Our Enemy (Luke 4:2-14)

After Jesus’ baptism, the spirit of God led Jesus into the wilderness.  While there, he was tempted by the devil who used all of his power expecting him to fall as every person before who had been tempted had fallen.  The power displayed by the devil is only a portion of his potential and reveals to us that our tempter is not on an equal plane with us.
The devil had the power to take Jesus to a high mountain and reveal to him all kingdoms of the Earth.  Regardless of how high a mountain, there was no way that all kingdoms could be viewed naturally.  Satan made this possible with the power that he had given to him at his creation.  He then took him from the wilderness to a high pinnacle of the temple.  Who would allow them access to this holy place and how would they get to the high pinnacle?  The temple was not a multistoried building.  Again, the devil used his power to make this possible.  Other passages reveal that he is a deceiver (1 Timothy 2:14), the father of lies (John 8:44), and can make himself appear as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). 
From Jesus’ temptation and this Information, you can formulate a strategy of defense.  To be victorious, you must recognize that your enemy, as he displayed in his tempting of Jesus, has greater power than you and you cannot defeat him in your own strength.  Just as you needed Jesus to deliver you from the penalty and bondage of sin, you need him to deliver you from the temptation to sin. You also must recognize that the enemy will make promises that he cannot or will not keep. Although his promises may appear to be pleasing, sin always robs the believer of the joy they are seeking.  It is also important for the believer to settle the matter in their heart that supernatural happenings should not be immediately credited to God.  The way to be cautious is to make sure that actions believed to be from God do not contradict God’s word.  God is not the author of confusion.  Therefore, he will not say one thing in his word and then do another.
God has promised to guide, direct, comfort and empower us.  With these promises of his presence, power, and directing, we cannot fail.

Seeking For Jesus (Luke 2:49)

This passage is very familiar because it is the first recording of words spoken by Jesus.  His statement, “How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” is made in reply to his mother who in exasperation from searching for him questioned his behavior.  In today’s terms he would be telling her that she really didn’t need to search for him because she should know where he would be: going about his father’s business.  

Jesus has promised to never leave or forsake us, but we can stray or wander away from him. The question is, “Can we ever really lose Jesus to where we need to search for him so that we can get back?”  If we were to ask The Lord, his answer would be very similar to the reply made to his mother.  He would probably tell us, “You don’t need to search for me.  You will find me where you left me.”

When people stray from The Lord, it is usually around an event or circumstance.  It may result from being hurt in losing a loved one.  It could have resulted from a sickness in themselves or someone that they love greatly.  They may have strayed because they ran after an empty opportunity offered by the world.  Trust in others may have been shattered.  In any event, people usually stray in response to life and its circumstances.  
How do these people get back?  The answer: they need to return to where they left The Lord.  If they accused him of not caring, then they need to return to him, confess their error and exercise faith that God does care.  If they were lured by the trinkets of the world, they need to return, confess loving another and set their affection on things above.  If they felt abandoned, they need to cease believing that lie and instead tell God that they will believe the promises of his word.  When a person is away from God they strongly believe the lies of the enemy just as much as we believe the promises of God and the only answer is repentance.  That is to change their mind from what they believe or think to something different.  Abraham experienced this when he went back to Bethel.  It was there that he built an altar and met with God and it was there that he returned to God after coming out of Egypt.
This is a very difficult thing to accomplish and the longer somebody is away from The Lord the more difficult the task will be.  However with God nothing shall be impossible.  If you have wandered away, come back to God.  You will find him at your Bethel.  If you have a son, daughter or loved one who has wandered away, continue praying for them. God wants them to come back to him much more than you do.


Grounded Faith (Luke 1:8-14)

The Scriptures are filled with the examples of people who lived and overcame by faith.  Zacharias was one of those individuals.  He and his wife were well stricken in years and yet still childless.  As he served in the temple one day, he received a visit from a messenger from The Lord announcing that he and his wife would have a son.  In their old age they would be a blessed both physically and emotionally.
As many read this and other accounts, they see these individuals as extraordinary people with endowments upon them that we do not have, but that view is incorrect.  Like us, they battled through life by faith.  They may have made decisions that we fail to choose, but their lives were no different than ours.  However in this account, we can see some details about Zacharias and his faith that caused him to experience victory.
Zacharias’ faith endured because his life was not tainted with sin and even when he did sin, he dealt with it according to the scriptures (vs. 6).  As he lived a life of faith, he chose to pray in the face of adverse circumstances and believed that God could work and give him a child regardless of what the circumstances conveyed (vs. 13).  How long he prayed is not known, but while he waited, he continued to serve The Lord (vs. 8-9).  Then when he least expected it, his faith took him to the answer and promise as presented by the angel.
Remember as you prayerfully face your trials with circumstances which appear insurmountable, keep yourself from sin and when you fall deal with as God has instructed, believe that God can overcome your circumstances and faithfully serve him while you wait for his answer.


