He is Faithful…Always

S (Scripture) – Matthew 15:30-38 “And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them.  So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.  And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, ‘I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.’  The disciples said to Him, ‘Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?’  And Jesus said to them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’  And they said, ‘Seven, and a few small fish.’  And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.  And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full.  And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.”

O (Observation) – Lord, what is so unbelievable about this story is that the disciples had already witnessed You feeding the 5,000 men plus women and children not long before this day, as well as watching You miraculously heal all of the various people who were present.  How is it possible to walk alongside You, witness Your amazing provision, see first-hand every single person around You healed of every possible ailment, and then wonder where the food might come from to feed them?

A (Application) – We do the same thing every day.  We know of Your greatness, we sing about it on Sundays.  We know You are able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond all that we ask or think…we say so in our prayers.  But then we go throughout our day living as if it were all up to us to make things happen.  When will we learn how to really believe You, and be still and know that You are God?  There are countless times in my life where Your fingerprints are unmistakeable.  I look back and marvel at how faithful You are, how perfect Your timing is, and how Your plan is so much greater than anything I could have come up with on my own…yet I wonder from day-to-day if Your grace and mercy will ever stop being as wonderful for me.  Maybe not consciously by what I believe, but certainly in how I allow the concerns of this life to dominate my thinking.  Instead of declaring Your promises over the areas of my life causing me anxiety, I sometimes slip into “fix it mode” and get to work on doing what I believe in my flesh is what needs to be done.

P (Prayer) – Precious Jesus, Help me to remember Your goodness and all that You have already done for me.  Help me to be still in my mind and allow Your peace and calmness to reign in my heart.  Just as You did not berate the disciples for asking such a silly question after witnessing Your greatness, thank You for never shaking Your finger in my face telling me to stop what I am doing…You just gently remind me that You love me and that You’ve got this.  If only I would receive that and live like I believed it.

Walking On Top of Circumstances

S (Scripture) – Matthew 14:24-27 “But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.  And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.  When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’  And they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.'”

O (Observation) – Lord, You had just finished feeding five thousand men (plus women and children) using five loaves of bread and two fish, demonstrating Your ability to provide and to be enough.  Immediately afterward, You sent the disciples in the boat across the sea.  They should have been reeling in the excitement of what they had just witnessed.  Instead, when their circumstances around them started to get stormy, they were fearful.  What I love so much about this verse is the fact that You walked on top of their circumstance.  You demonstrated Your ability to be Lord over any and everything that could possibly be faced.

A (Application) – You didn’t have to do anything other than just be Yourself – You are able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above and beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). The next time we find ourselves in a situation that seems impossible, looks insurmountable, and feels completely overwhelming, may we remember that there is not a day ahead You have not seen.  You know the end from the beginning, and we are just walking out each day in history with You.  We may be fearful, but we don’t have to be afraid anymore.  We don’t have to worry anymore.  We don’t have to be anxious anymore.  You’ve got this.  You are Lord over whatever situation we may be facing right now.  May we walk in that promise and declare Your victory over our lives.

P (Prayer) – Lord Jesus, You have conquered sin and death.  All of history is in Your hands.  Whatever life presents us with, there is nothing that can separate us from Your love.  As we submit to You and Your truth, we are covered by Your favor and Your promises.  You promise us abundant wisdom and continual guidance.  As the storms of life batter against us, I pray we take shelter in You and trust that – with You – we are victorious.  Change our perspective – in the midst of our struggles, lift us up with You so that we can see what You are up to, and not just the pain of the moment.

We Are One Body

S (Scripture) – Matthew 13:18-23 “Hear then the parable of the sower.  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.  This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.  The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.  And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

O (Observation) – Millions of people are hearing Your word each and every day, spoken through Christian radio, television, apps, online, and maybe even reading it themselves.  The seed is being sown.  I usually read this passage and think to myself that it is predominantly about the “condition of the soil,” or rather, the condition of the person’s heart hearing Your word.  What I hear You telling me today is that it is up to the body of Christ to nurture those that are new in the faith (do not understand), those maturing in the faith (not yet having a firm root), and those who are mature in the faith yet facing a challenging season (worry of the world taking over the mind and resulting in an unfruitful disciple).

