Day 3: The Pipeline of Grace

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“Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” Exodus‬
Each of us is in possession of something. We hold it in our hand. Often it has become so familiar to us that we don’t notice it. For some of us it has become who we are. It is good for God Himself to ask us what it is that we are in possession of. We have many things which we are holding that the Lord would use. There are motivational giftings (Rom 12.3-8), spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12.7-11), and time, talents and treasure (Mt. 25.14ff) that the consecrated person must first recognize as having been given to him or her for the Kingdoms use.
After recognizing the source of the gift entrusted to us, we must surrender it to the Lord. Here is where so many have faltered. They believe that God’s blessing is for them and their families. There is a temptation to think in terms of being the recipient of the blessing only. But we are God’s workmen. The Consecrated Soul sees these blessings, gifts, talents and treasures as merely passing through our hands on to others. We limit God’s purposes if we become the terminal end of God’s blessing, rather than being yet another link in the pipeline of God’s grace. For the Consecrated, the gifts are for sharing.
There are many sobering verses that warn us regarding our accountability for the treasures in our hands. How we apply them will indeed, be judged (1 Cor. 3.13). But the Consecrated Soul, while aware of this truth, is not at all bothered by the dedication of what is in their hand, for they know that it is their great privilege to be used as a channel of God’s blessing. There is personal blessing to be the first hand witness of God’s miraculous presence, His outstanding healings, His divine provisions, and a hundred other testimonies that the Consecrated Soul sees first hand. This glory is incomparable and remains unknown to those who refuse the Spirit’s invitation to draw nearer to God in consecration.

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Day 2 – The Praise of the Consecrated

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“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews‬ 13:15

Consecration is an act of surrender. Past, present, and future; all are surrendered into the hands of the Almighty for the consecrated man or woman. It is the recognition that “our life is not our own.” In so saying, we are giving all that lies ahead of us to God and His divine providence, but we are also giving all our past, as well. In this act of consecrationed surrender we are healed from what we once were. We are never required to carry it along, like so much rotten garbage, and we are free to pursue the future.

Each day we begin with praise and worship. This is the “sacrifice of praise.” To be sure, some days it is more of a sacrifice than others, nevertheless, it is the willful act of giving thanks to Him “who holds the key” for our present and future. Scripture prescribes that the praise be continual. Oh, that God would free our minds and loose our tongues to be continually in praise; there is no one more deserving of our praise!

So what does the Consecrated Soul praise God for? We praise Him for His tender way of leading us into a deeper walk; and we praise Him who is perfect for receiving our imperfection; and we praise His Good Purpose, which is our privilege to both live out and minister to others. We Praise and thank Him for these and a thousand other things. All this is a part of our surrender to the King of our Lives. Have you praised Him today?

Day 1: A Life Consecrated

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I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there. 1 Samuel 1.27-28

The story of Hannah’s miracle baby is a glorious one. She had been barren, unable to have a child on her own. After crying out before the Lord, she miraculously conceived a child, successfully delivered the baby, and nurtured the child through the weaning process (about three years). She named him Samuel-“heard of God”.

I can only imagine that now as she presents the child to the Lord’s service, to live and dwell in the temple as a child of the High Priest Eli that it must have torn at her heart to give up the answer to her fervently prayed prayers. It seems that God does this frequently. Abraham was challenged to put his Son on the altar on Mt. Moriah. He, too, was forced to find the faith to look beyond the discomfort of totally surrendering his child to God. Here, Hannah has committed her son to God’s service. Samuel will never be like all the other children, he is a servant of the Lord. He is consecrated.

As a result of this consecration, he hears the voice of God, he sees God answer prayers miraculously, and foretells events which only Heaven could orchestrate, and, eventually, becomes the prophet of whom it is testified “not one word of his mouth fell to the ground.” In other words, Samuel’s prophecies were fulfilled- every one of them, every time, in every circumstance. This is said of no other man or woman of God!

While Samuel’s mother initially was the source of the consecration, Samuel had to continue in the consecrated life, in order to grow into the man of God that would be held in a high estimation, by both man and God. This year we are revisiting our standing before the Lord. If we want more from Him, it will demand more consistency from us. Let us consecrate ourselves in 2018 to the service of God, and let us recognize here, at the beginning of the year, that many have made a start down the road of consecration, but fewer follow through to the end.

Going Deeper: The Calvary Road

Read James 1.19-25. Don’t just talk about the crucified flesh, live it out. Take time to praiseGod for giving you His Word and then obey it.

Think about Hebrews 12.1-4. We are called to run a holy race and need to cast off what hinders us and the sin that entangles us. Take time to thank God for His holy calling and then live a holy life.

