2 1 D AY D E V O T I O N A L
21 Day Devotional for 2014
TABLE OF CONTENTS FORWARD I INTRODUCTION - OPEN II INTRODUCTION - HOW TO USE THIS BOOK IV INTRODUCTION - FASTING GUIDELINES V INTRODUCTION - A DANIEL FAST 1 DAY 1 - DOUBT YOUR DOUBTS AND TRUST JESUS 2 DAY 2 - I AM THE DOOR 4 DAY 3 - #NONSTOPWORSHIP 6 DAY 4 - OPEN HANDS 8 DAY 5 - IS YOUR “OPEN” SIGN LIT? 10 DAY 6 - DRINK UP 12 DAY 7 - PEACE IS POWERFUL 14 DAY 8 - KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN 16 DAY 9 - FACE TO FACE WITH GOD 18 DAY 10 - STRETCH YOUR HEART 20 DAY 11 - LOOKING FOR HIM 22 DAY 12 - INTIMACY WITH GOD 24
FORWARD East Coast Christian Center, I have been given the privilege of spending the end of 2013 with several different pastors from around the country and I have really been encouraged about our church! I have learned a lot, but also I have been encouraged that we are doing church right in a lot of areas! One of those areas is the way we start each new year. We have started devotions, a Daniel fast and pressed into His presence for over 20 years now together as a church. This year we will be doing it again and I want you to be open to this in a fresh new way. Just as we have done devotions, fasting and pressing in for years, many of the greatest churches in America are starting their year the same way. This is something the Spirit of God is doing world wide and I want each and every one of you to be open to what God wants to do in you this year during this special time. Pastor Dan
DAY 13 - THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY 26 DAY 14 - ME, AN EXPRESSION OF GOD’S LOVE? 28 DAY 15 - OPEN ACCESS 30 DAY 16 - THE POWER OF OPEN HEAVENS 32 DAY 17 - OPEN GATE TO HEAVEN 34 DAY 18 - THE FATHER’S DOOR IS OPEN 36 DAY 19 - TRUE LOVE FRIENDS 38 DAY 20 - YOUR KINGDOM COME, YOUR WILL BE DONE 40 DAY 21 - TOTAL GOD 42 I
OPEN INTRODUCTION Our problem as the human race began with eating of a tree and our eyes becoming open. As an unbeliever, I was known for being willing or open to trying anything which was stupid and dangerous. When I was a young believer, I was not indoctrinated into a denomination or a doctrinal direction- I just read my bible a lot and believed what I read. I was open to the truth. When a need came up in my church I would say, “I’m open to give it a try.” Open can be good or bad- it all depends on what or who you are open to! Open to God means closed to some other things Revelation 3:7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the Holy One, the True One, who holds the key of David, who opens doors no one can shut, and shuts doors no one can open.” (NET) This year, by being open to God, I believe He will close the door on some things that do not need to be open anymore. 2014 is a year God wants us to proclaim as OPEN, but not to the wrong things. So proclaim with me right now, “2014 is the year I am open to God, I am open to His people, and I am open to sharing His love with the world I live in.” God wants us to live under an open heaven - God is not holding II
back! When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple that separated the people from the presence of God was ripped from top to bottom. This signified that God was no longer keeping His distance! In Hebrew 4:16 it says, Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help. (NET) We can be confident that the door to the throne room of God is wide open and that He is extending to you a warm invite.
the church. Be open to serving in a ministry or event that takes the gospel out of our building, out of our world and into theirs. Be open to taking a short term missions trip. Be open to those who live on your street and pray for a way to demonstrate the love of Christ to them. OPEN - what is it that God is calling you to be open to? Or to be open to start? Or open in your heart and life? With an open heart, Dan
God wants you to be open to His family, the church. The world we live in looks down on the church- this is even a trend with some believers, God forbid! The church is what Jesus died to build. He calls us His bride - don’t mess with someone’s bride! Be open to getting into more fellowship with God’s people this year. This is the year to open your heart and life and either start or get into a life group and to develop deeper and closer friendships in the body of Christ. God wants us to gather in His name, totally open to Him and to His will in our services. God wants us to open our hearts to the world we live in like the Samaritan man who opened his heart and his wallet to help the hurting neighbor along the road. This year we don’t want to be like those who walked by and did nothing. Be open to starting a friendship with someone outside III
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
Pray and ask for God’s guidance. He will open your spiritual eyes so that you will have a clear understanding of what you read.
Step 1 - Know the Purpose of Fasting
•Ask forgiveness of those whom you have sinned against.
Why are you fasting? Is it for spiritual renewal, guidance or healing? Perhaps you need a fresh start or a breakthrough in a specific area of your life, financial freedom, or grace to handle a difficult problem. Ask the Holy Spirit to clarify your personal goals for fasting.
Read the entire chapter to get a better understanding of the key verse. Knowing the context in which the verse was written will give insight into the meaning of the scripture and what the author meant when he wrote it.
night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Determine the application the chapter has for your life. The Word of God is powerful and in order to experience its power, you must act on it. As you ask questions and gain a deeper understanding of the text, think Re-read the key verse and ask about what you’ve observed in questions. Train yourself to your reading and what it means. observe exactly what the text is As you meditate on those truths, saying by asking these questions: think about their place in your life and how they apply to you, •Who is speaking and what do they personally. Do not let your study believe? become an intellectual pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. •What is the context of the key Consider each verse for your verse? What is happening before own personal life. That’s where and after? application comes in. •When was the verse said or done? Be a doer of the Word, not just a hearer. As you read the Word •How is it going to happen? daily and apply it to your life, your The answers to these questions will life will start to change. You will become a living epistle, known bring revelation. Deuteronomy and read by all men (2 Corinthians 29:29 promises, “The secret things 3:2). This type of study is a habit belong to the Lord our God, but that can be formed in your life. those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words Here are some online resources to help you study the Word: of this law.” Commit the key verse to memory, if possible. Joshua 1:8 explains the importance of knowing the Word by memory: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and IV
WHAT IS FASTING?
Step 2 - Make a Commitment Matthew 6:16 says, “Moreover, when you fast…” The wording of His instructions implies that Jesus intended for all believers to fast. It says when you fast, not if you fast. Before you start, decide these things: •How long will you fast? •What type of fast should you follow? •What physical or social habits will you leave out during this time? •How much time will you spend in the Word and prayer? Step 3 - Prepare Yourself Spiritually Prepare yourself spiritually through true repentance by taking these steps: •Ask God to reveal your sin to you.
•Confess every sin specifically that the Holy Spirit shows you.
•Ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit. •Meditate on God’s character. •Believe in faith for results •Expect and prepare yourself to overcome any opposition. Step 4 - Prepare Yourself Physically Take reasonable precautions. Consult a physician if you have any health concerns or are on medication. Do not gorge yourself just before you start. If your daily caffeine intake is high, start tapering down prior to beginning your fast. Also, get plenty of rest. It is important for your body to have rest during this transition time. If you exercise, don’t over exert yourself. Exercise moderately. Prepare yourself for some discomfort, headaches, weakness or crankiness. Remember that the first two to three days of fasting are the hardest, but do not lose hope or feel discouraged.
A DANIEL FAST
Step 5 - Stay on the Plan Commit to seeing it through and staying the course. Make the following a core part of your fast:
WHAT IS A DANIEL FAST?
A daniel fast is based on the following scriptures:
•Read the chapter. •Answer the questions in the devotion.
•Take walks at lunchtime and pray. •Meditate on the key verses.
