Matthew 6:16

New International Version

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

For Encouragement

Keep joy in your soul when you are fasting and let its light brighten your outward environment. Let it be the radiance and hue of Christ in you and leave that stern-face in the grave of hypocrisy. People gravitate towards the joyful, hopeful, and thankful because they exude confidence and authentic discipleship in Christ.

The Pharisees made a show of their piety when they fasted, usually twice a week. They disfigured their faces, put on subdued expressions, and looked downcast to broadcast their spiritual exercise of self-denial. Oh, the irony of it all!

Their self-denial became self-promotion of their spirituality. They had become hypocritical in their self-humiliation before God for reasons like the confession of their sins and seeking God’s face in times of special needs. Fasting is a beneficial Christian discipline (1 Corinthians 7:27) without the show, for that is what Jesus condemned (Matthew 6:16-18).

The reaction in your face when you bite into an orange reveals its taste. It either invites someone to enjoy one with you or look for something else to delight their heart. The Pharisees missed this point, but we shouldn’t. Our reward from the Father’s hand is more precious than the applause of men. We do not set out to deceive people in our spiritual exercises. We should always allow reticence to guide our demeanor.

So, when you fast, put on the shine of Christ. Let the look of a radiant face that comes from the joy of the Holy Spirit, bless people, but not the mockery of a hypocritical act. People are not blind. They can distinguish sincerity from hypocrisy. Time always unmasks the hypocrite on the stage and draws the curtain down on the comedy before the show ends.

Be authentic, my friend, and let God be who He is in your motivations.

At Your Word

Luke 5:5

New International Version

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

For Meditation

. Is that not how we all have to live with Jesus?

“Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5). Emphasis mine.

No argument or objection. The Master had said it, and He was worthy of obedience. 

Everything stood against what Jesus told Peter to do. An experienced fisherman with a thorough knowledge of the lake, Peter knew it was a worthless adventure. But the command of the Lord is not ordinary. It is life and authoritative.

Peter knew the person who spoke to him on that day. He had met Jesus through the invitation of Andrew, his brother (John 1:35-42). Jesus had given him a new name that prophesied into his future. So Peter called Him Master on the shores of Lake Gennesaret. He immediately put himself in the position of a servant—that of servitude and obedience. Is that not your position and mine as well?

So, Peter obeyed the Lord (Luke 5:5). The catch was as extraordinary as the command from the Master was (6), and that blew Peter’s mind.

 “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (8).

No one stands in the presence of God without seeing their inner self—sinful, completely depraved, and unworthy of Him. Nobody sees the glory of God and remains the same. Isaiah certainly didn’t (Isaiah 6:5). Now Peter also stood before the Master after seeing His glory in the miraculous catch, and he would not be the same again (10-11). 

You have met Jesus on the shores of your disappointment. He revealed His glory to you on the day you bowed your knees to Him and called Him Lord and Savior. Stop thinking you will be a better Christian only if He revealed His glory to you as He did to Isaiah and Peter. He has! The greatest miracle on earth is salvation, and you have experienced it, if you are a child of God. 

What Jesus tells us to do sometimes is something other than believable. But we still have to obey, as Peter did. 

Our response to Him must be, “Lord, I am struggling, but at your word, I will do it.” Then take the step of faith and do what He tells you to do. For His glory is waiting to be revealed in your response. 

God In Battle Formation

Exodus 14:19

New International Version (NIV)

Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them.

For meditation

Have you ever doubted God’s protection? Well, check this out. 

Israel has left Egypt while they buried their firstborns. The superpower nation is in tatters after a barrage of divine assault on their pride. Pharaoh drives Israel out of his country in shame. But the enemy never gives up.

Pharaoh regrets letting Israel go. He hardens his heart again and gathers his best charioteers and comes in hot pursuit of Israel. God has led His people by the way to the Red Sea, with hills flanking them on both sides. They find themselves trapped. The sea is before them and the sound of galloping horses and the squeaking wheels of chariots behind them. The people’s hair stands up. They are dead in their hearts. 

Have you been there before? What did you do? 

Israel turns on Moses (Exodus 14:11-12). How human we all are! Their hero has become their villain. They now prefer slavery in Egypt to the Promised land. They do not remember the Mighty One who had delivered them. But Moses knows Him too well to be afraid.

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm, and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (13-14).  

God goes into battle formation. The angel of the Lord moves from the front of Israel’s army to the back. The pillar of cloud leading them also withdraws and stands between Israel and the Egyptians. All night long, the cloud brought darkness to the side of the Egyptian army and light to the side of the Israelites. 

“So, neither went near the other all night long” (20). 

