ABC: Ask and Accept

Several years ago, I wrote a devotional entitled Awesome Biblical Concepts, a Devotional for Every Family. This devotional offers a challenging phrase using alliteration, and then expounds on it by looking at two different Bible stories, each one teaching us how to, or how not to live. In the following months of my posts, I hope you will be encouraged by God’s Word along with these alphabetical phrases.

So, let us begin with A: Ask and Accept.

Ask and Accept?
There once was a rich young ruler who approached Jesus asking, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus, knowing the pride in this man’s heart, and the dependence he had on himself in following rules and gaining wealth, said to him, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” At this, the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth (see Mark 10:17-22). Despondently, this rich young ruler asked, but did not accept Jesus’ offer of true and abundant life. He was too full already.

Ask and Accept! However, there once was a Samaritan woman who went to a well to draw water for her daily portion. There, she met Jesus who was waiting to meet with her. Jesus, because He was God in the flesh, could see into her heart; He knew she was a lost and lonely woman. While at the well, He looked her in the eyes and gently told her that He cared. He offered her His living water, telling her that if she drank of it, she would never thirst again. With eagerness she asked for this water; and with joy she accepted Jesus as the Messiah. As a result, she ran to tell the whole city about Him, causing many others to believe (see John 4:1-42).

When looking at these two contrasting stories, the challenging question to us today is: Will I ask and accept? I must realize that when I ask for His way, I must deny my own. Do I believe His path is better, more rich and full than what I can accumulate by myself? Will I lay down my selfish ambitions and my ruling addictions, and hold out my empty hands and my humbled heart for Him to fill in His time and in His way? Take note of the rich young ruler; he walked away with his pockets full, yet downcast, while the Samaritan woman ran to the city with her heart overflowing with joy.

Ask and Accept, my friend. Truly receive His gifts of love, joy, and peace, His forgiveness, redemption, and power, His beauty, guidance, and grace. Fill your vessel with all of who He is; resist the fleeting things of this world. Hear Him say to you personally, “Whoever drinks of the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) Ask and accept, drink and be filled, savor and be satisfied.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016
By Chris Baxter

ABC: Believe and Be Bold

In my last post, I began a series called Awesome Biblical Concepts which takes a look at two different Bible stories that teach us how to, and how not to live. I started with the letter “A”, penning the phrase Ask and Accept. In today’s post, it’s the letter “B” accompanied with the challenging phrase: Believe and Be Bold.

Believe and Be Bold? The Lord said to Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah rose up… found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare, and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. And the Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up… At Jonah’s command, the reluctant sailors hurled Jonah into to the sea and it became calm. And then mercifully, the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah (See Jonah 1:1-17). Jonah believed in God, but chose not to be bold in his faith. He actually ran in the opposite direction.

Believe and Be Bold! However, there once was a young shepherd boy named David. His father ordered him to take food to his brothers who were soldiers in the Israelite army. David went to the Valley of Elah, only to find the Israelites full of fear and dismay concerning the Philistines. Their champion-giant Goliath had been jeering them, morning and evening for forty days. Young David, uninhibited by the giant, said, “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” Because David believed in his God and was bold in his faith, he picked up his sling and five stones and ran quickly toward the battle line. There in the Elah Valley, Goliath fell on his face to the ground, struck by a single stone that sank into his forehead. (See I Samuel 17)

When contrasting these two stories, the question is: When I hear uncomfortable or “impossible” instructions from the Lord, will I believe and be bold? Again, when I know that God is asking me to do something for His name’s sake, will I run away from Him like Jonah, or will I run toward the battle line like David? Jonah tried to flee the prescence of the Lord, which is truly impossible; David, however, was fully assured that his God was not only with him, but also that His power was go to do the impossible through him.

I challange you to know your God, and wholeheartedly believe in all that He says He is, and then move steadily forward in boldness, knowing He will be both present and active. If you choose this route, both you and all those around you will be blessed. So decide today, my friend, to run to your battle line, because faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. (I Thess. 5:24)

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016
By Chris Baxter

ABC: Call on Christ

My last two posts were entitled:
Ask and Accept
Believe and Be Bold
Today it’s, Call on Christ.

Call on Christ? Jesus was once walking with two of His disciples, James and John, towards Jerusalem. After Jesus finished explaining very clearly to them that He would soon be condemned to death, they quickly changed the subject, disregarding Jesus’ important words about His future. Instead, James and John were focused on themselves, and from this self-centered mindset, they said, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And Jesus said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” James and John selfishly asked to sit on either side of His throne when He came to power. They called on Christ to do something for their own glory, not God’s glory; therefore, Jesus could not give them what they wanted (See Mark 10:32-45).

