West End Assembly of God
Friday, May 24, 2013
FRIDAY – May 17
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
We live in a culture fixated on categorizing people. Rich, poor, middle-class, educated, illiterate, fat, skinny—the list goes on and on. The wonder of the gospel is that we are all equal at the foot of the cross. Christ has made us brothers and sisters within one body: His own. Because of this, we should respect and honor one another, no matter our earthly categories. There is no room for pride, or jealousy in the Kingdom of God. Together we lift our hands to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who calls all of us His children. Let us beware of prejudice, which comes in many forms. Let us value one another as Christ values us. Give thanks for the beautiful, multi-ethnic Body of Christ. Pledge to respect and honor one another and endeavor to walk in unity.
SATURDAY – May 18
II Corinthians 12:7-10
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Theologians have debated for countless years about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” Some think it was a physical problem of poor eyesight. Others believe it referred to the constant tribulation Paul encountered in his ministry. No matter the nature of Paul’s “thorn,” the greater truth is that the Lord’s grace was sufficient. This statement has become a refuge to so many Christ followers throughout the centuries. Believers imprisoned in concentration camps, Christians suffering with debilitating illnesses, missionaries burying loved ones on the foreign field—like Paul, they have declared, “His grace is sufficient for me” and found strength in their time of weakness. Rather than grumbling and complaining your way through life, you can find strength and assurance. You can learn the power of praise, the posture of humility and true dependence upon God. You can discover the peace that accompanies abandonment of your will to God’s will and purposes. What is your point of weakness? God has corresponding strength for you. What is your hardship? Hear His words: “My grace is sufficient for you”
MONDAY - May 20
“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”
Many Christians have been warned so severely about the need for separation from sin and the world that they have developed an attitude of isolationism that is contrary to God’s Word. While it is true that we are called to holiness, it is also true that we live in a world filled with people who are hungry for spirituality and who need to hear about our faith in Jesus Christ. We must find ways to connect with them! Jesus set a good example for us in this. He went outside the synagogue and engaged in conversation with all kinds of people. He asked questions, He told stories, and He did not condemn them. People felt His love, yet the world did not taint Him. Jesus does not want us to hide in seclusion behind the safe walls of the church; rather He sends us out into the world as His father sent Him. In what ways are you intersecting with people in your community who do not attend church and do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ? Ask the Lord to help you step out into the harvest field and gain influence with people who do not know Jesus.
TUESDAY - May 21
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away. Then he asked them, “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” And they had nothing to say.
Six times before this, Jesus had performed some kind of miracle or healing on the Sabbath, which was a violation of Pharisaical law. Some scholars think this banquet was a set-up by the religious leaders to pin Jesus down and catch Him in yet another violation. Jesus asked their opinion and they refused to answer; so Jesus reflected the heart of God and healed the sick man. In effect, He said to the religious leaders, “You care more about your rules and regulations than the sick. Do not miss the people right in front of you who need special care.” God’s number one priority is bringing people into wholeness. People, not rules and regulations, are at the heart of the gospel. Christ’s message brought Him into the crosshairs of controversy, and soon after this the religious leaders began plotting how to get rid of Him. Care for what God cares for most—people. When we set aside our personal agendas in order to help someone who needs our attention, we are following Christ’s example. Let pure faith drive your actions, it will lead you to people.
WEDNESDAY - May 23
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Christ brings us back to the heart of the gospel when He instructs us to lift our eyes to see people, all kinds of people. He challenges us to inclusiveness. While we tend to be selective about our friendships, His kingdom doors are open wide to everyone who responds to his salvation invitation. Note how He encourages us to reach out to the poor, crippled, lame and blind. He mentions these specific groups several times in this chapter because He wants to be sure that we focus our outreach toward those who need it most. He does not want us to become ingrown and exclusive. He came to “seek and save those who were lost” (Luke 19:10), and so must we. No person is one-dimensional. The alcoholic, the homeless man—each is so much more than his “label.” Do we see them as individuals whose life journey has left them broken and abused? They need our invitation to Christ’s banquet table. But sometimes we do not want to be bothered by the inconvenience of reaching out to those unlike ourselves. May God help us have His heart and look a little deeper and see people the way He sees them. Let us become carriers of His loving touch and His message of grace to all people.
THURSDAY - May 23
“But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
While many focus on the storyline of the prodigal son, let us consider the older brother and his frustration. Those of us who work long hours to do a good job and live according to the rules, often become aggravated when irresponsible persons are celebrated and honored. The father made two very profound statements to the older son. First, he said, “You are always with me.” With these few words, the father lifted his son’s attention to the unique relationship they shared. There was no need to compete for his father’s love, for the father loved his older son distinctively, unconditionally, and completely. He did not take for granted his older son’s responsible behavior. Likewise, when we are secure in our Heavenly Father’s love, we do not resent someone else’s advancement and there is no need for a competitive spirit. Second, the father said, “Everything I have is yours.” All that the father owned was available at any time to the older son. In a similar way, as we are secure in our Heavenly Father’s love, we know we can ask of Him and receive at any time anything that we need. Are you secure in your Heavenly Father’s love? If so, you can celebrate when others recover their faith, their lives, and their souls. Celebrate your unique relationship with the Father today.