•Daniel 1:11-13 •Daniel 10:3 Specifically, Daniel 1:12 (KJV) says: “Prove thy servants, I beseech, thee, ten days; ans let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.” The word “pulse” is translated as “vegetables.” Pulse comes from the Hebrew word “zero,” which is something sown, like seeds to grow vegetables for food. Daniel ate only what grew from the ground. He avoided meat for 2 reasons: It was dedicated to idols and would defile the person who ate it knowing it was dedicated to idols (Daniel 1:8), and he was abstaining from this food to seek the Lord. Daniel avoided sweets, desserts, and sugar. He proposed in his heart to find his joy and fulfillment in God, not in food. Daniel 10:3 (KJV) says: “I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” In Hebrew, “pleasant bread” translated comes from “chemdah lechem,” which is delightful food, food that one eats for pleasure rather than purpose of nourishment.
So what do we eat? Keep it simple and follow the leading of the Lord. The purpose of a fast is to seek God, not just go on a diet. If you would like to lose weight while doing this fast, you can cut out dairy as well. A suggested meal plan is as follows: •Breakfast - Eat fruit until noon. •Lunch - Eat a large salad with vegetables. •Dinner - Eat beans and rice, vegetables or salad. Here are some resources to help you plan meals according to the Daniel Fast: www.danielfast.wordpress.com www.danielfastcookbook.com
DOUBT YOUR DOUBTS AND TRUST JESUS Day 1
CHAPTER: LAMENTATIONS 3
KEY VERSES: LAMENTATIONS 3:24-25 (NKJV) “The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I hope in Him! The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.”
HEAR IT: I believe, as Christians, we carry a perpetual springtime within our souls and that hope is always in bloom. Hope is a joyful expectation of good things to come! When we look at tomorrow’s challenges, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and doubtful, but the Lord gives you grace for today to deal with what comes your way! It is so important to continually recall to your mind the victories you have won in Christ, especially in times when difficult challenges are staring you right in the face. It is there that you will find the wellspring of hope that has been made available to you by the Holy Spirit. You see, faith sees, hope feels, and love never fails. Faith says, “I can see it!” Hope says, “I know that it will happen!” not “I hope that it will happen!” And Jesus’ perfect love for you NEVER fails! The hope you need for your present situation will come from spending time in His presence. Fear, depression, discouragement, anxiety, hopelessness, and doubt have no place in His presence. In His presence is fullness of joy and life everlasting! Hope in God, not 2
just because of what He’s done, but because of who He is! He is Jehovah Shalom, your peace. He is Jehovah Jireh, your provider. He is Jehovah Rapha, your healer. He is Emmanuel, God with us. The names of our Father God reflect His deity and nature. It is who He is, and He cannot depart from it! He who has promised is faithful! The Lord is a Watchman; He faithfully watches over His word and is always eager and ready to perform it on your behalf! I believe it is possible to have hope in any situation or circumstance we face because Jesus never disappoints! It is impossible to exaggerate the goodness of God, because God is always in a good mood, and He loves you all the time! So, doubt your doubts and trust Jesus!
I was really dealing with heavy discouragement and I could literally feel the weight of my fears and doubts. Well, one particular Sunday night during worship, I had such a radical encounter with my Father God. I could feel the weight of His presence all around me and I heard Him say, “You belong to me, and I know how to take care of what’s mine.” From that night on, my life was forever changed, and in that moment, I could literally feel the weight of all the doubts and discouragement I was carrying lift off me. I believe that is what your Father God would say to you today,
“You belong to me, and I know how to take care of what’s mine.”
DO IT: You are a releaser of hope! Today, go out of your way to encourage someone! How do you know if someone needs some encouragement? If they are breathing! Everyone needs to be encouraged and there is nothing better than encouragement that is Holy Spirit inspired!
SEE IT: A year ago, my husband and I set out on our biggest adventure with Father God yet by deciding to move out to Redding, California. The first few months we were here seemed like a whirlwind of emotional highs and lows. All at once, we went through some of life’s major changes by moving, changing jobs, and getting ready to have another baby. Needless to say, life was very full! I could have never imagined how much my faith and hope was going to have to stretch. I went through a very tough season where it was very hard for me to have hope. 3
I AM THE DOOR
CHAPTER: JOHN 10
KEY VERSES: JOHN 10:7-11 (NKJV) “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
HEAR IT: I love that Jesus states, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.” The real truth found in these verses is that there are doors to enter in and out of in life. You can enter either doors to good things or you can enter doors to bad things. Life and death are experienced by your choice of the various doors you walk through during your life. In many instances, the door is equal to a choice. So many people in this world have never been given the opportunity to see the door that leads to salvation through Jesus Christ. The choice to give their life to Christ has never been presented to them. Jesus is the door to salvation, but how do they find the door? We live in a world where people are walking through so many different doors trying to find the real, life-giving one. 4
The enemy or thief is pointing them to all the wrong places and they are desperately seeking a relationship with God while looking in all the wrong directions.
SEE IT: Sometimes as Christians, we forget what it was like before we knew Jesus. I have been saved like this scripture declares for nearly 27 years and I would have never made it to this point if someone hadn’t shown me the door that led to Christ. I walked through so many doors looking to find my way but always came up empty. I tried alcohol, drugs, sex (fake love), money, fame, and anything else I could imagine to try and fill the void in my life and none of them worked! I was lost and it took someone reaching out to show me the truth of Christ that enabled me to finally find what I was seeking. When this scripture says that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy; that was the reality of my life. The doors I was opening to those destructive things were being placed in front of me by the enemy to snare me into his trap and ultimately destroy me. I owe many thanks to a believer who shared the truth with me because I am no longer losing this fight. Now I have found the abundant life that only Jesus can give.
When you look around today, begin to watch people. Try to see the doors they are walking through in their lives. Some are looking for love. Some are looking for relief from the pressures of life. Others are just lost. They are all looking for what only God can give thema life filled with love, peace, and acceptance. Jesus said He was the door and that through Him we can have an abundant life. The real secret is that you have Jesus living
inside. He desires to use you to reach out to your neighbors, family, friends, or the random stranger and show them the door that leads to Him. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and share the good news of what God has done for you. Grab someone’s hand and bring them to the door of Jesus. See them begin to experience all that God wants them to have in this life. God will open the door for you to share with people so be ready to walk through it when He does.
#NONSTOPWORSHIP Day 3
CHAPTER: JOHN 15
KEY VERSE: JOHN 15:7 (NLT) “But if you remain in me and My words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want and it will be granted!” HEAR IT: Imagine something that would drive you to wake up early and stay up late. Imagine that incredible motivation driving you to sacrifice time with people you love to be with. Imagine that thing that you would pay top dollar for or even be willing to look foolish over in order to attain it. God wants us to be driven to His presence in the same way. Prayer is not meant to be something that stops. If it was supposed to be stopped, God would not have told us to pray without ceasing. Prayer is a continual awareness of God’s presence so that we just speak to Him without saying, “Okay, I’m about to pray now.” We just let our hearts speak and listen to the Holy Spirit all the time. We should worship spontaneously without going, “Okay, I am about to worship now.” Even when we go to church to worship corporately, we are really just continuing communion with our Father and are not supposed to stop a worship lifestyle when the music ends. This is the concept of remaining in Christ and letting His Word remain in us. When we abide continually in His presence, we find that our desires change. We no longer 6
think about our own selfish pursuits but God puts His desires in us and we begin to hunger and thirst for righteousness. We feel confident in exercising our faith and boldly asking God for His Kingdom to come on earth in our lives and in those lives around us. “Nothing is impossible with God,” becomes our new way of thinking. This mentality is childlike, powerful, and necessary for us to see God’s Kingdom flow through us into the earth. God has called us to do even greater works than Jesus did during His earthly ministry. The time has come to seek God desperately, abide in Him continually, and let His Kingdom flow through us into a world that desperately needs Jesus’ love.
woke up to get ready for school. It was wonderful and I soon found myself thirsting for more time with Him. I went to 45 minutes and then an hour earlier. Now I find myself thirsting for more time with Him and becoming more aware of His presence and His voice during my daily routine. But we are not more righteous for spending a certain amount of time with God. The motivation is not brownie points- it is a burning desire to
apprehend that which we have been apprehended for!
