Day 31: Sacrifice and Redemption

Exodus 12:14-13:16

Matthew 20:29-21:22

Psalm 25:16-22

Proverbs 6:12-15

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1eAYN6v

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

There is a difference between sacrifice and redemption (Ex 13:15). God told the people of Israel to sacrifice all firstborn male animals, but to redeem the firstborn sons. Sacrifice and redemption are mutually exclusive; he who has been sacrificed cannot be redeemed and he who has been redeemed need not be sacrificed. What makes the Cross so important is that redemption has already taken place. Jesus Christ took on the sacrifice we deserved so that we could be redeemed. There is therefore no need to conform to the Old Testament law and fill our lives with pharisaical sacrifice; we should rather live our lives with joy in light of our redemption. Now does that mean we should live lives of sin? Certainly not (Rom 6:2)! When we truly grasp the meaning of the Cross, our desire to sin will be forever overwhelmed by a passion for Jesus Christ.

 

Prayer:

“Father, thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ! Help me to understand the true meaning of the Cross! Bring me into the fullness of joy that can only be found in Your presence!”

Day 30: Don’t Accept Compromise

Exodus 10:1-12:13

Matthew 20:1-28

Psalm 25:1-15

Proverbs 6:6-11

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1gs0jPd

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

Moses knew what the Lord wanted: for the entire people of Israel to come up out of the land of Egypt – young and old, sons and daughters, flocks and herds (Ex 10:9). Pharaoh kept trying to chip away at the fullness of the Lord’s promise. First he offered to let Moses go worship God with just the men (v 10), and then without the flocks and herds (v 24). We are supposed to hold out for the full manifestation of God’s promise. Satan (our adversary) would have us accept something less than our birthright. We make small concessions frequently in subtle ways, convincing ourselves that even though we’re not getting the FULL promise, we’re still getting our hands on MOST of it. God is telling us that most is not good enough. Don’t accept compromise, and don’t settle for less. Don’t settle for what the enemy is willing to concede. Make the commitment to expect everything God has promised He is willing to give!

 

Prayer:

“Father, help me to hold out for the fullness of Your promise! I don’t want to give in before I experience everything You have for me. Give me strength in Jesus’ Mighty Name!”

Day 29: Young & Rich

Exodus 8:1-9:35

Matthew 19:13-30

Psalm 24:1-10

Proverbs 6:1-5

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1a0jSew

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

Jesus put His finger on the one thing He knew the rich young ruler would never be able to give up. Honest self-reflection will reveal that each and every single one of us is strikingly similar to the rich young ruler: we all have things we are unwilling to give up. These are idols, and Jesus wants us to pull them up by the roots and give Him our sole focus and desire. But Jesus is saying so much more here. Notice how Jesus phrases His offer: He gives the young man the chance to be ‘perfect’ (Matt 19:21), but only on the condition that he can become sinless. The point here is not to encourage unnecessary poverty; Jesus’ point is to illustrate that we can only become perfect through Him. Perfection is impossible for anyone but Jesus Christ. We will always have something – some idol or some sin – we can never quite give up; but when we are covered in the blood of the Lamb, we are washed white as snow.

 

Prayer:

“Father, thank You that I am made perfect in Your Son. The blood of Jesus Christ makes me clean – even in spite of my flaws, failings and idol worship. Help me to realize that the only way to cast out darkness is to look at the Light!”

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Appearances Can Be Deceiving,’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 1/26/2014, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1jFkgm2

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

I started going back to the gym recently. My wife and I lived in a building with a weight room in the basement for the past several years, but we just moved to a new building without any workout equipment. So, I did what any New Yorker would do: I bought a membership at Crunch.

I’ve only been going a few weeks, but I’ve already seen several things I wish I hadn’t. Guys’ apparel in the gym has gotten out of hand. Personally, I would consider a shirt that doesn’t cover my nipples to be inappropriate for the gym, but Crunch can be full of young to middle-aged men in less than decent shape who apparently don’t share my views. I saw a guy a few days ago in a skin-tight sweatsuit that looked like it was spray-painted onto his body, hanging on for dear life. Of course he chose to 1) stand right in front of me as he worked out and 2) look at himself in the mirror and flex…but moving on…

This gentleman, along with many others, have led me to an interesting realization. There are two types of people who go to the gym: people who actually come to exercise (an underwhelming minority), and people who come to look at themselves in the mirror. Some people come to use the gym for its original intended purpose, but others just come to see themselves and to be seen by others. It’s a sad state of affairs. But is church really that different?

