Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.

Scripture:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. – Philippians 2:3-4

Observation:
In his letter to the Philippian congregation, Paul noted many things for which he was grateful concerning them and their generosity toward him and to others in general. He admonished them to pursue serving others and keeping themselves pure and blameless before others. In this way, they would remain above reproach. Among his warnings, he advised them to do nothing out of selfishness or conceit. Instead, they were to remain humble, value others before themselves, and to put the interests of others above theirs.

Application:
This passage, and letter, is a huge indictment against the American church in this day and age. In the land of the free and home of the brave, there has been and still is a land of plenty, flowing with milk and honey! Because of this wealth and freedom, the people of this nation, despite their generosity to others, have allowed pride and vanity to take hold like a tick on a dog’s ear. Even people in the body of Messiah have succumbed to the ways of the post-modern world in which we live.

Christians are beginning to forsake the very foundations of the Scriptures in pursuit of personal pleasures and world gain. We now allow homosexuals in our pastorates and positions of authority. Homosexual marriages are condoned in various denominations in the name of love and grace, to wit they are an abomination. Divorce rates among Christians are at rates paralleling those in the world. The world has embraced the philosophy of open arms to all and anything goes!

Whereas Paul advises us to put the interests of others before ours, it not to say that we cower to the pressure destroying our culture and way of life. Jesus taught the golden rule of treating others the way you want them to treat you. This is how you go about putting others’ interest above yours. If we merely step aside and allow evil to become good and good become evil, we are complicit in the destruction that engulfs our lives. No, we must learn to serve our fellow man for the sake of the gospel by spreading the good news of Jesus the Messiah and the truth of his Word. We work to please the Father, and LORD of our Messiah, not mankind or ourselves. While at the same time, we must ever remain on guard and be ready to defend our faith and give an explanation of why we believe what we believe. Even Nehemiah had his workmen building the walls of Jerusalem with one hand and a sword in the other.

Jesus the Messiah served those around him in everything from turning water into wine to healing the sick and raising the dead! He even went so far as to allow himself to be arrested, tried, convicted, and executed but finally resurrected in order that he may fully display the heart of a servant and the work required of one who serves others to the ultimate end without ever compromising who he was or what he believed!

This is the life that Paul tells the Philippians and us to emulate. Prefer others and do nothing to promote yourself. It’s not about us but all about him! We accomplish this feat by loving the LORD our God with all our being and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Therefore, keep yourself balanced with periodic checkups from the neck up! Be willing to lend a hand and help others but without compromising your faith or giving into temptation! Stand true to Messiah, others, and yourself. Let your word be your bond. Remember that we are in this world but not of this world!

Prayer:
Father, LORD God Almighty, he who sits between and is enthroned between the cherubim, thank you for the truth of your word. Your Spirit brings its truths alive in me and helps me to learn the right path to follow. I’ve not always been the most humble servant or obedient child, but I am still learning and practicing the ways you prescribe for us in your word. I take your word with great care and utmost sincerity. Please continue to show me the way to remain humble and all the while continuing to serve others in whatever capacity you want. I don’t want to be like the world that says one thing and then does another. I want to be a man of my word and keep my integrity intact. May only your will be done, not mine. As you lead, I’ll follow. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me past, present, and future. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Take all commands from the LORD; do nothing without his direction!

Scripture:
At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. – 1 Kings 18:36

Observation:
Three-plus years earlier in the narrative, Elijah prayed and the skies dried up over northern Israel. The drought led to nationwide death and famine. It also put a price on the head of the LORD’s prophet! Near the end of this famine, the LORD told Elijah to present himself to Ahab and announce that the rains would return according to the word of the LORD. He encountered Obadiah, a faithful follower of the LORD, and told him to have Ahab gather all the prophets of baal and asherah, so the LORD would prove himself supreme before the people of Samaria. The story unfolded with two sacrifices presented to each deity, one to baal and one to the LORD. The only sacrifice consumed was Elijah’s, which had been doused with gallons of water and still burned up including the water that overflowed around it! Elijah, however, asked the LORD to show the people that he had done all this only at the LORD’s command.

Application:
The first thing we need to examine in Elijah’s prayer that day are the words, let it be known today that you are God in Israel. These words define the whole of Elijah’s actions that day in challenging the prophets of false gods to prove whose deity actually was supreme! Without setting this base, there was no point in going further. There would have been no purpose for a wanted man to come forth publicly and expose himself to arrest, trial, and execution. Then the prophet asked that the LORD demonstrate his supremacy in order to show the pagans that he was indeed a servant of the Most High and did this according to the LORD’s command only and not of himself. He’d have to have been mad to attempt this in his own power.

