IS GOD’S PLAN GOOD? (Even when it entails suffering.)

ISAIAH 53:10-11:But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.” NLT‬‬

OBSERVATION: Is God’s plan always good? Can I fully trust Him to work everything in my life toward a good end? How should I view God’s plan when I am in the midst of suffering?

Isaiah chapter 53 is one of the most powerful and difficult chapters in the Bible. It outlines the suffering and pain that God’s Servant, His only begotten Son, would endure for our sins. It is not the punishment of one who is unrighteous. Rather, it the Servant’s willing submission to take the punishment upon Himself that I deserve!

  • “Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” Isaiah‬ ‭53:4-6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I will never forget one Good Friday service that we shared the film “The Passion of Christ” as our focus for the evening. This film graphically portrayed both the ministry of Jesus and His suffering. The portrayl of His suffering was so realistic, so intense, that it was extremely hard to watch. The words of Isaiah 53 were brought to life on the screen. When the movie ended there was not a sound in the room. We prayed and each one left quietly, reflecting on what they had seen.

I drove home that night and everything seemed to stand still. I was so overwhelmed by Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins that I could not speak a word. He was whipped to the bone for my sins. He was nailed to the cross for my transgressions. He was pierced in the side for my rebellion. All that he suffered was for me. Jesus Christ was the perfect, spotless, sinless, lamb of God. He took my place and bore God’s wrath against sin so that I could be saved.

As Isaiah writes this prophecy that would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Spirit speaking through Him calls this – “God’s good plan.” It is hard to imagine that all this abuse, anguish, and suffering was “good.” In fact, Jesus, in His humanity, wondered the same thing. When He had finished eating the Passover meal with His disciples, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. This is what He prayed.

  • “He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew‬ ‭26:38-39‬ ‭NLT‬‬.

Jesus, weighed down by the suffering before Him, asked the Father if there was another way. In essence He was saying, “Father, is this the only plan? Is this plan really good?” Yet, in His spirit He knew that the Father’s plan was good and so He prayed – “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Hebrews gives us more insight into Jesus’ willing submission to God’s plan. The Father, at that moment in the garden, gave Jesus the ability to see the full purposes of all the Father intended to do through Jesus’ suffering and death.

  • “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Father, at that moment in the garden, reassured Jesus that His suffering was His good plan. The result of His suffering, death, and resurrection, would be the salvation of countless people who would call upon His name in faith!

  • “When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.” Isaiah 53:11 NLT

What can I take away from this awesome truth? God always has a good plan for my life – even when it includes suffering. So many people think that the Christian life will be a life that is free from suffering. Yet, the writer of Hebrews says that Jesus learned obedience through His suffering.

  • “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.” Hebrews‬ ‭5:8-9‬ ‭NLT‬

If Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered, can I enter fully into the will of God for my life without suffering? Can I walk from victory to victory without any struggle? Can I bear fruit in my life without being pruned? If I have learned anything in my life it is that the times of my deepest spiritual growth has always come from a time of suffering, trial, or presecution.

Knowing this, I fully understand God’s purpose in suffering. It is to remove the things in my life that keep me from a deeper walk with Him. His plan is always good because His plan is to mold me into the image of Jesus Christ my Lord. We are not called to suffer for sin. Jesus has done that once and for all. Yet, we will suffer for righteousness sake. And, in the midst of our suffering we can be assured that God is working His good plan in our lives!

  • “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later…And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Romans‬ ‭8:18, 28-29‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Lord, I thank you this morning that Your plan for my life is a “good” plan. I know that my life will be filled with times of trial and suffering. Yet, in all of this You are working all things toward Your good purpose. Just as you raised Jesus from the dead, Father, so will you deliver my from my current struggle. And, when I am on the other side of this struggle I will see and understand Your “good” plan. Help me to learn all that You want me to learn during this time. Today I proclaim –

You are Good and Your Mercies endure forever!

In Jesus’ Name!

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AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME! (Can we really trust in God’s timing?)

ISAIAH 49:8: “This is what the Lord says: “At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you. I will protect you and give you to the people as my covenant with them. Through you, I will reestablish the land of Israel and assign it to its own people again.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Has it ever felt like the Lord is late in answering your prayers? Have you found yourself despising the delays of life? Have you ever been tempted to take matters into your own hands to get something going? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, God’s word today is…

“AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME, I WILL RESPOND TO YOU!”

