Jesus Is Not Like Other Prophets

Jesus is respected by many as “one of the greats,” but actually that’s giving Him no respect at all. He is distinctly different from others who are heralded as great prophets and teachers, and there’s not enough trees in all the world to make the paper for the list of differences. But in this era of terrorism in the name of religion, please notice what Jesus said.

Jesus’ disciples went into a Samaritan village, preparing for Jesus’ soon arrival to the town. When the villagers rejected their efforts, James and John asked Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to consume them, these “infidels” who refused to “convert.” Jesus did NOT approve of their idea of killing those who would not believe. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” (Luke 9:56). These Samaritans would live to see another day, and in their tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, God would allow them more time and opportunity to receive the gift of salvation that Jesus came to give them through His death.The grace of God on display.

Jesus. The One who forgave the adulterer. The One who gave a brand new life to the tax collector. The One who had compassion upon the weary and scattered. The One who gave life and healing, not death nor injury. Jesus, the One who knew all too well that all of us are guilty and deserving of terrible punishment, and His response was to take the horrible punishment for us.

That’s what Jesus did to the “infidel.” He died for them because He loves them. (And because we have all been the enemies of God at one time or another in our lives, perhaps the better way to write that sentence is: He died for us because He loves us.)

And now what of us, His followers? May our hearts never grow hardened in the face of evil. We must remember that we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, and that’s why Jesus calls us to pray for our enemies. We are called to love like Jesus. Our enemies who are spreading terror around the world are broken, confused, deceived people, chained up in spiritual bondage, and Jesus the Son of God can radically save their souls. We must pray for them, brothers and sisters, pray like we’ve never prayed before! Pray until God has cleansed our hearts of fear and hate! Pray for their souls, pray for God’s power to be displayed through the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives. May we pray like we believe in the power of God.

Revealing the Light

So much evil warring has befallen our world. The press covers selected stories, but every day around the world in large numbers, Christians are suffering for their faith. The more we hear of it, the more we are faced with wondering how we will respond when the suffering comes to our doorstep.

Jesus said, “No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light” (Luke 8:16). God Himself has lit our lamps, Christian. He would not have us hiding under our beds, but we are to allow Him to position us where the light of Christ is on display. Why? So that those who enter may see the light.

Not with hate-filled words, not with fear, not with worldly attitudes, but with the light of Christ, let us shine forth brightly. We will not cower in fear, but our motivation isn’t pride; it is to let those who enter our domain to see the light.

Momentum Monday: Be Happy for Someone Else

Rejoice with those who rejoice. (Romans 12:15)

Pay more attention this week to what’s happening in others’ lives instead of fixating on your own issues. You are going to have so much fun celebrating with the people around you!

The human heart is self-centered and puts us at the center of the universe. And when we put ourselves at the center of our thinking, we’ll think about everything happening around us based on how it affects us personally. Instead of, “I’m so happy for my sister that she got a promotion,” we’ll think, “It’s about time my boss notices me so I can get a raise. He’s so stingy!” We completely miss out on the blessing of celebrating the wonderful ways God is working in the world around us, and we drive ourselves to misery.

Rejoice! You’re going to be overwhelmed this week at how God is pouring out blessings, and you’ll feel blessed just to celebrate with friends.

Anybody want to share:What good news from others are you celebrating?

 

A Gift and a Choice

Perspective is golden. Seventeen cents is of little value to a banker, but it makes a 3-year-old feel like a ba-zillionaire. A biscuit is a meager meal, unless you’re an ant.

Perspective – how you view the world – shapes your decision-making process. Your perspective has likely changed through the years because experiences, relationships, age, and life situations help shape your thinking. These outside influences are the very reason that you must choose wisely about the movies you watch, the company you keep, and the places you go, because each story you see played out before your eyes, each conversation, each life experience, is battling to sway your opinion. You can harness this power of influence to work to your advantage by submersing yourself in situations that will shape your perspective for the good, but the greatest influence on your perspective must be Jesus Christ.

Jesus saw the world differently than the people around Him. Even though His disciples were near Him, they often struggled to understand Christ’s teachings because their perspectives had been tainted by years of sitting under the tutelage of the world. One day the disciples came to Christ and asked, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:1)? The Romans would have answered that question from a pagan’s perspective; would they have said that the greatest is the one who is champion on the battlefield or the stealthiest strategist in the military tent? The Pharisees would have responded based on their legalistic perspective; would they have praised the one who was the chief law-keeper among law-keepers? But Jesus answered with the perspective of the King of the kingdom of heaven. He placed a child in their midst and answered, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (18:3-4). Jesus extolled humility; the greatest in God’s kingdom are those who are willing to be like children, to strip away layer upon layer of the world’s carnal influences, to put aside all of the world’s wisdom and stop relying on how smart we think we are, and to be molded and shaped anew by Christ.

As Christians, we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). This gift is given to every believer from God Himself. The mind of Christ is beyond ability to describe in its greatness, but as it applies to perspective, it might be described as an invaluable filtering system that helps you evaluate information with the attitude of Christ, or as a special lens that allows your eyes to see the world through the eyes of Christ.