DO IT: I challenge you with something simple: wake up early to seek God. Not just 5 minutes early, but enough time to make a solid connection with Jesus and get into the groove of worship for the day. Worship is not something that we do- it is a state of being.
SEE IT: Recently, God challenged me with something that I had become unwilling to trust Him with: my sleep. Years ago, before I was married and had children, I would wake up an hour early in the morning to spend time praying, worshiping, and reading the Bible. It was wonderful! But as the busyness of life increased, I felt as though sleep was more important. I had a fear of being sleep deprived. About a year ago, God challenged me to trust Him with my sleep and I took a small step toward seeking God in the morning. I woke up half an hour earlier to pray before my kids 7
OPEN HANDS Day 4
CHAPTER: GALATIANS 6 KEY VERSES: GALATIANS 6:2-3 (NKJV) “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” HEAR IT: The main point I want to focus on in this passage of scripture is that we are to share one another’s burdens. God designed us for relationship and community. God has not made us to live lives of seclusion and alienation from others. From the creation of the world God walked and talked with us and we see that mirrored all over the world in a little group called a family. Families don’t have to be related or even come from the same gene pool. We can emulate the structure of family wherever and with whomever God has called us to be in community with. Small groups are a way to do that no matter where your families may be, near or far. We can have a church family that walks with us through hard times and shares in our burdens and laughs with us in the good times and lends a hand when needed. SEE IT: I do not have any family here in Florida. My entire extended family is in other parts of the country and even on the other side of the world. I, like many of you, was
looking for a connection point with other church members beyond my weekend experience. I was looking for friends, people to grow with spiritually, and for a place to feel at home. I intentionally started a few life groups and made some great friends, and I have experienced closeness and a connection within my small group that feels like a family. There have been times when I needed to be surrounded and covered in prayer and love, and they were there for me. There have been times when God has used me to minister into someone else’s life with the gifts and talents he has placed inside of me. Both being blessed and blessing others has ministered to my life in a profound way and given me a passion for Life Groups.
are not able to give it away, open your hands this year, and join a Life Group. Really get to know the people in it, and spend the time and effort to bless and be blessed
by the community and fulfillment offered in being a part of Life Groups. Trust me, your life will never be the same.
DO IT: God does not want us to do life alone. I called this devotional “Open Hands” for a specific reason. If you close your hand in a tight fist and never reach out to others, two things occur. 1) You try and carry a bunch of stuff. However, if your hands are stuck closed, you will not carry your full potential, and 2) even if you reach out to give someone something but don’t open your hand, you will never give what you are trying to give away. If you are looking for deeper friendships and a sense of community or if you have so much to give and feel like you 9
IS YOUR “OPEN” SIGN LIT? Day 5
CHAPTER: MATTHEW 5
KEY VERSES: MATTHEW 5:14-16 (NIV) “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” HEAR IT: In this passage, we are likened to light. Not just any light, but a light that shines bright enough to light an entire house. Jesus instructs us to not hide the light he has placed in us, but rather, let it shine, so that in our coming and going, our actions would be a reflection of Him. Our lives are to reflect Jesus so that by simply being ourselves, others will be compelled to know Jesus and to want what we have.
SEE IT: My family recently had an opportunity to share the light in our lives with another person. We had the opportunity to pour into a young man that was struggling to find his way. He went to church and was a “good kid”. The one thing that was missing from his life was a personal relationship with Jesus. You see, he had never seen Christianity lived out before.
A time came when he moved into our home, and my husband and I began to encourage him in his faith. We didn’t spend hours doing bible study or preaching at him. We simply lived our lives. We were open and transparent with this young man. Something happened in him while we were just living our lives. He began to see that we were different, that we were real people with real problems that had a real savior. He began to trust us and started asking questions. He was looking for direction. You see, the light of Christ, shining through us, showed him the way to Jesus without us even trying. God was glorified in the way we joked at the dinner table and the way we bickered about who was going to do the dishes. In just living life, Jesus was made real to this young man.
DO IT: Are you open to letting your light shine? Take a moment to reflect on how others see you. You don’t have to be a Billy Graham to have an impact on someone’s life. All you have to do is let the light that Christ placed within you shine. Examine ways that you can reflect
the goodness of God to those around you. Find a way today to shine the light of Jesus into someone unexpected. Maybe that is the person on the road who needs to get into your lane, or maybe it is taking in someone in need. Be open to sharing your light!
Never underestimate the power of your day-to-day walk. The influence we have on others when we are not even trying is often greater than hours of teaching and counseling. This day to day walk is the light that needs to shine and glorify God. Some of you may be wondering what happened to that young man. How did he turn out? He dedicated his life to the Lord, joined the military, and married our daughter. Aren’t God’s blessings amazing when you allow him to shine through you?! 11
Check out these challenging and inspiring quotes:
CHAPTER: PSALM 42 KEY VERSES: PSALM 42:1-2 (NKJV) “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God?” HEAR IT: I know Forrest Gump says “life is like a box of chocolates” but I think life is also a lot like another of my favorite delicacies…coffee. It is flavorful and invigorating, is always better when your cup is full, and it’s especially enjoyable when experienced with others (Starbucks run, anybody?). The thing about coffee (and life) is this: after the thrill comes the crash. And the caffeinating can lead to a dehydrating effect. The Sons of Korah who composed this Psalm are comparing God to physical water and are expressing this thirst for Him with poetic and passionate language. Just as all of His creation thrives on water and its power to bring life to and through everything it touches, God has placed within us a Divine thirst for His presence. He is our “Life Water”. If we only drink the coffee of life and don’t hydrate our souls with the replenishing waters of time with God, we can crash hard. The problem is we don’t really think that’s gonna happen to us. 12
Like an overzealous NASCAR driver, we keep the pedal pressed hard as we run lap after lap without ever taking a pit stop. And then a tire blows. Or the red light we’ve ignored for miles now taunts us as we slow to a stop from a lack of fuel. But a fear of burnout, although compelling, isn’t the only way to remind ourselves to “drink enough God-water”. Look at these guideposts: Jeremiah 17:8 (We will be fruitful in every season and not ridden with anxiety and stress!) Matthew 11:28 (Jesus will ease, relieve, and refresh your soul when it’s weary!)
“Tomorrow I plan to work, work from early to late. In fact I have so much to do that I shall spend the first 3 hours in prayer.” - Martin Luther “Those who seem to have the greatest measure of God’s presence on their lives tend to be the hungriest for more.” -Bill Johnson “Like the woman at the well I was seeking, For things that could not satisfy; And then I heard my Savior speaking: “Draw from my well that never shall run dry”. Fill my cup Lord, I lift it up, Lord! Come and
quench this thirsting of my soul. Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more. Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!” - Richard Blanchard, from his song, “Fill My Cup Lord”
DO IT: The last line of this verse is intriguing. The psalmist asks a question, “When can I come be in Your presence?” I think the answer lies with us. God is always ready, always present, and the fountain never stops flowing. It’s up to us to choose Him, schedule time with Him, and protect that time with Him. Set up a schedule this week to spend some daily time with God in worship, prayer, and scripture reading. Honor the appointment. And stay thirsty, my friends!
Acts 3:19 (A change of heart and mind from negative attitudes and times of refreshing in His presence.) Psalm 116:7 (Your soul gets reminded of how good God is!) Jeremiah 2:13 (We won’t turn to harmful and ineffective habits and relationships when we drink from Him.) Psalm 16:11 (The path of life, the fullness of joy, and pleasure forever are in His presence!)
