Many of us have perhaps seen small whirlwinds that spring up at a moments notice running across a field or yard. They are a small version of a much larger and more dangerous tornado that some seem to enjoy chasing. Few perhaps know that Elijah’s translation (change from earthly form to eternal) was done by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:1). Somewhat reminiscent of Dorothy’s experience in the movie ‘Wizard of Oz’ but in the case of Elijah an actual event.
The use of these winds or great storms are Biblical. The prophet Isaiah speaks of how God will use them in rebuilding nations (Isaiah 17:13) and as we know from the experience of tornadoes and hurricanes they bring sudden destruction (Proverbs 1:27).
As long as their is evil in the world (until Christ’s return) their will be whirlwinds of one sort or another. They are a method by which God shows His anger (Jeremiah 23:19) and His might (Nahum 1:3). All of creation, including its various weather patterns, is of and from God able to be used in furthering His righteousness and the sanctification of His people. Great storms, I believe, are meant to help us better understand this. That is THE MESSAGE OF THE WHIRLWIND.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Whirlwinds are often God’s way of warning the wicked.
DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Isaiah 17:13 “whirlwinds show God’s fury”.
PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord protect me from Your fury.
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:
1. What fascinates people about whirlwinds, tornadoes and hurricanes?
2. Have you experienced any form of a whirlwind?
3. How can a whirlwind correct evil behavior?
4. Why do seemingly good people also experience destruction by whirlwinds?
Occasionally I wonder why mankind feels God should not be a God who tests us but simply a God of grace giving everyone a passing grade for this life. It certainly falls in line with public schools not wanting a child to receive a potentially emotional devastating letter grade as many are now doing.
The first children of God having everything failed in their obedience test and now it seems natural to me God would want to test us to see how we respond to His life lessons.
The tests God has shown in Scripture to put before man to make evident the character of each of us come in different forms. First is the physical test, which comes in many forms, to see if we remain obedient. God’s Word tells us what is wicked and if we seek “health to all (our) flesh” we must pay attention to His words (Proverbs 4:20-22).
Next are spiritual tests such as we read about in the life of Daniel (Daniel 4). “Because an excellent spirit was in him” (vs. 3) we see he passed this test of life with flying colors. Part of that excellence of spirit came through his faithful prayer life as explained in vs. 10.
There also may be tests as a nation. Israel found this out when they willfully broke God’s covenant (Exodus 32). Their suffering was long and intense but after a time they passed and were released from Egypt through the Exodus event. These tests continue for Israel and all nations who seem to show moments of true commitment, or as I believe we are now falling into, where our actions individually and as governmental units want to separate ourselves from God.
Finally, there are supernatural tests. The Exodus story (chapter 7-11) shares a few examples. As Creator all God’s creation is available to test our faith and abilities. Needless to say whatever the test may be it is important we REMAIN OBEDIENT.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Tests try our faithfulness to see if we remain true to God.
DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Daniel 6:3 “a spiritual kind of test”.
PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord strengthen me in preparation to take your tests.
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:
- How does a school student compare to we as children of God?
- What is God’s lesson plan for mankind?
- What physical and spiritual tests are noted in the Bible?
- How as a nation are we removing ourselves from a commitment to God?
Perhaps you have heard the expression ‘tempest in a teapot’. Often being amused by little things I enjoy watching a tea kettle boil water until the water inside interacts in such a violent manner that a release has to occur making a whistling sound.
Many in life want to see only that which is calming but often reality soon sets in and a teapot or storm of some sort breaks upon us. The Bible, as is the Christian life, is full of storms. Jonah, the Apostle Paul, and Christ’s Disciples faced stormy seas and the only solution then as it is for us now, was and is Christ. As Matthew 8:26 shares: “He rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm”. In the verse just prior we read that faith is what can get us through these times. A faith that for many is so easily lost when tempest comes upon us.
