30: 50 Days of 3:16

On day 28 we talked about Jesus receiving the baptism from John, how John did not feel worthy to provide this task, feeling it should be the other way around. Today we see how John felt about the coming Messiah and why he felt humbled in Jesus presence. John was a man like us, he had his doubts as well, even after making a strong statement like the one today or recognizing Jesus and baptising him we see that after he was imprisoned only months later, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he really was the Messiah. 

 

John answered them all, “I baptize you with[a] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit and fire.

Luke 3:16

 

The baptism in water is an important step in any believer’s life. But John here tells the reader of another important baptism that is available through the Messiah. This part of being a Christ follower is often ignored because people do not take the time to understand the role of the Holy Spirit. Some groups of believers have taken this to far and place a higher importance on it to the point where those who do not agree are ostracized.  The Holy Spirit is God. Just the same as Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit has been given to meet with us where we are. Many put the Holy Spirit on another level just a little lower than Jesus, all because Jesus promised to send another to help us. The Holy Spirit is not like a worker who has been sent but as an ally sent to assist. He was there with Jesus empowering Him in miracles, giving Him strength on earth.

 

If we were already baptised in water why would Jesus come and there be a promise to baptize with fire? Fire consumes us, fire is used to refine us. Just like gold when found is unpure, refinement with fire removes impurities and creates something beautiful. This process is not always a fast one as we resist the process, afraid that we will lose who we are and become something else. God created you the way you are for a reason, your personality and talents are what He wants to use. Refinement will not destroy who you are but enhance you for the better removing the bad traits and solidify the positive ones. Holding on to the past and things of this world keep us from refinement. Many have been attributed to the statement ‘Let go and let God’, it is what we need to do to allow God through the Holy Spirit to work in our lives.

 

Maybe today you feel like I have in the past, a stale Christian faith that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Church on Sundays, maybe a study during the week, casual prayer and devotions. But life is just blah, you want to feel excited about your faith but you just don’t. When was the last time you let the Holy Spirit work in your life? When have you asked Him to baptise you with fire revealing things that need to be removed?  This can be done alone or in church. Many a Sunday I see the altar empty and people rushing out of the church as soon as the pastor says his closing prayer. What if the church was to take time praying for the Holy Spirit to refine them? Give them purpose? Praying for more than being a seat warmer, holding a place for entrance to heaven? We are called for so much more, but until we are ready to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire we wander through life. We can’t expect change to just happen, most times we have to make the first step, it may be that first step that carries you into a new chapter in your faith.

 

Father, I pray today that everyone who takes the time to read this knows you, if they don’t I ask that today you will show them the relationship you have for them and the forgiveness that Jesus has for them.  Use us to reach our families, neighbours, coworkers and our world. Holy Spirit refines us in your fire, not to burn us up but to remove impurities that hinder us from growing with God. Use our personalities and abilities to be effective in the mission of sharing the love of Jesus to this world. We need strength and wisdom to be effective, Holy Spirit we ask for these things. Use us. Amen

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29: 50 Days of 3:16

Jesus now baptised, has begun his earthly ministry. His next task was to assemble a team of disciples to assist him in the mission. We don’t see Jesus signing up on Linkedin or starting a recruiting drive. He did not go to the temple and try to recruit the best and the brightest religious minds. We see Jesus travelling the countryside looking for those who could relate to the people that needed to meet Jesus the most.

 

These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter),

Mark 3:16

 

Jesus found men right where they were in their work environments. He requested that they just stop what they are doing and to follow him. This was a radical request, there must have been some authority in Jesus’ voice, or compassion, whatever it was it drew these twelve men to devote their lives to a cause they really knew nothing about. They left their livelihood behind trusting a man whom they did not know. Jesus never promised them fame, fortune or anything like that, if you recall he told Simon if he followed him that he would make him a fisher of men. No money in that, yet Simon saw something in Jesus character and his offer that was too good to pass up.