 Read 1 Peter 2.1-12 It is our responsibility to rid our lives of sinful attitudes and actions. We are dead to sin but we need to live like it. Take time to ask God for greater understand of the flesh and our call to be holy.

Meditate on 1 Peter 4.1-11. We are to be done with sin but it will mean suffering. Take time to thank God for Christ’s example and then follow Him.

Think about 1 John 2.28-3.6. Our hope in Christ is to motivate holy behavior. Take time to worship God because He is Holy and has made us holy in Christ.

The Power of the Cross

5  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 
6  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 
7  For one who has died has been set free from sin. 
8  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 
9  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 
10  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 
11  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:5-11 (ESV)

The cross that took the life of our Savior now distributes that divine life to all who believe and are baptized! Indeed, Christ’s life was not taken but broken willingly and distributed equally to whosoever will come to Him! Because of that gift we become “partakers of the divine nature” and “empowered to bear witness”. We are no longer bound to the old life of our sinful selves, rather we are filled with divinely empowered life. Death itself has no dominion any longer over our spirits, all fear of death has been removed. Our thinking has changed, we are dead to sin but alive to God in Christ.

Because of Christ’s cross we have access into the heavenly places, we have every spiritual blessing in Christ. We have been forgiven, our sins justified, and our redemption secured! We have become his children, his workmanship, his property! We are overcomers in Jesus, because of the Cross!

The Horror of the Cross

26  And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 
27  And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 
28  But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 
29  For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 
30  Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 
31  For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” 
32  Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. 
33  And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 
34  And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 
35  And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” 
36  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine 
37  and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 
38  There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” 
39  One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 
40  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 
41  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 
42  And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 
43  And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” – Luke 23:26-43 (ESV)

William Barclay wrote of the Horror of the cross.

There was no more terrible death than death by crucifixion. Even the Romans themselves regarded it with a shudder of horror. Cicero declared that it was “the most cruel and horrifying death.” Tacitus said that it was a “despicable death.” It was originally a Persian method of execution. It may have been used because, to the Persians, the earth was sacred, and they wished to avoid defiling it with the body of an evil-doer. So they nailed him to a cross and left him to die there, looking to the vultures and the carrion crows to complete the work. The Carthaginians took over crucifixion from the Persians; and the Romans learned it from the Carthaginians.

Crucifixion was never used as a method of execution in the homeland, but only in the provinces, and there only in the case of slaves. It was unthinkable that a Roman citizen should die such a death. Cicero says: “It is a crime for a Roman citizen to be bound; it is a worse crime for him to be beaten; it is well nigh parricide for him to be killed; what am I to say if he be killed on a cross? A nefarious action such as that is incapable of description by any word, for there is none fit to describe it.” It was that death, the most dreaded in the ancient world, the death of slaves and criminals, that Jesus died.

The routine of crucifixion was always the same. When the case had been heard and the criminal condemned, the judge uttered the fateful sentence: Ibis ad crucem, “You will go to the cross.” The verdict was carried out there and then. The condemned man was placed in the centre of a quaternion, a company of four Roman soldiers. His own cross was placed upon his shoulders. Scourging always preceded crucifixion and it is to be remembered how terrible scourging was. Often the criminal had to be lashed and goaded along the road, to keep him on his feet, as he staggered to the place of crucifixion. Before him walked an officer with a placard on which was written the crime for which he was to die and he was led through as many streets as possible on the way to execution. There was a double reason for that. There was the grim reason that as many as possible should see and take warning from his fate. But there was a merciful reason. The placard was carried before the condemned man and the long route was chosen, so that if anyone could still bear witness in his favor, he might come forward and do so. In such a case, the procession was halted and the case retried. (emphasis added)

He died for us.

Disowning Jesus

47  While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, 
48  but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” – Luke 22:47-48 (ESV)

It is interesting that two stories are back to back in the gospel of Luke. Both having to do with the topic of disowning Jesus. A closer look today will help us understand better how to own Jesus.

The first of the two stories is recorded above. Judas is easy to despise. He had the advantages of a disciple. He knew Jesus personally, intimately. He knew him well. Yet he was not fully connected to Jesus’ heart. So pretending intimacy he came to betray Jesus. With the irony that the symbol for intimate adoration was the signal to arrest Jesus, he disowned him. Later he would regret this act of disowning him. He actually takes his own life because he cannot get over the fact that his betrayal begins the process of the crucifixion.

