Day 90: Joining Jesus

Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20

Luke 9:7-27

Psalm 72:1-20

Proverbs 12:8-9

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

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

“And it happened, as He was alone praying, that His disciples joined Him…” (Lk 9:18). Jesus’ disciples found out where He was praying, and joined Him. They didn’t just start praying on their own and wait to see if God would join in; they found out what the Holy Spirit was already doing and piled on. Too often in life, we just do (pray) what we want to do (pray), and ask God to bless it. Instead, God wants us to pay attention to what He’s already doing and simply join in!

 

Prayer:

Father, help me to jump heart-first into what You’re already up to. When my actions and prayers align with Your will, everything my hand touches will be blessed. Thank You!!!

Day 89: Helping or Hurting?

Deuteronomy 13:1-15:23

Luke 8:40-9:6

Psalm 71:1-24

Proverbs 12:5-7

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

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

“But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well’” (Lk 8:50). Fear is the enemy of belief. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7). Jairus knew Jesus could heal his daughter. His family members, however, did not share that knowledge. They chose to doubt, so what did Jesus do? He put them all outside (Lk 8:54). He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead in the presence of a select few individuals, including her parents. Is there anyone around you – friend, family or acquaintance – who is damaging your faith? Is there anyone around you filling your mind with fear? Put them outside. Give Jesus the chance to work in an atmosphere of faith, and watch the miraculous unfold before your eyes!

 

Prayer:

Father, help me to differentiate myself from those people in my life who take away from, rather than add to, my faith. I want to be around faith builders. I want to be around praisers! Give me a good church where that kind of community is my everyday reality!

Day 88: To Work, Or Not to Work…

Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32

Luke 8:22-39

Psalm 70:1-5

Proverbs 12:4

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/P9jalv

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

“For the land which you go to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you have come, where you sowed your seed and watered it by foot, as a vegetable garden; but the land which you cross over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven, a land for which the Lord your God cares…” (Deut 11:10-12). There is a difference between laboring and co-laboring. You have a choice when it comes to your life’s work: do you want to work on your own, or do you want to work with God? When we work on our own, we are no different than everyone else around us, caught up in the ‘rat race.’ When we work with God, however, He promises to care for what we do. He promises to rain down resources from heaven so that everything to which we put our hand will be blessed. Is that an offer you can refuse?

 

Prayer:

Father, I want to partner with You! I know that when I yield to Your will, purpose and vision for my life, You will open up the windows of heaven and pour out for me such blessing that there will not be room enough to contain it. Bless my work, Lord!

Day 87: Stay Thirsty!

Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22

Luke 8:4-21

Psalm 69:19-36

Proverbs 12:2-3

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1h1gUD9

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

“Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture” (Luke 8:6). In today’s text, Jesus tells His disciples the Parable of the Sower. He explains that the “…ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away” (Lk 8:13). Jesus is describing Christians who hear the Gospel message and enthusiastically accept Jesus Christ right away; but when the going gets rough and enduring faith is required, they fall away. Notice the necessary condition to growing good roots as explained by Jesus in v 6: moisture. In Scripture, water is used to represent the Holy Spirit. When many Christians first accept Jesus (‘get saved’), they do it in a ‘moist’ atmosphere: full of God’s Presence. All too often, we lose the initial excitement of that experience, and our faith dries up. The remedy is renewed intimacy with God. As individuals, we need to remain in close contact with God by praying with His Holy Spirit. As churches, we need to foster a value and respect for God’s Presence in corporate worship by allowing the Holy Spirit to work among us. Stay thirsty, church!

 

Prayer:

Father, thank You for Your Holy Spirit! I want to be consumed by Your Presence, saturated with Your Holy Spirit, and more intimate with You than I have ever been. I know I have those things when I ask for them in Jesus’ Name!

