Thursday, April 28, 2011

+DEV+ Claiming the Nations

Date: April 28, 2011 12:20 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Claiming the Nations

Claiming the Nations

“your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)
Scripture Focus: Luke 1-4

Something very exciting is happening in the world. It may seem like all bad news, but it's not because "Aslan is on the move!" Just like Lucy and Susan and Peter and Edmund in Narnia, we're seeing the spring come. We're seeing the power of evil lose its grip. The ice is melting; spring is bursting forth. The Kingdom of God is advancing and the Gospel is how it's happening. The message of the cross has the power to conquer rebels and make them willing subjects of the King.

Psalm 2 is God's "Vision Statement" for His world. The nations are rebelling and so He seats His Son on a throne and tells Him to ask for the nations as His inheritance. We're seeing Him grant that request in our day as the Gospel marches across the globe and captures men and women by grace.

It's our great privilege to play a part in this exciting movement. Our Father has taken us into His confidence and made us partners with real power by teaching us to pray for the advance of His kingdom.

Insight: "For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves" (Colossians 1:13).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

+DEV+ Always Listening

Date: April 27, 2011 12:16 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Always Listening

Always Listening

" not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. ...your Father knows what you need before you ask him" (Matthew 6:7-8).
Scripture Focus: Matthew 6:5-8

We know God as our Father. The pagans, on the other hand, pray to someone they don't know. They don't know if he's paying attention to them, so they try to get their needs met by saying a lot of words, hoping some of them will get through.

It reminds me of how our son Peter would relate to his dad when he was little. If Charles were preoccupied, reading the newspaper, Peter would jabber away, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy." But when Charles put down the paper and looked at him and said, "Okay, I'm listening, Pete," his tone would change. He knew he had his dad's attention. "Mommy said I could ask you if I could have a cookie." When he got his "yes," he would skip off happily to the kitchen and collect.

Jesus is telling us we have the full attention of our Father. We don't have to jabber. He's attentive to all our needs. He knows the hairs on our head, and He knows what we need before we ask Him. The Creator God is our Abba.

Insight: "Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice" (Psalm 55:27).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

+DEV+ Private Appointments

Date: April 26, 2011 2:39 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Private Appointments

Private Appointments

"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men" (Matthew 6:5).
Scripture Focus: Matthew 6:1-6

A friend of mine once confessed he lived his life like the star of a movie, always on stage, feeling like the center of attention, playing to the crowd. Maybe we all do that to some extent. We orient ourselves to the opinions of other people, hoping to make a good impression. The Greek word translated here as "hypocrisy" means to wear a mask. When we live to be "seen by men," we inevitably put on a mask. That can even happen when we pray.

Jesus tells us the way out of this dilemma is to get absolutely alone with the Father - to go in and shut the door. Regular private meetings with the Father will train our hearts to live to be seen by Him rather than by men. Instead of the reward of human approval, we can learn to seek the reward of pleasing the Father. We can rest assured that He's pleased just by our being there, that He's always glad to be with us and that He's delighted by anything we do because we love Him.

Insight: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy" (Luke 12:1).

Friday, April 22, 2011

+DEV+ Whose Are You?

Date: April 22, 2011 1:07 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Whose Are You?

Whose Are You?

"Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - which is your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1).
Scripture Focus: Romans 12

George MacDonald said hell can be summed up in four words: "I am my own." Independence from God is at the heart of our fallen condition, and it leads to all kinds of misery.

On the other hand, heaven can be summed up in these four words: "I am yours, Lord!" To belong to Jesus is to be rescued from our deadly autonomy. He's bought us - and at such a great price! We are His possession, and that's a very good and very safe thing to be.

We can joyously submit to the fact that we are not our own. Instead of seizing the day for ourselves, we can offer ourselves to Jesus. It's good to put it into words, to make it a prayer, "I am yours, Lord!" And while we're at it, we can offer Him words of love like, "I love you, O Lord, my strength," (Psalm 18:1) or "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing" (Psalm 16:21). The Lord takes great delight in hearing us say that we love Him. Tell Him now!

Insight: "And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:6).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

+DEV+ The Face of the Father

Date: April 20, 2011 11:05 PM
Topic: +DEV+ The Face of the Father

The Face of the Father

"Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father'" (Galatians 4:6).
Scripture Focus: Galatians 4

In 1862, Emily Dickenson wrote a letter to her mentor, Thomas Higginson, answering some questions he'd asked. She told him, "My family members are religious, except me, and they address an Eclipse, every morning whom they call their 'Father.'"