PEACE IS POWERFUL
CHAPTER: MATTHEW 5 KEY VERSES: MATTHEW 5:9 (NKJV) “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” HEAR IT: I love the fifth chapter of Matthew because Jesus is taking time to teach people about the Kingdom of Heaven and how we can operate in it here on Earth. The ninth verse of this chapter is so powerful because Jesus is saying that there is a blessing to those who bring peace to people. Even though this is an amazing thought, it doesn’t even compare to the idea that, because your nature has become one which brings peace, you are now called a son (or daughter) of God. It is amazing that God is not looking at how perfectly you act but instead He cares about how much peace you bring.
SEE IT: Have you ever been in church and another member did or said something that offended you? Maybe you didn’t get offended but it might have bothered you or just made you flat out mad. Then you might drop little remarks about them and avoid them. You just don’t like them. Well, it is not uncommon for churches all over America to have people filling the seats that are not perfect.
Maybe that is why Jesus was called the Prince of Peace.
We can be very tough on what we expect from other people and very gracious from what we expect from ourselves. Yet this seems a little backwards to me. We are called by God to go into all the nations preaching the gospel. We are told to not forsake the gathering of the brethren. The Bible also says that since we are the church, the gates of hell will not prevail against us. This means we have to do this life together working as a family to fulfill our Father’s calling.
If, for the rest of my life, I can be known as one thing, it would be as a son of God. I think this is one of the greatest compliments a person could give to a believer. The crazy thing is that, when you live a life bringing peace to other people, your heavenly Father is looking down saying, “That’s my boy,” or “That’s my girl.” I think that, inside all of us, we want to make our Father proud.
I don’t ever want to slow down God’s will in my life, my family, and my community just because I am filled with strife. I want to be a light to this world so people know that if they come to me, I can tell them about the greatest peacemaker ever, Jesus. I love that God loves me even though I am not perfect. That inspires me to love, forgive, and bring peace to people that aren’t perfect.
First, I think you should look into your heart and ask yourself if you have bitterness towards someone in your life. Pray and ask God how you can bring peace into the situation. Another way that you can be a peacemaker is to look and see where someone is struggling and help them out. Maybe someone is losing their peace because they can’t afford food but you are able to bless them with a meal. Finally, when peacemakers are in a situation where someone is stirring up strife, they defuse it.
When we do this as the body of Christ, people will see a culture that is different from the world. They will see a church that sincerely cares for both God and man. The world will feel loved in our churches and the gospel will be preached for generations to come.
KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN Day 8
CHAPTER: ACTS 26
KEY VERSES: ACTS 26: 17-18 (NKJV) “I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” HEAR IT: In this verse, Paul heard Jesus’ voice speaking to him. He was being sent to those who walk in darkness to open their eyes to the light. Once the eyes of the blind are open, which is speaking of those who don’t know Jesus, the truth and light of the glorious gospel sets them free. Open means to unveil, uncover, or disclose. Once your eyes are open, they stay open forever. Darkness turns to light and the bondage of Satan no longer has power over you. Your sins are forgiven and you’ll never be the same.
SEE IT: As I sit here this morning at my desk in the little office of our home, all is quiet except for the ticking of the cuckoo clock. I look at the picture of our dear friends Mike and Pat Black in their last mission’s newsletter. I am reminded of the day Mike and
Pat came over to our house in Colorado unannounced over 33 years ago. We opened the front door and they came into our home. They shared how Jesus loved us and died to set us free from the bondage of our sin. We prayed to receive forgiveness and asked Jesus into our hearts. Our eyes were opened to the truth and He received us just as we were- lost, blind, and broken. Our journey with Christ hasn’t always been easy, but I can’t even imagine how we would have made it without Him. I am amazed how God used our friends Mike and Pat, just an ordinary couple, who loved us enough to share the truth with us. Much has happened since that day our lives were changed forever. Mike and Pat moved to Guatemala where they have been missionaries for over 23 years. Dan has been a pastor at ECCC for over 21 years. Countless lives have been changed through the preaching of these two men.
Give No man is an island. We all have a part to play. When you give to the church, a missionary, or ministries such as Overlook Bible Training Center, the food pantry, or general benevolence, you are a part of winning the lost. It’s simple- without finances the church wouldn’t survive. Serve Every time the church doors are open, you have an opportunity to serve. Don’t just sit in your seat week after week. Get involved. Keep Your Eyes Open In your day to day lives, keep your spiritual eyes open. There are endless practical ways to touch the lives of those who are hurting and need a savior- a smile, an encouraging word, a helping hand, a gift, a phone
call, a visit to someone in the hospital, or an invite to church. You never know when God will open the door and you will have an opportunity to lead a lost soul to Christ. Most importantly, walk in love. Love never fails. (I Cor. 13: 1-8a) Confession Today, speak this prayer over yourself! Declare these life giving words over your life! “My eyes are open to see the truth. The truth has set me free. Freedom brings health, life, peace, healing, joy and gladness. I will share my wonderful life with others so they can receive forgiveness and an inheritance by faith in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!”
DO IT: I have always thought of myself as fairly generous, but it dawned on me that, way too often, I’m selfish. I keep Jesus inside of my heart when there are so many who need to see the light. How can I make a difference? How can I be a part of changing lives? Here are some ways to share Jesus with others. 17
FACE TO FACE WITH GOD
CHAPTER: PSALM 67
KEY VERSES: PSALM 67:1-2 (NKJV) “God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us, That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.” HEAR IT: Question: Do we owe the world an encounter with the God who encountered us with His love? The world ignores God because He is invisible, but last time I checked, He has a visible body. We are His body. The cross of Christ is an open invitation to step into relationship with God as our Father and joint heirs with Christ. We are to represent (re-present) Him well so the world will know what He’s like. We are invited to have ongoing encounters with God so that we can be an encounter for others. Like Moses - his encounter with God’s glory left his face shining so bright that the Israelites made him wear a veil to hide it. Moses lived under the old covenant, how much more is made available to us now that we are sons and daughters? Studying the Bible should lead us to an encounter. Imagine reading a biography with the author sitting right next to you. Would you be satisfied with just reading information? Or
would you like to gain personal revelation from the author? Someone once said, “If reading the Bible does not lead us into an encounter with God, we have embraced theory, and missed the invitation for relationship.” Don’t fall into the trap of believing the trinity consists of Father, Son, and Holy Bible. Let me introduce you to the author and key to your transformation, the Holy Spirit. The Bible is vital to our lives, but it has a limited effect until you partner with the author, the Holy Spirit. “That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations”. This is the result of your personal encounters face to face with God. Every nation wants a King like Jesus and they are counting on you to show them what He looks like.
I didn’t try to fix her; I just wanted her to see Jesus. If God is love, then love has to look like something or someone. Love looks like Jesus, and He is in us. God instructed me to pray this over her – “God encounter her with your love.” Only days after I had prayed this I came into my office one morning to find her there. With tears in her eyes she said to me “I wanted you to be the first to know that I gave my heart to Jesus last night!” She was in her condo alone and the Spirit of God fell strong and encountered her with pure love. She fell to her knees alone in her condo hearing God say “You need my Son, You need Jesus.” She cried out to receive
Jesus and continued saying, “Thank You God.” for hours after while weeping on the ground. God strategically placed me in that office so that He could release an encounter over His kids.
DO IT: Today, ask God for an encounter with His love. Don’t just bring your grocery list of items to Him; be quiet and allow Him to love on you. Ask Him to lead you to those who need to encounter Him through you.
SEE IT: At the end of 2011 I took a position at a large medical practice. By the beginning of 2012 I became the operations manager. During this time I sincerely wanted to see the Holy Spirit encounter those I worked with. I developed a friendship with the other manager who had been there since the start of the business. I made it a point to simply put love on every day. She was burned and frustrated by the church, and had enough of religion. She didn’t really understand what Jesus looked liked... until I was hired.