The moral of the story is that we need to ensure that if we are embarking something that it is ordered and commanded of the LORD. We risk incurring the consequences of actions that we employ that have not been directed of the LORD. Could you imagine what might have happened to Elijah had he just gone off on his own and challenged all of Israel? Think back to Abraham and Isaac when they lied to foreign potentates about their wives being their sisters! They suffered for that. Think of Joshua when he made a treaty with the Gibeonites when God said to not do so and to wipe out the people of Canaan! Israel still pays the price for that disobedience to this day!! If the LORD says move, then move! If he says park it for a while, then stay put! Be led of the Holy Spirit; don’t try to lead him!

Prayer:
Father, most wonderful and glorious One, you alone are worthy of glory, honor, and praise. To you alone be all these things, you who doesn’t share his glory with another! Thank you for loving me and not giving up on me! Thank you for leading me and showing when to turn left, right, and to stay down the center. Thank you for showing me when to move and when to stay put! Many times in the past I’ve launched out on my own only to fall on my face and embarrass both your name and mine! I want to take all direction from your Spirit and be sure that all endeavors taken are ordered and ordained by you! Your will be done, not mine! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Have you given all of yourself COMPLETELY to God?

Scripture:
Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. – Romans 6:13

Observation:
The apostle Paul wrote that by the death and resurrection of Jesus we’ve been made alive in him and restored by faith in him regarding our relationship with the Father. He noted that Adam brought sin to us all through his one act of disobedience while Jesus brought life through his act of obedience. The one brought death, both physical and spiritual, while the other brought life, spiritual to mankind. The one gave himself unto death through sin while the other gave himself unto life through truth and obedience. Paul warned us that we are no longer slaves to sin but slaves unto righteousness when we live as God designed. Thus, he told us to give ourselves over to God completely so that we may do what is right for God’s glory.

Application:
The part of this passage that struck me life a 2”x4” board upside the head was the phrase, give yourselves completely [emphasis added] to God. Have any of us really, truly given over ourselves completely to God? I would dare say not. I don’t raise the question of whether people are true disciples of Jesus and heirs of the promise of eternal life in him. My thought goes to the point of whether we actually commit ourselves 100% to living life in a fashion that permits us to do what is right to bring God glory.

I know that there are areas of my life that remain a tug-of-war in submitting them to the Father fully. One such area is the talent of playing the piano. From my childhood, I studied piano and learned to play the instrument to no respectable level, as perceived by true musicians. I learned the basic mechanics of the instrument, attempted to practice and play it for nearly a decade, and even performed in public places in my youth. However, I’ve never fully committed this talent to God. I never developed it to any useful point. Sure, I can bang out tunes on the piano, read music, and even wrote some short pieces many years ago, but the joy was never there. It was a laborious endeavor in my childhood thrust upon me by my mother.

Now that I am much older in life and moving in the direction mapped out for me long ago, I have to revisit the purpose and usefulness of this talent that has lain dormant for more than three decades. Did God give it to me for us in his kingdom and for his glory? Or was it merely the desire of my mother to impose this upon me as a child for her gratification? Piano playing has never brought me any joy or satisfaction per se. It was just a part of my life. Is that to say that God cannot use it for his plans and purposes in my life? No! It is merely an area of consideration that I have to deal with regarding giving myself completely to God to use my whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.

I have to take up this matter in prayer to the Father and seek out the counsel of the Holy Spirit in this matter. To some, this may seem like a trivial matter, but do we really believe in the whole counsel of God or cherry pick the parts that appeal to us?

Prayer:
Father, you are the holy One, the exalted One, and the magnificent One! To you alone be all glory, honor, and praise! You tell me to come before your throne of Grace boldly to make known my petitions before you. Well, here I am. I dare not think I can demand anything of you, but in all true humility, I stand before you as your son requesting that you help me to the conclusion of my dilemma. You can take a donkey to speak to a prophet to save his life. You can use rocks as witnesses against people regarding oaths and promises they made. You can use the beauty of creation to express your omnipotence. Thus, you can use me to do your bidding and bring glory to you. Please help me come to terms and reach peace over the talent that was partially developed in my youth. I am not gifted in this area but do have the intelligence you gave me to learn how to play the piano and learn music. This is one area that I know that I have never fully and completely surrendered to you. It doesn’t torment me but does give me angst and frustrates me at times. I seek your counsel and ask for your wisdom in the matter. May your will be done no matter what in all areas of my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

When we obey God’s Word, we experience the blessing of his promises.

