On April 20th at 4pm Bridge Church will be launching Sunday services in Brooklyn, NY. This is a monumental moment for us as a community. We have come a long way and I want to thank each one of you for your contribution and your desire to please the Lord our Savior. With that said, let’s consider the fact that we are making history in this city by starting a compelling worship service that will put our glorious Savior on display for NYC.
In light of that, let’s anticipate a battle. We are not simply starting a Sunday service, we are offering salvation to the lost and healing to the broken. We are speaking truth to people who have grown accustomed to nothing but lies their whole lives. And I'm not just speaking of non-believers. All types of people will soon hear the pure truth of the gospel and join us on this mission....Every Sunday. Satan will want to destroy your confidence in the mission and yourself. Be ready. Let's take this 21 day fast seriously. Purify your hearts before God. Cry out to him for these upcoming 21 days. Seek him with your whole being. Worship Him daily. And beg God to pour out his Spirit on our work.
Day 1 Monday, March 31st (Click to read)
Return to Me
Day 2 Tuesday, April 1st (Click to read)
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
– Joel 2:12, NIV
IF WE LOOK AT THE KIND OF FASTING that took place in the Old Testament, it would be easy to assume that the reason we fast is to prove our repentance to God in order to obtain His mercy. Under the Old Covenant, such a fast of repentance is seen time and again. But now, because of the complete work of Jesus on the cross, things have changed.
Fasting is not something we do to obtain favor or forgiveness. Under the New Covenant, every wrong we have done and will do was forgiven at the Cross, and when we accept Christ as our Savior, we get to celebrate the mercy freely given to us through our relationship with Him. Fasting is about drawing closer to God and surrendering at a deeper level.
As we walk with God, there are times that we feel far from Him or disconnected. Joel’s words resonate with us, even if we live in the context of grace: “Return to me with all your heart.” There are times we realize that though we have chosen to follow Jesus, the flame of our love for Him has grown cold.
Your time spent in prayer each day of the fast can result in a new richness a rewarding connection with the Father. No matter where you are on your journey with Jesus, you can always take a step closer to Him.
I believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual atomic bomb that our Lord has given us to destroy the strongholds of evil and usher in a great revival and spiritual harvest around the world. – Bill Bright
As we begin this time of prayer and fasting, let’s turn our hearts toward God. Make a commitment to seek Him daily. Pray that your love for Christ will be increased and your passion for Him will be reignited over the next twenty-one days.
• Meditate on Joel 2:12
• Pray that God prepares our hearts to hear from Him these next 21 days
Day 3 Wednesday, April 2nd (Click to read)
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. – John 10:27, NKJV
Have you ever tried to tune in to a radio station only to be frustrated by finding static rather than music? And when you fiddled with the dial again, suddenly you heard a clear signal. The fact is that clear signal always existed on the airwaves. The difference is that now you have adjusted your tuner to the right frequency.
In our hectic lives, there are so many signals bombarding our senses that it can become difficult to distinguish God’s voice from the defending static noise of life. Fasting enables us to tune out the world’s distractions and tune in to God. As we fast, we deny our flesh. When we deny our flesh, we become more in tune to the Holy Spirit and can hear God’s voice more clearly. If you truly listen for God’s voice you will hear it. And when you hear it, your faith will increase.
If you desire to tune out the static of life and really tune in to the voice of God, come to Him first and foremost with ears willing to listen and a heart ready to obey what He says (Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 66:2). The more we practice being in His presence, the clearer and more recognizable His voice becomes.
“Fasting is important, more important perhaps, than many of us have supposed…When exercised with a pure heart and a right motive, fasting may provide us with a key to unlock doors where others may have failed; a window opening up new horizons in the unseen world; a spiritual weapon of God’s providing. ‘mighty to the pulling down of stronghold.’” – Arthur Wallis
In this time of fasting what is your mind tuned to? What distractions do you need to remove so that you can focus on God? Prepare your heart to hear the voice of God, and ask Him to help you remove distractions that keep you from focusing on Him and hearing His voice clearly.
• Meditate on John 10:27
• Pray that Bridge Church hears from God these next 21 days
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Day 4 Thursday, April 3rd (Click to read)
Whenever the NY Lottery Jackpot surpasses $200M, I get tempted to buy a few tickets. I don’t expect to win, but the idea that I mathematically have a chance, makes me really think about it. My legalistic Pentecostal background takes a beating, but deep in my heart I know that this is not an issue. When I sit back to examine my life overall, I realize that in a sense, I’ve already hit the jackpot. And I didn’t even have to pick any numbers.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:1-9
Because scripture shows sin to be a debt to God, I had already dug a hole for myself from which I was incapable of climbing out. So there I stood, spiritually bankrupt with no hope, but God, out of His great love for me, chose to use the death of His innocent Son to pay off what I owed. I had been made spiritually rich (2nd Corinthians 8:9 - For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich). It was as if someone handed me a winning lottery ticket and instantly changed my life. What should be my response to this sudden change of fortune? What I have been so freely and undeservedly given should not now be hidden and hoarded as if it were only meant for me. God has now authorized me to go out and manifest the truth about His riches. He made me rich and can make others rich too. You and I are called to spread the news that He can’t run out of resources and wants to continue to spread His wealth with others. My life transformation should spur me to a place of gratitude for He who changed my circumstance. I now should be an example to what spiritual wealth looks like and how others can obtain that same wealth. I was trapped - a prisoner, locked in a cage of my own making, but was supernaturally set free. I’d been adopted and made a child of the Living God. Now I can tell others that they also can win without ever buying a ticket, picking a number or jumping through hoops. So, who wants to be a Millionaire?