Opportunity (Mark 13:3-9)

Opportunity: the very word reminds me of the commercial advertising the resale of football tickets.  When they become available, they are only there for a moment.  If you don’t snatch and grab them, they will be gone.
This woman saw an opportunity, reached out and grabbed the moment.  Because of it, we all have heard her testimony.  However taking advantage of the opportunity was not an easy task and never really is.  In this case, the woman needed to overcome personal opposition.  The fact that her hair was down and she was referred to as a woman, who was a sinner, indicated that she was not accepted in the company.  However, this barrier did not stop her from taking advantage of the opportunity that The Lord put upon her heart.
Opportunities come from The Lord and we must recognize and take advantage of them so that we may accomplish the work that he wants.  For this woman, she had the opportunity to anoint his body for his burial.  This opportunity was brought just to her.  The women, who went to the tomb on resurrection morning, loved The Lord greatly, but did not have that opportunity.  It was too late, he was already risen.
As I pondered this passage, I knew that I could not have the opportunities as those who were present when The Lord was on the Earth.  However, I did ask myself, “What types of opportunities does The Lord bring to me?”
The Lord brings me opportunity to fellowship, serve, testify and give to him.  Because I am such a fast paced person, I have probably missed out on more opportunities to fellowship with God than any other opportunities.  I have needed to learn that there are sights, sounds, people and events that he brings to me daily so that I may stop, recognize his greatness and fellowship with him in praise.
Serving other is serving The Lord.  He said that if a person is to be great, he will be a servant.  Testifying is telling others what God has done and is doing in your life.  It can be done as a response to a question from a friend or a long discussion about salvation.  Giving is simply accomplished by giving yourself.  After you have given yourself, giving anything else is much easier.
Today, The Lord will bring one or many opportunities your way.  Will you miss the opportunity or will you snatch a grab it?

Widows Mites (Mark 12:41-44)

In the temple was a treasury where people would give offerings to God.  The rich gave from their overflow.  The widow, in spite of being financially short, gave anyway.  From the text, it appears that she emptied her purse.  Because of her poverty, she probably did not have any savings and after her offering was given, she was without any money and needed to trust The Lord and live by faith for her next meal and supply.  Why did she give?  Others were giving more.  Why give in this manner when the amount given would not be recognized or make any significant difference?  With all the wealth given, how much of a difference would her little bit make?

Because the Lord commends her giving, her motive for providing such an offering could only have come from right motives.  Truly spiritual motives for giving are empathy, obedience and love.  Had the offering been used for the poor, then it would be reasonable to think that her motivation could have been from empathy, but the gifts were to be used for various purposes including servicing the temple and not just caring for the poor.
Obedience could possibly have been the motive, but most likely was not the case.  In Luke 17:7-10, Jesus teaches that servants are not commended for tasks that they complete in obedience to commands of their masters.  Therefore, the reasonable explanation for the widow giving so sacrificially to the point of dependency upon The Lord for her own needs to be met, could only have been motivated by love.
Love: the sacrificial desire to meet the needs of those loved.  This definition describes the widow.  The great question to ask is, does this definition describe you?  Ask yourself, “Why do I do the things I do?  Is it out of responsibility or love?  Is it for what I can get back or is it from love?  Is it because of who is watching or is it love?  Is it because of fear or is it love?”
Christ demonstrated the greatest act of love by becoming our sin bearer.  He sacrificed for what we needed.  We must do the same.  We must live as he lived, love as he has loved and die to self or our own desires.  In doing so, we become a living testimony of his work of love in our lives.

A Heart Twisted By Imaginations (Psalm 81:11-12)

Have you ever known somebody who for years lived for The Lord and then came to a point of no longer following God?  I have seen it countless times.  How did he or she get to that point or what happened to bring about such a drastic change?  
But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.  So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: (Psalm 81:11-12)
From this passage, it can be seen that what takes place when this occurs is that a person comes to a point in his life that he no longer hears The Lord with the intent of listening.  He reads the scriptures and attends preaching services, but he is not hearing with the intent of listening for the Lord’s voice or calling.  A battle begins to take place in their heart and mind.  Thoughts or imaginations of their heart begin to change the desires of the heart.  After some time, the believer, who at one time panted after God as a deer pants after the water brook, now no longer rests content in The Lord.  As the passages states, the Lord eventually lets them go to run after the twisted imaginations of their heart.
Such a sad state that can only be overcome by repentance, which will be essential for them to return.  Since they have ceased listening to The Lord, they more than likely will only repent after The Lord brings some type of chastening and even at that point they can still resist.
If this is you, pray while you still can and ask The Lord to keep you from wandering any farther away from him.  If this describes somebody you know, pray for them daily that God would have liberty in working on their heart and that God would grant them repentance. 
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; (2 Timothy 2:25)

Keeping From Error (Mark 12:24)