STRETCH YOUR HEART Day 10
CHAPTER: 1 PETER 4
KEY VERSES: 1 PETER 4:8 (NKJV) “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” HEAR IT: Of all the investment options we have in life, there are perhaps none with a greater risk/reward ratio than relationships. Healthy and loving relationships are perhaps the most rewarding endeavors we can embark on. But do we miss out on the rewards because of the risks? Are we willing to risk being vulnerable? Can we still choose to keep the love of God in our hearts turned on towards people who sin, fall short of our expectations, and push our buttons? I believe that we CAN. And that we SHOULD. God isn’t merely suggesting that we love one another here… He is unveiling His “Daddy side” and giving His kids a passionate mandate. The word here for “love” is the most potent, life-changing, unstoppable kind of love in existence. It is the Greek word, “agape” which means “God’s unconditional love”. And then there’s that intensifier, “fervent” placed right next to the word – this is a word that means literally “stretched out”.
The first 4 words of this verse let us know that God is very passionate about this priority in our lives. If we are to experience the prize of an “Open Heaven, Open Hearts, and Open Hands” we must be ready to have fervent and unconditional love for one another. We must forsake our fear-based conditions for showing God’s kindness, forgiveness, patience, and generosity and “stretch out” our hearts to connect with the people God has placed in our lives. As we learn to let His love enlarge our hearts, there will be powerful Kingdom connections built that will cause us to prosper in revealing God’s heart of love to the world around us. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather walk around wearing heaven’s heart on my sleeve than limping around because of my own powerless emotions. And let’s face it, deep down we sincerely hope that when we are at our weakest that someone in our lives will come along and show us this kind of unconditional love and acceptance. This is what God did for us when He “stretched out” the arms of His only begotten Son and nailed them to a splintered torture device to remove the distance in our relationship with Him.
When it comes to having fervent love, I don’t know of a clearer demonstration this side of heaven than the ones I see my own children give me when they hear me walk through the door. I barely get to finish hanging up my keys before they are running towards me to stretch out their arms and demonstrate affection for me. Before we can even finish hugs and kisses, they are eagerly trying to connect with me and tell me about their day and ask me about mine. They know very well that I’m not the perfect father. They see me when I ignore them, or when I was too harsh with my words, or when I left my shoes in the living room for Mommy to clean again for the umpteenth time. Yet, they cover my multitude of shortcomings with a deep and unconditional love that reaches towards me. So powerful!
Write down a list of the names of the 10 most important relationships in your life. Next to each name, ask God to help you come up with one way you can stretch your heart in showing them love. A phone call, an offer to pray for them, an apology, a coffee date, a gift, an encouragement or compliment… these are just a few specific ways to demonstrate fervent love towards these people. Start practicing on these relationships and ask God to stretch your heart to begin showing fervent love for not just this list, but for everyone He places in your path!
LOOKING FOR HIM Day 11
CHAPTER: MATTHEW 5
KEY VERSES: MATTHEW 5:8 (NKJV) “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” HEAR IT: This chapter is so powerful because we get to soak in the greatest sermon ever preached. Jesus gives us clarity for our hearts in this chapter, unlike the Law of Moses, which was simply direction for our behavior. He is speaking right to the hearts of men with the picture of a better life by using the words “Blessed are.” He is connecting their lives to a better life through their God (the one who blesses). He doesn’t do it the way they are used to; instead He starts talking about the conditions of their hearts. When our hearts are pure, we are powerful. A pure heart is a heart that isn’t trying to take for itself but instead is focused on pleasing God simply because it pleases Him. This is not always easy to do in a world where we have real needs and wants in our lives. We have to take time to listen to where God wants us to go and what He wants us to do. When God speaks, we trust Him and move. I can promise you one thingthat if you condition your heart this way you will gain a new compassion for those around you. God is the most amazing treasure 22
that anyone could ever experience and He wants us to share Him with those around us. He doesn’t want us to just preach to people. He wants us to love people. When we have pure hearts that are focused on God, we will naturally help people.
SEE IT: I was working fifty hours a week at a job that was very exhausting. It felt like the second I clocked in, the only thing I could think about was when I could clock out and go home. Then one day I got a phone call from a buddy of mine and he asked if I wanted to go to a bible study after work. I really didn’t want to but something inside of me was pulling me to go at least once. The house we were meeting at was a home for teens that were in trouble or abandoned. I felt so out of my element because my whole walk with God had been with people who actually wanted to hear the Gospel. These kids were out of control- they just wanted to do their own thing and didn’t want to sit and have a bible study with anyone. I have never in my life heard as many swear words in a bible study than on that afternoon. It was discouraging to say the least. I thought there is no way that these kids are going to get anything from a bible study if I can’t get two seconds to teach them before they all just go crazy. On my ride home I prayed for
God to show me a solution to the problem. I felt a peace come over my heart that humbled me to tears. God spoke saying, “Love them. They are what is valuable.” In that moment, I knew God could see my heart and my hidden thought waswhat can I get out of this for how much I have to give? I love how God sees right to the heart of the matter. I went back to the bible study the next week and just hung out with them. We even played football outside. In the end, I ended up having a good relationship with the group. We were then able to sit and have a bible study. It was so powerful to see what God was doing in those kid’s lives, not to mention the workers who ran the program. It all started with a heart change from being self focused to
being God focused (pure). It was a blessing in my life that words can’t explain.
DO IT: God is calling you to reach out to your community. Your community might be the members at your gym or your coworkers or even the people you socialize with. He doesn’t want us making judgments on if it is worth it. He wants us to have pure hearts that are focused on Him. Take today to pray and ask God who and how you can reach those people in your life that God has called you to be both a light and a witness to. What God says will be rooted in love, so don’t be afraid. Pure hearts trust their Father. When He speaks a who and a how, you carry it out.
INTIMACY WITH GOD Day 12
CHAPTER: JOHN 13
KEY VERSES: JOHN 13:23-26 (NKJV) “Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” HEAR IT: This incident occurred after Jesus and His disciples finished the last supper. Jesus had just announced to the twelve disciples that one of them was going to betray Him. They all had a personal relationship with Jesus and served Him with all their heart (except for Judas). However, notice how even Peter approaches John, the one leaning on the Lord’s bosom, to ask the question, “Who is it?” It seems John had a special type of intimacy with Jesus. Here is a grown man not afraid to show his affection towards the Lord in front of all the others. Look at the opinion this included, “His disciple, whom Jesus loved”. The disciples knew there was a difference between John and Jesus’ relationship and the rest of them. They all wanted to ask Jesus a question, but they did not feel close enough to ask Him directly. However, John, having that intimacy with the Lord, was able to approach the Lord and ask Him directly. 24
Remember Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42? Martha was busy serving the Lord, but Mary wanted intimacy with the Lord. Serving the Lord is great, and it should be a result of our love for the Lord, but not at the expense of losing intimacy with Him.
SEE IT: When our first child was born, the doctors informed us that he would need surgery within three days. I will never forget that day. They had him on the hospital’s baby bed in a room all by himself with tubes all over his little body. He was scared and crying. I was standing by the door but was not allowed in the room. The nurse tried everything to calm him down but nothing worked. By then, he was screaming! My heart was broken for him. I had tears rolling down my face. Finally, the nurse said, “Forget this! This baby needs his mommy.” She pulled a rocking chair next to all the machines, had me sit down, and told me, “Once I hand him to you, you cannot move”, then proceeded to put him on my chest. He stopped crying immediately. I sat there for over two hours barely rocking him. He slept the entire time until he went into surgery.
That is the way the Lord wants to be with us. We panic, stress out, get hurt, and go through tribulations, and the Lord is watching us with an aching heart waiting for us to lean on His chest for intimacy, comfort, love, and support.