Waiting is something I do not do very well. All of my life I have been a man of action. When other people said it could not be done it only motivated me further to find a way to accomplish the task. Yet, in my spiritual life, I have not had the same tenacity. I have found myself often discouraged and confused regarding the events of my life, God’s timing, and the meaning of it all.

As I write these thoughts I am involved in another long-term recovery. I had a serious road bike accident that sent my life into a spiral of pain and procedures. After 11 days in the hospital, I am now home recovering from two surgeries and I have limited mobility and stamina. My prayers have gone before the throne, as well as the prayers of countless friends and family.

I am left with the challenge of taking one day at a time and trusting in God’s perfect timing.

God truly preserved my life. I was going downhill at the speed of 25-30 miles per hour. It started to rain and when I applied the brakes lightly my bike was airborne, with me on it. I took the full brunt of this fall on my right side and my head. Praise the Lord that I was wearing a helmet. The helmet was cracked all the way through. Yet, when they did a CT scan there was no damage to my brain. Also, I slid in the opposite direction of the fall. I should have been propelled into the traffic lanes, but found myself full circle and landing against the ride shoulder. I know angels were involved in my protection.

I had a heart procedure to reverse an a-fib heartbeat. Then, I had surgery on my right femur to remove any blood clots or infection. I am now sharing my life with a wound-vac for the next 3-4 weeks. I could not fulfill a speaking engagement on September 12, and my attention span is limited due to the medications I am taking. No doubt, I wish I could rewind the tape and stay off my bike on the day of the accident. However, we cannot reverse what has already happened, we can only reach forward to what lies ahead.

WE CAN CHOOSE TO TRUST IN THE PERFECT TIMING OF GOD!

  • “This is what the Lord says: “At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you. I will protect you and give you to the people as my covenant with them.”

Isaiah was writing about the coming Messiah and the regathering of Israel under His Messianic reign. When Isaiah wrote this Israel was in captivity and any hope of salvation seemed both distant and impossible. God’s words of comfort and hope are not based on how we feel, or on a timeline we imagine in our minds. God’s words of comfort and hope are based on His nature and His faithfulness. God always answers His children’s cry…

AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME!

  • “…So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” Luke‬ ‭18:7-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I have been forced by my circumstances to slow down. I can only do so much. However, I can also spend more time and reflection on God’s Word and in prayer. As I have been doing this the Lord has been revealing things to me that goes far beyond my accident and injuries. I am receiving insight into things that I have been praying for over a long period of time. There is a new appreciation for the small things of life, for family, church family, and friends. Together, with the Apostle Paul, I refuse to let anything dissuade me from my life in Christ!

  • “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians‬ ‭3:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Paul says – “I have not achieved it…”. Paul was referring to the call of perfection in Christ Jesus. However, I think we could add everything in our life in Christ in this context. As I write these thoughts, I have not achieved my complete healing. As I ponder on these words, I have not seen answers to all of my prayers. So what do I do? Do I fall back and hide in the corner, or do I press on in faith and hope?!

KNOWING GOD HAS A PERFECT TIMING FOR ALL THINGS ALLOWS ME TO PRESS FORWARD IN FAITH AND HOPE!

I need to simplify my life in Jesus. I need the Father to restore in me the joy of His salvation. I need to sit at the feet of Jesus once again, separated from the tyranny of life and daily demands. My relationship with Jesus, my family, and my friends must become and stay my priority. God does not judge us on what we have done. When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ we will be judged and rewarded for what we have become.

  • Am I more like Jesus?
  • Do I love more like Jesus?
  • Is my faith in Christ alone?

Lord, this morning I thank you that for all the affairs and concerns of my life – YOU HAVE A PERFECT TIME! You are not interested in what I do as much as in what I am becoming. May I fully receive Your grace to become all that You have called me to become. May I become daily more like Jesus!

THANK YOU THAT YOU MAKE ALL THINGS BEAUTIFUL…IN YOUR TIME!

YOUR PERFECT TIME!

In Jesus Name!

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IS MY LIGHT SHINING BRIGHTLY?

PHILIPPIANS 2:12-15: “Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Is my light shining brightly, or am I merely a dim flickering light that is about to go out? Am I allowing the Lord to trim my wick so that I can shine brightly? Am I reaching my full potential in Jesus Christ my Lord?