• Meditate on 2nd Corinthians 8:9
• Pray that Bridge Church would be a place where people seek to comprehend the riches of God’s grace daily
We're Not Worthy
Day 5 Friday, April 4th (Click to read)
The Christmas season has been behind us for a few months now, but many of the attitudes displayed during that time will continue throughout the year. A popular office tradition during the holidays is the “Kris Kringle” game. The group sets a dollar limit and each participant gives a gift to someone knowing they will receive one of approximately the same value in return. This custom of equitable gift giving, implicitly carries over to birthdays. We are invited to parties, to which we will bring a gift, and in turn will invite many of those same people to our own party and receive a similarly valued gift. I have often said to myself, “Why don’t they keep their fifty dollars and I’ll keep mine?”, we’ll just wish each other a good day and move on. But that would be wrong. I have friends that feel so indebted when they receive a gift that they will give one in return, though they had no previous plans of purchasing a gift for that person. For some, the worst situation is to receive a gift from someone who seems like they want nothing in return. Human nature tells us to be leery of these people, because “you never get something for nothing”. We assume there’s always a plan, an ulterior motive or an angle, and never allow ourselves to be in debt to anyone. Though this is human nature we must understand that this is not God’s nature.
Scripture equates sin as a debt that is now owed to God. We have violated the holy law of God (Romans 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, Romans 6:23a – For the wages of sin is death…)
and therefore, are now in debt to Him. But how do we pay off this debt? God’s own word teaches that a sacrifice must be made in order to reverse the death sentence sin has brought upon us. Sadly, the blood of irrational animals was not enough to satisfy God. What was really needed was a sacrifice of sinless nature that understood why they were dying. Since no man could meet these requirements God, the Son Himself became flesh and paid the debt on the cross.
“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God” - Hebrews 9:13-14
My temptation is to try to repay this debt. But this is one debt I can never pay back. My weakness and sin continue to remind me of how incompetent I am in this area. I expect God to be angry at every failure and turn his back on me as many people throughout my life have done. I keep acting like I must suffer or punish myself with some hardship in order to atone for my failure. I will pray more, fast for a day or do a good deed for someone, though none of this is called for. It eats at my soul knowing I am not worthy of all the blessings and honor bestowed upon me. 1st John 4:10 - This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
I was not seeking Him. I was not reaching out for Him. I was not trying to figure out ways to be pleasing to Him. I was running from His will seeking to make a life for myself apart from Him. But He sought me out and brought me into His Kingdom.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.3 For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. 4 Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and ‘I have loved you; Therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life” - Isaiah 43:2-4
The passage above, although meant for Israel, is an indication of God’s love for His people. Viewing the lengths that God went to redeem me, even in the midst of my failures, the truth hits me; “God is not mad at me, He is mad about me”. He has chosen to love me as I am and to deposit in me, through His Spirit, everything I need to be victorious in this world. Realizing this, I say “embrace your unworthiness”. Knowing fully that I never did nor will ever do anything to deserve salvation, I will change my attitude from one trying to gain God’s approval, to one where it has already been obtained.
My life now will be lived out of thanksgiving rather than an attempt to gain His favor. I can embrace the fact that God cannot love me more than he does right now. Neither my behavior nor thoughts nor works of righteousness will make Him love me more. Can you accept this truth in your walk with God? Can you use this as your source of strength; the idea that salvation did not come from your efforts therefore it does not draw its power from them either. Let’s accept who we are and walk in the values of Our Father. Not because we must, but because now we can. Are you worthy? No? Join the club.
• Meditate on 1st John 4:10
• Pray that Bridge Church would have an attitude of thanksgiving
In Blackest Night
“Then spake Solomon, the LORD said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.” - 1st Kings 8:12
Day 6 Saturday, April 5th (Click to read)
Through my many years in the Lord, I have become well aware of a few truths. One truth that stands out is that prayer is an essential part of any believer’s life. Thank God all the initial urges to seek Him came from Him to begin with, or I might have missed out on this truth. When I pray, I have the habit of doing so in a dark room. This habit stems from the passage when Solomon dedicates the new temple to the Lord in 1st Kings 8:12. The NIV says ‘he would dwell in a dark cloud’.
Now, by no means am I implying that this is the doctrinally correct manner in which to pray. It’s just one of the ways I feel most comfortable attempting to get in line with God’s will. As I have thought about this verse over the years, I can see God’s immense love reaching out to me. Traditionally, we associate darkness or a dark cloud with evil, confusion, difficult times or fear, i.e. “The Dark Ages”, “The Dark Knight”, and “I was left out in the dark”. However, I can clearly see that even in the darkest times of my life, God was indeed swelling there. Many believers can only acknowledge God’s grace when all is seemingly going well in their lives. God, in this sense, is only visible when professional lives are thriving, personal relationships are growing, or finances are in order. The truth is, God is as close to you during your heartbreak as he is during your best day.
Oftentimes it is during heartbreak and struggle that God clearly manifests Himself to us. In scripture, for instance, the greatest victories came during the worst times:
• The Hebrews received the Revelation of their Savior, “I Am” after 400 years of intense bondage in Egypt. (Exodus 3:14 - God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”)
• David conquered the Philistine Goliath only after the entire Israelite army, including their King, were cowering due to His threats
• Jesus conquered Hell and death only after His torturous trial and crucifixion
• Even the world we know came about from a chaotic state. (Genesis 1:2 - Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.)
God has always allowed suffering and difficulty. Though we will not always comprehend why, many times it has been to manifest His glory.
What darkness are you going through? Where is the “Valley of the Shadow of Death” in which you currently reside? This valley is simply the manifestation of an object that has stood between you and the light; that’s where the shadow comes from. You can’t have a shadow without light and our light is Jesus. He dwells in your darkness - always near enough to manifest His presence.
Even if it seems as if He’s asleep while the storm rages against your boat, He has not abandoned ship nor will He panic when He awakes. Just know that when He does, He will calm your storm and leave you marveled at His power. He can bring peace even when it seems failure is inevitable.
What does he require from you? Stand there and believe. (Exodus 14:14 –“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”)
Just as you have already experienced His saving grace, know that He will bring you through any situation. He knows when to show up and how to reach into the pit to pull you out. When the darkness doesn't allow you to see anything around and your road is unsure, know that He dwells there with you. In your “Blackest night”, you still have access to “The Light”. Just wait and see.