There are also two types of people who come to church: those who come to honor themselves (to look at themselves and be seen), and those who come to honor God (use church for its original intended purpose). So, what’s your purpose for being in church? Are you coming to church because you have to, or because you get to?

Purposes That Honor Us

Appeasing our conscience is a reason for coming to church that honors us instead of God. We all want to feel like we have a part to play in our own salvation. It’s the way we’re wired, and it makes us feel good. After all, why should God get all the credit, right? Wrong.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

The Bible specifies that our own works have nothing to do with our salvation. We need to take a step back and realize Jesus Christ is the only Man who can take credit for saving our souls. We are saved by grace, through faith.

Purposes That Honor God

We should come to honor God instead of ourselves. The first way we can do that is through praise and worship:

“So Samuel said: ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.’” – 1 Sam 15:22

Many times we get anxious when the Bible tells us to ‘obey.’ The meaning of the word ‘obey’ in this passage (Hebrew ‘Shama;’ Strong’s #8085) is to hear God. He wants our obedience, which becomes inescapably easy when we are able to discern His voice and practice listening to Him. Psalm 141:2 describes what our worship services should look like:

“Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.” – Ps 141:2

We don’t have to struggle and strive to help God out with our salvation. He already accomplished it on the Cross. The sacrifices He wants from us now are obedience and praise as a result of everything He has already done. These things should be effortless with a proper understanding of the Cross.

We should also come to church to grow in community. There are certain things that become possible when we gather together as a body of believers that are otherwise very difficult at best, and impossible at worst. The beginning of Acts 2 describes that the early church 1) gathered together and 2) stood in agreement before the Holy Spirit fell. Community facilitates God’s Presence and the move of the Holy Spirit. God also tells us this: “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20). Whenever we are gathered in community to honor Jesus Christ, He promises that He will make His presence known.

Expectation Determines Outcome

Your purpose in coming to church every week will determine what you get out of it. This is why we talk about expectation so much at CityLight Church. When we expect God to show up, He will. When we expect the Holy Spirit to move and give Him the freedom and the opportunity to do so, He will. When we expect Jesus to heal and build our faith around that expectation, He will.

Joseph Prince has a teaching called ‘Life Abundant When We Feed on Jesus’ that explains what we should expect every Sunday when we come to church: bread, fish and egg. The teaching is phenomenal, and focuses on the following verse:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” – Luke 11:9-13

The primary purpose of this verse is to illustrate that when we ask God for more of His Holy Spirit, He will never turn around and give us a counterfeit. This is why, as Christians, we should never be afraid of the experience we call ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit.’ Whenever we ask for more of God – His presence and His anointing – we will be satisfied.

Prince explains that this passage is also relevant to what we should expect when we come to church every week. First, we should expect bread. This is the Word of God: Jesus Christ Himself. The Word should be our primary intake and substance, and we should expect a healthy dose of it every time we’re in church.

In addition to bread, we should expect fish. Whereas bread is static, fish is dynamic. Fish dart here and there and all over the place. In the context of the passage above, the fish symbolizes a practical application of the Word of God. Fish should answer the question, ‘How does God’s Word relate to me here and now, based on exactly what I’m going through?’ When Jesus fed five thousand men in Matthew 14, He gave bread and fish together. In conjunction, they make for a satisfying meal.

Finally, we should expect egg. Every week when we leave church, we should bring something home with us. Maybe there is a passage that we heard but don’t quite understand, or a principle our pastor explains that hasn’t quite hit home. This is egg. We should brood over (sit on, incubate) our egg the same way a mother hen broods over her eggs. If we spend enough time incubating, eventually the egg will split open and produce more food! Egg has tremendous potential to give life, and gives God the opportunity to give us revelation during the week, outside of the four walls of the church.

If we expect to get all those things when we come to church – bread, fish and egg – we won’t leave disappointed! God will give them to us!

Beyond Church

On a broader scale, our purpose in living life will determine what we get out of it. Now is as good a time as any to be blatantly honest with yourself. What gives you joy? What’s your reason for living?

Many times we turn to family for fulfillment. I’ve had people tell me ‘my kids are my religion.’ My response is always this: can your kids save your soul? When you die and go to heaven, God isn’t going to ask Little Johnny if He should let daddy into heaven. He’s going turn to Jesus and ask Him one simple question: ‘Did you know him?’ If we rely on our children – or our spouse – for satisfaction and fulfillment, we are placing an unfair burden on that person (or those people). We’re setting ourselves and our family up for failure because we’re expecting to receive something that person (or those people) can never, ever provide.

