"But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you
wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.
You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness"
Becoming a new person in Christ is part of a life-long journey that begins
at conversion. Before coming to Christ, we were living (in a metaphorical
sense) in Egypt, in the land of bondage. Just as the people of Israel
toiled as slaves in Egypt, we were slaves to sin and worldly ambition.
Before we came to Christ, we sweated and toiled to build our career and
acquire material possessions. Work was our idol. Greed was our taskmaster.
We may have had all the trappings of power in the business world - a
corner office, a staff of our own, a key to the executive washroom - but
we were living as a slave in the land of Egypt. We didn't run our career;
our career ran us.
Jesus once said, "No servant can serve two masters. You cannot serve both
God and money" (Luke 16:13). In the original language, the word translated
"money" was an Aramaic word, Mammon. This does not refer merely to money
as a medium of exchange but also to a demonic spirit designed to promote a
mind-set of ambition for riches, power and worldly gain. The word is
capitalized in the original text because the people of Jesus' day thought
of Mammon as a false god. Jesus was saying that those who spend their
lives seeking worldly gain are idolaters. No one can serve two masters. No
one can worship both the true God and a false god.
We cannot experience the grace that God gives to His children because we
are too busy striving for riches and enslaved to Mammon. The only way we
can be free is to turn away from Mammon and allow the one true God to
transform us into a different person.
Ask yourself today if your life is best represented as Egypt or the
"Lord, who may abide in your dwelling place? Who receives an invitation to spend time with you? Whoever walks without blame, whatever is right, speaking truth from the heart; Who does not slander a neighbor, does no harm to another, never defames a friend; Who disdains the wicked, but honors those who fear the LORD; Who keeps an oath, no matter what the cost, who lends no money at interest, accepts no bribe against the innocent. Whoever acts like this, shall never be shaken." (Psalm 15)
In 2002, U.S. companies Arthur Andersen, Enron, and Salomon Brothers were all brought down by the rogue actions of a few who failed the integrity test. Their corporate integrity code failed to equip front-line employees to make the right decisions without supervision.
Lack of integrity is nothing new. The Bible is full of examples. One of these involves Gehazi, the assistant to the most famous prophet of his day, Elisha. It's hard to imagine that anyone working with such an anointed man who saw firsthand the power of God would fail the integrity test. But he did.
When Elisha healed Naaman (a general in the army) from leprosy, he didn't expect to be compensated and he didn't ask for money. When Naaman insisted that Elisha take some form of payment, the prophet answered, "As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing" (2 Kings 5:16). Gehazi, however, did not agree with his employer. He saw this as a great opportunity for gain and took matters into his own hands. "Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, 'My master was too easy on Naaman, this Aramean, by not accepting from him what he brought. As surely as the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him'" (2 Kings 5:20).
As a result of his sin, God judged Gehazi. Elisha fired him and God struck him with leprosy, and his life was never the same. He was removed from serving one of God's most extraordinary prophets.
Each of us has the potential of being a Gehazi if we do not have a foundation built into our lives that makes us willing to receive only what God gives us through the fruit of our obedience.
Ask God to keep your motives pure in all you do.
TGIF (Today God Is First)
"These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." - 1 Peter 1:7
One of the great tragedies of the Christian life is that if we fail to enter into a relationship with God that is born of the Holy Spirit, we are left with a religion, not a relationship. Many a person today lives with an intellectual belief in God, but without a relationship that is based on two-way communication. This is the greatest tragedy of all. It's like having a brand-new car but never having the gas to run it. It can't move you anywhere. It only looks pretty, but one cannot enjoy the ride or smell the newness inside.
Peter tells us that until our faith is proved genuine, we will never be able to give praise, glory, and honor to Jesus, because until such testing He will not be revealed in our lives. Peter describes this in the verse before: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials" (1 Pet. 1:6).
Trials are designed to bring us to a level of trust and experience with God that we would never know otherwise. These "faith experiences" with God allow us to know firsthand the faithfulness of God, the love of God, and the personal nature of God. If you cannot recount several instances when God has met you personally, then chances are your faith has not been born of the Holy Spirit into a living relationship with God. It is easy to fall prey to a relationship to God that never experiences His real presence; rather, it is based on knowledge only. This is a tragic place to be.
If this is where you have been in your Christian experience, ask God today to make Himself real to you. Ask Him to show you His personal nature and love. He desires to do this. Those whom He has called know His voice. He will show Himself to those who are His. "He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him" (Jn. 14:21b).
Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" - Genesis 3:1
God is big on giving man freedom and boundaries--freedom to manage what He has entrusted to us, boundaries to protect us from evil. The boundaries in the Garden of Eden were not set for the purpose of limiting Adam. Man got into trouble when he questioned those boundaries. God had provided everything he would need for life. He also entrusted man with
responsibility to manage and work the Garden. God gave him freedom in that responsibility. God knows we were made to express ourselves creatively through our work.
Each of us must have freedom and boundaries in our work life. Whenever you are hired for a job, you must have the freedom to make certain decisions. You must have the authority to manage things within your area of expertise. You must also have limits within your area of responsibility. You need to know where those limits are and stay within them. Both freedom and boundaries are always under the umbrella of God's authority and our authorities at work.
Jesus understood these boundaries. When He was tempted for 40 days by the devil after being baptized, He was challenged by satan to go outside His freedom and boundaries. (See Matthew 4:1-11.) Satan said that He had the power to turn a stone into bread. Jesus was hungry and easily could have justified using His power to feed Himself. However, Jesus understood He could do nothing outside the boundaries of God's will for His life. It was God's will for Jesus to be tempted and to withstand the temptation. God was showing His Son that "man does not live on bread alone, but by every
word that comes from the mouth of God" (Mt. 4:4b). You and I are tempted every day to go beyond our God-ordained boundaries. Whether it is solving financial problems that have arisen through debt, making wrong decisions due to pressure, or manipulating someone in order to achieve our ends, it all represents rebellion toward God. Ask God to show you His freedom and boundaries for your life. These are meant to enhance your life, not hinder it.