• Meditate on Exodus 14:14
• Pray that Bridge Church would be a place that surrenders to our strong God through our battles
Dressed To Live
Day 7 Sunday, April 6th (Click to read)
On one of our “urban hiking” trips to Manhattan, my wife and I found ourselves in Midtown among the many tourists. As I photographed a couple of police officers, I was amazed that one of them recognized I was from Brooklyn. I thought to myself that with his amazing deductive abilities, he would soon make detective. What was it that gave me away? My Brooklyn accent? My walk? How did he single me out so quickly? Soon after, I realized that my brown hooded sweatshirt with orange letters across the chest saying “Brooklyn”, might have given the officer a clue. More often then I care to admit, I quickly forget what I’m wearing. It happens. But, I’m more embarrassed to admit that I often forget how I am spiritually clothed.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” - Ephesians 4:30
Historically, seals were used by those in authority to prove authenticity. Being sealed by the Holy Spirit is proof that we belong to Him. In a sense, I have God’s label all over me. It is as if I walk around clothed with a spiritual “Child of God” written across my chest. But, just as with my hooded sweatshirt, I often forget this fact. Why is that? The truth is, I often don’t feel, think or act like a “Child of God”. Despite evidence to the contrary, there is a supreme truth that supersedes my feelings. 2nd Corinthians 5:7
tells us that “we live by faith not by sight”.
When Paul uses the word “sight”, he does not only mean visually, but is referring to all of our senses. Therefore, I must hold on to the spiritual reality that I am a “Child of God” rather than this temporary, material reality in which I currently live.
Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” - 2nd Timothy 2:19a
It is evident to God that we are His. I’m sure that fact is also evident to Satan and all his principalities. If this ownership is so clear in the spiritual realm, it should be clear in the natural realm. Regardless of how I feel, I must affirm the truth of God. I am His, bought by the blood of the lamb. No feeling can contradict that truth. So do what you must to remind yourself that you have been covered by Christ. Galatians 3:27 - for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
We need to remember that we wear an outfit which makes it clear that we are God’s property. If we can keep reminding ourselves no matter what we’re feeling, I know we will have greater victory in our walk. Many may prep for the weekend and attempt to be “Dressed to Kill”, but I have met a designer who has clothed me in the most precious outfit in existence. Thank God my brother, today I am “Dressed to Live”.
• Meditate on Galatians 3:27
• Pray that Bridge Church would be a place that openly declares the grace and excellencies of Christ
Enemies At The Gate
Deuteronomy 7:22- “The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.”
Several years ago, a Spanish Newspaper “The Olive Press” printed an article stating “if bees became extinct today, mankind would follow suit in less than a decade”. I can’t speak to the merits of this claim; however, I find it interesting that we live in a world so dependent on the delicate balance that exists in nature. We live in eco-systems that should not be tampered with because of the dire results that can occur. According to Wikipedia, “In 1859 a farmer moved from Australia to England and released 24 rabbits to hunt. Within ten years of introduction, the original rabbits had multiplied so much that two million could be shot or trapped annually without having any noticeable effect on the population. It was the fastest spread ever recorded of any mammal anywhere in the world.” Without any natural enemies in England, these rabbits overwhelmed their habitat and created unforeseen problems for the inhabitants. According to the National Animal Interest Alliance, “every species produces more offspring then the available resources can support. If all those offspring survived, the result would be disastrous. They would rapidly eat all the available food, and then the entire species would starve en masse.” Sometimes pests, insects, predators remain in an area for a very good reason.
When Israel was set free by the Power of God and ushered into the Promised Land, they inherited a land that was given as an inheritance, not one owed to them based on their merits. Perhaps because of this, some thought they simply had to enter into the land and all their enemies would be crushed in a day. But the surrounding pagan nations remained and caused them problems. Life was to be a constant battle, a struggle for many years to come, but these struggles were there for a reason.
As difficult as it was to have these enemies around, they served a purpose. They unknowingly were helping to keep the land ‘in-check’ so that God’s people could reap the benefits. Without them, the land would have been dominated by the wild animals and the resources would have disappeared. As strange as this may seem, something related can occur in the life of the believer.
While I believe that many problems I encounter are brought about by my own disobedience and failure to submit to God’s plan, there are occasions when this is not true. Paul noticed a thorn in his flesh that kept nagging at him: 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
This thorn was allowed to remain for a specific purpose, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited…” (vs. 7).
When we struggle with issues, people, dilemmas that were not brought about by our sin, we could think “I should not have to deal with this if I am a child of God. If He loves me why does He allow this to continue?” This may be the way I feel but I need to see that there is purpose in these times. These struggles, whether I realize it or not, are there for my benefit.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” - James 1:2-4
During my hardship, my faith is being purified. It is being tested so that ultimately I will become a more mature Christian. Spiritual maturity does not arise simply because you have spent many years as a church member, but it is formed in those who have experienced trials and tribulations and remained faithful to God’s word. These problems, pressing on all sides, are pushing you like the earth pushes on a lump of coal to create a diamond. We may not understand why we deal with these pressures, but we can safely believe that we are being prepared for other challenges in the future and prepping us to be the best examples of His grace.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” - Romans 8:28
Not all things in life will be good, but even the struggles, pain, opposition and pressure, God will use to bring us to a place where we can be a blessing to others. You may be in a strange land surrounded by those who oppose you, but even they serve a purpose in God’s kingdom. God is in control and He will bring about good for your life.
• Meditate on 2 Corinthians12: 8-9
• Pray that we would be prepared for spiritual battle an a day to day basis
Day 8 Monday, April 7th (Click to read)
Quality Of Life
Day 9 Tuesday, April 8th (Click to read)
In the late 90’s New York was undergoing a transition under Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani was a hard- nosed former prosecutor. As mayor, he instituted a “Quality of Life” initiative. This called for the police to crackdown on petty crimes with the belief that those committing these petty crimes were also involved in major issues. For years many will debate whether these initiatives caused the desired results, but no one can argue the fact that New York City has been transformed from what it once was.
For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills. - Deuteronomy 8:7-9
In yesterday’s devotional, we referenced the nation of Israel as they entered into the Promised Land. They inherited the land because of a promise God made to the Patriarch Abraham and not based on their merits. He placed them in a land that contained all the resources they needed to become the most powerful nation in the region but it still needed to be harvested, collected and dug out of the hills. As opposed to their time in the
desert where the resources were so scarce they needed divine intervention to be fed and obtain water, now they entered a land that “flowed with Milk and Honey”. But this time they would have to work the land to obtain these resources. This is not unprecedented in scripture. Even the first man was not created to lounge around the garden having animals deliver his meals, but he was placed in the garden to work it and protect it. The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. - Genesis 2:15
Although we have been granted the gift of salvation freely, God wants us to be involved in our own spiritual walk and growth. To use Giuliani’s term, I am involved in the “Quality of my Christian Life”. Throughout the Bible, we are urged to draw closer to God’s will, ‘Seek ye first’; ‘Be ye transformed’; ‘Walk in the Spirit’, and we are given instructions on how to benefit from the best that God has prepared for His people. I could choose to be satisfied with the fact that I am saved or I could invest in my own spiritual growth.