An Eclipse! What a powerful poetic image to describe what it's like to not know the Father. To Emily Dickenson, God was darkness, like the moon passing in front of the sun. She couldn't see His face.

The Father wants to reveal His face to us. He sent Jesus for that very purpose because as Jesus said, "When you've seen me, you've seen the Father." He also sent the Spirit into our hearts to teach us to say that one word prayer of deepest intimacy - "Abba." Abba is an Aramaic term that a little child would use to address his father while he's snuggled up on his lap. But it's also the term Jesus used in the Garden of Gethsemane in His hour of deepest darkness. He called out for help to His Abba and we can, too.

Insight: "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty" (2 Corinthians 6:18).

+DEV+ A Son's Privileges

Date: April 20, 2011 12:44 AM
Topic: +DEV+ A Son's Privileges

A Son's Privileges

"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5).
Scripture Focus: Galatians 4

I relate to the prodigal son. He knew he didn't deserve to be a son after living in the "far country." When he finally decided to come home, he made up a little speech to give to his father: "I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men."

But what does the father do? He's overcome with compassion! He runs to him, throws his arms around him, and kisses him. He waves all his son's ridiculous suggestions aside and gives orders to his servants: "Quick, bring the best robe, a ring for his finger, sandals for his feet, let's have a feast and celebrate!"

I relate to the prodigal because I so often feel disqualified when I pray. I know I don't deserve a warm welcome. I relate to God like a servant to a master. But Jesus gave us this story to make us bold in our relationship to the Father. By sheer grace, we're seated at the table, celebrated and endowed with all the rights and privileges of sons.

Insight: "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father'" (Romans 8:15).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

+DEV+ I'm Right Here

Date: April 19, 2011 12:32 AM
Topic: +DEV+ I'm Right Here

I'm Right Here

"Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live" (Psalm 116:2).
Scripture Focus: Psalm 116

What a wonderful reality for us to take into our hearts! Every time we pray, the Lord is listening. He's lending us His ear, granting us His full attention. He's poised to answer us whenever we call. We can be like little children and talk to Him with uncomplicated simplicity about anything we have on our hearts. We don't have to know how to pray, as if prayer were some sort of skill we need to master.

One of C.S. Lewis' downfalls was overanalyzing and complicating things like prayer. He saw the same problem in someone who wrote to him for advice. He gave her the answer he'd found for himself: "Don't bother about the idea that God 'has known for millions of years' exactly what you are about to pray. That isn't what it's like. God is hearing you now, just as simply as a mother hears a child. There's no reason to bring these problems into it. You have gone into the temple, and one day in his courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. You've found him, as always, there."

Insight: "The name of the city from that time on will be: THE LORD IS THERE" (Ezekiel 48:35).

Friday, April 15, 2011

+DEV+ A Brilliant Counselor

Date: April 15, 2011 9:20 PM
Topic: +DEV+ A Brilliant Counselor

A Brilliant Counselor

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you" (Psalm 32:8).
Scripture Focus: Psalm 32

The Lord is a Wonderful Counselor, and we have a standing appointment with Him anytime we need His counsel. He has the power and wisdom to clear out all the anxious clutter of our hearts. His insight goes right to the source of our turmoil and brings the grace and wisdom we need.

We see Him doing that very thing for Peter in Matthew 17. Peter had a run-in with some very intimidating temple tax collectors who wanted to know if Jesus paid the temple tax. Peter said "yes" even though the answer was "no." Then he came into the house where Jesus was waiting and didn't mention the incident. It was Jesus who got the matter out on the table by asking him a question. He used Peter's answer to explain why it was not necessary to pay the tax and why Peter should remember that he had the privileged status as a son of the Father.

Peter went into the house full of the fear of man, and Jesus counseled him into freedom. He will do the same for us.

Insight: "He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

+DEV+ Lord of the Loaves

Date: April 14, 2011 8:37 PM
Topic: +DEV+ Lord of the Loaves

Lord of the Loaves

"And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).
Scripture Focus: Philippians 4:10-20

Life is just one problem after another - or so it seems. When some new need arises, we remind each other of what we call the "lesson of the loaves." We discovered it when we were reading a story recorded in Mark 8.

Jesus and His disciples are in the boat and the disciples are worried because they've forgotten to pack any food. Jesus proceeds to remind them very pointedly of what they've just seen Him do: "Don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" "Twelve," they replied. "And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" They answered, "Seven."

The Lord's lesson is one we need firmly fixed in our hearts when we pray: Jesus is the Lord of the loaves, and He's with us in the boat. He's promised to supply all our needs, whether they are physical or spiritual. He is able to do it even when we don't see how it's possible.