God opens the Red Sea, and His people walk through on dry ground. Egypt pursues and drowns. Yes, Moses! The Israelites will never see the Egyptian army again!  

That is the way God protects His children, my friend. Like a mother hen that protects its chicks from the marauding hawk (Psalm 91:4), is God in battle formation to protect His own.  

So, take courage when your enemies attack you. The Lord is always in His best military formation around you. Do not fret. Don’t let the heavy odds send you into panic (1 Sam. 17:4-11). Jehovah’s army is right there to fight for you. God’s horses and chariots of fire have filled the hills on both sides of you (2 Kings 15-17).  

Just be still and see how He exalts Himself in your situation today (Psalm 46:10). 

Shalom

The King Still Rules

Habakkuk 2:20 

New King James Version (NKJV)

 “But the Lord is in His holy temple.
Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”

Your Encouragement

For all that is happening around us, God is not indifferent. He is in absolute control.

—He will surely make His move – and soon.

—Does it seem like an eternity?

—Do not doubt His faithfulness. Do not complain or fret.

—His response comes at an appointed time. So, wait patiently for it, though it tarries (Habakkuk 2:3).

—Never think He is insensitive to your plight. He knows your suffering.

—He is not one of those dead objects people worship as their gods that cannot save.

—Our God is alive and in firm control of all things.

—He is the Sovereign Ruler of all things … visible and invisible.

—He will make His move to accomplish His purpose in all this chaos.

—Look at the scientists and world leaders. How helpless they’ve proved in this crisis!

—But the Lord!

—He is not like them.

—He is the immortal and invisible God – All-mighty, All-knowing, Everywhere-present, and unchanging God, who alone is wise.

—To Him, we ascribe honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!

—He is in His Holy Temple. He is on His Majestic Throne.

—Let everyone and every living thing be silent before Him in expectancy. (Habakkuk 2:20).

—As the Psalmist says, be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

—He will exalt Himself in the eyes of everyone in this COVID-19 situation.

—He will exalt Himself in your peculiar circumstance.

Have a glorious weekend in Christ, our King.

Shalom 

All I Have and Desire

Psalm 73:25

New International Version (NIV)

Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

For Meditation

What is heaven without Jesus?

Angels cannot satisfy the redeemed in heaven. It would be nice to interact with Michael and Gabriel, but they cannot satisfy our raptured souls. The streets of gold and the pearly gates are definite attractions, but they would not cut it. Like a tourist in a beautiful historic city, there are takeaways alright. The satisfaction, however, is the opportunity to sit with the President and dine the evening away. Conversation with Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul will have meaning only around the table of the King of kings and Lord of lords—Jesus Messiah.

Wretched souls that we are! Has anything completely satisfied our inner cravings yet? The emptiness remains after each accomplishment. The exotic trips with a best friend only leave memories that wear off over time, and that is how it is with the believer of Christ Jesus in this world. How can we desire anything here apart from His manifest presence?

Can you now understand Asaph’s declaration of victory after a near defeat in the battle of the minds (Psalm 73:2-26)?

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (25).

My prayer for you this morning is that the joy of dwelling with King Jesus forever in heaven may fill your heart with a new song of praise to Him. For, He is preparing for you a private suite in the mansion of His Father, who is your Father, in heaven (John 14:1-3). And as you wait for that day, may the joy of living in the manifest Presence of God every day on this side of eternity delight your heart more than anything else.

May this scripture, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27), break forth with new meaning to you. Then you can joyfully declare with Asaph that the world can do its worst to you, but God is the strength of your heart and your portion forever (Psalm 73:26). Amen!

Shalom and good morning.

He Knows You by Name

John 1:42

New International Version

Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).

For Meditation

Before time began, God knew us by name. We are not nameless people floating around. There is a divine identification and calling on us. Because we are His elect, God has marked us out and calls us out by name—the name He has known from eternity past (John 10:3).

God told Jeremiah that He knew him before He, God, formed Jeremiah in his mother’s womb; before Jeremiah was born, God set him apart and appointed him to be His prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).

Moses heard God right when God called his name from the burning bush (Exodus 3:4). When he sought to know God’s ways better and to remain in His favor (33:12-13), God affirmed this truth to Moses (17).

“I will do the very thing you have asked because I am pleased with you, and I know you by name,” the Lord said (17).

Then Moses asked the Lord to show him his glory.

God honored his request (19-23; 34:6-8). It was not because of any good he did, but simply by His grace. God recognized him in a special relationship and as His instrument for His kingdom plan in the world. 

Bethsaida knew him as Simon, son of Jonah, an accomplished fisherman. Jesus, however, called and sent him out by the name He had determined for him from eternity—Peter. The world knows him this way to date (John 1:41-42).