Just as with Israel, God has positioned us in a place where all the spiritual resources we require to be a victorious people are available to us. But let us consider that the “Promised Land” for Israel was not a place of rest, it was a place to conquer. They had to take what God promised them. He would not fail to provide supernatural intervention, but they needed to go to the battle.
We have been saved by grace, but now God has called us to battle. We are to put on the Armor of God (Ephesians 6) and stand firm. We are to fight the good fight of faith. “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” - 1st Timothy 6:12 There are those who have eternal life but have not taken hold of it. Instead of fighting, they prefer to lounge around, which affects the quality of their spiritual life. God has called us to be more than over comers, but to accomplish this He has established a path of discipline within which we must walk by the Spirit. If we refuse to delve into God’s word, refuse to spend time with Him in prayer, refuse to dedicate time to His endeavors, we cannot be as strong in faith as He allows. Are you concerned about the
quality of your life in this physical world? How much more should you concern yourself with your spiritual condition? Maybe what happened to New York will happen to you – Transformation. Who will you be in 10 years? The possibilities are endless.
• Meditate on 1st Timothy 6:12
• Pray that Bridge Church would always focus on spiritual growth more than material or financial growth
Who Is The Good Samaritan
Day 10 Wednesday, April 9th (Click to read)
I love watching Jeopardy. I think it’s because I get an ego boost when I finally do get an answer right. So almost every day, I watch Jeopardy looking for those few questions I can get right. Recently, they gave a topic on Final Jeopardy that made me wish I was actually on the show.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most well-known Bible stories in the world. For us, it is a great dual lesson of what Jesus has done for us and how He would like us to treat others.
“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much
more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” - Romans 5:10
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” - Colossians 1:21
When I was left for dead on the road of life, I was by nature considered an enemy of God. But that fact did not stop Jesus from coming my way and placing me in a location where I could now recover from all the damage that was done to me. I may be stretching the point, but in a sense, the church is the Inn to which I was brought. He has covered the cost of my recuperation. Some of my wounds were inflicted over many years and run deep into my soul. But notice that the Samaritan did not place a time limit on the stay of the wounded. He simply acknowledged that he would cover the cost. Hopefully, through receiving the powerful message of salvation, I will be able to see the healing power of the Gospel. So the church has been called to “Take Care of him (or her)”. We don’t pay the price for their salvation but are tools in God’s hands used to repair the broken and feed the hungry. As a church, our goal should not only be to accept those who have been saved, but to see to their growth and help them recover in such a way that they now imitate Jesus.
When Paul talks about those called to ministry within the church, he shows us the purpose of the church:
“to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their
deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” - Ephesians 4:12-16
We ourselves should now become Good Samaritans. During this man’s pain, it was the religious that ignored and passed him by. Perhaps they feared that the same thieves that caused his dilemma would return if they got too close. For whatever reason, it was a man from a race that traditionally did not get along with the Jews that felt compassion upon him. Not knowing if this man would ever repay him or even if he would see him again, he could not pass him by. We that have been so blessed by God have now been called to emulate this mentality. “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” - Matthew 8:10
To bring conclusion to this thought, Jesus Himself gives us instruction when He asks the listeners, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Just like a good neighbor – Jesus is there. Therefore so should I.
In Jeopardy terms: Answer: I am
Question: Who is the Good Samaritan?
• Read the Good Samaritan story (Luke 10:25-37)
• Pray that Bridge Church would always be a servant to our neighbors in NYC
WARNING: THIS THOUGHT CONTAINS SPOILERS.
Day 11 Thursday, April 10th (Click to read)
In my last visit to Florida, my brother in-law took it upon himself to start a conversation with me while I was watching a movie. He asked what I was watching and proceeded to tell me that he had already seen it. He also felt it necessary to share a key plot point that wouldn't have been revealed until the end of the movie. While it did not ruin the movie, I always have problems with spoilers. So being a “good Christian”, I will now ruin other people’s movie watching experiences. Here it comes; In “Titanic” - the ship sinks. In “Lincoln”, the President gets assassinated. In “Zero Dark Thirty”, Seal Team Six finds Osama Bin Laden. “Star Wars, Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith”, Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader. REALLY? REALLY? I know, I just ruined it, or did I?
How often do we watch a film knowing what will ultimately happen, but still enjoying the experience? Whether fiction or Non-fiction, it is the journey that provides the drama keeping us in those seats. We are drawn in not by the inevitable ending, but by how that ending comes about. When we examine the story of this world, we are told by God’s word how everything will end. The saints shall inherit the kingdom of God; the lost shall be sadly condemned for eternity. But as with the movies, I may know the ending but am at a loss on the details of the journey. I walk in a maze while my Heavenly Father can see clearly where every turn and dead end lies. He wishes to guide me through and make this journey as profitable as possible to me.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” - Jeremiah 29:11
As I navigate blindly with no knowledge of what lies ahead or a clear vision of the details, there are a few things of which I can be sure. He does have plans for us and His plans are always for our benefit. He is not surprised by the circumstances of our lives nor is He unable to deal with what, to us, is unforeseen. Not only does God have a plan, but He is involved in the fulfillment of this plan.
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” - Ephesians 1:11
God has a plan. Through every bit of drama, every plot twist and every confusing scene my life will go through, the great screenwriter will not let my story fade to black until fulfilling His purpose in me.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” - Jeremiah 29:11
As we begin this Journey, Bridge Church cannot anticipate what the future holds. What will we look like in 5 or 10 years? What unknown person will emerge from our midst to impact the world through the gospel? Where will the friendships forged today take us? We have no way of answering these questions, but God has brought this interesting group of actors together for an amazing project. In this context, we are all actors, not those who personify a role disparate from God’s original design, but those called to “ACT” on behalf of the Kingdom.