Insight: "Give us today our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

+DEV+ The Greatest Gift

Date: April 13, 2011 10:21 PM
Topic: +DEV+ The Greatest Gift

The Greatest Gift

"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (Psalm 16:11).
Scripture Focus: Psalm 16

Prayer takes on a glow of glory when we realize we're not talking into a void but that we're actually talking to the Lord. Charles Spurgeon said that to really pray we must feel that "we are now doing something that is real; that we are about to address ourselves to God, whom we cannot see, but who is really present; who is as truly with us as though we were speaking to a friend."

The Lord's greatest gift is the joy of His presence. To be with Jesus, talking to Him face to face - it's the sweetest thing in life. There have been times of extreme grief when the Lord has allowed me to experience an almost unbearably intense sense of His presence. At other times it's not so overwhelming. But we can have confidence that He's always there. We don't go in and out of His presence like going in and out of a room. He is with us to the end of the age, like a place of refuge, and we can talk to Him all the time - about everything.

Insight: "Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD" (Psalm 89:15).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

+DEV+ Getting the Picture

Date: April 12, 2011 11:54 PM
Topic: +DEV+ Getting the Picture

Getting the Picture

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 4:14-16

Here's a perfect description of how to pray as believers in Jesus: we approach a throne and sitting on it is the One who has all authority and all power in heaven and on earth, which means He is completely and infinitely able to help us. It's a throne of grace, which means He will help us, not because we deserve it but in spite of the fact that we don't deserve it.

We can approach it boldly, with radical confidence in His forgiveness and in His love. We can expect to receive a warm welcome because we know the Lord's heart is merciful towards us and that He's greatly inclined to give us what we ask. We don't have to twist His arm - He loves to give good gifts to His children. When we come to His throne, we will always find grace waiting for us in our time of need.

As believers we know our time of need is all the time. We need everything. Prayer is not intended for emergency situations only. For believers, it's a way of life.

Insight: "The Lord protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, he saved me" (Psalm 116:6).

+DEV+ Unworthy Wants

Date: April 12, 2011 2:01 AM
Topic: +DEV+ Unworthy Wants

Unworthy Wants

"When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:3).
Scripture Focus: James 4:1-10

"Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?" So sang Janice Joplin and sometimes, so go our prayers. James talks straight about desires that aren't worthy of our prayers. He says friendship with the world is hatred towards God. When our eyes light up at the pleasures of the world, we become traitors to the cause of Christ's Kingdom. There's a wonderful antidote for this condition in James 4:10: "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up."

The Holy Spirit will give us new desires if we ask Him, and then we can take God's prayer promises to the bank. Psalm 81:10 is a vivid picture of what to expect: "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." George Mueller ran several orphanages on nothing but prayer and confidence in this verse. He considered it a great invitation from a gracious God, "Now ask much at my hands; look for much from me, bring great requests before me. I am God, and not man, it is the very joy and delight of my heart to give abundantly."

Insight: "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

+DEV+ Expect Answers

Date: April 10, 2011 11:07 PM
Topic: +DEV+ Expect Answers

Expect Answers

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you" (Matthew 7:7).
Scripture Focus: Matthew 7:7-11

Jesus is giving us a picture of what to expect when we pray. He's communicating one very simple idea - pray and your prayers will be answered. Why? Is it magic? No, it's intensely personal. Your Father will respond because He loves you. Jesus goes on to say, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

When I'm not excited about praying, it's usually because I have low expectations. "This isn't going anywhere. Nothing's going to come of it any way."

Jesus wants to bring us out of that unbelief. He wants to fill our hearts with assurance that the Father hears us, He loves us and He has a giving heart. Jesus is telling us to have a joyous anticipation instead of a feeling of futility. In Psalm 5 you can hear the confidence of David's faith: "In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation."

Insight: "I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer" (Psalm 17:6).

Friday, April 8, 2011

+DEV+ What Do You Want?

Date: April 8, 2011 1:57 AM
Topic: +DEV+ What Do You Want?

What Do You Want?

"'What do you want me to do for you?' Jesus asked him. The blind man said, 'Rabbi, I want to see'" (Mark 10:51).
Scripture Focus: Mark 10:46-52

Our praying can easily turn into a vague monologue where we're just saying the words we think we're supposed to say. A good way to make things real is to hear Jesus ask us the straightforward question He asked the blind man: "What do you want me to do for you?" Again and again in the gospels Jesus encourages us to "Ask" and then follows up with the promise, "and you will receive." He wants us to ask.

My praying gets electrified with reality when I realize Jesus is listening, that I can make definite requests to Him, and that He is utterly able and infinitely willing to give good things.