 

There are some who put the disciples on a pedestal and think that they had it all together. Maybe they try to compare themselves and never measure up. But the disciples were just like us, they had their failures, doubts, fears. They were not perfect by any standard. They would fight amongst themselves about which of them was the best. When trouble fell on Jesus they scattered. Some even doubted Jesus had risen from the dead. Even one betrayed him. So why did Jesus surround himself with twelve flawed people? I believe he did so to show future generations that he uses everyone to fulfil the mission. We see more flawed people being used in amazing ways from all sorts of backgrounds. Saul a religious zealot bound to destroy every believer for their faith met Jesus and he became one of the powerhouses of the faith. Timothy was a kid, but he impacted the church. Many more are layered throughout the NT. The disciples went on to change the known world with the message of salvation, each suffering for it yet never giving in to their fears of death.

 

So what does the fact Jesus found twelve disciples mean to us today? I feel it is a good example of how we need to surround ourselves with those who are on the same mission. Working together we can make an impact in our world, country, region, community and families. We were never meant to be solo believers. It may be hard to find a group of twelve people that you would call your core group of faith, but a church provides an opportunity to find a small group of believers who will stand by you in the mission. If you have given your heart to Jesus, I wonder if you have plugged into a network of believers and are working to grow in your faith. This will guide you in the mission of reaching the lost.

 

Father, thank you for the example of friendship we see with the disciples and Jesus. His choice was ordinary people with no extraordinary giftings, just those willing to follow and believed in the mission.  We often decided who we will share the faith with on our outward views, I pray that we will look past the outward and see that there are people all around who need to meet with Jesus. They may look tough, homely, tattooed, angry, dirty, smelly, professional, or they have it all together, remind us that they still need you. Give us wisdom in each situation to be effective in sharing your love with them. Use me to change my world. Amen

28: 50 Days of 3:16

Here in Matthew, we start the ministry of Jesus. The Old Testament prophets spoke of a man preparing the peoples hearts for the coming Messiah. We read in this chapter about a man named John. You may know him as John the Baptist, he was given that name as he has known for baptising people preparing them to meet God. John was teaching that people must repent of their sins and the baptism was an outward sign of an inward change of heart, very different from the sacrifices of old. Why then would Jesus who had no sin need to partake in such an activity?

 

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.

Matthew 3:16

 

As we read we see that John recognized Jesus right away as the one who would save them. We know from reading Mary’s account of pregnancy that Jesus and John had met briefly when they were yet born, and Jesus had made an impression on him then. We know they were cousins, yet we have not record of any encounters between them after they were born. We know at some point in John’s life he departed into the desert to seek God and received his calling to teach repentance and baptism. But here on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, they meet once again. Jesus asking for the baptism that John has been performing.

 

John hesitates, asking why Jesus would need this baptism, instead John wants the baptism that Jesus will provide. We see here that John was hungry for more. He had received his calling and knew that he was only the foreshadowing of one to come, his whole life was about preparing the hearts of the people for Jesus. In essence, he was the preshow to the main headliner, he knew it and never once wanted to take his place. So, when the one who he has been preparing for asked him to baptise him, it took him by surprise. Jesus reassured John that this was needed to be done so that the calling could be fulfilled. John was once again obedient and did as Jesus asked.

 

Jesus went down into the water a sinless man, he was not being baptised to show and outward sign of an inward change, but as an act of obedience that each believer should follow. He came up from the waters in triumph as a symbol of what he would do in three years time. This moment when the Spirit of God descended on Jesus could very well be the kickstart to his early ministry. All his preparation and prayer leading to this point where God said ‘go’.

 

As believers in Christ, we have accepted Jesus into our lives, asking Him to forgive us of our sins. We go through our lives and as sinful beings we continue to sin, we must daily ask for forgiveness. Not as if the sin we do breaks our relationship with God, but that the sin hinders our walk with God and slows down growth. We also called to water baptism, to go under the waters as an outward sign of an inward change. In the early church believers did this almost immediately. Today we wait and wait and some never make this statement of faith. They wonder why things fall apart and their relationship with God is rocky. This is an important step for any believer and helps cement your heart. The baptism sprinkle as a child does not have anything to do with this event. This choice must be yours something you do freely to show others the change you have made and who you serve. If you are putting off water baptism or just never knew you needed to, I pray today that you don’t delay, talk to your Pastor or mentor and encourage them to help you.