A (Application) – If the body of Christ would understand its role in coming alongside those who are in such desperate need of guidance, wisdom, healing, direction, and understanding of how to apply Your truth to their lives, we would see a very different set of Christ followers. Instead, we are seeing churches that are divided and more concerned with winning arguments rather than loving people into a relationship with You, Lord.  Your prayer for Your body was for us to be known for our love and to be united as one.  The enemy knows this, and has been at work to divide and rob us of Your heart for the lost and for those seeking You.  Open our eyes, Lord.  May our ministry not be about a certain program, but Holy Spirit led relationships that result in a deeper knowledge and appreciation of Your promises that result in transformed hearts, lives, families, and communities.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, may we be one.  May we come together and love each other well.  Open up doors of opportunity for us to speak life into others, and never miss an opportunity to help cultivate the seed You have planted in their hearts.  You have called each of Your followers into ministry with You by our side.  Holy Spirit, be our guide.

Out of the Heart the Mouth Speaks

S (Scripture) – Matthew 12:33-37 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.  You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good?  For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.  The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil.  But I tell you that every careless word that people speak they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgement.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

O (Observation) – Lord, I am so thankful that Tony Evans has just finished a long series expounding on this verse and really making me more aware of my words and their relationship to the condition of my heart.  If I use my words to gossip, I have the heart of a gossip.  If I use my words to slander, I have the heart of a slanderer.  If I use my words to speak profanity, I have a profane heart.  If I use my words to deceive others, I have a deceitful heart.  Instead of using my words to tear down, I’ve been called to use my words to build up.  With the same tongue that is capable of unholy speech, it is capable of speaking life into another person, bringing them hope.  It is capable of speaking truth into my own life as well as others, tearing down strongholds.  It is capable of intercessory prayer, changing the course of history.  With the same tongue – like dynamite – capable of both good and destruction, all based on how I choose to use it.

A (Application) – Knowing that every word I speak is being recorded and will someday be played back for me to not only listen to, but give an accounting, makes me more careful about what I say.  The real takeaway for this, however, is to realize that just because we may not audibly speak something out loud doesn’t mean that we still don’t have an issue with our hearts.  In other words, just because we don’t actually say something to disparage another’s character doesn’t mean that we aren’t harboring bitterness toward that person.  The words we speak are just a symptom.  The deeper issue more than just watching our mouths is to examine the hearts from which the words are spoken.  Ask God to reveal anything unholy in our hearts that needs to go.  If we don’t deal with our roots of bitterness, they continue to grow and slowly take over our hearts.  The words we speak are just the overflow, or manifestation, of a heart not fully submitted to the Lord.  We will experience freedom and victory from such strongholds if we are continuously monitoring the condition of our hearts.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, thank You for the continual reminder that our mouths are beyond powerful – bringing life and death.  May we be more aware of the words we say, and get rid of any speech that is careless and useless.  May we not feel pressured to fill silence with meaningless words.  As we speak, may we be reminded that our words are intricately connected to our hearts.  Reveal to us anything in our hearts that is unholy and needs to go – may our words reflect a heart that is fully submitted to You and Your leading.

Rest

S (Scripture) – Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

O (Observation) – Lord, this world can wear a person down.  The suffering, hurt, brokenness, betrayal, and disappointment are the reality we face when attempting to go about our lives doing the best we can on our own.  Then one day we find ourselves searching for something more, and may come across some allegedly religious people that try and tell us all of the things we have to do in order to become closer to You.  This is precisely the scenario You were referring to in this verse – for everyone who is tired of being tired and wants to stop trying so hard to make ourselves right with You…we need only to recognize that our lifelong journey with You is a relationship that grows and develops over time.  As we seek you, we will find You.  As we grow closer to You, we will slowly begin the transition away from caring about what the world thinks and instead become more concerned with what You think.  Our minds and hearts become more in step with Your Spirit, and You are there with us every step of the way.