What then should be our position? Paul teaches in 1st Corinthians 12 that we are members of one body with specific functions meant to bless others. It’s time for each of us to take on our role in this story and enjoy each page of the script we live out each day.
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Yesterday is history but tomorrow is HIS story. As difficult as it may be, let’s trust that the Author of
this story has prepared the greatest story ever. There will be drama, which is inevitable whenever you work with people, but there will also be comedy, mystery, romance and plenty of action. We’ve got a great writer, an excellent producer and the ultimate director.
I know the ending, but I’ll still enjoy the journey. I can be sure that this is going to be Epic. Watch and see.
• Meditate on Hebrews 12:2
• Pray that Bridge Church fully rely on the plan of God
Who Most Likely To
Day 12 Friday, April 11th (Click to read)
Most High Schools have a section in their year books for recognitions such as, “Most Likely to Succeed”, “Most likely to drop out of college”, “Moat likely to become a comedian” etc. It’s amazing how you can be labeled even from the age of 18. But how many people actually turn out to be what was determined for them? Countless teens never turn out to be what was said about them. Maybe that’s not a bad thing? I was the one in my small circle who was given no hope. At the age of 16, my friends had already set out a future for me. They joked that I was most likely become a bum. They pictured me lying in an alley just waiting for the next time I could get high. There was sufficient evidence to back up their prognosis. At the age of 12, I smoked my first joint. At 13, I began to abuse alcohol. By 15, I was getting high daily and I had no other desire in mind. No career ideas, no college aspirations and no possibilities of lasting relationships. At 16 and 17 I was trying anything I could get my hands on. I felt more comfortable with adults because had better access to the things I liked. It got to a point where being sober felt wrong. I needed to be under some influence in order “to feel right”, to cope with the daily world. I preferred to dull my feelings than to confront them. What else could my friends expect? Their vision for my future was logical. It was evident that I was “Most Likely to” accomplish nothing. But divine Intervention still exists and in my hour of need, I was confronted by He who is “Most likely to” (and the only one that can) truly change the lives of others. Before the world was formed, Jesus’ destiny was established to change the paths of the lost.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the
sin of the world!” - John 2:29
It is the removal of sin that paves way for change. All my life the Law of God reminded me that I was a sinner. The more I knew about it, the guiltier I was. The inevitable conclusion of this is that I should be punished.
“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” Romans 2: 5-6
But this path was changed by the powerful hand of God. The law showed me for what I really was, a sinner, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, - Romans 3:23
but then something greater than the law was able to overcome all the damage it had stored up for me. “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” - Romans 5:20
“Abounding sin is the terror of the world, but abounding grace is the hope of mankind.” -A. W. Tozer
Now, my life is on a new path and what am I most likely to be? I am most likely to overcome.(Romans
I am most likely to walk in freedom. (2nd Corinthians 3:17)
I am most likely to trust in God’s word. (2nd Corinthians 1:20)
The list can go on and on. The bottom line is that my past cannot define my future and although I may feel the effects of my past, they cannot hold back God’s purpose in my life. My old path may have had one outcome for me, but now I have a new life set before me.
“Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It's a way to live.” The law tells me how crooked I am. Grace comes along and straightens me out.” –D. L. Moody
How low have you fallen? Who have you been told you are? Who have you been told you will be? Who do you think you are? It doesn’t matter – God has the final word.
“And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” - Acts 20:32
His word is able to build you up. His word will build you up. His word declares that you are “Most likely to” be set free by the power of the gospel. Welcome to the New World.
• Meditate on Romans 8:37, 2 Corinthians 3:17, 2 Corinthians 1:20
• Pray that Bridge Church would have an identity that is based on Christ’s word
Hide and Seek
Day 13 Saturday, April 12th (Click to read)
I remember playing “Hide and Seek” with my nephew Nate. While he is highly intelligent, a prodigy I would say, he did not immediately grasp the concept of the game. His version consisted of him sitting under a blanket in the living room giggling to himself. His reasoning was, “if I can’t see him, he can’t see me”. I pretended to have difficulty finding him, which made his laughter grow. He has since improved his game, but many of us apply his logic in our relationship with God. As horrifying as it may be to some, we are always visible to God. Though we cannot see Him, He always sees us. We can’t hide from Him....even if we wanted.
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." - Psalm 139:7-12
For those of us who believe, this truth is a comfort. Surely there have been times when I wished I could
hide from God, but any attempt would be as useless as my nephew’s modified “Hide and Seek” game.
In Eden, Adam had finally come to the knowledge of good and evil. Sadly, it was a knowledge that could only be achieved by rebellion. As he flees God’s voice; the question is uttered, “Adam, where are you?” Adam hid, but God still sought him out. We know that the Lord had not lost His ability to be all-Knowing, but for the sake of the newly fallen man, the question is asked. God wanted it to be clear that He knew man had changed and they were no longer sharing an intimate communion. God knew exactly where Adam was and extended mercy to the fallen couple as He performed the first animal sacrifice to cover their nakedness.
“So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.10 Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.
11 We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves. We look for justice, but find none; for
deliverance, but it is far away. 12 For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: 13 rebellion and treachery against the LORD, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. 14 So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. 15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.” - Isaiah 59:9-16
Sin created a barrier and hid us away from God, but God’s displeasure at seeing no one to act, caused Him to bring about salvation Himself.
Even if I were hidden under years of rebellion, God would seek me out. This is why, even now, when I fail, fall and get bogged down in my old ways of sin; I need not attempt to hide in shame. I don’t have to isolate myself in some vain attempt of penance until I feel I have punished myself enough. God knows exactly where I am and sees me clearly. It is not time to try to flee from God; it’s time to run to Him, because He is seeking me out. God asks us to seek Him (Matthew 7:7)
and He would not demand from us what He would not be willing
to do Himself. He asks it from us because it is His nature and He wants us to be like Him.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” - Luke 19:10
Hide and seek may make a fun game, but it’s no way to live. It is time to come out from under the blanket into the light and see who’s been waiting for us the entire time. We’ll be better off for it.
