From Worshiping to Warning

Text: Psalm 95 Theme: Worship can sober us to see God’s perspective of disobedience. Key verses: “Come, let us sing to the Lord!” (v. 1a). “For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods” (v.3). “Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care. If only you would listen to his voice today! The Lord says, ‘Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did…” (v. 6-8). “For forty years I was angry with them, and I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them” (v. 10). What God said to me: Dwayne, I don’t take rebellion lightly. I don’t tolerate disobedience from my children. The Psalmist realized this. In fact, it was while he was worshiping me that the thought of sinfulness became so repulsive to him. Notice what he said in Psalm 95:7 of your QT text today. Notice how he went straight from worshiping me to warning people. It almost seems reactionary–like it suddenly hit him: “How can we have a God that’s this awesome and who loves us this much and not want to listen to him?” The mere thought of this struck him as absurd. Worshiping me for my greatness and for my great care naturally and immediately led him to pleading with his readers to obey me. Dwayne, when you get even a glimpse of my glory you, too, will be appalled by sin–first by your own sin and then also by the sin of others. When you have truly worshiped me, your entire perspective about disobedience will begin to change. This is precisely why worship is so vitally important to break chains of addiction and to set people free. Worship turns your attention toward me, and it warms your affections for me. True worship causes you to want to please me out of renewed reverence, godly fear and sincere appreciation. Come, worship and bow down. Kneel before the Lord, your God, your maker. In so doing, how could you not then listen to me more closely and obey me more carefully? I am your God. I watch over you and love you. I deserve your obedience motivated out of your deep love and adoration for me. What I said to God: Holy, awesome, just, majestic Creator and God, You are the Lord over all the earth. You are my Lord when I choose to obey You. You know I recently rebelled and did not listen to Your voice or obey Your Word. Please forgive me. Cleanse me, and I will be whiter than snow. Thank You for showing me today the importance of worship to change our perspective and motivate us toward holiness. Help me worship You more fervently, more consistently and more freely. Watch over my family today, and grant us an opportunity today to share our faith with someone who needs Your...

Just Can’t Get Away

Text: John 6:1-6 Theme: Jesus never forgot his primary purpose was serving people. Key verses: “After this, Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went…Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him” (v. 1-3). “Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, ‘Where we can buy bread for all these people?’…he already knew what he was going to do” (v. 5-6). What God said to me: Dwayne, welcome back. I’ve been anticipating these mornings with you again. I have so much to teach you from my Word if you’ll just make time to listen and obey. You will never be able to get too far removed from people. People will wear at you; people will, at times, have selfish motives and seek to drain you; people can sometimes act immature and unable to retain and apply what you teach them; people won’t always appreciate all your sacrifice and service to help them. Yet, you have no choice but help them anyway. Jesus appeared to have gotten as far away as he could from the crowd to the far side of the sea, even climbing a hill just so he could be with his disciples. But when he saw the large crowd of thousands still coming to find him, he didn’t act out in anger or frustration. He didn’t try to run away. He embraced the moment to take care of their hunger and teach his disciples a powerful lesson of faith. He made the most of this inconvenience. Today you may be inconvenienced by people you aren’t close to or particularly fond of. You can run, but you can’t hide. When I bring them to you, find a way by my power to help them. At the same time, you may find a way to teach yourself a valuable lesson in faith. What I said to God: Holy Lord, you are my all in all. I praise You for being God, infallible, omniscient, omnipresent, awesome King of Kings. I bow my heart and life before You today. Please help me trust You to lead my day and lead me to the ones You want me to minister to. And if You bring them to me, help me step out in faith to serve them in God-sized...

No Wonder We Can’t Believe!

Text: John 5:31-47 Theme: The reasons for some people’s lack of faith is painfully obvious. Key verses: “Someone else is testifying about me, and I assure you that everything he says about me is true. In fact, you sent investigators to listen to John the Baptist, and his testimony about me was true. Of course, I have no need of human witnesses, but I say these things so you might be saved. John was like a burning and shining lamp, and you were excited for a while about his message. But I have a greater witness than John–my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me. And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me…You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life. Your approval means nothing to me, because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God” (v. 32-44) What God said to me: Son, you are obstinate like those Pharisees were. In fact, you are acting like a Pharisee now. You are harboring sin in your heart, and you’re trying to act like it doesn’t matter to me, like you are OK as you are, in your self-righteousness. Do you seriously think I’m OK with your sinful behavior, with your spiritual pride and obstinance? I am not. Don’t think for a moment that all of your accolades and past experiences and future potential is enough to overcome your present sinfulness. The only thing that matters to me is your obedience today. Your past sins are forgiven and your future works are wishful thinking. Who are you today? If you stood before me right now, how would you feel about your actions and your spiritual condition? Would anything you’ve done in the past really matter? No wonder they couldn’t believe. They refused to consider the obvious. They choose instead to cling to their own understanding and their own preferences. They were blinded by their sin and self-righteousness. Don’t be like those Pharisees, Dwayne. Confess and forsake your sins. You know what they are–they are ever-present before you and before me. No matter how “small” and insignificant you may think they are, no matter how hidden they may be to the world, I know of them, and they are hindering your fellowship with me. No wonder you can’t believe! No wonder I can’t bless you more deeply and broadly. No wonder you don’t have peace. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and I will lift you up in due time. What I said to God: Father, thank You for making this passage all about me today. I know it’s not really just about me, of course. However, today I needed what You have so clearly spoken to me. I need Your chastisement and Your gracious clarity. I choose to confess and forsake my sin, and follow You completely today, all day. Please watch over Justin at school and Stephen in Zambia. Protect Sonia while she’s at her mom’s in AL, and give her some great times with her family there. I pray for Pastor Brian and our staff at VVC today. Please grant us all direction and tenacity as we seek to move our church forward and reach more people who need You. Thank You for NLWI. Please continue to open doors for greater ministry in Zambia and in the US. Thank You for meeting with me this morning. I am trying to love You with my whole heart, soul, mind and strength...

