Mornings with Luke
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The Word For Today

The Three Thorns (2)

Heaven's answer to a thorn-cursed creation was a thorn-crowned Saviour. But notice something important. God didn't remove the thorns; He decided to use them for His redemptive purposes. That's why we each get the third thorn of redemption: a custom-designed thorn. Here's how Paul describes his thorn: '...Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me...Concerning this thing I pleaded the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly will I boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV).

The word 'buffet' means 'to render blow, after blow, after blow'. Does that describe your life at the moment? If Paul's experience is anything to go by, the Christian life is a series of blessings and buffetings. And the God Who promises the first, permits the second. Why? To make sure we live our lives dependent on Him. Look what God used to make sure Paul relied totally on Him: 'infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions, distresses.' Where do you find strength to handle such a catalogue of complaints? From God - and God alone.

You say, 'I want to be more fruitful in the service of the Lord.' That happens when the thorny situations in life drive us closer to God!

Soulfood : Ezek 37:1-40:9, Mk 14:43-52, Ps 73:1-16, Prov 15:18-21

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The Three Thorns (1)

In Scripture there are three thorns that paint a picture of redemption. Today, let's look at the first two and see what we can learn.

(1) A thorn-cursed creation. When Adam and Eve sinned, God said, 'Cursed is the ground because of you... It will produce thorns... By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground' (Genesis 3:17-19 NIV). Everything changed for us in that moment. Roses began to grow thorns, fellowship with God was broken - and man, who was born to live forever, began to die. It was tragic, but God had a solution.

(2) A thorn-crowned Saviour. 'When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head...' (Matthew 27:29 NKJV). The curse that fell in a garden was lifted in a garden! When God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, He placed an angel with a flaming sword at the gate to prevent them from ever re-entering it. But at the cross Christ, the last Adam, was cut down outside the gates to become our Saviour and substitute, and secure our salvation. Now we can re-enter God's presence. What did Adam lose? Fellowship with God, immortality and sinless perfection. At the cross Christ reclaimed and restored all these to us. 'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new' (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV). Notice the words, 'in Christ' - keep them close to your heart each day this month. Rejoice! God loves and accepts you 'in Christ'.

 

Soulfood : Ezek 34-36, Mk 14:27-42, Ps 80:12-19, Prov 15:15-17

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What Are You Hearing?

Three years earlier, God told Elijah to announce the coming of a severe drought. As a result, it was all people talked about. Then God told him to announce that rain was coming and they were to prepare for it. Understand this: unless you learn to attune your spiritual ear to what God is saying, you won't be ready for what life throws at you. God can tell you when to save and when to sow, when to buy and when to sell, when to come to the table and when to walk away. 'Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it"' (Isaiah 30:21 NKJV).

But Satan can also speak to you and tell you things like, 'You're going bankrupt. You're going to die. You'll never succeed. Nobody loves you.' You'll never hear that from God! In spite of what you're hearing around you or within you, you must believe in God's faithfulness and trust Him to fight for you. Knowing He would soon be crucified, Jesus prayed, '"Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came from Heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it and will glorify it again." Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered...' (John 12:28-29 NKJV). Isn't it amazing? Some can hear the voice of God, while others standing right beside them hear only noise. What Jesus heard that day galvanised His faith and gave Him the strength to march victoriously to the cross.

So who are you listening to? What are you hearing?

Soulfood : Mt 5:4, Is 51:1-16, Ps 30, 2 Cor 1:3-7

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Cool Thoughts for Hotheads (3)

Here's how to control your anger: (1) Think before you react. Our reactions are often based more on feelings than facts. Someone says or does something and we suddenly feel angry and assume they 'made' us feel that way. No, you made yourself angry by telling yourself, 'Who do they think they are?' 'I don't have to take that.' 'I'll show them who's in charge!' Your self-talk triggered your anger. 'Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.' To break anger's negative cycle, practise saying to yourself, 'Stop!' Then don't react until you ask the person to clarify their words or actions. Say, 'I want to understand. Please explain what you meant by...' By stopping and listening to understand, you interrupt your anger build-up and gain self-control.