Paul exhorts the Philippian believers – “…Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.” Some will pause and ask – “Is Paul teaching righteousness by good works?” We need to stay focused on the order of Paul’s exhortation to answer this question.

While Paul does call us to “work hard,” it is not to earn a right standing with God (righteousness by works). Rather, it is to give evidence to the authentic faith that we have received when we trusted in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Paul gives us this progression and perspective in his letter to the Ephesians.

  • “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Here is the progression:

  • God saved me by His grace when I believed.
  • There was nothing I did or could do to earn this right standing with God, so there is no room for boasting, save in His grace!
  • We were created to give glory to God, to shine as bright lights, by doing the good things He planned for us long ago.
  • Our salvation by grace is seen by our good works through faith as we walk after the Holy Spirit!

This is the same progression Paul gives us in these verses in Philippians 2:12-15:

“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.”

Our good works, our light, are not something we do to earn favor with God. Our good works are the evidence, the results of our favor with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. “

Our good works are not the result of our human effort. Rather, they are merely the cooperation of our spirit with the Spirit of God. He calls us, He empowers us, He leads us. We simply respond to this outpouring of grace through obedience.

“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you.”

We don’t grumble and complain as we walk in His grace. Our light is not an effort. It is the natural result of a life yielded to God and empowered by His Holy Spirit. Instead of grumbling, our lives are marked by an ever-increasing joy and contentment. He is peace, our righteousness, our joy!

“Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.”

Our lights shine ever brighter as we begin to walk in a growing surrender to the Lord. The picture Paul uses here is the innocent life of a child. A child walks in complete faith in their parents. They know that their parents will be there to provide them with anything they need. A child’s faith reflects the pure oil of the Holy Spirit. When we are walking after the Holy Spirit, in childlike faith, His pure oil will shine brightly in our lives as we grow in our surrender and faith.

Why is this so important? Why do we need to respond to God’s grace each moment of our life? It is because we live in a world full of crooked and perverse people. We live in a world of lost people who need to be pointed in the direction of salvation.

These lost people need a light!

In the vast auditorium of life, we have been given the assignment of being those lights. The more we respond to God’s grace, the brighter we will shine. The Holy Spirit is trimming the wicks of our hearts so that the oil of His Presence can burn brightly. We are not the source of this light. Jesus is the light. We are the expression of His light so that we can lead others to His light. We are like the attendants in the dark theatre, shining our lights, and leading others to their seats – their purpose and calling in Christ.

Using a candle analogy, the Holy Spirit is the wax, and we are the wick. If there is only a wick and there is no wax, our lights will flare up and quickly burn out. The wick was not created to be the source of light. The wick simply draws from the melted wax and it is the wax that burns, not the wick. However, if the wick is not trimmed, or if it becomes corrupted with the wrong materials, the flow of wax will be impeded. The result will either be a diminished flame or an extinguished flame.

This is why we must give our lives daily in full surrender to Jesus Christ! It is only as we walk in obedience to the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that we experience the brightness of His life shining through us. And, our true purpose and joy in life are only realized as we burn brightly for His glory. In the words of the old hymn,

“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy (burn brightly) in Jesus, than to trust and obey!”

Lord, this morning, I want to burn brightly for You! I ask You to continue to trim the wick of my heart so that the oil of the Holy Spirit will not be hindered but will burn brightly in my life. Help me to walk in the good works and purposes You have called me to, even before I was created. And, let me be a light to lead others to faith in Jesus Christ.

In Jesus Name!

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IS YOUR CHURCH BATTLE READY?

EPHESIANS 6:10-13: “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Do I know who my real enemy is? Am I fighting a battle on the wrong battleground? Are our enemies those who disagree with us and try to steal our faith? Or is something more sinister at work behind the scenes?

Ephesians is a wonderful letter from Paul to a beloved group of believers in Ephesus. When Paul traveled from Corinth to Ephesus he met a group of disciples who believed in Jesus. They had a very limited understanding of their faith. They had not even heard of the Holy Spirit. They had only been baptized in John’s baptism. Paul then baptized them in the name of Jesus and laid their hands upon them to receive the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s letter to these believers falls into two sections. Chapters 1-3 deal with their spiritual identity of what it means to be “In Christ.” Paul then pivots from this in the last three chapters to discuss how this new identity is to be lived out in practical application. When we reach Chapter 6, Paul wants to share with them –

“A final word…”.