 

Father, thank you for everything you do for us. You prepared the way for Jesus so perfectly. Sending John ahead to prepare the hearts of the people, instituting baptism as a symbol of repentance. I pray that we see hearts changed, lives transformed and people renewed in their faith. Let their lives be an example of your love in this world. Use us to share your love, let any fears that bind us be taken away and replaced with strength and wisdom. Give us opportunity after opportunity to reach the lost. Amen

 

 

27: 50 Days of 3:16

When we think of fear we might think straight to that scary fear. I always had a fear of horror movies, never tempting myself by watching them because I had a fear they would give me nightmares. I never watched Jaws for this reason and compared to what is out there today that movie is pretty tame. But fear can control us. There have been whole studies on phobias and how they control lives. They keep us from moving forward. So why then in the Bible does it continually talk about fearing the Lord?

 

Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.

Malachi 3:16

 

This fear that the bible talks about is not the same as the fear that scares us. Well, maybe it is. But it is all in the perspective I guess. Many attributes this fear to reverence and that could be the case. What we have come to understand is that those who have accepted Jesus’s forgiveness now understand the judgement that is coming to all of those who choose not to accept. This fear of the Lord is attributed to one’s knowledge of what could happen walking outside of His grace. In this mindset, we can then work towards sharing our faith as we know what we have been freed from and others should be afraid of what is to come for those who don’t choose life in Christ. This fear reminds us that what we still have a freedom to walk away into the life we lived before but now we know what is there waiting for us. It hopefully keeps us from choosing our fear over life with Christ.

 

We see here in the last book of the Old Testament that the Lord listen to them. This is a promise that the Lord listens to His children when they talk to Him. We see here that they kept a record to preserve who feared God. This reminds us that we need to build each other up. Encouraging one another in the faith and before God. It is not a solo faith.

 

As those who fear the Lord, we also fear for our loved ones who are not walking with God. We pray for them and encourage them to come to church and accept Christ. It breaks our hearts when they reject our offers and ignore us because, in essence, they are rejecting the salvation that was freely given for them. We fear that it will be too late for them to choose life. I loved when I heard in the last couple weeks that a church in Ontario, lead by a former pastor of mine had created a book at the church recording those who needed to know Jesus. I had initiated something similar at the church I am at, a wall of those who needed to know Jesus. I titled mine ‘They matter to God, so they should matter to us.” In both examples, people would write down names some just first names of people that needed to accept Jesus forgiveness. These are ways that the church can work together to build one another up as they pray for family, friends and coworkers to meet Jesus.  I would encourage you if you haven’t already make a list of people who God can use you to impact with his love and keep praying for them. Use the fear of the Lord to empower you to reach others.

 

Father, we thank you so much for what you have rescued us from. When we look back at what we used to live like it is almost unimaginable that you would choose to forgive us, yet you did. Help us as believers to share this with our family, friends and co-worker. We have been called on this mission to spread the love of Christ and if we don’t we are being disobedient. Give us wisdom and knowledge to do this, Holy Spirit guide us daily to someone who needs to hear about Jesus. Use us. Amen

26: 50 Days of 3:16

If you believe God does not care about what is happening here on earth you might want to take another read of your bible. God is always watching He does not sleep like a man does. As you read some of the minor prophets letters you may just decide to ignore them as they are small and not quite sure why they were even added. But the information and revelations about God and His character are undeniable. Here in Zephaniah we again read about God’s love and hope for His chosen people. He hears their cry of anguish and promises to punish their enemies for the actions.

 

 

On that day
they will say to Jerusalem,
“Do not fear, Zion;
do not let your hands hang limp.”