Tempests will always be upon us until Christ’s return. To think otherwise or seek ‘safe spots’ in life is terribly naive unless that safe spot is Christ Jesus. Until then there will be tempests in the form of God’s chastening as Job experienced (Job 9:7) and we will continue to experience judgment as Asaph shared in Psalm 83:15. This will continue I believe until the final judgment when some will experience the ultimate tempest which is hell (Psalm 11:6). If your life journey is on the road to destruction, I would suggest a new path. A path leading to THE ONLY SAFE ZONE CHRIST JESUS.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: The only ‘safe spot’ is Christ Jesus.
DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Matthew 8:26 “Christ calms the tempest”.
PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I seek the calm only You can bring to my life.
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:
- Why has society lost its ability to be amused in simple things?
- What are examples of life’s tempests or storms?
- How does faith help in time of tempest?
- What makes college ‘safe zones’ a naive solution to life’s tempests?
A word that has especially fascinated me of late is the Hebrew word ‘shkinah’ which means ‘God’s manifest glorious presence’. To be in the presence of God should be our intent 24/7 so it is good we look at shkinah and how it can be ours.
For starters we read in Matthew 18:20 that “wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in His name there I (God) am also”. If God’s word is spoken in prayer or otherwise between yourself and one other God is in your midst. Likewise in a congregational gathering of believers He is there (Psalm 82:1).
I am an admirer of a man (Tommy Tenney) I once heard speak who called himself a ‘God chaser’. I also seek God in every moment and place. Perhaps that is why clouds and fire fascinate me. This was where the Israelite’s found God in their exodus out of Egypt (Exodus 13:21). Perhaps today our fascination with campfires, fireplaces and weather can somewhat be attributed to our longing for God. In a sense those times are like a meal where we take in the glory of God nourishing us spiritually as food does us physically. This as well as we can know God’s presence through light and the sound of waters (Ezekiel 43:2).
Truth be told God is all around us and even within us. As Genesis 1:26 shares we are each created in God’s image and unless we reject or starve that nature, He will always be ever present. In fact it is His presence within that insulates me from any attack against my Christian faith (1 Peter 4:14-16). It is as Paul shares in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that as God’s Temple we are no longer our own. Indeed WE ARE GOD’S PRESENCE IN THE WORLD.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Power and purpose come with God’s presence.
DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 6:19 “God’s presence within us”.
PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I seek your presence 24/7.
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:’
- What natural elements are you fascinated by and why?
- How do we find God in light and the sound of water?
- Explain Christ as the divine presence of God in our world?
- Where and when do you feel God’s presence?
One of the most difficult things to understand is suicide or the taking of one’s own life. Scripture speaks openly about it giving examples from the largest mass suicide occurring at Matzada in 70 A.D. when Roman occupation destroyed The Temple to satan tempting Christ in Luke 4:9.
The season where suicide is most prolific is one of Christianities most sacred which we celebrate as Christmas. It is when those away from their families or who have no family grow most despondent. The problem being here as in all suicidal cases that focus is often time placed on shallow meaningless symbols and on self rather than on Christ. To reduce suicidal thoughts we need to turn from self to God and the many meaningful things He has placed in our lives.
What brings on suicide is hopelessness as in the case of Matzada and Samson (Judges 16:29-30), sin as in the example of Zimri (1 Kings 16:18-19) and disappointment (2 Samuel 17:23). The common theme in each of these is the absence of God and turning matters over to satan.
If suicide is to be overcome, it has to be by a society and individuals who acknowledge the words of 1 Corinthians 6:19. Here we are told that God intends our bodies to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. As this verse tells us “we are not our own”. Satan and self have no authority over our emotion. Our Lord and Savior are in control and we truly have found the MEANING IN LIFE.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Suicide is satan’s effort to substitute his self for our Savior.
DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 6:19 “Sacredness of the body prohibits suicide”.
PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord overwhelm me.
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:
- How can we help people out of a despondent nature?
- What makes people despondent often leading to suicide?
- Why are we putting satan and self where our Savior belongs?
- Is there redemption in the case of suicide?
It starts out “once upon a time a man with a speech impediment was healed”. Not an uncommon scenario in the life events of Christ but one that has special meaning when we look at it from the standpoint of Mark 7:31-37. The healing took place in Sidon, a far off place, not in the normal travel path of Christ and therefore I believe bears special consideration. Sidon not only was a great distance away from normal travel but was also pagan in make up and therefore not where you would expect Christ to be.