DO IT: You desire to have intimacy with God? Take time every day to sit with Him and receive His love. But you say, “How?” Go to a quiet place, sit, and say, “Lord, I want to love you and be loved by you. I want intimacy with you.” Put some soft music on,
and wait upon the Lord. At first, it might take a little time, but the more you do it, the faster you will connect. You will begin to feel you are loved. Before you know it, you will be talking to Him as you talk to your best friend. When trials come, you will not be lost or afraid because you will know without a doubt that He is right there with you.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
CHAPTER: 1 CORINTHIANS 13 KEY VERSES: 1 CORINTHIANS 13:4,7 (NKJV) “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; … [love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” HEAR IT: We sometimes can read these verses as a picture of God’s love for us, but I believe it is not only that, but also an instruction manual for how we are to love others. We know that His love is kind and does not envy. We have seen it bear all things, believe all things, give hope, and always endure. We have a revelation of His love and in one way or another we have tested and tried it. We have found that His love never fails. This is easy to believe when we refer to God loving us, but what about us loving others? How powerful is the love we carry in our hearts? With a revelation of HIS love I’d guess it’s much greater than you know! We see a common theme throughout scripture: Jesus loved. Jesus went around loving on the people who seemed to be “blacklisted” by society. There was no road He wouldn’t walk and no person He wouldn’t extend love to. He did not live in fear of what religious leaders thought of Him and He also never seemed 26
concerned with how difficult the problem was. You see, He knew who He was and stood firm in that truth. You learn quickly that there is nothing that can stand in the way of love. Things may try and fight against love but they cannot win. There is no line He wouldn’t cross for the sake of loving someone who needed it.
SEE IT: I’ve learned over the years of working out regularly and eating right, that my body is capable of a lot more then I knew possible. The more strength and endurance I build, the more I find how little my limitations are. When my body is screaming to stop running, I know it can handle a few more laps. In the same way I’ve learned the capacity of the heart is very similar. I’ve learned that things my mind may not want to handle, or even believe it can, my heart has the strength to. Times I thought I had no words to say, I would have a well flow up within me. We often let our minds tell us what to do, and place limitations on ourselves that don’t even exist. Situations seem too big or too messy, so we shrink back and don’t push ourselves or don’t get involved. I think far too often we are so caught up in protecting ourselves that we neglect to see the need directly in front of us. I think there is a correlation between loving people and fitness. To stay fit, I never limit my
amount of exercise, but I do limit the food and quality of food I take in. It is important to be cautious of what I let in while being less careful of what I give out. In the same way, I can’t put limitations on how much I love those around me, even when it hurts or may cost me something. This doesn’t mean I take on offense or carry what only the Lord can carry, but loving people sometimes isn’t “picture perfect”.
the right answers or possess all the right tools- you simply need to be willing. A “yes” in your heart can go a long way and your sacrifice can change the course of time. Try loving with no strings attached, no expectations. What if we truly loved like He did? I promise you this: He won’t let you run out.
DO IT: Who do you have in your life that needs love? Not just prayer or a few kind words but someone to stand and fight with them? Loving well does not mean you need all
ME, AN EXPRESSION OF GOD’S LOVE? Day 14
KEY VERSES: JOHN 13:34-35 (NLT) “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” HEAR IT: This is such an amazing portion of scripture! Jesus revolutionizes what his audience was thinking in that moment. The Jews were accustomed to relating to God on the basis of laws, regulations, and commandments. You know, give me a list of things I’m supposed to do, and I’ll do my best. So Jesus huddles his disciples and what does Jesus say? He commands them to simply love people. Not only just love people, but love them the way He loved them. Hmm, out of all the things Jesus could have told us to do, He says… love each other. That’s it? WOW! This is incredible! After hundreds of years of religious laws and regulations, it comes down to the fact that we need to love each other! THAT’S IT! No long list of do’s and don’ts. Nope, love people. But then look what He added. He said our love for each other will prove to the world that we are His disciples. There He is, reaching out to the world He so loves. 28
So, now what? Well then, as followers of Jesus, it is our distinct honor to release the very love of God everywhere we go. The Bible makes it clear that we are the hands and the feet of Jesus. That means when we go to the grocery store, to work, to the mall, or even to a restaurant, we are supposed to intentionally love people no matter what. It’s a call. It’s a command. Be an expression of God’s love to everyone!
SEE IT: This past summer, I was in California visiting my family. We were extremely hungry, so naturally, we went to the best restaurant EVER, Chick-Fil-A! As we were eating our delicious chicken sandwiches, I saw a man who came in off the streets sitting in the corner in an electric wheelchair. He clearly was struggling physically. I felt the Holy Spirit say that I needed to offer to buy him food, tell him that God loves him, and ask if I could pray for him. Now, all I wanted to do was eat my waffle fries, but I kept thinking about him and I knew what God wanted me to do. So I nervously walked up to him and introduced myself. After a little bit of small talk, he told me that he had muscular dystrophy and was really struggling. I looked in his eyes and I told him that God loved him so much and wanted him set free. I asked if I could pray for him, and he excitedly replied,
“YES!” So right there in the middle of Chick-Fil-A, I laid my hands on him and prayed. I got the chance to help this man encounter the love of God. God trusted me to be an expression of His love. I could have easily walked away and not responded to the Holy Spirit, but instead, I chose to intentionally love this man I didn’t even know.
bold for Jesus. Don’t let fear keep you from releasing His love. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to someone today. Trust me, He’ll do it. Then, step out in boldness and watch God use you to release His love to the people He loves so much.
DO IT: Today, you could buy someone’s lunch, give an encouraging word, pray for someone, or tell a person that God loves them dearly. It’s usually inconvenient and almost always scary, but step out and be
MATTHEW 16 KEY VERSES: MATTHEW 16:19 (MSG) “And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.” HEAR IT: WOW! What an amazing promise. You will have complete and free access to open every door and you won’t have anything separating you from God and His promises. The big question is: How do we get this? Have you ever prayed for something and it seemed like you couldn’t get an answer? Have you ever tried to hear a voice from heaven and all you heard were the sound of crickets? In other words, we all have been denied access to the things of heaven at one point or another. The key to this scripture is: What gives me access? Jesus tells Peter in the verses before. Matthew 16:16-18 (MSG) “16Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17-18Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this 30
secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.” Peter discovers the secret truth to unlimited access to God the Father. That truth is Jesus is the Son of God and through Him we have access to everything. Jesus said, “Upon this Rock I will build my church.” The Rock is not Peter like some would suggest, but the Rock is the truth Peter is standing on.
They are simple for thieves to hack into and in the future the password will be replaced with something else like a finger print or RF signal. The good news for us is that we have a master password that can’t be hacked. That’s Jesus Christ and with Him we have unlimited access to all that God offers and no one can take that away.
Look at Isaiah 53:4-5, Mark 16:1718, and Psalm 91 as a starting point. Also read and memorize this verse: Philippians 4:19 (NKJV) ”19And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
DO IT: Want to know what God provides? God’s promises are found throughout the Bible.
The only way you can get an answer to a prayer is in the name of Jesus. The only way you have open access to God is through Jesus. If you ask for things that God has not provided in His will through Jesus, you won’t get them. That means we need to discover two things. First: Who is Jesus? And second: What did He provide?