(2) Don't 'speak your mind' when you're angry. An old Irish poem says, 'We're constantly hearing O'Flannagan say, "I gave him a piece of my mind." And it isn't surprising with so much gone, that so little remains behind!' The Bible says, '...The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do' (James 3:5 TLB). You won't find a receptive audience when you're enraged; people will just resist or discount your accusations and get angry in response. 'A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger' (Proverbs 15:1 NIV). Take a breather and try a gentle response when you're calm.

(3) Avoid angry people. Like a bad virus, they infect you, especially if you have a problem with anger. 'Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways...' (Proverbs 22:24-25 NIV).

Soulfood : Ezek 31-33, Mk 14:12-26, Ps 80:1-11, Prov 15:11-14

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Cool Thoughts for Hotheads (2)

A hot temper: (1) Drives a wedge between you and your loved ones. Esau resented his brother Jacob so much that he wanted him dead. When his mother Rebekah heard this, she sent Jacob away to live in Haran (Genesis 27:41-43). As a result, the family was separated and they suffered. Angry people intimidate others and rob them of their sense of security and peace of mind. Psychologists say anger is a leading cause of divorce, child abuse and addiction. What a terrible price to pay!

(2) Undermines a life that pleases God. 'Understand this...[be] slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires' (James 1:19-20 NLT). Your anger isn't just 'your own business', it's God's business, too, because it hinders your ability to live the life He intended. You can't be right with God until you are right with others.

(3) Blinds you to reality. Looking through the lens of misguided anger, you see only what you choose to see. It causes you to focus on options like revenge and retribution. Saul saw David as a threat, someone who planned to take his kingdom and throne. So he 'looked at David with suspicion from that day on.' His anger made him see David as someone who deserved to die because he was God's choice to succeed him as Israel's next king. Sadly, it also kept him from seeing that David was actually his best friend. Don't let that happen to you.

 

Soulfood : Ezek 27:25-30:26, Mk 14:1-11, Ps 143, Prov 15:8-10

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Cool Thoughts for Hotheads (1)

Righteous indignation is the capacity to get aroused when it matters. When you see people mistreated and don't feel concerned, you're either in denial or lacking compassion. God designed anger to move us to action. The Bible says, '...God is angry with the wicked every day' (Psalms 7:11 NKJV); it motivates His actions against man's wickedness. When Jesus saw His Father's house being desecrated His anger drove Him to make a whip, overthrow the money tables and chase out the loan sharks. His '...passion for God's house [consumed Him]' (John 2:17 NLT). He couldn't remain passive or be part of compromise. The world needs people who'll take action when the weak and vulnerable are 'used and abused'.

Hot temper, however, isn't the fruit of godly motivation. It's driven by our lower nature. Like Balaam who got angry when he was challenged by the truth, our pride gets hurt (Numbers 22:29). Or like Cain, who was jealous because his brother's gift was accepted and his wasn't, we get resentful when someone else seems blessed more than us (Genesis 4:3-7). Like Haman, who was enraged that Mordecai wouldn't bow before him, we selfishly desire to have our way (Esther 3:1-6). Like King Saul, who was envious over David's popularity, we get jealous when someone else has accomplished more than us (1 Samuel 18:8). Like King Ahab, who was confronted with the truth he'd rather not hear, we refuse to face our sinful ways and failures (1 Kings 22:15-27).

The Bible cautions us: 'When you are angry, do not sin...do not give the devil a way to defeat you' (Ephesians 4:26-27 NCV).

 

Soulfood : Ezek 24:1-27:24, Mk 13:24-37, Ps 132:11-18, Prov 15:5-7

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Serving Requires Faithfulness

In His dealings with people, the Bible says of Christ: 'Having loved His own...He loved them unto the end' (John 13:1 KJV). And when it came to His dealings with God, He could say, 'I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me' (John 5:30 NKJV).

Can God count on you? Can others? When you make a commitment, do you keep it? Do you quit on a whim, or break your word because you get a better offer? 'In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered' (Acts 9:10 NIV). God knew where to find Ananias. Does He know where to find you? Pastor Eric Hulstrand was preaching one Sunday when an elderly woman, Mary, fainted and struck her head on the end of the pew. They called for an ambulance and, as they put her on the stretcher, she regained consciousness and motioned for her daughter to come near. Everyone thought she was summoning her strength to convey what would be her final words. Her daughter leaned over until her ear was at Mary's mouth. 'My offering is in my purse,' she whispered. God's work shouldn't go lacking because you've gone on holiday and taken your tithes and offerings with you. 'Honour the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce' (Proverbs 3:9 NLT).