For me it is interesting the process that brought the healing about and the method used. The process, as it would be for us, began with a desire that someone has to be cured of their illness. No one is truly healed unless they want to be whether of their own accord or convinced and aided by someone else’s assistance. The examination as it did in today’s text requires questions such as: why do you choose the person to heal you that you do and do you truly believe in their skills? These for a Christian when it relates to our sins are repentance questions that test the sincerity of our action.
Once it is established that a person truly wants healing, be it from sin or illness, then the method is to be considered. In the example in Mark 7 we see that it is somewhat unusual having Christ use His spittle on the tongue and plugging his ears with his fingers. That divine touch that becomes very personal is not unlike spiritual healing that we may seek where without Christ’s presence within our heart (Holy Spirit) healing cannot begin. Once that is in place then as Christ did with the hearing impaired individual so we need to look at our Father in Heaven and build that line of communication that brings the healing to bear and allows for us to have 0ngoing communication for other needs or communication as time passes by. For indeed EVERY GOOD BLESSING COMES FROM ABOVE.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Healing happens when we look toward Heaven with the Holy Spirit in our heart.
DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Mark 7:31-37 ” the process of healing through Christ”.
PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord thank you for healing.
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:
- What are some ways that we can send a message without words?
- What vehicles did Christ use that carried healing power (ex. oils)?
- What emotions did Christ show during his time on earth?
- What was the process and method Christ used in His healing others?
Society seems to have a fascination for greatness. We increase beyond reality people, their efforts and even their problems. Job experienced this when his ‘friends’ magnified his difficulties beyond what they really were. Only humility in all these various situations puts matters back into proper perspective.
Scripture tells us what we should make or declare great and the center of it is God. We begin with David’s words in 2 Samuel 7:26 who understood that God’s name is to be magnified. Sadly many instead use it improperly in their daily speech. Next we must declare great the Word of God (Psalm 138:2) for it alone is ultimate truth able to guide our lives. Rather than remove it from society as those who seek ‘freedom from religion’ would have us do we need to get it in the hands of more people as their primary life’s Book of Instruction and laws by which to live (Isaiah 42:21). The Book, of course, that I speak of is the one that points us to Christ and the empty tomb that Christians around the world call THE BIBLE.
Our duty in all this is, as the Psalm of David declares (Psalm 34:1-3), to declare the Name of our Lord and Savior great before others and not just occasionally but continually as vs. 1 tells us. We should be doing this with thanksgiving 24/7 and 365 days a year (Psalm 69:30). That requires we do it in our body now and even in our death GLORIFYING GOD AT ALL TIMES.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Mankind is meant to magnify the majesty of our Master.
DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Psalm 138:2 “concerning God we are to magnify His Word”.
PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I desire to make great Your Name in all the world.
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:
- How do we abuse the concept of greatness?
- Do you declare God and Christ Jesus as great to others?
- How can you further God’s Word?
- How can we glorify God in our death?
A part of ministry that is often misunderstood is that of healing and what the Scriptures have to tell us about the subject. We hear of healing events by pastors and others and yet our human nature places doubt in our minds and so I believe it is important to look at the act of healing from the perspective of the great healer of all time Christ Jesus. One example of this healing ministry that Christ performed frequently is recorded in Matthew 14:34-36. First it should be noted that this instance came about as did much of Christ’s ministry through the spreading of the word of his actions. Today also no matter what the situation the word of mouth message is what draws many to an event, place or person. Sadly we need to spread that word more in the sharing of our faith yet many are quiet when it comes to that.
At this time in Christ’s ministry on earth people were not so bashful or reserved. They were ‘out and loud’ as one t-shirt I recently saw declared for another cause. The people encouraged others to seek Christ and they did in today’s Scriptural reading. Imagine if we who claim the Christian faith did that today how full and ‘loud’ our churches would be. Christians in fact as today’s text shows should be fascinated to be a part of something great. A movement that will end in an eternal life unimaginable for those who truly desire it.