Day 86: Don’t Despise the Process

Deuteronomy 7:1-8:20

Luke 7:36-8:3

Psalm 69:1-18

Proverbs 12:1

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

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

In Deuteronomy 8, God discloses His purpose for leading Israel through the wilderness. Had the children of Israel been obedient, their journey to the Promised Land would have been short. Because of their disobedience (failure to heed God’s leading), God brought them through a 40-year process “…that He might humble [them] and that He might test [them], to do [them] good in the end” (Deut 8:16). Even after Israel came into the Promised Land, God disclosed that He would only drive out their enemies ‘little by little’ (Deut 7:22). If God drove out all Israel’s enemies at once, the land would be desolate and overrun with wild animals. The pace, while slower than Israel wanted, was actually in the nation’s best interest. The lack of immediate deliverance did not negate God’s promise that He would give them the land – but it did reiterate that it would be according to His timing, not theirs. Whenever we find ourselves in the middle of a process, we must be patient. Retrace your steps; recall the last instructions God gave you and make sure you follow through on them. Beyond that, do your best to understand that you are in the middle of a process that will do you good in the end.

 

Prayer:

Father, help me to enjoy the process You have me in! Thank You that you train me as a child, and not as a brute. Thank You that the Blood of Jesus Christ allows You to show me compassion, even when I deserve rebuke. Thank You for being gentle with me!

Day 85: He Brought You Out to Bring You In

Deuteronomy 5:1-6:25

Luke 7:11-35

Psalm 68:19-35

Proverbs 11:29-31

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1m4yZoK

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

“Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers” (Deut 6:23). God brought the people of Israel out of bondage to bring them in to relationship. God actually intended to give His people more of His Presence; but it was His people who were afraid of His Presence and asked Moses to intercede on their behalf (Deut 5:23-27). If God wanted to dwell among His people under the Old Covenant, how much more does He want to dwell with us under the New! God has brought you out of bondage so that He might bring you in to relationship with Him. He has rescued you from sin so that He might bring you in to a life of fulfillment through devotion to Him. He has set you free so that you can live without fear! Salvation is not an end goal; it is an entry point – a first step. Once we are saved, God wants us to experience even more of Him. Say yes to more of God!

 

Prayer:

Father, I say YES to more of You! I know You desire intimate relationship with me, and I declare in Jesus’ Mighty Name that I want intimate relationship with You!

Day 84: Planks and Specks

Deuteronomy 4:1-49

Luke 6:39-7:10

Psalm 68:1-18

Proverbs 11:28

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

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

“First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Lk 6:42). How quickly do you point out flaws in other people? When we judge (point out flaws in) others, we do something that not even Jesus Christ Himself was willing to do while He was alive (John 3:17)! In today’s text, Jesus encourages us to be like Him by loving others: no matter what the cost. God calls us to make a distinction between people and their actions. He calls us to maintain the ability to love a person, even if we loathe his actions. The Bible calls us to forgive others, no matter what the cost. The Bible also calls us to forgive ourselves, because even the God of the universe has already extended us the promise that He forgives us!

 

Prayer:

Father, help me to love people no matter what the cost: even if I don’t like their actions. You love me no matter what I do; I need to extend the same compassion to other people, but I need Your help to do it! Strengthen me, Lord!

Make Your Marriage Perfect

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Make Your Marriage Perfect’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 3/23/2014, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/NLgDx7

The Challenge

Spoiler alert: your marriage will never be perfect. That does not mean, however, that you shouldn’t try to make your marriage as close to perfect as you possibly can! When it comes to our lives, we should seek to emulate the only Man who was ever perfect: Jesus Christ. When it comes to our marriages, we should seek to emulate God’s design for perfect marriage.

God lays out His blueprint for marital bliss in Ephesians 5:22-33 (read Eph 5:22-23 here). This is one of the most challenging texts to preach in church today because of society’s view of marriage (we’ll spend more time on that later). The goal with this discussion isn’t to give you rules to follow, but rather to change your thinking. Whenever we think about marriage, we tend to think about our rights: what am I owed by my spouse, and how is (s)he coming up short? Instead, we should focus on our responsibilities: how can I be a better husband/wife?