Call on Christ! However, there once was a blind man named Bartimaeus. As Jesus was heading to Jerusalem with his disciples, they could hear Bartimaeus crying out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many were sternly insisting that he stop his persistent cries, but he kept calling on Christ, whom he believed to be the Messiah (this is why he called Jesus the “Son of David”). Jesus heard Bartimaeus and answered him by saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man quickly responded, “Rabboni (meaning ‘my Master’), I want to regain my sight.” Jesus chose to heal Bartimaeus’ blind eyes because of his faith-filled heart. Once he regained his sight, Bartimaeus began to follow Jesus on the road, bringing glory to his Healer, instead of glory to himself. (See Mark 10:46-52).

When looking at these two contrasting stories, I am convicted. Often, I catch myself asking the Lord for things that are centered around me: my comfort, my kids, my plans. Much like the disciples in the above story, I have an agenda and I want God to fill it, sooner than later. And if God says “no”, I’m confused and hurt. But then, the Lord speaks, calling me to remember who He is, and reminding me that He indeed wants to bless me in His own purposeful way. Like Bartimeaus, He wants to open my eyes to His grace and to His glory which is far better than any fleshly achievement or human pleasure.

When you call on Christ, my friend, call on Him with blind eyes of faith, fully trusting Him to do His beautiful things in your life, things that will both benefit your character and bring Him glory. He cannot answer our selfish prayers because He loves us too much. He wants to give you and me much more than personal success or human comfort; He wants to give us Himself.

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations. Eph. 3:20-21

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016
By Chris Baxter

ABC: Delightfully Do

My three previous posts are:
Ask and Accept
Believe and Be Bold
Call on Christ.
Today, it’s Delightfully Do.

Delightfully Do?
In the beginning, God beautifully created the heavens and the earth. He also created Adam and Eve in His image and had a sweet personal relationship with them in the perfect garden called Eden. He told them to enjoy and cultivate the garden, and to eat from any of the trees except for one. Everything was theirs except for this one tree. He said, “You shall not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or you will surely die.” Sadly, instead of delightfully doing what God decreed, both Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord. Having been tricked by the serpent, they ate from the tree, and as a result, both sin and death entered the world. As a consequence, they were forced to leave the garden, yet not without the loving promise of a future Redeemer. (See Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3) *Good news, Jesus the Redeemer came to forgive all sins from Adam forward.

Delightfully Do! However, there once was a man named Noah. He loved God, and obeyed Him. Noah was living in a time when the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence… every intent of the thoughts of (mankind’s) heart was only evil continually…And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart…But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. God told Noah to build an arc for himself and his family because He was going to send a great flood to blot out the violence of mankind. Noah delightfully and undoubtedly did what God asked him to do, which took much courage. As a result of his active obedience, the arc was built, he and his family entered in, and they and the selected living creatures were safe from the great flood that covered the earth. (See Genesis 6:5-22, 7:15-17). *Good news, just as the arc protected and saved, so does the cross of Christ! Let us enter in.

When looking at these two contrasting stories from Scripture, I have to ask myself, “Do I delightfully do His decrees?” Can I simply trust Him when His commands seem questionable? God said to Adam, “Don’t eat”, because He knew it would bring death. And He said to Noah, “Build a boat”, because He knew it would save his life. God’s words to us are written with the same intent. He loves us and knows what is best for us. He has given us His living word for our protection not our punishment. His ordained boundries are full of eventual blessings.

Choose to delightfully do, my friend, even when it’s hard, or I should say, especially when it’s hard. Remember, He has the best in mind for you. By His empowering Spirit in you, trust and obey.

I will run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart. Psalm 119:32

Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors. Psalm 119:24

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Monday, December 12, 2016
By Chris Baxter

ABC: Eagerly Exclaim

The ABC posts continue. To review: Ask and Accept, Believe and Be Bold, Call on Christ, Delightfully Do. Today, it’s Eagerly Exclaim!

Eagerly Exclaim? There once was a priest named Eli who served in the temple of the Lord. God had chosen him and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, to carry out the duties of the sacrificial offerings of the Israelite people. This priestly role was a high honor and privilege; yet, Eli and his sons disrespected the ordained position. Instead of offering a burnt sacrifice of meat to the Lord for the people, Hophni and Phinehas would cook and eat the best part of the offering themselves. They were not eagerly exclaiming the name of the Lord to the people of Isreal. In fact, Eli was allowing his sons to do just the opposite; their actions were defaming Him. The Lord asked Eli, “Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?” Because of these misdeeds, the Lord had to punish Eli and his household. (see I Samuel 2:12-16, 27-35) Thankfully, God is a forgiving and merciful God.