•Meditate on Psalms 139: 7-12
•Pray that guilt, shame, and unconfessed sin would never keep Bridge Church from running into God’s presence
Try Try Again
Day 14 Sunday, April 13th (Click to read)
“You can save 15 percent on car insurance in 15 minutes.” This ad campaign has become so recognized that even the commercials make fun of the fact. They say, “everybody knows that”, then proceed to reveal some lesser known ridiculous fact. But how does everybody know that? GEICO has succeeded in getting us to remember their slogan. It’s memorable because of the humor, the gecko mascot and sheer repetition. GEICO is now a household name. Repetition is a powerful tool when it comes to memory. An eastern form of teaching relies upon bringing up a thought over and over with different wording, but the same main idea. You can see an example of this in the Book of Proverbs.
“The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin” Proverbs 10:8 “Whoever winks maliciously causes grief, and a chattering fool comes to ruin” - Proverbs 10:10 “The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin” - Proverbs 10:14
“The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of sense” - Proverbs 10:21
“A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes, but a person of understanding delights in wisdom” - Proverbs 10:23
At times, believers are tempted to seek something new. A new word, a new spiritual experience or a new revelation is the goal of many. Not that we should stop seeking to grow or improve, but after 2000 years of the church era, is there really anything new? Did our God allow the church to go this long only to now reveal some great hidden truth? I honestly don’t think so. As put in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”
One of my major problems is remembering what I already know. But more than just remembering what I have learned, I must apply and constantly be challenged by these old truths in order to be truly impacted.The apostle Paul understood the need to remind the church of things they already knew. “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.” - Galatians 3:1
Throughout my spiritual walk, there have always existed areas in which I’ve
struggled. The traumas of my past, the betrayals, the abuses and my own sin have formed a worldview that does not line up with God’s worldview. In order to combat my issues I have found it necessary retrain my brain. But how can I get myself to see, feel, and care about things the way He does?
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” - Romans 12:2
This transformation does not come about because I hear the truth one time. My mind must also be changed. This is something beyond my ability, but God has given me grace to receive His word. While the word has an immediate impact on my spirit, He also, through its consistent use, gives me the power to change the
way I think. Now, I can view the world through a new lens, as if through His eyes. But again, this is not an overnight process. I must be committed to His Word. I must be willing to replace my feelings, views and thoughts with what He has established in His word. Sound impossible? If God has given me authority to be called one of His children (John 1:12)
, then can anything He says be impossible? (Luke 18:27) My mind says yes but His word says “No”. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
I must be constantly reminded that His word supersedes my preconceived notions, but only through constant use and practice will it benefit me.
“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” - Hebrews 5:14
Muscle memory is the process of training your body to do something until that action becomes so common your body automatically reacts in the desired manner. I need to retrain my mind, through constant use, to react the same way (God’s way) when confronted by this world until it becomes almost automatic. Although
I am immediately saved by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, my mind continues to inappropriately judge the world and cling to bad habits developed over years. God’s grace doesn’t stop at redeeming my heart; He has established a way to redeem my thinking. As the saying goes, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”.
• Memorize Romans 12:1-2
• Pray that Bridge Church constantly seeks to be disciplined spiritually
Expectation In The Workplace
Does a boxer go into the ring expecting to lose? Does a soldier go to battle expecting to die? Does a Firefighter respond to an alarm expecting the entire neighborhood to be destroyed? On very rare occasions the answer could be yes, but for the most part they do not. What separates these individuals from the masses is the level of training and dedication that helps them believe that they can overcome the odds. They have prepared for the unexpected and can adapt to any situation. Simply said; they expect to succeed.
Personally, I have had great difficulty understanding the nature of God as my gracious Father. Because I did not have a good relationship with my earthly father, I expected my heavenly Father to act in a similar fashion. I expected him to be absent in my need; to be uninterested in my problems, but God is not like man. God wants me to approach Him with the expectation that He will respond.
“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” - Deuteronomy 4:29
“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” - Proverbs 8:17
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” - Matthew 7:7- 8
Therefore I should be expectant when I go to Him. I should expect that He will hear me and be moved to act on my behalf. No need of mine is so trivial that He doesn't want to know. No pain of mine is so mundane that he does not wish to comfort. I should approach God with confidence, not arrogance, but knowing that I can receive mercy and grace. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” - Hebrews 4:16
Not only does He desire that I expect Him to respond to my prayers, but that I will see His hand moving in my life everyday . In 1 week I have 168 hours to use or misuse. On a good week I may go to church twice for a total of 4 hours. That’s less than 3% percent of my week being spent in an atmosphere of fellowship. In contrast, I spend 40 hours, almost 25% of my week, in a work setting. Despite this fact, many of us focus solely on the importance of Sunday Service or just being involved in some type of ministry.
Acts 6:8 - “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.”
Stephen was not an apostle. He was tasked to give food to widows so that the apostles could be free to pray, preach and teach the word. Stephen was just a believer at work. Scripture tells us that he was full of the Holy Spirit, but he is not much different from the others chosen to serve. This mere believer given a job that perhaps would seem mundane to some of us today, was being used by God to impact the community in a supernatural manner.
In a recent article titled “Why don't Churches See Equipping their Members as a Priority?” by Os Hillman, the author points out some interesting data. Jesus never brought a person into the synagogue to get healed. He never brought a person to the synagogue to get saved. His focus was on the place where the people lived life – their workplaces. He rubbed shoulders with the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the down and outs.
•Of 132 public appearances in New Testament, 122 were in the marketplace
•Of 52 parables Jesus told, 45 had a workplace context
•Of 40 miracles in the book of Acts, 39 were in the marketplace
It becomes obvious that Jesus prioritized the workplace or marketplace as a location to impact people’s lives. Can you expect God to work in your office? Can you believe that you are the tool He wishes to use to bless your workplace? Let’s talk more at work tomorrow.
•Memorize Hebrews 4:16
•Pray that Bridge Church would not be defined by our building, but rather a radically loving group of people that seek the glory of God everywhere we go
Not By Works, But At Work
“From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.” - Genesis 39:5
The workplace gives us a chance to show God’s grace upon us. As soon as Joseph was put in charge of Potiphar’s household, and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. Joseph’s anointing was manifested through his work. Potiphar benefited from having this child of God working for him, not because Joseph was anointing all the animals or laying hands on the others servants but simply because he was endowed with God’s grace.