One of my least favorite words in the English language is ‘deserve.’ I know my distaste for it is quite unpopular because it’s such a popular word. When we work hard, we deserve a vacation. When we work out, we deserve dessert. But the Bible is about grace (unmerited favor), which by definition can never be earned or deserved. ‘Deserve’ is actually ‘de – serve.’ The prefix ‘de’ means to ‘distance or remove yourself from.’ So, when we take the posture that we deserve something, we are actually canceling our ability to serve. When it comes to marriage, we should never think about what we ‘deserve,’ but always ask ourselves, ‘How can I serve better?’

Eph 5:22-33 covers three themes: the wife, the husband and the union. Let’s take a look.

The Wife

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. – Eph 5:22-24

Let’s start out by stating the obvious: the word ‘submit’ makes us all extremely uncomfortable. ‘Submit’ has a negative connotation. When we think of submission, we think of inhumane treatment. We think of bending to a will that is not our own, even though it is completely against our wishes. I’d like to try and change the way you think about that word.

Submit means ‘to accept or yield to the will of another person’ (source: Google dictionary). But it also means ‘to present to a person or body for consideration’ (source: Google dictionary). When you submit, you actually position yourself to receive something favorable. As part of the application process for a new job, you submit an application. Once you get that job, you receive promotion. As part of the application process for school, you do the same thing. If you want to receive wisdom at school, you need to submit your name for consideration. If you want to be considered for an award, you guessed it – you need to submit your name to be considered as the potential recipient of the honor associated with that award. In order to assume a posture that makes you capable of receiving something favorable, you need to submit. When a wife ‘submits,’ she is not bowing to the will of an abusive husband; if the husband and wife honor each other, she is actually positioning herself to receive the honor and blessing that come with a Biblical marriage.

The wife has a very tough task in front of her, and I will be the first person to acknowledge that. Submission requires complete and total trust. When we submit our lives to Jesus Christ, it is because we trust in Him for salvation. When wives submit their lives to husbands, they have to fully trust them.

Husbands, this is where you come in. Before you can expect your wife to submit to you, you have to be worthy of submission. Submission is not a right, but a responsibility: you need to become a God-fearing man whom your wife can trust with her life. It’s not up to you to tell your wife she needs to submit to you. It’s up to her to accept God’s counsel and decide she needs to submit to you. You worry about becoming the best man, husband and father you can be, and let your wife worry about following this Biblical mandate for herself. If you prove you’re a leader with a soft heart, she will have no problem following you – without you asking. Ultimately, your wife is submitting to God’s design; not yours. God will change her and soften her heart to the idea of Biblical submission, which means you don’t have to. You have your work cut out for you as it is.

The Husband

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. – Eph 5:25-29

Between the husband and wife, the former really has a tougher responsibility than the latter. Don’t get me wrong: the wife has a very tough job. However, let’s think about what God is actually asking of husbands. God asks men to ‘…love your wives…as Christ loved the Church.’ What did Jesus do for His bride, the church? He DIED! He endured unending agony and suffered and died so she could be free. So wives, your job is to submit. Husbands, your job is to die. I don’t know about you, but I’d take the former over the latter.

Husbands, this is where you come in. Don’t worry about ‘making’ your wife submit or ‘convincing’ her to follow you. If you lead properly, she will have no problem accepting this passage. Jesus never forces anyone to love Him or to follow His lead. He showed His magnificent love for us in the greatest act of compassion the world has ever seen, and then allowed us to make our own decision for Him. We should treat our wives the same way.

Wives, don’t worry about turning your husband into a better leader. If you demonstrate you’re willing to follow, he will become a better leader. So, let’s stick to ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements. When it comes to improving your marriage, there is always work that you can do personally.

The husband’s primary responsibility as outlined in Eph 5:26-27 is becoming the spiritual leader of his household. As husbands, we need to provide an atmosphere where our wives can grow and flourish: without spot, without wrinkle and without blemish. We need to ‘cleanse’ our wives ‘with the washing of water by the word.’ That means several things, and all of them are going to take some work: 1) the husband needs to know his Bible better than anyone else in the family, 2) he needs to be the leader when it comes to prayer (NOT just before you eat), and 3) He needs to be the leader when it comes to displaying grace and unconditional love for everyone in his family, especially his wife.