What about career? Are you finding joy in waiting for that big promotion? My guess is you won’t be fulfilled even after you get it. The problem with putting your worth and value in what your boss and/or colleagues think about you is this: they will always love themselves more than they love you. Jesus Christ is the only Man who ever loved you most.

What about money? Maybe fame? These can’t provide fulfillment either. Any financial goal we rely on for happiness will become a moving target. As soon as we hit it, it will increase. Fame won’t bring happiness and joy either. There are plenty of statistics highlighting the fact that celebrities are more depressed than your average person. Seeking happiness, meaning and fulfillment through any of these things is like trying to hold on to a fistful of water: you’ll just end up frustrated and empty-handed.

Finding Meaning

If we put our hope, trust, or joy in anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ, we will end up empty and alone. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work. A frustrating aspect of being ‘saved’ is that – if we’re honest – after coming to Christ, some days we look around us and almost envy people who don’t know the Truth. In certain ways life was so much easier when all we had to worry about was making money, finding love and pursuing the American dream. But God offers us so much more. Infinitely more, in fact.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matt 6:19-21

Anything we build up for ourselves on this Earth can’t come with us when we enter into heaven. We can’t take family, fortune or fame with us when we go. But when we make God our reason for living and put our joy in Him, heaven bows so that we may enter in.

- by Pastor Mike White

 

© Michael D. White and CityLight Church, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael White and CityLight Church with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Day 28: Don’t Settle for Yes

Exodus 5:22-7:25

Matthew 18:21-19:12

Psalm 23:1-6

Proverbs 5:22-23

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1jZmQAO

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

“But Pharaoh will not heed you…”

 

When we walk in divine authority, sometimes we expect everyone will simply say yes to us. Yet God tells Moses this is not always the case. It wouldn’t have made for a very exciting story if Moses had asked for Pharaoh to let his people go and Pharaoh just caved in right away and said yes. God specifically hardened Pharaoh’s heart so He could do something MUCH GREATER than simply making Moses’ adversary say yes to his request! If you know God is calling you somewhere, but somebody keeps standing in your way and saying no, don’t get angry. Get excited! God may be getting ready to put His power and glory on display!

 

“…so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.” – Exodus 7:4

 

Prayer:

“Father, don’t let me be discouraged by ‘no,’ and don’t let me settle for ‘yes.’ You have greater things planned for me, and I want to see your power and glory out on display!”

Day 27: Unity

Exodus 4:1-5:21

Matthew 18:1-20

Psalm 22:19-31

Proverbs 5:15-21

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/M2dacN

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

There is tremendous power in unity. When we agree in prayer with a Christian brother or sister and our request lines up with God’s will (1 John 5:14), the Bible tells us we have what we ask. Why? Because when two or more of us are gathered in Jesus’ Name, the Holy Spirit promises He will be in our midst. When we gather in community, the Holy Spirit is present; and when the Holy Spirit is present, the atmosphere changes and prayers get answered. If you don’t have a local church in which you can enjoy community and fellowship, please find one. If you don’t have a Christian brother or sister with whom you can pray, please find one – for your sake and theirs. Bonds like friendship are especially powerful because they guarantee God’s presence. A union like marriage is even more powerful because of the obvious addition of physical intimacy. The enemy knows this; that’s why Satan targets our relationships and makes them as difficult as he possibly can. We must recognize his antics and commit to maintaining unity built on a foundation of unconditional love. The result will be anointed fellowship and powerful prayer that moves mountains and shakes the earth!

 

Prayer:

“Father, give me good Christian brothers and sisters whom I can call friends! Give me an awesome local church full of people whom I can call family! Help me to always contribute to unity, and never break it down. Thank You for the promise that our prayers will be answered when we are united as Your sons and daughters!”

Day 26: Turn Aside and See

Exodus 2:11-3:22

Matthew 17:10-27

Psalm 22:1-18

Proverbs 5:7-14

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1mZ2I4n

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

A burning bush should easily get our attention. Yet when Moses sees the burning bush in Exodus 3, the Bible says that Moses stopped, thought about it, and made a conscious decision to ‘…turn aside and see this great sight’ (v 3). What a calm, calculated decision for someone who’s presented with a BURNING BUSH! Nothing in the Bible is included by accident. What we can’t afford to miss here is that God did not speak to Moses until He ‘…saw that he turned aside to look’ (v 4). The question is this: is God doing anything blatantly, obviously supernatural in your life right now that you’re ignoring? It’s easy to look at the story of Moses at the burning bush and assume that the situation would have had us in awe. But I’d like to argue that God is doing supernatural things all around us every day – things that are obvious and should be hard to miss – but we move on with our lives as if we didn’t even notice. Make the decision to turn aside and focus on what God is doing in your life instead of dwelling on what you think he isn’t doing. When we turn aside and see, God will speak to us.