Throughout scripture, as God’s people live out their lives, they are granted opportunities to impact the world around them. Moses met God while he was working as a shepherd. Moses confronted Pharaoh in his workplace, the Egyptian throne room. David’s early victory against Goliath was made possible because God helped him defeat a lion and a bear as he kept his father’s flock. Jesus called Matthew at his workplace where he was collecting taxes for Rome. God wants to be seen in the workplace and is willing to do great things through His people. With this truth, we must also be aware that when we are determined to take a stand for God, there will always be opposition.
It was only after the grace of God was made clear that Joseph’s problems at work began. He was going to be tested. Would he cave under the pressure or hold fast to his God?
“So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” 8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.” - Genesis 39: 6
While the workplace can be one of the most difficult places for the believer, filled with challenges and temptations, most of us would not get thrown into prison for standing fast to our morals. We see the difficulty he endured at his job that ultimately landed him in jail. Although significant, this is not his entire story. Joseph is eventually saved from prison and given a greater position than had before. At first he was a gifted slave administering his master’s house. At the end of his story he is gifted public servant saving nations from famine. All this came about because he was determined to be faithful - even at work.
Joseph was not the only public servant who loved God. There is a long history of public servants who loved the Lord. The Prophet Daniel experienced a supernatural intervention in Chapter 2. This demonstration of God gets Daniel and his three friends jobs in government. Quickly, the three friends are tested by the administration as they are required to violate their beliefs in order to, keep their jobs and their lives. Once again, after the grace of God upon them is made manifest, they are tested. Their declaration has always blown me away.
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” - Daniel 3:16-18
They did not respond in disrespect but made two things clear:
1. Our God has the Power to free us.
2. Even if he doesn’t choose to use that power, we will not bow down.
The workplace should not to be viewed as a place of fear, but as a place to manifest God’s grace. Easier said than done, right? But do I expect the God who miraculously saved my soul to make me a blessing at my job? Or is His power and presence confined to my Tuesday Bible study? We’ll talk more about this tomorrow.
•Meditate on Genesis 39:5
•Pray that Bridge Church would see the workplace as somewhere to manifest God’s grace
Final Thoughts On Work
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.” - Colossians 3:22-25
Today, we don’t have masters, we have bosses, managers and supervisors; however, I think Paul’s underlying thought still stands. Paul wants us to view our secular jobs as if we were in service to Jesus himself. Whether our positions are highly visible or behind the scenes, whether our name is on the door or unknown to all, or even if we occupy a place we think is beneath our abilities, we are to expect true reward and recognition from God. It is always prudent to seek advancement, to desire to excel, but while we are in our current jobs, we should act with honor. “Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.”- 1 Samuel 2:30
Paul repeats his instruction to the church in Ephesus. ”Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” - Ephesians 6: 5-8
As we saw the examples of Joseph and the 3 young Hebrews, we can see the hand of God put us in grace at our jobs. No jealousy, opposition or evil plan can bring us down if we simply hold on to God. When I did not expect grace, it showed up. How much more should I expect to see it now that I know it has arrived?
“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” - Psalm 23:6
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.” - Psalm 91:1-3
“Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.” - Matthew 21:21
Look at the absolutes the bible uses, “SURELY”, “TRULY”. These are words that are positive in nature. They are faithful and can be trusted. Just as with any battlefield, don’t be intimidated by what lies before you, but trust He who stands with you and He who lives in you. Surely, you will be a blessing at your workplace and you will truly impact the lives of those around you. It is written.
•Meditate on Colossians 3:22-25
•Pray that Bridge Church would help people to be a blessing at the workplace
I Have A Designated Driver
As many states are following Colorado and Washington concerning the legalization of Marijuana, I am preparing for the debate, that has already reached the church, to increase. Supporters will claim that the use of this naturally growing plant can be sanctioned because it no longer violates the law of man. A similar debate has been going on for a long time about the consumption of alcohol. I don’t know where we will wind up, but I am always amazed how, as a society, we expect people who are under the influence of anything to be able to make logical, rational decisions. We want people to imbibe, indulge and partake, but then make a reasonable decision to not drive or wind up in bed with a stranger. We advertise the fun use of alcohol then imprison those who cause damage or hurt someone while inebriated. In essence, we say, “Do what you want, but if something goes wrong – it’s on you.” I am not, at this juncture, taking a stance on our relationship with alcohol as a society, but I will say this, “people will continue to make bad decisions while under the influence”. Thank God that while I was under the influence of sin and was unable to make rational decisions, someone intervened on my behalf.
The Father draws
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day” - John 6:44
The Son forgives
“Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” - Acts 13:38
The Spirit sanctifies
“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first-fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” - 2 Thessalonians 2:13
God, in His fullness, was and currently is involved in my spiritual life. Since I couldn’t come to the realization of His grace on my own, He came to get me. He brought me to “the Door”, and gave me His Spirit that I would have the power to live the life He declares in His word. So now I do not need to concern myself with making myself acceptable to Him by my behavior. I just need to recognize that his sacrifice is worthy to be honored with my life. His love has been freely offered to me. His righteousness bestowed upon me and His Power is alive in me.
“For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them” - Saint Augustine of Hippo
“Thus says the LORD: “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” - Jeremiah 31:2-3
This is His motivation. You and I were too drunk, high, smashed, wasted, ripped and baked in sin to realize this. We were too far to respond to His voice and too numb by spiritual death to make a wise decision. We could not drive ourselves to the gates of salvation neither could we read any directions to get ourselves there. So our heavenly designated driver came to pick us up without us asking. God himself came to our rescue. That in itself should make you feel better than any bottle or drug could ever. I’m already high.
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” - Ephesians 2:6
Can’t get any higher than that
Wouldn’t it be cool to have a cat that could heal in church or a dog that could do miracles? How about a camel that interpret tongues? If God could speak through a donkey is this so far-fetched? (Numbers 22:28) We could always brag that in the Catholic Church they sometimes bless their pets but in ours, our pets bless us. One thing I could guarantee is that this would attract multitudes of people. People love signs and wonders, whether they believe in our God or not. These are the types of things that attract the masses. But I don’t believe that God ever intended for our faith to be founded on signs and wonders but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We could see the miraculous all our lives but this will not establish our faith. John the Baptist had the privilege of baptizing his cousin Jesus. When Jesus arose from the water, John witnessed a powerful sign.