Zephaniah 3:16

 

Have you ever been so discouraged that you are just about ready to give up? Everything is not going your way. Someone told you that the Christian life would be easy and you believed them, now it feels like the world is against you, you must be doing something wrong. Many around us are discouraged, they have no one willing and able to build them up and encourage them. Here in this time in Israel’s history they were exhausted, defeated and ready to give up. God was sending them a battle cry to not give up. Keep working away, do not be discouraged. Letting their hands fall limp would be a sign of defeat, an outward sign of an inward change. If the people began falling into depression and giving up any of their enemies would take advantage and destroy them.

 

One of the issues we find is that Israel was unrepentant for their sinful actions. Earlier in this chapter, they are reminded of this and the importance of asking for Gods forgiveness for the actions of the people. They had dabbled in the rituals of their neighbours partaking in the worship of other god’s. This rightfully upset God who was leading them and showing them the direction they need to take to live a fulfilled life. Unrepentance puts up roadblocks to God’s blessings in our lives. This not only includes unrepentance towards God but towards our fellow man who has done offence to us. This is not easy for us as we have been taught that revenge is expected. For us to forgive without expectation of remuneration is not the norm but is what we as believers are called to. Society demands justice and remuneration, just look at the number of lawsuits out there over the littlest things. This all stems from greed where man has learned if you complain loud enough and play the right cards you can be compensated for being offended. The courts have played into their hands fueling this engine of greed.

As believers, we need to stand up over this system. Taking a hard stand on forgiveness. Loving our enemies, not letting our hands fall limp by our side in defeat, but ready to help our enemy in moving forward.  God will deal with those who do not accept our forgiveness and love, let Him deal with the justice, we must raise our hands in a show of love. We do not have time to worry about holding grudges and making things right in our own eyes. We are called to the mission of reaching the lost in which none are excluded, your enemies are part of your mission to be told the love of Jesus. You can do this in how you respond to their attacks. Many a story is told about persecuted believers overseas that love their captors and eventually their captors receive Christ. We may not have enemies as harsh but we can love those who are here in our midst. Will you rejoice and not be discouraged? God is ready willing and able to help you push through your fears and reach those around you. Will you let Him?

 

Father, many are discouraged in their faith. Maybe they have tried to share your love and have been laughed at or threaten if they continue. Strengthen them in your love and give them boldness to keep on. Let them not let their hands go limp in defeat but help them to raise them up in a show of love and determination to be a strong force for the kingdom. Help them experience a win by guiding them to lead someone to you. Give them the wisdom to speak directly to the heart of someone they know a friend, family or enemy, even today Jesus. If we are holding on to forgiveness show us how we need to let it go and love those who have hurt us. Use me today. Amen

25: 50 Days of 3:16

We often wonder if God actually hears us. I know in my life it feels like the cries of my heart never make it past the ceiling. It takes much faith to pray to a God we cannot physically see, but we can see Him all around us in the creation. Like I mentioned already this week, we are created in God’s image. For us to say we cannot see God may be further from the truth as God’s image is all around us.

 

I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.

Habakkuk 3:16

 

The prophet Habakkuk was a prophet of God. The people were tired of being bullied by other nations and just wanted some peace and to restore their home. Habakkuk took the complaints to God in prayer. Not just once but twice. The Lord answered Habakkuk’s prayers both times, each time being very clear that He is God and knows what He is doing. We often believe that God’s ways are roundabout and do not always make sense. But the problem is we here in the situations of life, do not see the bigger picture. For those in the situation, the problem looks unachievable, desperate and all hope is lost. But God knows the full plan and the results in every scenario that may happen. What we choose to do in each situation impacts the big picture as well. God sends the Holy Spirit to prompt us to make the right choices for the best results, that will glorify His name and strengthen your faith.

 

After the Lord had spoken to Habakkuk twice he ensured that he took time to pray and worship the Lord for revealing some of the big picture plans to him. His words here in 3:16 speak of an excitement for God to do mighty things against their enemies. He sang out his prayer for the nation to hear and rejoice with him.