Eagerly Exclaim! However, there once was a young boy named Samuel who grew up in the temple of the Lord in the midst of Hophni, Phinehas, and Eli. One night the Lord spoke to Samuel as he was lying down beside the ark of God which was in the temple. Samuel mistook God’s voice for Eli’s voice three different times in the night. When he finally realized it was the Lord, he said,“Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening.” And from that point forward, Samuel became a spokesperson for the Lord and he eagerly exclaimed His name. Thus Samuel grew and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord. (See I Samuel 3) God blessed Samuel for his listening ears and obedient heart.

When comparing these two passages, I have to ask myself, “Am I like Samuel, speaking words of truth to the people around me? Or am I more like Eli’s sons, misusing the gifts God has generously placed before me, all for my own benefit?” Sometimes I confuse the main point of life: God is at the center, not me. And God is a good, good God! He is for me! I am here for the purpose of eagerly exclaiming His good news, His love, His forgiveness, His compassion, His grace…all of which are found in Christ. When I do boldly proclaim His name to others, I in turn, am sweetly rewarded in His amazing and intentional ways. Nothing is better than His reward!

Dear friend, eagerly exclaim His Truth with a childlike faith to a neighbor, family member, or even a stranger today. See how this act of obedience will not only bless the recipient’s heart, but delightfully experience how it will increase your faith-walk as well.

Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone works wonders. And blessed be His glorious name forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen. Psalm 72:18

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Sunday, December 11, 2016
By Chris Baxter

ABC: Forgiven to Forgive

ABC: Ask and Accept, Believe and Be Bold, Call on Christ, Delightfully Do, Eagerly Exclaim, and now Forgiven to Forgive.

Forgiven to Forgive? One day the disciple Peter asked Jesus to explain forgiveness. Jesus answered him with parable: There once was a king who wanted to settle his accounts with his slaves. One slave owed the king a tremendous amout of money, which he could not repay. When the king summoned him, the slave fell on his face before the throne and begged him for mercy, saying, “Have mercy on me and I will repay you everything.” The king felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. Ironically, not too long after receiving mercy, this very same slave went to one of his fellow slaves to collect only a small debt from him. The servant angrily seized his fellow slave by the throat and began to choke him demanding, “Give me what you owe!” The slave then fell on his face and began begging, “Have patience with me and I will repay you.” However the forgiven servant did not forgive his fellow slave. When the king heard about this lack of mercy, he was enraged. (See Matt. 18:21-35)

Forgiven to Forgive! Jesus told this parable then, and it is recorded for us now. Of course the king in the story represents the Lord Jesus, and each one of us are like the servants. None of us are able to pay our enormous sin debt; it is much too great. Yet our King mercifully decided to take our debts away from us by putting them on His shoulders; our debt was paid in full at the cross. He, in turn, asks us to forgive others. We are forgiven to forgive! King Jesus’ mercy brings freedom, and this freedom is meant to share. He promises, Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy (Mathew 5:7).

When I compare the two main characters in this parable, the king and the forgiven (yet unforgiving) servant, I have to ask myself, “Who am I most like?” I know who I want to be most like. But I must realize, I cannot even begin to forgive like the king (Jesus) does, without having HIS POWER within me to do so. I am a natural being, and Christ-like forgiveness is a supernatural act. Without His Spirit in me, I am destined to be controlled by the very real emotions of bitterness, resentment, confusion, hurt, anger (…) towards my wrongdoer. I must bring these raw feelings to the Lord and ask Him to help me deal with them, and then to fill me with His peace. Again, it’s impossible to forgive in my own effort, but NOTHING is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37) He can soften any willing heart. Dear Lord, let it be mine!

I have seen forgiveness beautifully played out in specific people who have experienced some of the most extreme circumstances, and I have to say, these people are some of the most radiant and FREE people on earth. God gave them the ability to forgive, and now He is using them mightily.

Is there someone you are thinking of right now? Have they wronged you in some way? Reconcile this hurt with the Lord today. He is the One who brings peace to your heart, even if your relationship with this person never changes. Ask Him to flood You with the mercy that flows from His powerful blood. Remember, you are forgiven to forgive.

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

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Saturday, December 10, 2016
By Chris Baxter

Daily Prayer

Luring

And Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up." Exodus 3:3

Dear Lord,

Turn our heads to see your holiness. Pull our hearts towards your glory. Make us curious enough to walk towards you and willing enough to respond to all that you have in mind. Call us, challenge us, change us. Amen.