Bold Statements of Deity

Text: John 5:16-30 Theme: Jesus claims to be the Son of God. Key verses: “…the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father…I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life…and I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice–the voice of the Son of God…The Father has life in himself, and he has granted that same life-giving power to his Son” (v. 22-26). “And he has given him authority to judge everyone because he is the Son of Man…the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God’s Son, and they will rise again…” (v. 27-28). What God said to me: Hear my Son, Dwayne. Listen and obey him; honor him with your life. He’s my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased. This is the first recorded time that Jesus boldly said he is deity equal with God. Jesus didn’t mince words. In fact, he restated his deity over and over in this discourse with the Pharisees and others who were listening to him. There could be no mistake to the people then or to any in the generations to follow that Jesus Christ truly claimed to be my Son whom I sent. He was and is the Son of God and the Son of Man. The Pharisees were ready to kill him because of his bold statements of deity. But millions upon millions have responded in faith to his claims and have experienced eternal and real life. I love my Son, and I love all of those who are now my children because they trusted in my Son. Honor my Son today, Dwayne. Let nothing stand in your way of honoring, serving, obeying and worshiping my Son and your Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord. What I said to God: Holy Lord, please forgive me for not honoring Your Son yesterday. Forgive me for taking my eyes off of you, if only for a few minutes. I want to love you with my life, not just with my words. Please fill me with Your Spirit today and help me walk in Your Spirit all day long. Guide my thoughts, words and actions. Thank You for sending Your one and only Son to save us, to give us hope and life and peace. How could we not serve You? How could we not follow Your Son? He has the words of...

Do You (Really) Want to Be Well?

Text: John 5:1-9 Theme: Some people aren’t ready to be healed. Key verses: “One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’ ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked” (v. 5-9). What God said to me: Dwayne, are you listening? Are you focused on me and my Word this morning? You are often distracted by your busyness and the things around you. Stop, focus, listen and learn what I have to say to you. This invalid man had been there 38 years. Imagine that for a moment. Imagine lying there day after day, struggling to get a spot near the water. It wasn’t that he was immobile or incapable of getting to the stirred water; he just wasn’t fast enough. In that length of years, you’d think he could have made friends with someone to help him or somehow gotten creative and determined enough to get to the water first. Now, imagine the scene from Jesus’ perspective. There was a “great number of disabled people” lying around pool. Many of these had, like the invalid man, most likely been there for years. Some of them had no doubt grown accustomed to their blight, perhaps even accepted it and grown morbidly comfortable in their situations. Ever wondered why Jesus asked such an obvious question to the invalid man? Maybe Jesus sensed that some lying there had lost motivation and stopped trying to get well. Maybe he sincerely wanted to know if that particular man was truly ready for a change, a change that would affect everything about his life from there on out. Think about it: Healing would mean no more relying on others to bring him food each day. Healing would mean no longer being dependent on the government or neighbors or friends. Healing of his body would mean having to work for a living and provide for himself–something he had never had to do before. So, was healing really all it was cracked up to be? Dwayne, many people today say they want their lives to change; they say they want health again, but do they really? Some have grown comfortable in their needy situations. They have grown so dependent on others that they have lost the hope and desire to be responsible for their own provisions and help. Jesus knew that before he could heal him, the invalid man had to really want to be healed; he had to want his life to change. So I ask you, Dwayne: Do you want to be “healed” and delivered of your sinful habits and selfish ways? Do you really want to change and forsake your old lifestyle to live a life of holiness and responsibility? Do you want to die to what you were, to what you’ve come to morbidly enjoy, and be made whole? When you come to that point, then I will help you overcome and change and be made perfectly whole. What I said to God: Lord–no, scratch that; I’m not sure I’m ready to call You “Lord” just yet–Holy, omnipotent God and Savior, You have seen right through me today. Once again Your Word has cut through me like a two-edged sword exposing the deepest parts of me. You know my pride, my lust, my selfish thoughts and ways. Do I really want to be well? Yes, I think I do. Lord, I believe in You; please help my unbelief. Thank You for reminding me that people have to want to be made well. Thank You also that You put the want-to inside of us, and that You give us the push and power we need to take up our long overused, proverbial mats and start to walk in freedom and wholeness. I need Thee every hour–and I need You now–as do my family and friends who also need some “Want to” from You...

