Saturday, December 15, 2012
His message and His mission came from heaven and He was responsible enough to stop and listen for "orders from headquarters." The moment He sensed the strength of His spirit waning after expending Himself through sacrificial ministry, He found a way to get alone with God for refreshment and to re-orient Himself for the next mini-mission along His journey to fulfill His ultimate mission on the cross.
Jesus consistently spent time with His Father in prayer, ministry being the result of that prayer life. Sometimes it was early in the morning, sometimes late at night. Often He would go up a mountain to pray. The place and time weren't as important as the priority He placed on it. He connected with the Father on a consistent basis because the temptations that accompanied His physical body and soul demanded that He draw strength and wisdom from heaven, not only to overcome temptation but to fulfill all righteousness. And that He did on a tree.
Immediately after Jesus spent 40 days connecting with God in the desert, the devil tempted Him to function as the Son of God by turning stones into sandwiches. (OK, I modified that a little) The temptation was to use His spiritual identity as the Son of God to feed his flesh, in more ways than one. Not only did Jesus refuse to do this, but He silenced the voice of the enemy with this verse in Matthew 4:4 "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God."
Jesus didn't deny His identity as the Son of God with this statement. Nor did He deny the fact that He was ready to throw down at the Jerusalem Golden Corral buffet. (LOL) What He revealed was that His life's decisions were not dictated by external circumstances, but by an ever-proceeding Word from the Father. In the same way our natural bodies depend on a consistent intake of nutrients in order to function properly, the health of our spirits depends on receiving His Word into our hearts and allowing the Spirit to apply it to our lives consistently.
Matthew 4:4 is actually a direct reference to the Israelites gathering manna that God supplied for them in the desert. The fact that He gave them exactly what they needed every day is a good indication that He wants to do the same for you today. If you are a born again believer, then the Spirit of Christ lives inside you and has been commissioned to reveal who Jesus is to you. He is poised to reveal the will of the Father to you. He is able to show you who you are in Christ (who He is in you). He can also give you the strength and wisdom not only to overcome your temptations but to fulfill your purpose too!
The only way He can fulfill His purpose in your life is if you allow Him to help you fulfill yours! And this involves you putting your faith in God's ability to do what only He can do (the prayer of faith) as well as asking for His wisdom to do what you need to do (prayer of petition). It's a partnership made in heaven. You and God are a team. And together you can accomplish anything He puts into your heart to do!
Think of the Word of God as your source of spiritual nutrition. It gives you the strength to survive and the sustenance to thrive, the wisdom to achieve and the faith to believe that anything is possible. D.L. Moody once said that "the Scriptures were not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives." So true! When the knowledge of the Word you've obtained yesterday becomes more important than the life the Word can give you today, you essentially begin to sacrifice the wisdom of God on the altar of your own agenda.
His ways are higher than ours and His thoughts far exceed our wildest imaginations. Place a premium demand on His will by making each day just a little more important than the one before. After all, you are a day closer to eternity than you were yesterday. Time is precious and so is His voice. Ask the Lord to make you sensitive to hear, ready to learn, willing to change, quick to obey and hungry for more of Him.
If Jesus Christ, who is the very Word of God Himself, chose to lay aside His deity and take upon Himself human flesh like you and I, this is proof enough that He has made tremendous effort to bridge the gap between your life and your spiritual purpose. If it was necessary for Jesus to maintain His spirit through prayer, then I think it is extremely self-righteous for us to think that we can go about our lives any other way than He modeled for us: a life in love with Him. He took up His cross for us. We should do the same for Him. The only way to obtain true life is through the death of our fleshly desire to maintain control in our lives. Surrender your all, die daily and discover what a joy it is to allow His life to flow through you.
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012
As each new year approaches I am reminded that time slows down for no one. Our days on earth are so very valuable, not only to our individual lives, but for eternity itself. God placed each one of us here in this season for a particular reason. In order to achieve true fulfillment in life, we need to discover our purpose, develop our giftedness and delight to do God's perfect will. Easier said than done, but it all boils down to this: every day is an opportunity to know Him more and for Him to make Himself known through you.
No amount of effort can change a single thing in the past, but your future awaits the decisions you will make in response to the revelation of His will, even in the face of contrary circumstances that often demand your attention. Forgive my dry humor, but today truly is the first day of the rest of your life! If you could see your life from God's perspective, you would know the absolute importance of each day, not only for your sake but for those around you. As James 4:14 puts it, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." Compared to eternity, 80 years is a drop in a bucket.
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and reverse a number of decisions I've made over the years. And if I was a betting man, I would put money on the premonition that I am not alone on this one! If you knew back then what you know right now, what would you have done differently? Probably a whole lot, right? Although living in the land of regret won't do you any good, accessing the wisdom of God based on your past mistakes is invaluable to making better decisions in the future. They say "hindsight is 20/20" but unfortunately not everyone learns from past mistakes, even when they are fully aware of them. Truthfully, our own stubbornness leads us to repeat dysfunctional patterns because we tend to trust in our wisdom more than His.
Let me encourage you to start this year with a bulldog determination to make the most of each day. As the Israelites of old made a point to gather manna each day, make it your goal to prioritize what is really important in your life: hearing and responding to the voice of God. Without a revelation of His will in your life, you are left wondering what your purpose is and end up wandering from that purpose. Without a clear sense of direction, the winds of circumstances will dictate the course of your life. You don't have to be a victim of circumstance. You can take charge of your life by surrendering it to Him today! A paradox worth living for, if you ask me.
You might be saying to yourself right now: "But I have surrendered my life to Him and I still feel helpesss in my situation." Maybe you're not sure what your purpose is or maybe you do but don't know how to go about fulfilling it. If that's you, understand that you're not alone. Many believers today put on their Sunday suits and smiles to present the image that everything is hunky-dory while their insides are crying out for something more. They are aware that something is missing, that they are somehow not living up to their potential.
I must say that I have been in this very position a number of times in my life, the last of which wasn't too long ago. Times of internal frustration with external circumstances are often the result of depending on our own wisdom instead of accessing His. When we become complacent in gathering daily manna in our lives, this is indicative of our tendency to "lean on our own understanding" instead of trusting our daily lives to the leading of His Spirit. We somehow think we know how to run our lives better than He does. Ludicrous, isn't it?
Surrendering your life to Christ should not be a one-time experience; it should be a continual process of acknowledging your need for Him more than your next breath. Jesus demonstrated this for us through His lifestyle of dependence on the voice of the Father and the empowerment of the Spirit. When we read about the miracles Jesus performed, it's easy to assume that they were done because He was God in the flesh. But Jesus never did anything supernatural until He received the empowerment of the Spirit. And even after the Spirit "descended like a dove upon Him" He didn't rush off to start His world-shaking ministry. He got alone with God for 40 days.
Jesus wasn't a first century version of the incredible hulk, half God and half man. He was 100% Son of God and 100% Son of man. As the Son of God He was the Living Word and the Bread from heaven, but as the Son of man he depended on the voice of the Father for identity, instruction and direction. Jesus refused to teach anything that He didn't first hear His Father say. (John 7:16) And he refused to do anything that He didn't first see His Father do. (John 5:19) He didn't just go about randomly teaching people what He decided from day to day and healing people when He was in a good mood.
...Be sure to catch Part II of this series in a few days.
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