If you’re a believer, does this mean that you already have Christ’s perspective? Not necessarily. Truly operating with the mind of Christ takes prayer, intentionality, and spiritual discipline, because Christ’s perspective doesn’t come naturally to us. Christ’s way of thinking is in direct opposition with the world and even with our own flesh, so taking Christ’s perspective means that we must choose to allow God to overrule our weaker ways of thinking. Having the mind of Christ is a gift; yielding to the mind of Christ is a choice.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6 NKJV)

Excerpt from Lost on a Familiar Road by Kimberly Sowell

January 21 blog for New Start 15: www.cynthiahopkins.org
January 23 blog for New Start 15: www.juliesanders.org

Momentum Monday: Hold Fast

Look carefully at your hands: what are you clutching with clinched fists?

Hezekiah is a name that sounds vaguely familiar, but most of us know nothing of him. But this no-name man was a king, and God said there was not another king like him among the kings of Judah, neither before or after him (2 Kings 18:5).

We don’t know much about him, but God’s Word records that he held fast to the Lord (v.6). Other kings clutched onto power or worldliness, but Hezekiah kept a firm grasp on his relationship with God.

How’s your grip? Hold tightly to God. Hold fast without wavering.

Anybody want to share: What are you going to work on this week, letting go so that you can better hold fast to the Lord?

Be Careful, Ears

Something Jesus said arrested my attention today:
“Take heed how you hear” (Luke 8:18).

How do I hear?
As I read my Bible, let it be a serious and intimate conversation with God, not for task completion.
As I pray, may it be a true exchange of words between Holy God and small me, not just me talking too much.
As I sit under sermons and teachings, may I listen carefully for some beautiful secret treasure that God is going to whisper to me, and not with an “I’ve heard this all before” attitude.

God, give us ears to hear.

 

Consider Your Ways

Praise God, as Christians we are no longer slaves to sin through the power of Christ. That means that every day, every moment, we must choose.

Throughout the day, we check in with ourselves: Am I about to get myself fired, or am I justified to use this tone of voice at work? Since her boyfriend keeps stealing glances at me, shouldn’t I keep stealing glances at him? Am I obligated to hand back to the cashier the extra five she gave me? The risk we run is that we are fully capable of talking ourselves into all sorts of sin, justifying our actions, and convincing ourselves that what we know in our core to be wrong is somehow morphing into something that is right. With practice, we can get really good at lying to ourselves.

These kinds of mind games can lead to what Paul called a seared conscience (1 Tim. 4:2). We hedge the truth; we hesitate to do what’s best if we think we can sneak by with what’s simply okay, if it helps our cause. And because of the self-deception, we then cannot figure out why we’re faltering spiritually. Why isn’t God blessing? Why can’t we hear the voice of God? Why are we struggling to know God’s will?

God has said, “Consider your ways” (Hag. 1:5). Take a careful look at your ways. How do you talk to people? How do you respond to temptations in situations where it appears you could cut a corner and no one would know? When you sense God telling you to make a personal sacrifice of your money or time but you really don’t want to do it, do you deny your flesh and make the sacrifice or do you explain to yourself that it’s best for you and fine with God to postpone the sacrifice?

When you can honestly evaluate your ways, you’re in a much better position to honestly evaluate the decisions you’re making that led to those ways, and discern from God if you’re fooling yourself in any area of your thought life. Ways trace back to decisions, decisions trace back to thoughts, and thoughts trace back to how much or little of ourselves we have fully surrendered to be instruments of righteousness to God.

And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:13 NKJV)

Excerpt from Lost on a Familiar Road by Kimberly Sowell

 

January 13 blog for New Start 15:www.lindseymbell.com
January 15 blog for new Start 15: www.juliesanders.org

 

Momentum Monday: Talk Face to Face

So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. (Exodus 33:11)

One of the great privileges of being Moses was having a face to face friendship with God. Face to face.It sounds intimate and genuine, comforting and comfortable. It sounds like relationship.

If texting or social media sites had been available in the days of Moses, I think Moses still would have preferred this face to face intimacy with God every time. Sure, it’s quick and convenient to text or post, but friendships are strengthened when we give our time to one another. And think of all that you communicate to others just through your facial expressions.

I’m going to keep on texting and posting, but this week I’m going to make a special effort to have more face to face conversations. I’m going to listen when people are talking instead of skimming through emails and listening with half an ear. Our communities will be strengthened if we’ll give one another the gift of more face time.

Anybody want to share:Got a great face to face pic with someone special to share?

People Group

In missions, we talk about people groups. A people group is a grouping of people because of their ethnic and cultural similarities. People groups have a common sense of self-identity.

1 Peter 2:9-12 teaches us that as Christians, we are a people group, and specifically, we are God’s people group. Our culture – how we think, how we interact with other people, our language, even how we dress – should be specific to us and distinctly different from those who are not in our people group (those who don’t serve Christ as Savior.)

The quest to be holy, to be distinctly different from the world, prompts me to think about my own “cultural” mannerisms. Christian, are you living as one clearly a member of God’s special people group?

 

Trashing the Doughnuts

I was sitting at a drive thru window, watching fresh doughnuts fall from a conveyor belt into a garbage can in the restaurant’s kitchen. Surely they weren’t storing doughnuts in sanitized garbage cans, right? At least not in plain sight of customers, but could it possibly be they were baking doughnuts only to toss them directly into the garbage?

Yep. When I asked an employee, he said it was company policy to throw away the extra doughnuts. It was so wasteful, I could hardly stand to hear the truth. Doughnuts, made only to be tossed in the trash. What a vivid picture of every unused spiritual gift among Christians. Our God-given gifts have such potential to bless others, but while the needy stand on the outside, spiritually hungry and hurting, we’re on the inside letting God’s gifts go to waste.

Do you know your spiritual gifts? Use them! Get serving!