Paul’s “final word” is a reminder to them of the identity of their true enemy and the real battlefield of life. Let’s review the two.

  • The Enemy: “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”
  • The Battlefield: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

Our enemy is the devil. Our battlefield is the unseen world. Now, here is where one can take the wrong turn real fast. In every battle, there are clear assignments for each segment and division of the troops. Each is given a defined assignment and field of execution. If each division does not execute its responsibilities correctly the battle is impacted.

We are part of God’s army. The ultimate battlefield is in the heavenlies, in the unseen world. Yet, although Paul identifies the battlefield, he stops right there. There is no further instruction in Scripture to the church to try and catalog, identify, or even engage the evil rulers of the unseen world, the evil spirits in heavenly places.

Yet, this has not stopped some from doing so!

What is the result? It is a division of God’s army trying to engage in a part of the battle that is not theirs to engage in. We have been given two offensive weapons in this battle. They are the “sword of the Spirit,” the Word of God, and “Praying in the Spirit,” Spirit-led and empowered prayer (including praying in tongues)! The helmet, body armor, belt that holds our sword, and shield, are all defensive weapons.

Yet, there is one piece of armor we have left out. Our shoes! Have you ever gone into a sporting goods store today and looked at the shoe section? When I was young we had a few styles of tennis shoes to choose from. Now, there is a shoe for every sport and segment of that sport to boot! If you are going to golf you don’t want to wear high-top basketball shoes. The shoe defines the activity!

And, so our shoes define our activity.

  • “For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.” Ephesians‬ ‭6:15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We are not called to wear jet-propelled shoes to fly into the heavenlies and take on the spiritual hosts of darkness in high places. GOD HAS A DIVISION FOR THAT! We are called to go into the world and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to a dying world. While God’s angelic army is not called to preach the Gospel, so we are not called to fly in the heavenlies and battle with the spiritual hosts of wickedness.

We join in the heavenly battle when we engage in our earthly responsibility – preaching the Good News! How can we be sure this is what Paul intended the Ephesians to understand? All we have to do is read the closing remarks of this section.

  • “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike. I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God’s ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.” Ephesians‬ ‭6:18-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Oh, how the church is missing her true calling! Oh, how the enemy rejoices when he can convince us to break rank and engage in a part of the battle that is not ours. We are called to preach the Gospel. God’s angelic army is called to assist us on earth by battling the unseen enemies in the heavenly realm. We see that defined in the book of Daniel and confirmed in the opening chapter of Hebrews.

The Church needs to stay on task with its true calling!

We know where the real battle is, but we faithfully fulfill the call of our division. We are not dissuaded or discouraged. Our minds are protected by the assurance of salvation. Our confidence is assured as we are clothed in His righteousness. And, our mission is accomplished as we walk in faith quenching all the enemy’s attempts to redirect and confuse our calling!

All the enemy has to do to push back the cause of Christ is to keep the church misdirected in her true calling.

The Church is called to preach the Gospel! Angels will not do it. God will not broadcast it from the heavens. Until the church is raptured there is only one division of God’s Army that is called to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to a dying world and make disciples of all nations!

That Division is the Church!

  • “Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew‬ ‭28:18-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Lord, sound the alarm, raise up the next generation, and help us to fulfill our division’s calling in this day! Help Your Church to preach the Gospel and make disciples of all nations!

In Jesus Name!

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BE CAREFUL HOW YOU LIVE!

EPHESIANS5:12-20. “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I living my life carefully in these tumultuous times? Am I making the most of every opportunity? Do I understand what the will of the Lord is for my life? Is my life marked by sincere worship and thankfulness?

If there was ever a time to live with our eyes wide open it is now! I have never witnessed or faced what we are facing today in both the church and the world. The words of the Apostle Paul sound like they have been ripped from the headlines.

  • “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”

Our human tendency when we face difficult times is to hide. We look for ways to escape the challenges that we are facing. To hide from our problems is to live like a fool. Hiding does not change anything, it just prolongs the inevitable. In stark contrast, Paul calls us to engage in difficult times – “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”

These are days that require “all hands on deck!” This is not a time for the believer or the church to shelter in place. The harvest is white and ready for harvest. The world is in a panic and their hearts are open to hearing some Good News. As believers, and as the church, we are the only ones who have the answer. Only Jesus Christ can bring hope in these troubled times!