As the unbelievers came to Jesus to tempt him, he identified their cause of error being in that they did not know the scriptures and failed to recognize the power of God.  For these people, they failed to understand marriage and also how the scriptures support that God resurrects people from the dead.  Had they known truth and believed in their hearts, they would not have walked in error.
Life is not any different today.  Identifying truth for life’s situations and recognizing the power of God will keep you from being led astray.  In order for this to happen, You must know truth that is pertinent to your life and then by faith walk believing that God will bless it and provide his powerful guidance and blessing.  If You fail to seek truth for your life, You will rely upon the reasoning of your heart and that reasoning will lead you to error.  There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Prov. 14:12)
God reminds us that the word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path. (Psalm 119:105). He will guide us to truth that will provide the direction we must go.  He will not illuminate the entire way, but he will show the next step.  Our part then is to believe and follow.
But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.  Edit. 4:29

Sacred (Mark 11:15-17)

There are some things that God sees as sacred.  Sacred is something that is set apart as holy unto God.  The tabernacle was sacred as well as all of the items inside.  Samson because of his Nazarite vow was sacred.  The silver, gold, brass and iron of Jericho was consecrated or considered holy unto The Lord.  In this passage, it was the temple.  When The Lord arrived, it appeared that it was being used for every reason other than for what it was intended.  There may have been offerings there, but the actions were mechanical and heartless.  Greed, profit and the mundane ceremonial practices filled the place that was intended for heart communion with God.

There isn’t any temple today and sacrifices are no longer needed.  So what is there that is holy to God.  As the temple and all other sanctified objects of the Old Testament were set apart unto The Lord, he wants our hearts set apart for him.  He wants our hearts to long for his presence and to occupy themselves with motives and desires that are holy.  The Lord admonishes us to keep his commandments (John 14:15).  The word keep in this passages carries the idea of guarding something.  The Lord wants us to guard our hearts so that only that which is pleasing to him will reside in it.  The Psalmist stated it this way, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer”. 
We cannot accomplish this task on our own, but with the power of his spirit and the working of his grace, we can have a heart like this.  As you walk through life today, continually ask for God’s grace to reveal that which you should shun and to direct your focus towards things that will motivate you to praise him.  We don’t have much to give back to him, but we do have a heart and all of its desires that can be presented to him daily.

Root of Bitterness (Heb. 12:15)

Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
Bitterness may spring up like a root, but if left unattended, will grow to mammoth proportions.  Bitterness in the heart of the believer is like a poison.  Important questions to ask are how does a person become bitter and where does bitterness come from?  
As humans, we interact with people daily and in that interaction, we can be offended or hurt.  If we carry these hurts in our hearts and fail to forgive as the scriptures instruct, the hurts will remain.  As future days pass, daily hurts continue to accumulate.  If this process continues for a while, it will not be long until the individual is facing major issues of hurt and anger.  This person’s anger will continue to grow towards others and even themselves for allowing the hurt to happen.  Bitterness develops from unresolved hurt and anger.  Anger is best described as a person’s emotional state, but bitterness will develop and become their attitude or perspective towards life and others.
To keep yourself from being overcome with hurt, anger and bitterness, you must forgive those who have sinned or wronged you.  Forgives means to release.  A common phrase that people say today instead of telling people to forgive is, “Let it go”.  When we forgive, we let people go or release them from any obligation towards us.  Because they don’t owe us, it will be difficult to become angry towards them and without anger, there also be an absence of bitterness.
So, as you face people daily who hurt or offend you, look for reasons why you should forgive them. It may be because of issues in their lives.  It may be because of things that you have done towards them or possibly because they simply may be having a bad day.  But by releasing them, you are really freeing yourself rom all of the baggage that leads to bitterness.
Take a quick inventory of your life.  If you have hurt, anger or bitterness, identify the causes and those involved and LET THEM GO!
Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.  Ephesians 4:31-31

Expectation (Mark 11:2-6)

Jesus sent his disciples into a village to get a colt.  Under normal circumstances if a person were to walk up to an animal, unloose it and begin to leave, it would be considered stealing.  Normal reactions would be to contact the law and prosecute.  However as the owner sees these men, he ask about their intentions.  Their reply of, “The Lord hath need of him” caused the owner to allow them to take his possession.
I have often thought about this passage.  What took place behind the scenes?  Did God previously speak to the man and let him know that the disciples of The Lord would come for the animal?  Had the man recently yielded himself to the Lord and dedicated all of his possessions or did he beckon The Lord to use him in some way to bring him glory?  For now, we cannot know, but what we do know is that The Lord knew how he would respond.
As I consider this text, I ask myself, ” What choices does the Lord know that I will make?  Is he expecting me to make choices that reflect my dedication to him or is he knowing that I will stagger in my faith?  How can I know that my choices and actions will be pleasing to him?  I can better accomplish this and direct my actions of the future to be pleasing to him by following a few guidelines: keep a short account of sins and confess them immediately, spend time with God in his word and in prayer, yield myself to him daily, express thanks for what he has done for me, and forgive those that have offended me.  By doing these, I am not guaranteeing that I my actions will always be pleasing to him, but it will cut off those things in the world which may negatively affect me.