 

Prayer:

“Father, help me to turn aside and see what you’re doing in my life! I know that you’re moving all around me all the time, and I want to take better notice! Help me to know that as soon as I look at what you’re doing, you will speak to me in Jesus’ Name!”

Day 25: Good for Evil

Genesis 50:1 – Exodus 2:10

Matthew 16:13-17:9

Psalm 21:1-13

Proverbs 5:1-6

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/KWDmp2

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

The way Joseph treats his brothers is a powerful indication of the way Jesus treats us when we come to Him. In Gen 50:15, after the death of Jacob, all of Joseph’s brothers panic and assume he will hate them; yet Joseph responds with grace and intimacy. Joseph not only forgives the wickedness of his brothers, but promises to provide for them – and their entire families! Joseph still loved them because he recognized God’s purpose in everything that had happened (see our post from Day 22 for more: http://bit.ly/1mox8dd). Remember that Joseph is an Old Testament type of Christ. Just as Joseph recognized God’s purpose through his pain and suffering, so does Jesus Christ. Even though we (the human race; you and I are included) condemned the Son of God to death and hung Him on the Cross. Jesus still loves us! When we come to Him asking forgiveness, He not only promises His mercy – He also promises blessing and provision! He promises to provide for our entire household.

 

Prayer:

“Father, thank you for Your grace! Thank you that Jesus Christ paved the way not only for forgiveness and restoration, but also for promotion! Thank You that Your response to my bended knee is understanding and blessing – never anger!”

Day 24: Different Day, Same God

Genesis 48:1-49:33

Matthew 15:29-16:12

Psalm 20:1-9

Proverbs 4:20-27

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1isnUiD

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

In Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus takes 5 loaves and 2 fish and feeds 5,000 men plus women and children. In Matthew 15:32-39, Jesus takes 7 loaves and a ‘few little fish’ and feeds 4,000 men plus women and children. Why include both stories? Why the duplication? The numbers change, but the story is still much the same. Yet nothing in the Bible is included by accident. I believe God included this narrative twice, albeit in slightly different form, to free us from being formulaic in our ministry and in our prayers. We notice a few things in common in both accounts: 1) Jesus was moved with compassion, 2) the bread multiplied as it passed through the hands of Jesus’ disciples (as opposed to Jesus distributing the meal Himself), 3) Jesus thanked His Father for the meal before it was multiplied, and 4) there was more than enough. God does not want our relationship with Him to be formulaic. He doesn’t want our prayer life to be formulaic. He doesn’t want our expectations to depend on how many people are present or the resources we have at our disposal. The number of people present changed in each account, yet in both instances Jesus allowed His compassion to translate into material blessing through the hands of His disciples. When we trust Him to minister through us with compassion to the people around us – no matter how pressing the need or how scarce our resources – the end result will always be abundant provision!

 

Prayer:

“Father, help me to avoid formulas and rituals. I want Your compassion to pass through me to the people around me every single day! Regardless of what I see in front of me, help me to remember that You always provide more than enough.”

 

Day 23: Tradition

Genesis 46:1-47:31

Matthew 15:1-28

Psalm 19:1-14

Proverbs 4:14-19

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1hMCvTn

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

“Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition” (Matt 15:6). Jesus issued this stern rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees because they insisted the Messiah should play by their rules. We must always be cautious to avoid giving tradition and religion prominence over faith and a relationship with God. Tradition is effective and quite obviously worthwhile when it helps us to obey God’s commandments and facilitates a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yet Jesus cautions against erecting false barriers to salvation. The Pharisees had built up a system of rules and regulations for the people of Israel, and one was only considered righteous if he played by their rules. Some Christian denominations have done the same over the past two thousand years, dictating who can be ‘saved’ by adherence to a works-based framework. Yet we know that salvation does not come by works, but by faith (Rom 3:28). Jesus’ question is the same today as it was then: do you know Me? We must always seek to know Jesus; only by knowing Him can we truly follow His commands. New behavior can never produce change; we must let Him change us first if we ever want to behave differently.

 

Prayer:

“Father, I know you gave Your Only Son – Your Most Prized Possession – for me. Help me to embrace Your grace. There is nothing I can ever do to earn Your favor, and nothing I have to do to earn Your love. You love me as I am. Change me into the child You want me to be!”

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