So how do we do this? It is really very simple!

FIRST – we refuse to hide!

SECOND – we press into the presence of God and live a life of worship, service, and thankfulness!

  • “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The church does not have time to debate the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church today. It is time to lay aside our reservations regarding the gifts and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Every believer needs to be baptized in the Holy Spirit – anew! We cannot engage the world if we are empty vessels. Paul’s words are not a suggestion – they area command!

We also need to rediscover worship in spirit and in truth. So much of the attention today is on style and performance. God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Our sincere worship of the Lord is where we are prepared for battle. It is where we get our marching orders and leave filled and strengthened to engage in the harvest of lost souls. Worship is more than 30 minutes of singing. True worship is the full surrender of our lives as living sacrifices given freely for the Lord’s work!

Finally, our engagement is meaningless unless the world sees the true light of Christ. How can we proclaim the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ when we are filled with anger and complaining. If we are living a life of complaining and regret how can anyone take our message seriously. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit, surrendered in true worship, and giving thanks to God for His goodness and mercy. Thankfulness is the key to effective engagement!

As a youth, I would love to attend the LA County Fair in Pomona, CA. Each year I would walk through the exhibit booths and glean all the free samples they were offering. One year, however, I ended up bringing back some Ginsu knives and a vegetable slicer. Why did I buy these? Why did I take the time to listen to the salesman’s pitch? It was because he made it seem like these two tools would change my life! He constantly proclaimed the goodness of these items and gave thanks for all they could do!

What would happen in the world if we did this for the Lord?

Lord, we truly live in evil times. Like anyone else, I would rather hide and shelter in place. Yet, I feel the stirring of Your Holy Spirit. I need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit anew. I need to engage in true worship as I surrender my life to You as a living sacrifice. And, I need to live a life of thankfulness, proclaiming to all Your goodness and mercy!

Lord, help me make the most of every opportunity in these evil days!

In Jesus Name!

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STORM PROOF PRAYER

EPHESIANS 3:20-21: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Is my prayer life stormproof? Am I equipped to persevere the storms of life? Am I experiencing the presence of God in an ever-deepening way, or is my life being tossed to and fro by every storm of life?

Our prayer lives can be stormproof!

When we moved into our home in Weatherford, Texas, we added some additional landscaping to our home, including several trees. One was a Chinese Pistache tree. It had a beautiful shape and we felt it would add just the right touch for a front yard tree. Yet, over the years this tree never grew. It remained alive, but after over 10 years it was not much bigger than when we planted it. I had tried everything, but with no results.

Then a storm hit!

We had one of those prolonged Texas downpours, coupled with strong winds. The little tree could not take it. When the storm was over it was laying on its side. When we were finally resolved that this was the end of our tree, we began to shop for a new one. When the nursery delivered the new tree the installers simply pulled the old tree out of the ground.

It had been 10 years and the tree never established a deep root system!

That little Chinese Pistache was only living in three dimensions. It had established a small area to rest its roots. You could measure the area’s height, width, and length. This tree never grew because it never pushed its roots deep into the soil. It lived a very surface life in very shallow soil.

I think this is the way we live our life in Christ many times. We trust Him to a point but we never really go deep. Paul prays that the Ephesian believers would experience the fourth dimension of God’s love in their life. Paul prays that they will go deep in Christ!

  • “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians‬ ‭3:16-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Note the words in Paul’s prayer. He prays for…

  • Their inner strength through His Spirit,
  • Christ’s home to be established in their hearts,
  • Their roots to grown down into God’s love to keep them strong,
  • Their discovery of the depth of God’s love,
  • Their experience (participation) in the love of Christ,
  • Their completion in Christ,
  • Their experience of the fullness of Christ’s life and power.

In 2018 we planted a new tree, a Lacey Oak, in our front yard. It was only one year before we moved to Florida. I was worried about this tree because of my experience with the Chinese Pistache. We have been leasing our home since we moved and have a Gardner who is taking care of the landscaping. Periodically he sends me pictures of our yard. The first thing I look at is the Lacey Oak in my front yard.

This new tree is growing and flourishing.