SEE IT: Have you ever been denied access to your email? Facebook? iPhone? Netflix? Instagram? Pinterest? Amazon Prime? Network? Debit card? Or anything that requires a password? If you’re like me, you have multiple passwords and it gets tough remembering them all. Many experts believe that the age of the password will soon be over. 31
THE POWER OF OPEN HEAVENS
KEY VERSES: ACTS 1:4-5, ACTS 1:8 (NIV) “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift My Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” HEAR IT: In the key verses, Jesus is giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. Notice how Jesus tells them to wait. Waiting is as crucial as our obedience in receiving all that God promises. Jesus wanted to make sure they were baptized with the Holy Spirit before He was taken up to heaven. Why? The Holy Spirit is the key to unlocking all that God possesses! Scripture says “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be My witnesses.” But how do we access this power?
SEE IT: Jesus says “Except a man be born of water and of spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5 KJV). For us the water baptism signifies the place of 32
repentance and obedience. But what does the baptism of the Holy Spirit signify? Power! Open Heavens! Intimacy! When John baptized Jesus, “Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him” (Matthew 3:16 NKJV). Jesus didn’t need a water baptism to repent, but His obedience would “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Notice that His obedience unlocked the power of open heavens, and the Spirit of God’s creative miracles began. Jesus had uninterrupted access to open heavens of God’s limitless power! But wait! Did you know that intimacy with the Holy Spirit was key in Jesus’ victorious life and ministry? Jesus had continual communion, exchanging intimate thoughts and feelings, with the Holy Spirit. Jesus honored the Holy Spirit!
Write down your testimony. What is your testimony? Your witness?
“Abba Father, as I come before You, I thank you for Your mighty gift of the Holy Spirit. I ask for forgiveness if I have neglected or dishonored Him in any way. I am grateful that You have given Him as my Helper and the Spirit of Truth. I desire to know Him equally as I have come to know You and Your Son Jesus. Now Holy Spirit, I invite You to come. I desire to share my feelings with You and Yours with me. I desire You, not for Your power or works, but because I want You and love You! I pray I never grieve You or cause You sorrow, but that I bring You pleasure and delight. Please come now, I pray. Fill me with Your holiness that I may forever honor and glorify My Father in heaven. In Jesus name, Amen.”
What spiritual authority and power is operating in your life? Do you want MORE? If you want more, then crave intimacy! Go deeper with the Holy Spirit! If you truly want to activate the limitless power of the Holy Spirit in your life, seek the heart of God and His Spirit, not His power, anointing, and gifts. Develop communion with the Holy Spirit as Jesus did, for He desires your affections. Then, the limitless power of God’s Spirit will come alive in your life, and heaven will touch earth!
Verse 8 says, “You will be My witnesses...to the ends of the earth.” A witness is someone who can give a firsthand account of something seen, heard or perceived. It’s a personal testimony. John the Baptist was considered a fiery witness (a burning, shining lamp), but Jesus’ testimony was “weightier than that of John.” Why? Jesus was filled with the testimony of God. His works testified that God had indeed sent Him (John 5:35-36). 33
OPEN GATE TO HEAVEN
KEY VERSES: GENESIS 28:17 (NASB) “How Awesome is this place! This is none other than the House of God and this is the gate of heaven.” HEAR IT: In this chapter, Jacob has been sent by his father to his uncle’s house to find a wife. In obedience to his father, he spends the night “in a certain place”. In that “certain place” as he is asleep, he has a dream. The dream is described to us in short and specific detail. He sees a ladder going up into heaven from the earth. Angels go up and down the ladder, and God Himself is standing at the top. During this dream, God announces three things to Jacob: 1. The land you are laying on, I will give to you and your descendants. 2. You will multiply and cover the four compass points of the earth. 3. I will be with you and will keep you until I have fulfilled my promises to you. Now, notice this happened to Jacob after he obeyed his father. We see in the previous verses that he stays clear of the land of trouble, and then here, we see God show up. But God doesn’t only show up. He shows up 34
unexpectedly. Originally, Jacob didn’t even know He was there! And suddenly, Jacob finds himself at “the gate of heaven.” Jacob hadn’t seen anything in the natural to indicate angelic activity or the presence of God. But when we obey Him, our Father, we too will find there is an open heaven.
SEE IT: Several years ago, I was moved in my heart to attend a conference. I resisted the Lord because I had no money to go, but He would not stop with His promptings. I said ok and proceeded to move in that direction. Every obstacle was crossed. Money came in to cover my expenses and even time off from work was granted when I had been told it would be impossible. The fourth day of the conference, God spoke clearly what He wanted me to do. I was to go to school in Tulsa, OK. I gave all the excuses I could think of, but God didn’t change His mind. After a quick thought, I said: “I will if this one particular thing happens.” He answered almost before I got the challenge out of my mouth. Because I said yes, I discovered my future. I would meet my wife up there in Oklahoma and someone who has been like a brother to me, which was awesome since I lost my only brother soon after going to school.
God was certainly in “that place”, and I could have had no idea the scope to which my life would be affected just because obeyed God.
DO IT: During those two years at school, the heavens were opened up to me. It is beyond description the impact that time in my life had on my future. I received greater revelation and insight concerning God and His kingdom, not to mention (as I said earlier) my wife and the call God had placed on our lives. I am still living and building
on the principles of the Word of God that are forever cemented in me by my King and Savior Jesus. Looking back, the heavens were truly open in that time of my life, and I learned that they are open anywhere and everywhere I go because God is with me and will never leave me. He has given me this land as my inheritance. This year, 2014, is the year that you and I go and enter into the “open heavens.” It’s time to discover all that He desires for us to see and experience because the Heavens are Open!
THE FATHER’S DOOR IS OPEN
KEY VERSES: HEBREWS 9:12 (NKJV) “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” HEAR IT: Have you ever been locked out of your house or car? Just the other day I had to call the locksmith to open the door to my car because the keys were inside. There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to get into that car but being unable. I was stuck outside with no way of getting in. Plus, it was hot and I was in a hurry! You see, doors possess the power to let things in and let things out. I needed to get in that car and keep going but I was denied access because I didn’t have the key to open the door. Jesus is the key that opens the door to our relationship with the Father. Without Him, we can’t enter into the presence of God because sin is locking us out! Once we have the key, we can go in and out as much as we want to.
SEE IT: In this scripture, the Bible teaches us that we have obtained eternal redemption. What is redemption? It sounds like a foreign word I’ve never heard of before! Redemption is another word for 36
recovery. Sin had separated us from God and locked us out of a relationship with the Father. Jesus paid the price for that sin and has forever recovered us from the separation caused by sin in our lives. His sacrifice has opened the door for us to enter into God’s Holy presence without the guilt and shame of sin in our lives. It says that Jesus entered the Most Holy Place once and for all with the sacrifice of His own blood. That sacrifice was the key that would forever satisfy God’s punishment for sin. The Bible tells us in Romans 6:23 that, “the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sin requires a punishment of death and Jesus paid the price for us so we could have eternal life with Him. You are not a sinner anymore but have been given the title of saint. Your sins are not being scrutinized by God because, when He looks at you, He sees Jesus and the sacrifice He made for you. The door to God is now open and you can go to the Father anytime you want without fear of sin or its punishment in your life.
in your life years ago? Let’s take a “sinventory” of our lives today. What 3 things can you find in your life that make you the most afraid that God is mad at you? Take note of them in your mind or write them down on a piece of paper. Now I want you to apply the power of the blood of Christ to these things with a prayer by saying, “Father God, you paid the price so I can be free from the guilt and condemnation of these things
in my life. I thank you for forgiving me through the redemption found only in Jesus your Son and I choose to allow you to wipe these areas of my life clean forever!” Now you can be free to walk with God by faith as the sinless saint that Jesus paid the price for you to be. If you fall short in your life and sin tries to come after you, remind yourself that God isn’t looking at your sin anymore and you are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus!