Your faithfulness shouldn't be contingent upon economic conditions, but upon your commitment to Christ. Remember the US Marine Corps motto, 'Semper Fidelis', the Latin for 'Always Faithful'.

 

Soulfood : Ezek 22-23, Mk 13:12-23, Ps 132:1-10, Prov 15:1-4

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Serving Requires Obedience

If you're upset over giving up your 'rights' and 'privileges' to serve others, consider what Christ gave up to serve you. '...He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death...' (Philippians 2:8 NKJV). When you're tempted to remind others of the sacrifices you've made, hear Christ's Words: '...When you have done all things which you are commanded, say, "We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do"' (Luke 17:10 NKJV).

Have you ever observed a dog that graduated from obedience school? It's a source of pleasure to its master because it has learned to respond to a word, sometimes even a look. God says, 'I will guide you with My eye' (Psalms 32:8 NKJV). God wants to bring you to the place where you don't have to be begged, badgered or browbeaten to serve. One look from Him and you do it without question. As a servant you can't change your master's orders! Dr JR Miller said, 'It is a great deal easier to do that which God gives us to do, no matter how hard it is, than to face the responsibilities of not doing it.' God doesn't want foot-dragging compliance, He wants willing obedience. And when He gets it, He blesses it. 'If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land' (Isaiah 1:19 NIV).

God's best is reserved for those who say yes. You ask, 'How will I know when I arrive at that place?' Because you'll be able to say, 'I desire to do Your will, O my God.'

Soulfood : Ezek 20-21, Mk 13:1-11, Ps 48, Prov 14:33-35

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Serving Requires Humility

Paul writes: 'You must have the same attitude that...Jesus had. Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges...took the...position of a slave...humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on the cross. Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honour and gave Him the name above all other names...' (Philippians 2:5-9 NLT).

The world teaches an expectation that others are to serve us, but being a Christ follower means we are called to serve others. There's a big difference, isn't there? Christ modelled servanthood before His disciples. On the social totem pole, the lowest servant in the house washed feet. Try to picture God washing the feet of common fishermen, then saying, 'As I have served you, now go and serve one another.' Download that picture the next time you view somebody as a burden, or beneath you or an obstacle to your success. You'll never serve as Christ served if your focus is on building your own image. 'Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come from God and was going to God ...began to wash the disciples' feet' (John 13:3-5 NKJV).

Jesus had settled three big issues: (1) He knew Who sent Him. (2) He knew Who sustained Him. (3) He knew Who was going to reward Him. Therefore He was liberated from the fear of people, the fear of failure and the fear of rejection. JL Massed said it so well: 'Service can never become slavery to one who loves.'

Soulfood : Ezek 16:53-19:14, Mk 12:28-44, Ps 1, Prov 14:29-32

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The Importance of Praising God (2)

The book of Job speaks about the rain cycle: '...He draws up drops of water which distil as rain from the mist, which the clouds drop down and pour abundantly on man. Indeed, can anyone understand the spreading of cloud, the thunder from His canopy' (Job 36:27-29 NKJV)? There's a spiritual parallel in this Scripture that works like this: as our vapours of praise go up to God, the clouds of His presence form and the rains of His blessing begin to fall on us.

Sometimes we leave church saying, 'That was a dry service.' The problem isn't dry services; it's dry servants! In praise you are the initiator and God is the responder. '...They were joined by 120 priests who were playing trumpets. The trumpeters and singers performed together in unison to praise...the Lord...they raised their voices...At that moment a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple of God' (2 Chronicles 5:12-14 NLT). Wouldn't you love to have been in church for that service!

There's a story about a wealthy man who dropped a dollar into the offering plate at church, then complained all the way home that he didn't get anything out of the service. His son, who observed the whole thing, said, 'I suppose that just proves if you don't put much into it, you don't get much out of it.' Here's a key to blessing you need to think about: worship isn't just for God's benefit, it's also for yours!

Soulfood : Lev 23:15-22, Acts 2:1-21

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