A (Application) – Let us stop becoming consumed by our circumstances.  Instead of trying to clean ourselves up in order to feel worthy to approach a holy God, let us allow Him into every area of our lives and seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.  Let us start to value His opinion over everything else, because He is truth.  If we are finding ourselves depressed, hopeless, exhausted, or hurting, we need to push the pause button of our lives. Jesus offers us rest, hope, peace, and order.  How we get those are by trusting in Him and not leaning on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), having a heart of gratitude, and by allowing God to work out our lives in His timing.

Isaiah 40-28-31 “…The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.  He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.  Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.  But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, I crave Your rest for my life.  Calm any and all tension inside of me, and instead replace it with a grateful heart and one that never doubts Your goodness.  I pray for all those who are hurting and feel as if all hope is lost – those that may be contemplating whether or not this life is worth living.  I pray they would take the attention off of their circumstances, and instead focus on You.  Elevate our perspectives and allow us to see more clearly the life You have called us to for Your glory.

Authority Given

S (Scripture) – Matthew 10:1, 7-8, 17-20

“Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness…And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.  Freely you received, freely give…But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.  For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

O (Observation) – Lord, You have given us authority to do great things in Your Name and for Your glory.  You have equipped us with Your Holy Spirit to tear down strongholds, heal sickness and disease, and You want us to go forth each day freely giving as we have freely received.  Inevitably, whenever anyone is doing anything for You and Your kingdom, we will find ourselves one day being questioned by others.  When we find ourselves in a situation where we need to speak, we can trust that as long as we are fully yielded to You, You will be the One speaking.

A (Application) – Sometimes we attempt to do good things in our own strength, apart from You.  While there is nothing wrong with doing good for others, it is absolutely necessary that we not miss out on the authority, covering, blessing, and favor that can only come from doing kingdom work by Your power, Spirit, and authority.  Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  You have already scripted exactly what it is that we are supposed to do for You in this life.  It’s our job to abide in You, seek Your face, spend time in Your presence, and listen for Your prompting.  We can trust that whatever it is that You have called us to, You have given us the authority through Jesus to see it through.  Not in our own strength, but together with You.  “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).”

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, thank You for Your provision.  You’ve called us to more with You than we have right now.  Elevate our perspective and allow us to see a glimpse of what You see every day.  Help us to feel Your presence and experience Your power.  If there is anywhere in our hearts that are not fully submitted to You, show us.  We want all that You have for us, and know that we can only carry it out by Your strength.

Love In Action

S (Scripture) – Matthew 9:35-38 “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.  Seeing the peopleHe felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.'”

O (Observation) – Lord, You were always on the move during Your ministry – You were going, teaching, proclaiming, and healing – all words full of action.  During the course of that action, You saw the people around You, and had compassion for them because they were so lost.  You knew it could be so different if they would only follow You.  These people around You were broken – distressed and dispirited, longing for someone to take them by the hand and guide them.  All of Your actions were motivated by love for these people; true love that can never run out and never be paid back.  Your love for them was fully expressed through the actions You took among them, and ultimately fulfilled by Your act of love on the cross for us.

A (Application) – Our message this week on Sunday was all about “Great Commandment love,” and what that is supposed to look like in our lives.  One of the key elements of the message was that we cannot separate what we believe in our hearts from what we do in our lives.  If we are God’s people of love, then it should be reflected in what we do.  How are we showing the love of God to other people?  It seems lately that God’s people are more concerned about being right, taking political stances, or winning arguments while presumable defending the faith rather than being the hands and feet of Christ while showing love to a distressed and dispirited world.  It’s easy to be loving to those that love us; what about showing love to those who don’t know us at all, or perhaps even detest us?  We are told to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).  Wisdom and discernment are necessary whenever dealing with such situations, but the driving motivating force behind our actions should always be love.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, change our hearts.  Take us from living comfortably with the singular perspective of our own lives as the focal point and instead open our eyes.  Let us see what You see.  The people of the world are broken, hurting, tired, stressed, lost, and secretly wanting to know what this life is all about.  Help us love others well…serve others well.  May they see the love pouring out of us, and may they not be able to help but wonder where it comes from…and may we have the courage to tell them that we love because You first loved us (1 John 4:19).  Reveal to us precisely the way You want us to show this love to others, and present us with opportunities at every turn to bring glory to Your name because of it.