 

Jesus came and turned this thought of praying to God asking for vengeance from oppression on its head. Jesus taught that we need to love our enemies and go the extra mile to turn the other cheek. Instead of asking God to destroy your enemies, Jesus taught us to ask Him for blessings on them. And not just ask for blessings but to bless them ourselves, focus on loving them despite the fact they may not deserve our love. This radical change in how we treat people who persecute, hate and oppress us is so foreign to this world we live in who is bent on revenge when we are hurt.

 

Like Habakkuk, we can still bring our complaints of oppression to God. But we cannot expect him to respond as He did here. He will bring us back to Jesus and his teachings, asking what we are doing to love our enemies? How can we work to bless them in their struggles? He will remind you that they need to recognize Jesus is the answer to what they need and that He sent you to be the one to tell them! We already have a promise from God that all who reject him will be dealt with, but as believers, we need to show the same love that Jesus did on the cross and share it, so they do not have to receive that punishment. Pray not that God will punish those who oppress you but that the will become your friends and believers in Christ.

 

Father, we thank you for what you are doing in our lives. Many times, we pray that you will deal with those who oppress us in hopes that you will smite them with a lightning bolt or something to that effect. We pray for forgiveness for ideas like this. We pray that you will use us to teach them that Jesus died for them and wants to have a relationship with them. Holy Spirit give us wisdom and words to speak that will reveal to them your love. Help us to love our enemies even when they do not deserve it Help us to forgive them for what they have done seeing them not as we do but as You do, a lost child. Use me even today. Amen

24: 50 Days of 3:16

Go find a map of the world and search for Nineveh. You won’t find it, the city of Nineveh was destroyed for their wicked ways long ago. I remember as a teenager in drama doing a production called Kismet. One of the main songs was Not Since Nineveh. We see the world glorifying a city that was so sinful and vile that they do not even exist anymore.

You have increased the number of your merchants
until they are more numerous than the stars in the sky,
but like locusts, they strip the land
and then fly away.

Nahum 3:16

We see this nation of Nineveh being copied in the world today. Many nations are walking a path towards destruction. Here in today’s verse, we read that Nineveh was about taking, the merchants were stripping the lands for their own profit. A good merchant gives and takes to the benefit of others as well as themselves. But here we see that they were consumed with taking what they wanted striping the nations of fair trade. As individuals, if we are a people who only take from our friends and the people we meet we become like these merchants. We are called to give more than we take, this is the relationship we are called to have with one another. To serve one another as brother and sisters in Christ.

How do we respond to things that are happening in your own nation that would be considered evil? When you hear of something that makes your blood boil just a little, an offence against children, refugees, laws or court rulings that favour others giving no regard to those who follow Christ. What can we do? One thing we shouldn’t do is respond evil with evil. Jesus himself told us the way to respond; Love. Do not be discouraged and think the love that’s emotional love but a love that empowers and propels us forward. The kind of love that teaches to turn the other cheek, the kind of love that when we go a mile carrying someone’s bag we don’t stop but carry it another. You will not win any wars by ranting on Social Media. You may, however, lose your witness with those whom you call friends when you send out posts that offend and attack. Back your points up with scripture as to serve those who oppose our values. Show them that God loves them despite the choices they are making. He values them and wants to have a relationship with them.

We are living in a troubling time all over the world. I pray that if you are reading this you are on God’s side. If not what is holding you back from choosing life? I urge you today to ask Jesus to take away your sins, admitting you cannot do it on your own and start walking in relationship with him.

Father, sometimes we thing when it cannot get any worse we just need to turn on the news and know that we were wrong. I pray for our leaders who are making these rash choices. I pray that they turn to you and start making wise Godly decisions that will bring their nations back to you. Use your believers to change the world, give them strength and wisdom to overcome their fears and start doing something. Bring revival among your people so that we can reach the lost in mass and walk in the mission we are called to.  Amen

If something in your nation is drawing you to pray, let me know, put a prayer in the comments so we can join in unison together.