FRIDAY - May 24
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
The people hated Zacchaeus because of his job. Known for their pilfering, tax collectors grew wealthy at the expense of the common people. Yet, Zacchaeus hungered for spiritual truth, which he demonstrated when he climbed the tree to see Jesus. His persistence won him a personal interview with the Son of God. Jesus changed His plans from “just passing through” to “staying at your house today” and Zacchaeus got an up-close and personal encounter with the Lord. The story ends with a glorious proclamation when Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham” (verse 9). What can we learn from this story? The Lord responds to those who are intentional in seeking Him, and He steps into their personal space to bring life and declare restoration. Let us follow Zacchaeus’ example and be persistent in our pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ.
SATURDAY - May 25
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”
What made Jesus cry? He grieved over Jerusalem’s spiritual ignorance. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:12). They did not recognize the visitation of their long-awaited Messiah. Yet, He still loved them and longed to replace their empty religious formalities with a thriving, living faith. He felt the weight of their political oppression and yearned for the opportunity to set their hearts free. Let us pray that we never get so caught up in the business of life that we miss Christ, Who is life! May we never miss our special moment of visitation from Him. Let us stay alert to spiritual opportunities and throw off anything that gets in the way of our relationship with Jesus. Let us prioritize His presence and allow Him to gather us into His arms and give us peace.
MONDAY - May 27
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
In this passage of scripture, Jesus gives several commands: “go, make disciples, baptize, and teach.” Going requires initiative. It involves rearranging our schedules, adjusting our plans, and getting out of our comfort zones. Making disciples means developing strong relationships with people so that we have the right to share our faith. Baptizing people means helping them step into spiritual life through a public confession of faith. Teaching Christ followers requires that we know our doctrine, practice our faith, and live as good role models. Christ’s command ends with a powerful promise: “I will be with you always.” How wonderful it is to have the final part of this scripture, for we cannot follow through on the previous commands without His divine presence and power! Remember that God never commands us to do something that He does not resource. He knows the futility of trying to accomplish His goals with our human abilities and strength—He knows that we must have the Holy Spirit’s guidance and wisdom. Today, consider which of these commands is hardest for you: going, making disciples, baptizing, or teaching. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with insight and wisdom to know how to carry out His initiatives.
TUESDAY - May 28
He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
This parable addresses a powerful truth: the seed has the power within itself to grow. The seed, in this instance, is a metaphor for God’s Word and its power to transform lives. Consider the process: we scatter it, and then the mystery begins as it grows and produces grain in perfect, growing order. When the seed has finished its work, we harvest it. Do you trust the power of God’s Word to work in the hearts of people around you? Do you live free of the need to fix, change, or control someone else’s beliefs or actions? Do you trust God’s Spirit to work deep within a person’s heart, or do you insist on pulling up the seed to examine how well the roots are growing? Do you panic when someone questions, doubts, or explores faith at his own pace? Relax; faith grows under the Holy Spirit’s oversight! Only God has the power to transform someone’s heart and change him or her; so do not attempt to take on that impossible responsibility. You can create a climate for transformation by scattering the seed, loving unconditionally, and providing a positive role model; but then you must rest knowing that God is at work in the hearts of people around you. One day, miraculously, the harvest will come.
WEDNESDAY - May 29
Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
Christ sent his disciples on a mission trip. He gave them divine authority, partnered them in teams, and reviewed specific instructions for their unique assignment. Christ required simplicity and faith—they were to travel light and learn that God provides daily for His servants. They were to live simply so they could focus on ministry. They were not called to move from house to house, but to settle into a single home base that God would provide within each city. This experience became a reference point for each of them in the future, after Christ ascended to heaven and the Holy Spirit continued His work through them. How are you fulfilling Christ’s mission in our world today? How are you integrating simplicity and pure faith into your acts of service? Are you partnering with others in ministry, or trying to do it alone? As we follow Christ’s guidelines for ministry we will see good results.
THURSDAY - May 30
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”—and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
David’s remorse over his sin literally sapped all of his physical strength. He responded by going to God and holding nothing back: he acknowledged all the morbid details. God not only forgave his transgression, but also dealt with David’s guilt. God was not finished with dealing with David’s sin until He had restored David to a place of blessing, and that included removal of his guilt. God’s goal is to restore us in both the legal and emotional aspects of guilt. Often, people ask God for forgiveness and then continue to live under the long shadow of guilt; however, the Lord wants to fully restore us, working with us until all the crippling aspects of our guilt are gone. Too many Christians live under the shadow of guilt when God offers us a clear conscience through faith in Christ. Today, pray for those who need a fresh understanding of God’s complete forgiveness through Christ our Lord.
FRIDAY – May 31
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.
When life gets tough, it is hard to hear the sound of God’s songs of deliverance. Sorrow plugs our ears and discouragement clouds our vision. Our hearts grow heavy with cares. Yet, if we listen carefully, we will hear a song rise up from some hidden place in our souls. The Holy Spirit will breathe into our hearts melodious words that bring hope and encouragement: “Trust and obey” and “Great is Thy faithfulness” or “He is near.” Pause and listen for what David heard—songs of deliverance. Know what He knew—God is your hiding place. Whatever your struggle today, lift your eyes, turn your heart, and tune your ears. God is singing songs of deliverance all around you!
SATURDAY – June 1
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could.”
Note the judgmental, critical, harsh, self-righteous comments of those observing this woman performing her act of worship. Jesus came to her aid, as He does anyone who worships Him in Spirit and in truth. He alone knows the motivation behind our adoration. When it comes to worship, let us be careful not to judge anyone harshly. Worship comes from the heart and it finds expression in a variety of methods. Each of us has our own preferences, but God looks at the heart.