We all live under the name the world knows us by, but God knows us by the name He recognizes from eternity. When He calls us, He does so by the eternal name He knows us. The world may know you, as Simon, the unstable and impulsive one, but ultimately, what God calls you will prevail in your life.

As our Good Shepherd, God calls us out by name and leads us to feed and refresh us (John 10:3; Psalm 23: 2). He will lead us to accomplish his purpose for our lives (Romans 8:28). God will graciously prosper us in everything because it is all for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

So, don’t let what is happening around you petrify you. God is with you and will see you through to the end with joy. 

Prayer:

Lord, I thank you for the name you gave me and call me by, even before time began. I may have lived under a worldly name and missed your mark. But thank you for inviting me by name for a walk with you through this turbulent world. May I live to fulfill my destiny and accomplish the purpose under your given name by which you have called me to display your glory in Christ Jesus, amen!  

Yes, He Is Willing.

Mark 1:40

New Living Translation

A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.

Your Encouragement

The leper knew something some of us have not mastered or are not ready to accept as the heart of prayer (Mark 1:40). It is the will of God in every situation. It is the foundational truth about God when we come to Him in prayer. 

God is sovereign. He rules over all things, seen and unseen. His absolute authority gives Him the sole right to determine what happens in every situation without exception. Everything is subject to His will, and nothing can ever happen without His perfect knowledge and approval—yes, even the things we consider unfair, harsh, wicked, and evil. He works all of them together for our good and His purpose (Romans 8:28).   

Knowing this truth, the man with leprosy appealed to the mercy of God for his cleansing. He cried out with humility and prayed for the will of God for his healing through Christ (Mark 1:40). Jesus had compassion for him and healed him.

“I am willing. Be clean!” (41).

We have no rights apart from what God willingly gives us through Jesus. If you ever wondered why He taught us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, blessed are you today. Your amazement has ceased. God wants the best for you. And the best is His will, as prevails in heaven, which He encourages us to plead for and expect in every situation when we pray. As Paul writes in Romans 12:2, God’s will is always “good, pleasing, and perfect” in everyway.

So, yes! Like the man with leprosy, God wills to give you His best when, by faith, your heart opens to Him with humility in prayer.

Shalom.

Tempered Judgment

Tempered Judgment

Matthew 7:1-2

New Living Translation

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

For Meditation

Temper judgment with mercy, for that is Christlike. The generous donation/flow/outpouring from the cross, is  enough to share with all who need it. And why not? Christ has made us His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). Do we not best represent Him when we freely extend mercy to others before we race to judge them?

For those who want to know what is in it for them, know that mercy begets mercy. Portia articulated this excellently in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.

The quality of mercy is not strained.

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest.

It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.

’Tis mightiest in the mightiest. It becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown.

His scepter shows the force of temporal power,

The attribute to power and majesty,

Wherein doth sit at the dread and fear of kings;

But mercy is above this sceptered sway.

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings;

It is an attribute of God Himself,

And earthily power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons judgment.

Isn’t that so true?

Shakespeare took it right from the mouth of Christ. We are most like God indeed, when mercy seasons judgment! When we withhold judgment for mercy to flow to others, righteousness is right there with us, revealing the tender heart of God and His kindness to them. God satisfies our hunger to be right with Him and opens our hearts to care about the people in our orbit and along our pathway.

So, make a deliberate effort today to prefer mercy to judgment and experience the peace and joy that comes only from God.

Amen!

He Means What He Says

Matthew 6:34

New International Version

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Your Encouragement

Sam walked into the office of his father. He cracked his fingers as he turned in his seat. His school was reopening soon, and there before his dad was this pile of bills. After the usual pleasantries, Sam turned to leave. With a hand on the doorknob, he turned and said,

“School reopens in two weeks, Dad, and the school expects full payment of fees on the day of registration.”

Dad responded with a smile. “Don’t worry, son. I have taken care of it already.” 

Anxiety occurs because of the way we perceive situations. No problem has anxiety embedded in it. Our perception triggers the chain of responses that cause our fears and uneasiness. Sam’s perception of the office situation of his dad caused his unnecessary anxiety. Thank God for the assurance of his dad. 

It reminds me of the moment the messenger brought the news of Jairus’ daughter’s death when Jesus was talking to the woman with the blood problem (Luke 8:49). Jesus just told Jairus not to be afraid but to believe that He will heal the girl when they got to his house (50). 

Jairus took Jesus at His word. They went to his house, and Jesus raised the child back to life (54).  

That is His word to you today, child of God. Your heavenly Father says, do not worry. Let tomorrow take care of itself. He has it all worked out, and He will see you through every situation as they come and when it matters.

Shalom and good morning.