantly correcting others, insisting on our preferred wording. It helps to remember that you once did not see things as clearly as you do today, and that tomorrow you will hopefully see things more clearly. That means you express yourself somewhat differently as you grow in the knowledge of the Lord. So cut yourself and others around you some slack. Don’t focus on what you can correct, but what you can learn from others. It is pride that insists on others seeing the details as you do. It may be helpful to share your understanding in humility. You may find the person you are trying to correct will give you greater insight. Quarreling about words only ruins those who listen. It is a warning sign that you are in a prideful spirit. It never helps.

Paul told Timothy to do his best to present himself as an approved workman. His work is handling the Scriptures. They apply to every situation, speak to every audience, and correct every problem, if we know which ones are applicable by the Spirit. Our part is to be familiar with them so that the Spirit can quicken them.

Are you doing your best to present yourself to God as one approved? Are you familiarizing yourself with the Scriptures so that they are available to be applied to your life? Sometimes we discern the appropriate verse, but we don’t make the applications and share the Word with those who need it. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind the appropriate passage AND to make an application. Then, share it with those who need it. It will be an example to them and give you the guidance that is needed for the moment.

Remember: We need to let the Word of Christ live in us richly (Colossians 3:16).

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Quarreling is Unproductive, But Love Never Fails

2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NIV) 24 And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Paul was teaching Timothy to walk in his calling as an elder. Paul had learned from many debates with legalistic Jews that quarrels aren’t fruitful. As someone has said, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” If the discussion becomes heated, someone is unwilling to listen, and both parties are wasting their time.

Instead of being argumentative, God’s servants should be kind to everyone, able to teach, and not resentful. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. When we are unkind, it is a clue that we are in the flesh. The elders should be able to teach. He may not have teaching as his main gift, but he should know the Word well enough to teach it. When the church passes up this qualification, we set ourselves up for problems. The freedom from resentment means the person is ready to forgive, knowing that God has freely forgiven them.

We will always face opposition. Paul told Timothy that the proper response was gentle instruction. Gentleness turns away wrath. Our hope is that our opposition will be saved. There are so many testimonies of love winning over those who persecute. The only way we can possibly do that is to realize that these people have fallen into the trap of the devil. They are captured slaves doing Satan’s will. In this war over the souls of men, everything we do and say should be with the hope of setting the captives free. Our natural response will push them further into the trap, but a spiritual response would be to extend a loving hand to draw them to freedom. Only the life of the Spirit in us can cause us to react in the way Paul has described.

Remember: Quarreling is unproductive, but love never fails.

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