Scripture:
Deep in your hearts you know that every promise of the Lord your God has come true. Not a single one has failed! – Joshua 23:14b

Observation:
Joshua neared the end of his life. He led the people of Israel into the Promised Land and divided it among the tribes as order by G-d. The leader of Israel warned the people to serve the L-rd and him only and to put away their idols. The people renewed their faith and commitment to serve the L-rd, and him alone. Joshua reminded the people that during their exodus from Egypt and through the 40 years of wandering in the desert of Sinai that the L-rd kept every promise he had made to the patriarchs regarding Israel’s occupation and possession of Canaan. He drove the enemies of Israel and gave them land, houses, and crops they didn’t establish. The L-rd was completely faithful to them! Not one of his promises fell short or failed to come to fruition.

Application:
The scriptures tell us that the L-rd is the God who never changes, he’s the same today as he was yesterday and will be tomorrow. He promised us that his word always accomplishes what it was set out to do and to never return void to him. Therefore, we can hold to the truth of the Word of G-d and rest in the assurance that the promises he has made to us will come to pass.

The key lies in what Joshua told the Israelis. He told them to observe the Word of the L-rd and to be obedient to G-d. Joshua told them that those who stray away from G-d’s Word would find themselves outside the blessings of G-d. That truth still holds today. We may have grace and mercy and forgiveness through the blood of Messiah, but we still have to be obedient to G-d’s Word if we expect to receive the fruit of his promises. It has often been said that you can’t live like the devil Monday through Saturday and expect G-d to move on your behalf on Sunday! How true!

Let us make a concerted effort to be vigilant in our thoughts, words, and deeds to reflect the life that bears fruit of repentance and conversion. It’s one thing to give lip service allegiance to G-d, but it’s another to actually live out the life he expects us to live. Many cry foul and say that it’s impossible to do so, but they either don’t understand the full extent of grace or don’t know it. Messiah said that his Grace is all that we need to live life as he designed. In our weakness, he is made strong! It’s not by human power or strength but by the Spirit of G-d!

If you want to experience the fulfillment of G-d’s promises, you have to be obedient to his Word! This is not salvation by works! This is not legalism! This is the bear truth of G-d’s Word…obedience brings blessing! There is no other way!

Prayer:
Father, king of the universe! Humbly we come before the Might One, the Creator and L-rd of all! Blessed are you above all creation! We don’t deserve the many blessings you pour out upon us. Because of your unfailing love and faithfulness, we can and do live. I confess to you this day that the words of truth in your scriptures rang through my ears like the clangs of steeple bells and if I were only feet away from them! Even now, my heart languishes because of the stain I see upon it. I know that I’ve not be fully obedient to your word. I rebelled against you in the slightest of things, but I know that I must confess my sin to you and trust that you wash me clean of all iniquity, sin, and treachery, regardless of act. I long to follow after you and live holy before you, but it takes your grace to empower me to do so. I cannot live holy without it. That is an exercise in futility. Grant the strength to walk as you desire. Help me to stay on the narrow path inside the narrow gate. No one ever said it was an easy journey or without difficulty. However, I trust you to lead me and guide me, to bless me and to correct me, and to love me as your own. Forgive me, Father. I ask this all in the name of Messiah, Yashua. Amen.

Fulfilling Our Duties Even If It Hurts.

Scripture:
Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan. – Joshua 3:17

Observation:
The LORD told Joshua it was time to lead the people over the Jordan River into the Promised Land. They were to prepare themselves to cross over and enter the land. Joshua instructed the priests, who carried the Ark of the Covenant, to enter the river and stand there until all Israel had passed over. According to the LORD, the riverbed would be completely dry ground during the crossing. Once all of the people crossed over, the priests were then permitted to come out of the river.

Application:
The priests, who had to carry the Ark, manually supported the Ark on their shoulders whenever the Ark was moved. They were not allowed to use anything but the holy, gilded staves that ran through the hoops external to the Ark. When the LORD ordered the priests to carry the Ark across the Jordan River and stand in the middle of the riverbed, they had to endure the weight of the Ark until all Israel had crossed over into Canaan. They stood there like statues supporting the Ark and feeling the burn in their shoulders, arms, backs, and the rest of their bodies while millions of people passed by and crossed the river. Can you imagine the strain they felt???

What has the LORD asked of us to do? We, who are the children and chosen of the LORD, are destined to do a given work within the kingdom of the LORD. Are you a teacher, giver, encourager, server, clergy, food worker, driver, or whatever position the LORD has assigned? Do you do it to the best of your ability and through the grace of Jesus? How taxing is the work you’re assigned? Do you feel it? Do you bear it? Does it take all you have within you? What are your limits? What are your results?