DO IT: Today is a great day to take a good look at how sin is affecting you in your life. Are you letting something you’ve done cause you to stay away from God? Are you afraid that God is mad at you for something bad that you did 37
TRUE LOVE FRIENDS
KEY VERSES: PROVERBS 2:2 (NASB) “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding.” HEAR IT: The book of proverbs is a great place to start if you want to get wisdom. It is chocked full of practical, Godly advice for everyday situations. Most of the time, when we encounter problems in life, there are plenty of people who will be willing to offer advice, but it’s not always Proverbs wisdom they dish out. When we need wisdom in a situation, good advice is only as good as the people who are giving it. Exhausting everyone’s opinion on Facebook or at the gym is not the way to get wisdom for significant issues, healing for hurts, or relationship advice. This dialogue that goes on in our relationships is something that we should pay close attention to. Is it dialogue that believes the best about people, or is it gossip? Is it positive, encouraging conversation, or is it continually negative things that drag us down? Is it spurring us on to believe that God will maximize our potential in the Kingdom of God, or is it always distracting us and pulling us away from the dreams God has placed in our hearts? 38
SEE IT: I have plenty of friends who I love and who I love to hang out with, but I only have a few very close friends that are my “inner circle” friends. My inner circle friends are those that I trust to give me sound, Godly wisdom when I need it. They are the friends that will tell me the truth whether it’s what I want to hear or not. They are my tough-love, true-love friends that encourage me to pursue God’s best for my life. Occasionally, I will begin to develop a friendship with someone, but a few red flags start to go up.
Consider your close friends. Are they people that challenge you in your faith, or are they spiritually shallow? Do they encourage you in your marriage, or do they deride your spouse? Ask some tough questions, and be honest with yourself before God. He may ask you to withdraw a bit from certain unhealthy friendships. If you don’t have friends in your life who will challenge you in your Christian walk, don’t believe the lie that
those kinds of friends don’t exist. Church life groups are a great place to start looking. If you don’t find those friends in the first life group, try another one until you find a good fit. I had to try a few myself until I found the right one for me. Also remember, there are no perfect friends except Jesus, and even we sometimes fall short of other’s expectations. But don’t let past hurts keep you from reaching out. Isolated Christianity is not God’s best for your life. It’s time to open up and connect!
Beware of negativity and gossip. Gossip in particular is abominable. We should not say things about someone that we would not want repeated about us, whether it is true or false. Love believes the best. Is the conversation rarely about anything that would challenge you spiritually or draw you closer to God? Also, pay attention to where you go when you hang out with friends. Is it good, clean fun, or do you feel regrets afterward? It is important to have people in our sphere of influence who we are able to encourage, challenge, and even mentor. But be careful that you do not become a garbage can for someone’s gossip and negativity.
YOUR KINGDOM COME, YOUR WILL BE DONE
1 JOHN 4
KEY VERSES: 1 JOHN 4:16-17 (NASB) “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.” HEAR IT: As believers, we each have our own beautifully unique redemption story. As a church, we are a diverse people who have come from various walks of life, upbringings, cultures, and ethnicities. If we were to take and compile the redemption story of every believer in this place, we would certainly find that no two stories are the same. It is in these differences, in our diversity, and our complexity, that we catch a glimpse of the grandeur of God and His great love for us. God does not simply love; God is love. His nature, His character, the whole sum of His being is love. His love is so much bigger than we can comprehend; it’s an allconsuming love that will not let us go. These scriptures show us a progression that we go through in our Christian walk. First, we believe on the love that God has for us; that’s salvation- your 40
redemption story. Second, by dwelling in that love, we live in God and God lives in us; that’s the promise given to everyone that believes- relationship. Lastly, now that we believe on His love and He who is love lives within us, He calls us to love and be like Him; that’s our daily walk- our great commission.
on. We are believers, Christians or “Little Christs”. We are called to be imitators of Him, so who we are should reflect who He is. With that in mind, the latter part of verse 17 looks a little bit different, “As He is (He is love), so also are we in this world (we are love).”
Today, I want you to pray that God’s Kingdom would come and that it would come through you. Ask Him to give you opportunities to be love to the people you encounter today.
DO IT: NOTES:
SEE IT: When Jesus taught us how to pray, He taught us to do so in this way “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven...”(Matthew 6:9-13). In this scripture, we can clearly see that we are to pray for His kingdom to come and for His will to be done on the earth. In order to do this, we must know what His will is. 2 Peter 3:9 provides some insight into our Father’s will. It reads, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”. God’s will, His heart, is that not one single person would perish, but that everyone would repent and believe on Him. As believers, we know that God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. But His love is not merely past tense. It is also for now and eternity. Through Christ in us, His love goes 41
KEY VERSES: GENESIS 19:12-13 (NKJV) Then the men said to Lot, ‘Have you anyone else here? Son-inlaw, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place! For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.’” HEAR IT: The story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is usually not a tale that people want to focus on. The people of these two cities were incredibly wealthy and corrupted by sin. Lot, Abraham’s nephew, found himself living comfortably in these cities’ culture and sin. When two angels pay the city a visit, Lot is in a hurry to keep his family safe and then get them out of the city. He knew that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah would come to kill these angels. The custom in the city was to leave the city courtyard open for visiting travelers to stay. Then in the night the people of the city would come out to abuse and murder them. That is why, later in this story, we see the townspeople come to Lot’s home demanding the men be handed over to them. God had to deal with the vanity and sin of these people. He
decided to destroy the cities. Yet, in this horrific picture, we actually see God’s mercy when He tells Lot to get himself and his family out of the city. God doesn’t want to destroy the man, He wants to destroy the sin. God wants to TOTALLY destroy sin, forever. That is why when we look at what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah we can have hope that God has a way out of sin for us. It is not His will to destroy us. The good news is that Jesus crushed sin on the cross and now we can go through life knowing that God is for us and not against us. We are His children and we are co-heirs with Christ to our Father’s kingdom. His wrath has been spent and Jesus has saved us from the punishment of sin and death. Now we get to walk out a life with a heavenly Father that wants to bless us and give us hope and peace. He is the same TOTAL God and He wants to show His love and kindness in your life in EVERY AREA! He wants all of you!
He would use someone like me to do something as amazing as heal a person. Well, after the message and then standing up at front to pray for people, a lady came to me pushing a man in a wheelchair. She spoke for the man and said he couldn’t talk or walk and suffered from a mental impairment. I put my hands on him and started a prayer for healing and in my heart I knew nothing would happen. Half way through my routine, another prayer counselor came over and he started praying with me too. His prayer spoke directly to the sickness and this astonished me. So I started doing what he was doing.
After everything was done, they got into their car and drove back to Miami where they were from. I sat on the steps of the church for about half an hour and just marveled at how good God is. He is totally good. He is totally God.
Then the man in the wheel chair stretched his arms out and took a giant breath. I could physically see his body becoming free of the sickness right in front of me. That made my faith shoot through the roof! I started speaking to everything that I could see that bothered him. He stood up and started speaking and everyone was praising God. He grabbed his sister (the lady that brought him in the wheel chair) and hugged her and they both were crying. It was an amazingly powerful moment.
The truth is that He has totally eliminated anything that could ever stand in the way of a relationship with you. Make most of today with Him. Find 3 to 5 small moments where you can pray to Him and ask Him questions or give Him praise. Bring Him into the areas where you struggle and ask for help or wisdom. Don’t go through this life acting like He is not there- He paid too high of a price for you not to be in all of your life. He is a total God and He is totally good.
DO IT: God has totally eliminated sin from separating us from Him. Are you walking in the grace that has been given to you? Are you stuck thinking God is judging you and is angry? Do you think that you need to do a laundry list of things to gain God’s favor?
SEE IT: I will never forget when, at one church service, I was assigned to be a prayer counselor that night. I was excited to see what God was going to do. I had never actually seen anyone get healed before so I was secretly nervous and a little doubtful of the whole healing of the sick. I believed God could and would do it but I didn’t think that