Whatever It Takes

Text: John 4:43-54 Theme: Sometimes Jesus did signs and wonders to help people believe in Him. Key verses: “…There was a government official in nearby Capernaum whose son was very sick. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged Jesus to come to Capernaum to heal his son, who was about to die. Jesus asked, ‘Will you never believe in me unless you see miraculous signs and wonders?’ The official pleaded, ‘Lord, please come now before my little boy dies.’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Go back home. Your son will live!’ And the man believed what Jesus said and started home” (v. 46b-50). “Then the father realized that that was the very time Jesus had told him, ‘Your son will live.’ And he and his entire household believed in Jesus” (v. 53). What God said to me: Son, I’ll do whatever it takes to help people believe in me. Jesus died on the cross to demonstrate his love for you; but first, he lived and walked among you, doing all kinds of wondrous miracles. Why would we do it like that? Why not just send an angel down to heal everyone? Jesus was representing his Father in heaven. He was demonstrating his love and authority and power. But more than that he had come to seek and to save those who were lost. Thus, he went out of his way to heal people and show them his deity so that they would believe in him. In this passage you can see the two stages of belief again demonstrated. However, this time they are reversed in their order. First, the official heard from Jesus that his son would be healed. It caused him to believe what Jesus said. However, when his servants told him his son really had been healed, then he believed in Jesus. At that moment his belief went from his head down to his heart. No longer did he only believe what Jesus had said–he now believed in Jesus, when he heard what Jesus had clearly done. You see, Dwayne, just when you think you have this salvation thing figured out–just when you think you know how I work in people and what should cause them to respond–my Word goes and messes up your thinking. I will do whatever it takes–even if it necessitates going out of a normal order–to reach people whom I love. Obviously Jesus would rather that official had believed in him by simply hearing the words Jesus spoke. But Jesus was patient with him, realizing that man needed to see more than just hear. He showed the same kind of love and patience with Thomas, who had to touch his nail-pierced scars to truly believe. Are you glad we are patient with you to that extent at times, Dwayne? Are you glad we do whatever it takes to draw you closer to our side and deeper into our love and faith? Pass some of that patience and determination along to people around you today. What I said to God: Once again, Lord, out of left field comes a zinger throw from Your powerful and unpredictable Spirit. I never saw that one coming. What an amazing and glorious truth! What love and patience You have for us, that You would go to such measures to pursue us and to save us and sanctify us. I know You won’t be untrue to Your character. I know You won’t compromise on Your justice and truth. But I also know that You will never stop surprising us with the depths of Your love and the determination of Your grace. Thank You, thank You, thank You! I praise You for never giving up on me or my family. What an awesome God You...

Two Stages of Belief

Text: John 4:39-42 Theme: There’s hearing about Jesus; then there’s hearing from Jesus. Key verses: “Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, ‘He told me everything I ever did!'” (v. 39). “So he stayed there for two days, long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. Then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world” (v. 40b-42). What God said to me: Dwayne, how good of you to meet with me at this time and in this way. It’s been a while. Be careful that you don’t assume you can skip your quiet times and times of journaling from my Word. That’s called spiritual pride, and pride goes before a fall. These are the moments when I can speak through my Word to instruct you, encourage you and warn you as needed. Keep this habit fresh and prioritized in your daily life. Now, regarding this passage, remember that Paul said, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” My Word is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. It is not ultimately your words that will do that for someone–it is my words that changes a heart and grants them faith to live and to please me. The lady’s testimony in this passage caught her neighbors’ attention and caused them to want to know more about Jesus. That was an important and necessary first stage. Your testimony and your witness of me will cause people who hear you and watch you to wonder why you have such joy and peace. They will be drawn in and captivated by your testimony of my faithfulness and love in your life. However, they won’t be saved and eternally changed until they clearly hear my Word and hear from the Holy Spirit drawing and convicting them. That’s stage two. That’s the life-giving, life-altering, life-changing stage that cuts to the deepest part of a person and sets them on the narrow path of abundant life in me. Dwayne, I have prompted you on several occasions lately to verbally share a word of witness with people you’ve been around, whether at a restaurant, a coffee shop or the cleaners. But you’ve not obeyed me; you’ve kept your mouth shut. I am not pleased with that. I expect you to be my witness, to be my light in dark places. This is no small thing–it’s what you’ve been left on earth to do. See you to it. What I said to God: Woe is me, for I am undone. I am busted, Lord. Thank You so very much for your convicting and cleansing power to my heart and mind this morning. I will listen and obey your still small voice when You prompt me to witness to someone today. Thank You for showing me these two stages of belief. May I be faithful in stage one, and help people move to stage two where they will be forever changed by Your...