The priests endured agonizing hours of strain and pain supporting the Ark while Israel marched across the river. Let us not complain about the little things we are called to do in this age of comfort and ease. We cannot even begin to imagine the strength and encouragement those priests needed to succeed. There were a finite set of men who could carry out that mission. Anyone else who attempted to do so would have died. There were unauthorized! You have been given a specific mission that only you can complete, no one else. Therefore, let us get to the task at hand fulfill the mission that the LORD has given us and do so without complaint but express joy instead!

Prayer:
Father, Forgive me for not carrying out my duties to the fullest and creating excuses along the way. The priests who carried the ark were not allowed to complain or faced death. That was harsh, but it was necessary for them to worship and serve in your presence. I have grace, but it’s not an excuse for laziness and inefficiency. Help me to do what you’ve called me to do and do it without regret or complaint. It should be a joy to serve you in any and all capacities. Give me the grace to do so. I thank you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Where he is, we are there!

Scripture:
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. – John 12:26

Observation:
The Passover festival had arrived with many gathering in Jerusalem for the venue. Yashua and his disciples were in town and conversed with those around them. After he’d made his triumphal ride into the city on the donkey, he told the disciples of his imminent death and resurrection. In his discussion, he mentioned a parable of a seed and how it must drop to the ground, die, and be buried before it can produce much yield. He then went on to state those who serve him must follow him because where he is his servants will be also.

Application:
Many would look at this passage and concentrate on the idea of where Yashua is there his people are also. They would try to equate this with being in heaven because that’s where he is now. This idea is not untrue because Yashua told the disciples that he would go away to prepare them a place and return to gather them unto himself again. So, we know there is truth in the idea of being in heaven with Yashua in the future.

But what of now? Where is Yashua now? Does he not dwell in the hearts of people who are his disciples alive here on earth in the present day? Of course! Paul stated that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit! This idea gives us cause to pause and think about the idea of what Yashua said, “Where I am, my servants also will be.” Thus if Yashua is in us, then we are with him. Then, if he tells us to go somewhere to do a work for him, are we not where he wants us to be and is there with us?

Thus, we need to think about and begin practicing hearing, listening to, and following the directives that G-d gives us. He is everywhere because he is the omnipresent Creator and Master of the universe. We cannot be everywhere at one time like him, but we can be at one place when he wants us there. Again, we’d be there with him because of his indwelling Spirit. Therefore, follow the lead of the great commission…go! Do! Follow Yashua! Serve him by serving others! We have no excuses.

Prayer:
Father, you’re the ultimate! There’s no one who can do what you do! You’re holy! Mighty! Magnificent! You’re to be praised, and you alone! Thank you for once again speaking to me from your written word, accompanied by divine revelation of its contents from Ruach HaKodesh! Holy Spirit, you live up to your word about being the one who leads us into all truth and teaches us what we need to know. It’s refreshing to think that wherever Yashua is that I am there with him. He said that I am seated with him in heavenly places, yet I’m still here on the earth. He says that I’m your earthly temple, where you reside. He is in the Father, as I am in him. We are one. Thank you! May your will be done, in Yashua’a name. Amen.

Living a holy life before Adonai, it’s critical!

Scripture:
You must not defile the land where you live, for I live there myself. I am the Lord, who lives among the people of Israel. – Numbers 35:34

Observation:
The Israelis had reached the Jordan River and were about to cross over it and inherit the land promised to them via their forefathers by the L-rd. He’d told Moses to instruct the people how to divide the land among the tribes once they’d crossed over. Among the instructions from the L-rd were the details for establishing six cities of refuge, where a person who’d accidentally killed someone could reside to escape revenge from the decedent’s relatives. The L-rd stated that when murder was committed, the murderer had to be killed but only on the testimony of more than one witness. The land was not to be defiled by murder, and the only cleansing of the land could come through the execution of the murderer. This stipulation existed because G-d said that He lived among Israel there in the land, and He could have no part of unholy, defiled things.

Application:
Ancient Israel proper was the physical place on earth where the L-rd dwelt among his people. He even named the capital city after himself, Jerusalem. — Adonai, hear! Adonai, forgive! Adonai, pay attention, and don’t delay action – for your own sake, my G-d, because your city and your people bear your name! (Daniel 9:19).

First his tent of meeting (tabernacle) served as his physical dwelling place on the earth followed by his temple erected in Jerusalem by Solomon. These were the most holy places within ancient Israel and had to be purified with the blood of the sacrifice to make them holy — …he will make atonement for the Especially Holy Place; he will make atonement for the tent of meeting and the altar; and he will make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the community. (Leviticus 16:33).