There was no deficiency in the soil. There was no problem with the location. There was only a difference in the depth of the root structure. One never reached beyond its limitations. The other began to sink its roots deep into the soil beneath. Its roots were not content to live in a confined space. It pressed deeper to draw the water and nutrients it needed to grow.

We, too, can grow and flourish if we establish our roots deeply in the love of Christ!

When Paul speaks of the power that works within us, the power that changes ordinary prayer into breakthrough prayer, he is speaking of the depth of God’s love! It is a prayer that flows out of a deep communion with God that will survive the storms of life. As we are changed by God’s love, as our roots go deep into the soil of His Word, as we learn to abide in Christ – our prayer lives will be transformed!

  • “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

I don’t know about you, but I could use some answers to prayer that accomplish infinitely more than I can ask or think. How is this possible? The power of prayer does not reside in us. The power of prayer is found in Christ alone. Yet, the depth of our faith, our trust in Him, will determine whether we can wait upon His answer, give up, or worse – take matters into our own hands.

  • Love (Christ) calls us to wait!
  • Love (Christ) calls us to persevere!
  • Love (Christ) calls us to trust God for the answer!
  • Love (Christ) releases infinitely more than we can ask or think!

Lord, in these tumultuous times, as the storm of life rages on, I need to have a prayer life that is stormproof! Grant me the grace to sink my roots deep into the soil of Your Love and Your Word. Help me to know the height, width, length, and the depth of Christ’s love! AND ACCOMPLISH INFINITELY MORE THAN I CAN ASK OR THINK!

In Jesus Name!

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IS LOVE WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW?

EPHESIANS 1:15-17: “Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: There is an old song written by Composer Burt Bacharach entitled – “What The World Needs Now Is Love.” The last stanza and the chorus are,

Lord, we don’t need another meadow
There are cornfields and wheat fields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh listen, lord, if you want to know

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some oh, but just for every, every, everyone.

The Apostle Paul would disagree with this statement. Though the sentiment of this song gives one a warm feeling, it really does not help move forward the condition of man. In the 1960s people dropped out and turned on using drugs to escape the world and experience love. Yet, this love did not last. The same hippies that tuned out are the ones responsible for the loveless world we now live in.

Paul identifies two things that are more important than love. Why are they more important than love? It is because only when we have these two things are we able to discover what true love really is. Love is not an emotion or an experience.

Love is a person!

  • “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John‬ ‭4:7-8‬ ‭NLT‬

So what are the two things Paul prays for that are essential to discovering true love?

They are spiritual wisdom and insight!

Spiritual wisdom is not taught at a University, it is not resident in the writings of man, it is the gift of God given through His Word. Spiritual wisdom is the ability to see life from God’s creative perspective. It is to be introduced to the nature of God. It is essential to discovering true love – for God is love! Only when we see God for who He is will we be able to understand the true nature of love.

Insight is also translated revelation. Spiritual wisdom and insight go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. They are the work of the Holy Spirit in our life. Spiritual insight is the gift of discovering the depth of wisdom in God’s Word. It is the unveiling of God’s very nature in our spirit through His written Word. It is the gift of spiritual sight that enables us to see into the spiritual realm, the eternal nature of life.

When we place our faith in Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts. He begins to lead us and guide us in the truth and begins a life-long journey of spiritual wisdom and insight into the truth of God’s Word. The destination of this journey is not mere knowledge.

It is the knowledge of God Himself!

  • “I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.”

It is only when we grow in our knowledge of God that we also grow in love. In fact, our love apart from God will always be misguided and focused on selfish things. We only discover the essence of love when we see God’s plan and His ultimate sacrifice. It is when we receive the revelation of Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, that we enter into the full understanding of God’s love.

  • “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The world does not need “more love.” The world needs a revelation of the love that God has already shown. It is only when we understand God’s love, when we are transformed by His love, that we can freely love one another.

  • “We love because He first loved us.” I John 4:19. NLT

I love that old Burt Bacharach song, especially when I hear Dionne Warwick singing it (I date myself). Yet, what I need this morning more than anything is spiritual wisdom and insight.

Lord, open my eyes to see and know You so that I can enter into Your love!

In Jesus Name!