Luke 3:21-22 - When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
When read with the parallel passages in the other Gospels, John had to have seen the dove come down on Jesus after He rose from the water. Even before this upon seeing Jesus, he declares to his own disciples, “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Regardless of witnessing this event when John found himself in jail he questioned his belief in the Son of God.
Matthew 11: 2 – 6 - When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” 4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[b] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
It was not the experience he had but the words of Jesus that reinforced him. He was strengthened by hearing a confirming word from the Messiah. Jesus continues this thought after feeding the five thousand.
John 6:35 - 36 - Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.
And again He supports this idea after his resurrection when he confronts Thomas.
John 20:29 - Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Even the nation of Israel after witnessing ten miracles that set them free from slavery and walking through the Red Sea did not have the faith to trust God in the desert. I know that we all think “If I could see, I would believe”, or “If God would only speak directly to me, I would trust”, but the Bible teaches us that this is not the case.
Romans 10:17 - Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
As much as we are tempted to be blown away by the miraculous, let’s not make that the focus of our worship. There are powers in the world that accomplish wonders and they do not come from God. Even in the book of Revelation we see all miracles are not the same.
Revelation 13:11 – 15 - Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
Therefore do not seek miracles, seek the Master. Do not seek wonders, seek the One who died and resurrected for us. Do not seek signs but seek the Spirit. Only by faith in Him will we be able to deal with the struggles, pain and doubt that will inevitably confront us throughout our Christian walk.
1 Peter 5:10 - And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Sure it would be cool to have a cat that heals or a monkey that speaks in tongues but rather than seeking the sensational of God may we take our example from another creature in scripture.
Mark 11:1- 3 - As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt (young donkey) tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
When they come into Jerusalem all eyes are on Jesus although the donkey carries him. This animal is merely a servant used for this particular purpose. There is no mention of a reward or special treatment for his service he just does his job. I pray that we all may just do our job of allowing people to see Jesus without expecting an earthly reward. Maybe this donkey is the real “Wonder Pet”?
It Stopped Raining But I'm Still in The Ark
In science there exists a difference between a hypothesis and a theory. A hypothesis is mere a supposition, a guess or an idea. It may be based on something but it has no prove. A theory is a formulation of apparent relationships or principles of certain observed phenomena, which has been verified to some degree. Although neither can be proved to 100% accuracy they are far from similar in the weight each one is given.
In the story of Noah, we see that the rain had ended but the waters remained for 150 days. Noah thought the waters had receded (hypothesis) but he needed to test this. He sent out a dove as an experiment. After several tries Noah received the evidence he needed.
Genesis 8:11 - When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.
The word here translated, as “knew” is the Hebrew word “yada.” The word yada has two definitions: to know by observing and reflecting (thinking) or to know by experiencing. This is the same Hebrew Word used to describe an aspect of Adam and Eve’s relationship. (Genesis 4:1) This implies an intimate, dedicated knowledge of something or someone. Noah performed an experiment (he experienced) in order to feel secure that the floodwaters were gone. In Judges 2:10 we are told that there arose a generation that did not “know” the Lord. Moses, Joshua and all their generation had died and this new group had the stories and the history (hypothesis) but they had no experience with God (theory, yada). The same is said of the new Pharaoh.
Exodus 1:8 - Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. (KJV)
Again there existed a historical knowledge but no intimate personal relationship. This sad course of events continues even today. There are many who have an intellectual understanding of God. They have a hypothesis of how God should behave, but they have no experience. They have had no encounter or intimate relationship with the Almighty. While we cannot prove to the world beyond a shadow of a doubt of the existence of God, for this is a walk of faith, we trust because of the intervention of God in our lives. Our theory is faith in the Almighty who caused us to experience His grace.
For those who have never experienced this, they sit inside the ark knowing that the rain has stopped but still unable to get out. We have been called to bring them the message that they can exit and begin a new life in this world. How convenient that Noah used a dove and that this dove brought back an olive leaf. Within the typology of the Bible, the dove represents the Holy Spirit and the olive leaf had to come from an olive branch. The olive branch is accepted by many as a symbol of peace. The spirit will make real in our lives the power of the words and life of Jesus Christ. When we receive the proof of the Spirit then we will have real peace.
John 15:26 - “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who
goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.”
John 20:21 - “Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
Hey it’s stopped raining.
The SON is out and now it’s time for you to let them know that they need to get out of the ark.
Love Is In The Air
How many times has someone cut you off in line to buy something? How many times has someone run to grab a seat on the bus or subway that they knew you were about to take? Have you ever had someone engage in an annoying conversation in a small space and you had to just sit there? Well, if it hasn’t happened yet, in New York it will. Having lived here all my life I have become very adept at tolerating people’s bad behavior. I’m great at keeping my mouth shut when I see annoying, rude and/or bad behavior. But God does not desire my tolerance for others but He calls me to love others. This has always been a challenge. The easy thing is to care for those that I naturally have an affinity for; my family or close friends. Jesus teaches that even for the fallen this is not strange.
Luke 6:32- 36- “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Here is where the true difference between the lost and the redeemed. God has given us the grace to be able to fulfill this commandment. Redemption comes with the supernatural power to do what sin never allowed us to do. When Jesus spoke of the difficulty the rich have with receiving salvation, the disciples asked the obvious.
Mark 10:23 - 27 - Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
What we were incapable of doing in the natural has now been given to us by the power of the Spirit. Still why do I have difficulty showing this in my everyday life? My old nature still has input in my life and if left unchecked, I will continue to behave in the manner I am so used to. Thank God that He takes an active role in my life. As a result of God’s presence in my life I have the grace to counteract these negative influences.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[ cyou want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
The important thing to remember is that fruit is never produced for the benefit of the tree itself but so that others can partake of it. The fruit that the Spirit creates in us is to be doled out to those around us for their nourishment. Truly they will know we are His disciples not just by loving each other but by how we love them. Pray that I may continue to grow in this area and I will pray for you.