“...Do not stay in the stronghold. Go into the land of Judah...” -- 1 Samuel 22:5
David and his fighting men had been hiding in the cave of Adullam. He was fleeing Saul. Many of life's down-and-out had come and joined David's army. David was s content to stay in the stronghold of safety. Then, God's prophet came to David and told him that he must leave the stronghold and go into the land of Judah.
When life beats down on us and we get to the place where we want to hide in a cave, God often places people around us who prod us into moving in the right direction. He does not want us to remain in the place of discouragement. He wants us to move into the land of "praise." Judah means "praise."
I recall when I went through a very difficult time. It seemed to drag on and on with no change until finally I wanted to retreat to a cave and forget pressing on. It was a great time of discouragement. A Godly man came to me and said, "You must keep moving! There are too many who are depending on you in the Kingdom."
I didn't totally understand what he meant at the time. Now I know he was saying that God is preparing each of us to be the vessel He wants to use in the life of another person, but we will never be that vessel if we give up and hide in our cave of discouragement.
Not only must we keep moving, we must move into a new realm. Our attitude must move from discouragement to praise. It is when we move past discouragement to praise that we begin living above our problems. Make a decision today to go into the land of Judah.
"Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die." (Genesis 42:2b)
F. B. Meyer in his book, The Life of Joseph, describes a time in the life of the 12 sons of Jacob in which they were driven from their lives of self-satisfaction to an unlikely place to save their lives. Many years earlier they had thrown their youngest brother into a pit, then sold him into slavery. Thirteen years later he became the second most powerful person in Egypt. Now the world was experiencing a famine, and Joseph controlled all the stored grain of Egypt.
As long as the hills were green and the pastures clothed with flocks, as long as the valleys were covered over with corn and rang with the songs of reapers, Reuben, Simeon, and the rest of them would have been unconcerned and content. But when the mighty famine came, the hearts of these men were opened to conviction. Their carnal security was shattered. They were being prepared for certain spiritual experiences they would never have dreamed. And they were being prepared for the meeting with Joseph. This is how God deals with us; He breaks up our nest, He loosens our roots, He sends a mighty famine that cuts away the whole staff of bread. Then, at such times, weary, worn, and sad, we are prepared to confess our sins and receive the words of Christ when He says, "Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Mt. 11:28).
A missionary once said, "There is a place where we will all be obedient." Joseph was a type of Christ in the Old Testament. The famine was an event designed to bring the brothers to repentance and a saving knowledge, physically and spiritually. It created the circumstances that led to freedom for these men, for they had been in bondage to a wicked crime against their brother for many years.
It was the forgiveness from Joseph that led to that freedom.
Is your life passing through a time of famine? Are your supplies limited? Is God leading you into directions that you would not normally seek? Perhaps this is God's hand creating circumstances for His purposes. Now is the time to look attentively as He directs you to unlikely sources.
TGIF "Today God Is First"
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by
the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,
because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. - Romans
Joshua and Caleb are described in Scripture as men who had a different
spirit. They were two of the 12 spies sent into the Promised Land to
determine if it could be taken, as God had promised it to them. The other
ten gave a bad report that instilled fear in the people, which ultimately
caused a rebellion. This resulted in an entire generation dying in the
desert. Joshua and Caleb were the only two who were led by the Spirit of
God, versus the spirit of fear. They were the only ones to enter the
Promised Land from their generation.
Are you a person led by the Spirit? The verse above tells us that those
who are led by the Spirit are sons of God. "But because My servant Caleb
has a different spirit and follows Me wholeheartedly, I will bring him
into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it" (Num.
14:24). Caleb was a Romans 8:14 man! The Spirit led him. He was not led by
Many of us have failed to enter into our own Promised Land because we have
failed to be led by the Spirit rather than by fear. Fear prevents us from
entering into what God has promised for each of us. God has reserved an
inheritance for us that is exceedingly good. God described the Promised
Land as a land of milk and honey. Our own Promised Land is the same. But
you must be led by the Spirit to enter in. You cannot be led by fear,
reason and analysis, or even skill. The Spirit must lead you.
Commit yourself to being a Romans 8:14 man or woman. Then you will enter
into the land God has promised for you.
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body" (2 Cor. 4:8-10).
It's hard to find anyone in Christian history who became a great leader without earning an advanced degree at the University of Adversity. John Bunyan (1628-1688), the author of The Pilgrim's Progress, grew up in poverty and taught himself to read. As a young man, he struggled with feelings of not being forgiven by God and was tortured by visions of eternal punishment. His devout wife helped him to overcome his fear, but then, while she was still in her twenties, she died of a sudden illness.
In his grief, Bunyan devoted himself to preaching. The English government, however, repeatedly imprisoned him for preaching without a license. On one occasion, Bunyan was sentenced to three months in prison, but when he told the officials he intended to go on preaching, his sentence was extended to 12 years. John Bunyan experienced God's presence in a special way while he was in prison. In fact, it was in his cell that he penned his enduring classic, The Pilgrim's Progress. It's a book that could only have been written by a soul that was refined by the fires of adversity.
A. W. Tozer once wrote, "It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply." God has a mission for your life and mine. But before we can carry out that mission, we will often go through the boot camp of adversity. If this is where you find yourself today, ask God to give you His grace to walk through this time with you. He promised He would never leave or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5)