The next story is the story of Peter’s disowning Jesus. He continues to follow Jesus after others have fled. From a distance, he must know the outcome of these events. But a young girl calls him out. She tells it like it is and he is forced by his determined self preservation to lie and disown Christ. He too, is weeping in agony after the fact. But he returns to the risen Christ and is forgiven and empowered to be a witness for Jesus.

There are many ways that we can disown Christ. Some by the things we do and say. Some by the things that are left undone. Some because of their disappointment with God. Some because they are safeguarding their reputation. Jesus was very direct, “if you deny be before men, I will deny you before my Father in Heaven”. (Mt 10.32-33)

The Coming Suffering

39  And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 
40  And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 
41  And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 
42  saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 
43  And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 
44  And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. 
45  And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, 
46  and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Luke 22:39-46 (ESV)

Jesus can feel the coming of the end. He knows that there is suffering and his soul is anxious. Wouldn’t yours be? Recently I had surgery and the doctor told me that there would be some soreness, agony and stiffness of my muscles as he cut me on my neck. Knowing what was coming helped me not panic when I awoke from the anesthesia to discover the discomfort. But the foreknowledge also increased the anxiety level!

Jesus knows full well that the cross is his future. He “endured the cross for the joy set before him” we are told in Hebrews. But it is clear as our Savior approaches the stressful moments of wrestling with the will of God that he needed something from his brothers. He needed to know that they were praying. Just a few chapters before this he rebuked and condemned Israel’s religion because it had become prayerless. Now he asks that his brothers pray with and for him.

They are in the distance. Their prayers, like all of our prayers for others, are without the labor and pain. Their prayers are easy to be lulled to sleep by because they are not provoked by a passion like our Lord’s. But Jesus in contrast is in intense agony, sweating blood, and being overwhelmed by the sorrow of an innocent sent to slaughter. And after he has wrestled with God’s design, his will, his plan- he returns for his church.

And the church was asleep.

Irresponsible Giving

1  Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 
2  and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 
3  And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 
4  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

               -Luke 21:1-4 (ESV)

I give to God regularly. I have adjusted my lifestyle to honor the Lord. There is much to be gained by doing so if you believe the Bible’s promises. Those regarding giving are as real as those regarding salvation! Prov 3.9-10 tells me that honoring God by bringing him the first fruits will “overflow my barns and fill my vats”. God has been so faithful to me that it is inconceivable that I would ever not honor Him. I have structured my finances to make it so.

Yet, here Jesus is telling us some powerful things. 1) That God watches what we give; 2) that faith is demonstrated not by how much goes in the basket but by how much is left; 3) that God would not tell this poor woman that she should share no part of the Kingdom work; 4) that God recognizes (and rewards) irresponsible financial giving.

The fact that God sees what we give is not always something that we live in. When we give are we aware that the same Jesus who watched the poor widow also watches us? She demonstrated great faith by giving sacrificially. Some would accuse her of being irresponsible in her giving. Some would tell her that she needn’t bother herself with the offering as her two pennies wouldn’t help much anyway. But in doing so they would cut her off from her reward! God promises to reward the diligent givers. Why would we think he wouldn’t.

As we look at Jesus’ sacrifice this week let us also recognize that the Kingdom demands that little people, people who are not independently wealthy, must have a part in giving to the Kingdoms advance. If we truly understood that we would likely be giving a little irresponsibly as an act of worship.

To Whom do you Belong?

19  The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. 
20  So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 
21  So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. 
22  Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 
23  But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 
24  “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” 
25  He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 
26  And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. – Luke 20:19-26 (ESV)

Whenever I hear someone quote this verse it usually has to do with paying taxes to the government here on earth. That is, of course, a good and fine thing to do. Certainly these words of Jesus can be interpreted to be a reminder to be good citizens in handing over to the government what belongs, by law, to them. But in reading this verse in that fashion we miss Jesus main point

Political discussions are replete with offensive and divisive comments regarding the scandals of the day. Yet, we need to see that the scripture here clearly tells us that these were not sincere concerns of dedicated citizens. These were trick questions to trip up the Savior. Jesus answers directly but turns the whole discussion to something even more scandalous. The scandal that Jesus mentions is a scandal of the soul.

The issue at hand is that the people of God are not giving to God what truly belongs to Him! We attend service each Sunday and think that we are doing well. We give in the basket each time the offering comes around assuaging our consciences that we acting rightly. But Jesus reminds us that God wants more than our time, more than our money, God want to be the Lord of your life. He wants to be the Lord now; not at an altar years ago; not back when you were emotionally upset, lost and broken; not on Sundays and Wednesday nights. He is your fulltime Savior and deserves a fulltime surrender.
Please give Him what is rightfully His.

Begin today.