The blind man told him, "Lord I want to receive my sight," and Jesus did what he asked. Another time John and James told Him, "We want the two most important seats in your kingdom." That time Jesus said, "No," and went on to explain that His kingdom is not about being great. We may not receive what we ask, but our prayers will get real when we start being candid with Jesus.

Insight: "Lord, all my longings lie open before you" (Psalm 38:9).

Thursday, April 7, 2011

+DEV+ The Great Heart-Searcher

Date: April 7, 2011 2:08 AM
Topic: +DEV+ The Great Heart-Searcher

The Great Heart-Searcher

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).
Scripture Focus: Psalm 139

Prayer is a way for us to really know ourselves. We have a congenital blindness about our own hearts, so there is great danger that we'll be hypocrites and not know it. The Pharisees were totally convinced that they were righteous, but Jesus told them they were like tombs, white on the outside, dead on the inside.

The answer is to come into the light and ask the Lord to show us ourselves. Jesus said people avoid the light because their deeds are evil. But His death on the cross removes our defensiveness. There's no fear in having Him search our hearts because we know He loves us. He may cut us to the quick, but He'll cleanse our conscience with His forgiveness and transform us with His Spirit.

Coming into the light to have our hearts searched for sin is a very underrated privilege of being a child of God, yet it's one David treasured. Psalm 139 is his song of praise to God for knowing him inside and out and for creating integrity in his heart.

Insight: "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place" (Psalm 51:6).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

+DEV+ Which One Am I?

Date: April 5, 2011 11:29 PM
Topic: +DEV+ Which One Am I?

Which One Am I?

"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).
Scripture Focus: Luke 18:9-17

Jesus told the story of two men who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee thanked God that he was righteous while the tax collector asked for mercy as a sinner. I know I definitely have the first man's self-exalting tendencies, and I've learned how impossible it is to try to stamp out my pride. It turns my focus inward, away from God, and gets me tangled up in my own thoughts and feelings.

Instead I've realized I can simply admit before the Lord that I am a proud sinner with a tendency to feel superior. Rather than trying to make myself worthy, I can accept that I'm unworthy because of my pride and all my other unlovely thoughts. Imagine the Pharisee saying, "Lord be merciful to me, for I think I am better than this other man." What sweet music to the ears of God those words would have been. He sent his Son to die for sinners, and when we take the sinner's place at the foot of the cross, His grace comes down to meet us there.

Insight: "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases" (Psalm 103:2-3).

Monday, April 4, 2011

+DEV+ A Good Long Drink

Date: April 4, 2011 10:57 PM
Topic: +DEV+ A Good Long Drink

A Good Long Drink

"On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink'" (John 7:37).
Scripture Focus: John 7:37-39

We tend to avoid praying when we need it most. If we’re spiritually down, we feel disqualified and cut off. we think, "First I have to straighten out my heart. Then I can pray." Once I heard a sermon titled, "Ten Reasons God Won't Answer Your Prayers." The pastor set the bar so high a lot of people probably gave up praying right then and there.

The wonderful truth is that Jesus sets the bar really low. He just says, "Come." When we're at our worst, when we're needy and thirsty, that's when we qualify for His beautiful open invitation: "Come to me and drink."

Living without Jesus is like living in a dry and thirsty land, and even believers find themselves in that place at times. We need to come to Jesus and ask Him to refresh us with living water. John tells us that Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit when He made this offer (vs. 39). He was promising to pour out the thirst-quenching water of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of all who are thirsty for Him.

Insight: "you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land" (Psalm 63:1).

+DEV+ The Way In

Date: April 4, 2011 3:16 AM
Topic: +DEV+ The Way In

The Way In

"We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body" (Hebrews 10:19-20).
Scripture Focus: Hebrews 10:19-25

Jesus was angry when He went into the temple and threw out the moneychangers. He quoted Isaiah 56:7 as the explanation for His actions: "It is written, 'My house will be a house of prayer for all nations.'"

The moneychangers were conducting business in the Court of the Gentiles, the outermost area of the temple, which was as near as a non-Jew could get to God. This callous indifference to outsiders was directly opposed to God's heart - His plan was to bring us all the way into the Holy of Holies.

Jesus died so we could have intimate, face-to-face fellowship with His Father. When His body was torn, the curtain that separated us from God was torn, top to bottom. His death truly made His Father's house a house of prayer for all nations.

Whenever I sit down to pray, I start by looking at the cross. It reminds me the Lord is holy and at the same time, it makes me bold. When I look at the cross, I'm awed by the breath-taking passion of Jesus for me to be able to pray.

Insight: "Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me" (Psalm 66:20)!