In verse 36 we see that the power of Christ was even available at the outermost part of His shawl. Today Christ can heal us whether in large congregational environments or at a campfire where two people come together for prayer and conversation. The condition for healing is not the location but the connection to Christ. In fact anyone who touches Jesus can be made whole in the broadest sense of the term. That is HOW HEALING WORKS.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Healing happens in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
DEVOTIONAL VERSE OF TODAY: Matthew 14:36 “the condition of healing is to connect with Christ”.
PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I seek Your healing.
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:
- Where is the danger for those who seek healing in relics rather than their faith?
- How can each of us do a better job of spreading the message of Christ to others?
- What great manifestations of God’s power do we have now and will have in Heaven?
- Why has the US and Europe lost their fascination with the Christian faith?
Every one is different is a fairly obvious statement. Some are blessed with longevity here on earth with hardly any illness to face while others know their medical practitioners on a close and personal basis.
Scripture addresses our infirmities which are the weakness of our human nature first of all by assuring us that Christ is at our side and has taken our sickness upon Himself (Matthew 8:17). All matters of healing whether physical or spiritual are to be brought to Him.
The key in life is how we respond to them. In a sense each ailment satan puts before us in our human nature is like a battle plan we turn over to our Lord and Savior. Our response is never to show defeat but rather to “take pleasure in infirmities” (2 Corinthians 12:10) for Christ has assured us He is our strength which is made perfect in our weakness (vs. 9).
In a very real sense I believe God’s Word looks at not only physical ailments but spiritual ailments as infirmities. All sins, which are clearly listed in Scripture, are to be removed so that we are restored to Christ. In fact it is our responsibility to help others caught in sin (Galatians 6:1). The best way of course is for a person sick in nature to find Christ but when we take this on be prepared to be attacked with the full force of satan as they caught in sin (infirmity) will attack your spirit and your body by their words and deeds. What they do not understand is the ultimate victory is ours.
The important thing regarding our battle with infirmities (both within and without) is that all must understand that what is said or done is carried out in love. Hatred and anger are tools of the devil. With this understanding ALL INFIRMITIES CAN BE OVERCOME.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Infirmities are opportunities to increase in faith.
DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 12:10 “rejoice in infirmities”.
PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord strengthen me to battle all infirmity.
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:
- Factors that influence our well being?
- How can we be of help to others caught in sin?
- What words and deeds does satan and those caught in sin use against spiritual restoration?
- Do you have a battle plan for your infirmities?
One area that I am woefully lacking in is understanding the full meaning of what 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us which is that “our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit”. Furthermore that verse tells me we are not our own. Therefore if I am a steward of what God has given me, I must also be over my body.
The question then is how do I honor God with my body. One obvious answer is taking on proper nourishment. Numerous verses in Scripture address this such as 1 Timothy 4:3 and 5:23 among others. That topic alone has filled volumes of books. Most conclude it is simply a matter of eating with common sense from the basic food groups. Neither giving in to anything that would cause us to neglect, over indulge or idolize our bodies.
It is important to understand that sin has a consequence on our body. Christ references it as an unclean spirit in Matthew 12:43-45. In fact when the Holy Spirit is not present numerous wicked spirits can take over our bodies bringing sickness along. Just one example of this is moral looseness such as Proverbs 7:22-27 addresses.
God may well let satan have permission to test us as He did Job with all sorts of calamities including poor health. Only when Job repented and understood that God alone can heal was health restored. Once that is understood then our body, soul and spirit will be properly aligned. Our focus will be on God and a sound Scriptural based program of exercise, nutrition and other areas of preventive care can be started. The answer to good health and care for our body,soul and spirit is to be dead to sin and alive to God. It is only then that we are truly FREE FROM DISEASE.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Health happens when full spiritual healing occurs.
DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 6:19 “we are a temple of the Holy Spirit”.
PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord heal me.
QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:
- What dietary advice does the Bible give?
- What are unclean spirits that can inherit our bodies?
- How does someone honor God with their body?
- What does it mean to be alive to God?