This process was done later with the temple once erected. The point being that the holy dwelling of the Holy G-d of heaven, Adonai, must have a holy place to dwell while present on the earth. He even showed his approval of these two dwellings with the glory from the Spirit of Adonai’s presence. Then the cloud covered the Tabernacle, and the glory of the L-rd filled the Tabernacle. Moses could no longer enter the Tabernacle because the cloud had settled down over it, and the glory of the L-rd filled the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35). When Solomon finished praying, fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the burnt offerings and sacrifices; and the glorious presence of the L-rd filled the Temple. The priests could not enter the Temple of the L-rd because the glorious presence of the L-rd filled 2 Chronicles 7:1-2).

Man, in his natural state, has sin it and cannot stand before the glory and presence of Adonai. It took the blood of animals to atone for the sins of man to even allow them to serve before the L-rd in either dwelling. The L-rd is that serious about holiness and being undefiled. We might think that it’s impossible to serve G-d now because we make mistakes and do sin at times. However, we have a High Priest, who offered Himself once for all as the ultimate sacrifice. He endure the false accusations, false trial, and criminal execution only to rise from the dead and give us access into the Most Holy of Holies, the very presence of Adonai! Without His blood, we could not stand nor serve Adonai, especially when His Spirit manifests his glory on the earth.

Fortunately, Adonai approved the last Temple to ever be constructed as his final dwelling place on the earth, for it is not made with human hands. It is and continues to be constructed one spirit at a time by the L-rd himself. It is his bride and body of Messiah, you and me! For you see, we were accepted as that final dwelling place on the Day of Pentecost (50 days after Passover) when the Spirit of Adonai came down to earth with the sound of a mighty rushing wind and settled upon each of the 120 disciples of Yashua HaMashiach in the upper room with what appeared as languages of fire resting atop each of them. They could do nothing but begin speaking in other languages as the Spirit of Adonai enabled them to speak. This was Adonai’s acceptance of the human temple as his dwelling place on the earth, and it wasn’t just for the Jews any longer, but all mankind. For as many as received Him [Yashua], to those who put their trust in his person and power, he gave the right to become children of G-d (John 1:12).

We, now, have to understand that it is through the blood of Yashua that gives us positional holiness in the sight of Adonai, for we are seen as the righteousness of Messiah because of Messiah’s work on the cross. However, we are still commanded and are required to live a holy life before Adonai, our behavioral holiness. Scripture tells us As people who obey G-d, do not let yourselves be shaped by the evil desires you used to have when you were still ignorant. On the contrary, following the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in your entire way of life, since the Scriptures say, “You are to be holy because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16). Thus, we must do our best with the grace of G-d to live this holy life defined and outlined by Peter and the rest of Scripture, for Yashua told Paul, My grace is enough for you, for my power is brought to perfection in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Again, the prophet Zechariah told us that it is not by force, and not by power, but by my Spirit, says Adonai-Tzavo’t (Zechariah 4:6)

We are to do our best with the Spirit’s enablement and guidance to live a holy life before Adonai; he demands it. This isn’t legalism or salvation by works. It is living the Spirit-filled, Spirit-powered life that G-d created and desires all of us to live. It pleases him to live an obedient, repentant lifestyle before him. Why? Because we show ourselves to be his true disciples when we do what he commands. As stated earlier, we will fail him from time to time, but his grace, mercy, and forgiveness enable us to continue despite our shortcomings. He loves us enough to not boot us when we fail. He cleanses us and see our positional holiness from his Son’s righteousness via his blood, yet he expects us to continue striving to live the Spirit-powered life!

Prayer:
Adonai, Father, L-rd, you are the Most Holy of all! There is none like you. We need to learn to keep a clear reverence for your Majesty and Supremacy. In pride many have fallen; some to everlasting contempt and some to receive grace and pardon through humble submission to you. I know that I fall in to the latter group and am so thankful that you look down upon me with love and justice. You are firm yet gentle, kind yet chastening. Thank you for loving me enough to bless me when I’m obedient and to chastise me when I’m rebellious. My trust is in you and the knowing that there is hope for me in Yashua HaMashiach and am enabled, empowered to live a holy life before by your Spirit’s doing. Teach me your ways oh L-rd that I may become more like your Son, Yashua! Ruach HaKodesh, Spirit of the living G-d, thank you for sharing Adonai’s grace with me. Yashua, thank you for paying the debt I owed and could never repay, thus allowing me to live in you and with the Father. May your will be done, not mine. In the name of Yashua, Amen.