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THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON I LEARNED FROM MY DAD…

GALATIANS 6:14-16: “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.” NLT‬‬

OBSERVATION: Our family was seated at the dining room table waiting for my father to return home. He had been laid off from his job as his previous employer had a management change and the entire team he was a part of was replaced. My father had been getting up every morning and diligently looking for work. He had a family to support and he did not take this responsibility lightly.

I still remember the moment he walked through the door. He said – “Meet the new Vice President of…”. I don’t remember the name of the company but I still remember how proud I felt that my father was a Vice President. Later that night I asked him about his new title. He said something to me that I did not understand at the moment but I have come to understand now as an adult. He said,

“A title and ten cents won’t buy you a cup of coffee!”

Didn’t my father appreciate his new accomplishment? Wasn’t he proud that he could boast of this new title? After all, how many kids had a dad that was a Vice President? Yet, my dad did not treat this as anything special. As he went through his life, his jobs and titles would change until he was just – Ralph “Carl” Zehnder, husband, father, and child of God.

This was the title my father cherished the most. He was a child of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. As all the world’s accomplishments faded into years that had passed, my father learned the secret of the cross of Jesus Christ. It was his only boasting in the final days of his life. It was his salvation, his strength, and his promise of eternal life. With the Apostle Paul, he could say,

  • “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.”

Now, I am my dad. Yesterday, I sent my employer of 43 years a letter of retirement. I have worked for this family-owned company all my career while I have also served the Lord as a pastor of four churches. As a bi-vocational pastor I have held two titles. Like my father, I too was a Vice President, and I also was a Senior Pastor. Now, I am settling into being Kirk L. Zehnder, father, husband, and a child of God!

As I look back at all these years, I am thankful for all that the Lord has allowed me to do. Concerning the ministry, there is still much that I have planned in helping churches establish discipleship programs in their local churches. Yet, I have laid down all my titles. And, when I look back on my entire life I realize what my father realized so long ago.

“A title and 10 cents won’t buy you a cup of coffee!”

Never before have Paul’s words spoken so clearly to my heart. There is only one thing I can boast about when I look over my life. It is the cross of Jesus Christ! I brought nothing to the cross but my sin. Jesus paid it all. His sacrifice is what has made it possible to walk in the faith of my father and to experience the joy of a full and growing relationship with my Heavenly Father. When I look over the entirety of my life and the years ahead of me, I realize,

  • “What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.”

As I ponder on these thoughts I am reminded of the great old hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my God.
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
(Author: Isaac Watts)

Lord, as I take these steps of change in my life, may I glory only in Your cross! May the power of Your cross continue to call me to a life of surrender. May I fully understand that the only thing in life that matters is that I am being transformed into Your new creation – through the power of Your cross!

In Jesus Name!

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EVERY PART OF MY LIFE?

GALATIANS 5:24-25: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I living on the pathway to freedom or struggling on the road of disappointment and discouragement? Throughout life, we are faced with a moment-by-moment choice. Will we live a life trapped by the passions and desires of our sinful nature or will we live in the power and freedom of the Holy Spirit?

The book of Galatians is a strong reminder of the fine line between the spirit-filled life and the self-filled life. One leads to freedom while the other leads to old patterns of bondage, brokenness, and failure. One is a work of the Holy Spirit the other a work of our old sinful nature. And, there is a constant battle raging trying to keep us from moving forward.

  • “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.” Galatians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The worse place we can find ourselves in is the valley of indecision. This is the place where we allow our old nature to entertain our old actions while we are also thinking about what the Spirit is saying to us. It is as if we are being pulled by both arms in two different directions. We find our lives in limbo. However, if we continue to stay there we will always fall back to our old ways.

You can’t stay in limbo forever!

Paul lists the fruit of our old sinful nature and the fruit of the Spirit. There is a stark contrast to the two lists. One leads to death and the other to life. One is a product of our brokenness and the other of the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. One is the result of human effort and the other is the gift of divine intervention and grace.

We must make a choice!

What do we want the garden of our life to look like?

When I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ my life radically changed. However, there were (and still are) some areas of my life that I struggled with. Each time I tried harder I found myself failing all over again. I was saved by grace through faith but I was trying to live the Christian life by my own strength. If only I … (fill in the blank) … then I will have victory. Yet, victory eluded me. I was caught in the land of indecision!

Paul reminded the Galatians,

  • “Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” Galatians‬ ‭3:2-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The book of Galatians is a call to freedom. It is a call to a new way of living. It is a call to be empowered and led by the Spirit of God. It is a call to allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate the very nature of our Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts and lives. It is a call to follow the Holy Spirit in every area of our lives!

  • “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”

This is the statement that stands out to me this morning. I need to pause and take a serious inventory of my life. Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to lead every part of my life? Have I relegated the Holy Spirit to the spiritual areas of my life, while I continue to direct all other areas? Do I have two gardens growing in my heart at the same time?

I am facing many challenges and decisions as I write these thoughts. Some are practical and some are spiritual. Yet, I am reminded that God cares about them all. He sees what I do not see. His wisdom is higher than mine. I need the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me in every single decision I am facing. The difference can be a fruitful field or a field of weeds.

Lord, I want my life to be a fruitful field. I want my life to bring glory and honor to Your name and to be a light to point others to Jesus Christ. Help me to surrender my struggle and to walk in the power and leading of the Holy Spirit – IN EVERY PART OF MY LIFE!

  • “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬

In Jesus Name!

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WHAT IS TRUTH?

II CORINTHIANS 13:8: “For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I willing to take a stand for the truth? Am I willing to be unpopular or even rejected by others for the truth? In this day of compromise and diluted values, is my life a light shining on a hill or a light hidden under a bushel?

What is truth?

This is the question that everyone is asking today. In our present-day culture truth is not absolute. Truth is like getting an ice cream cone at Baskin and Robbins. We can create our own truth from an array of different colors, textures, and flavors. Truth is relative only to my feelings.

In today’s culture – truth originates from me.

To see how far our culture has taken this concept one only has to look at science. Science is supposed to deal in absolutes that have been tested and verified. Yet, today, science deals in supposition and political preference. Recently, a professor at a medical college was chastised for saying that only women could bear children. When science ignores the absolutes of life it has ceased being science and is no longer operating in the principle of truth.

Man has been searching for truth from the beginning of time. Most of man’s search has been focused on trying to discover an experience or a philosophy that would bring illumination and help make sense of life. This search has become an endless and unfruitful search because it has been focused in the wrong direction. Truth is not something we acquire.

Truth is a person!

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John‬ ‭1:1 NKJV‬‬

Truth is not something that exists within us. Truth is the Word of God. It is the foundation of everything we see and experience. It is God Himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” God knew that we would never be able to discover the truth on our own. Our sinful nature, the deception of the enemy of our souls, and the brokenness of this world would always lead us astray.

So – the Word, God Himself, the Truth – came to us!

  • “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John‬ ‭1:14 ‭NKJV

Jesus came to this world as God in human flesh. The Truth came to us and revealed Himself to us. He called us back to the Father. He showed us the pathway of righteousness. He illuminated the Scriptures. He revealed Truth to all men. And, like today, the majority of people kept looking for truth in the wrong places. Yet, for those who embraced Jesus, they not only found the Truth, they were restored to their eternal destiny and purpose!

  • “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John‬ ‭1:10-13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Jesus died for the truth!

The Truth was crucified for you and me!

Jesus died on the cross so that we could discover the truth. He died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven and we could be restored as children of God. He died on the cross so that our spiritual eyes could be opened and, knowing the truth, we could be set free. The Truth paid it all so that we could walk and live in the truth.

The price for the truth was the blood of Jesus Christ!

Is it any wonder why the Apostle Paul writes in his closing remarks to the Corinthian church – “For we cannot oppose the truth, but must always stand for the truth.” Paul understood the price that Jesus Christ paid so that we could know the truth. To compromise the truth, to dilute it or change it to fit our personal desires, would be paramount to disrespecting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord.

To oppose the truth is to oppose Jesus Christ, the Truth!

This is not a call to legalism. This is a call to consecration and faithfulness. As we watch so many churches embracing falsehood in our day, who will stand for the truth? Who will teach the truth of God’s Word no matter what the cost? Who will lead men and women to the Truth so that they truly can be set free? Who will honor the cross of Jesus Christ and hold the sacrifice of His blood as sacred?

As I ponder these questions I am reminded of Jesus’ own words on the Sermon on the Mount. I believe they are a sovereign and sobering call to me today.

  • “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:17-20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Who today will stand for the truth?

Lord, let it be me.

In Jesus Name!

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