Too often, the wife (mother) is the member of the household who takes spiritual responsibility for the family. Maybe dad goes out and plays golf while mom takes the kids to church. Maybe dad relaxes and reads (or watches football) while mom teaches the kids about Bible stories. Whatever shape it takes, this is a trend that we need to reverse. The Promise Keepers website has an amazing statistic: “When a child is the first to attend church, 3.5% of the families follow. When a wife/mom is the first to attend church, 17% of the families follow. When a dad/husband is the first to attend church, 93% of the families follow” (source: promisekeepers.org). If we want our families to follow Biblical mandates, we (husbands & fathers) have to be the ones to commit to loving God and His Word. We have to lead by example, knowing that as we lead our families will follow.

The Union

For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Eph 5:30-33

The perfect union between husband and wife is based on three things as illustrated in the passage above: mutual need, mutual honor and mutual dependence.

Mutual Need: Paul’s teaching on the necessity of different members of the church body is also applicable to healthy marriages:

But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. – 1 Cor 12:20-26

The husband and wife are designed as equals – but with different functions. Healthy functioning of the union is dependent on healthy functioning of both parties that contribute to the union. Each part of the body is also dependent on the healthy functioning of the other body parts. The human body serves as our example. Our bodies cannot survive without the brain sending messages to every body part, to regulate functions and allocate resources and energy. In the same way, we can’t survive without the heart pumping blood throughout our entire bodies. The same can be said for the stomach digesting food, or other internal organs processing waste. The marriage union requires a healthy husband and a healthy wife, working together to achieve health for the overall organism. No individual is more valuable to the union than the other, just as no body part is more valuable to the whole organism than any other. Husbands and wives need to recognize each other’s significance and work together.

Mutual honor: The text above also describes a process whereby church leaders must intentionally honor those members who ‘seem to be’ less honorable. The same truth is applicable to marriages. Society is set up in such a way that husbands naturally receive greater honor than wives. I’m not saying this is right; I’m just stating that it’s a fact, like it or not. Husbands & fathers receive accolades publically and often; wives do not typically share that luxury. It is important, therefore, that we honor our wives. As the head, the husband is uncovered and receives public glory. As the body, the wife is covered. As husbands, we must receive go out of our way to intentionally honor our wives. So, if you want your wife to invest more in your marriage, honor her more.

Mutual dependence: Husband and wives need each other to function properly within the marriage union. However, they should not be mutually dependent. A Biblical marriage is market by mutual dependence on JESUS CHRIST; not on each other. Husband and wife must rely on Jesus Christ as individuals, so that when they come together in the marriage union they will rely on Him as a couple.

The Trap

Both in the church community and outside of it, we see people get married for the wrong reasons all too often. The principal offender in this area rears its ugly head when two people get married as a solution to unhappiness. An unhappy man and an unhappy woman create an unhappy union. There is no canceling effect, as when multiplying two negatives in mathematics. Marriage is an exercise in addition. Two negatives, when added together, produce a more negative number.

Unfortunately, if you get married and expect your spouse to make you happy, you’re setting both yourself and your future spouse up for failure. Joy and happiness are attributes that only God can provide. In Psalm 16:11, David recounts to God that “…In [His] presence is fullness of joy…[and] and [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore. As finite human beings, we cannot provide for each other something that can only be provided by an infinite God. If we seek happiness from our spouse, we might as well be driving a Mack truck over a bridge made out of popsicle sticks and glue. Neither the husband, nor the wife, nor the marriage union, is designed to bear that much weight. Only God can make you happy, so please don’t ask your spouse to provide something that he or she can never ultimately provide.

Far too often, we use marriage as a vehicle for personal satisfaction. That is a good part of the reason why divorce is so prevalent. If a husband or a wife isn’t happy, he or she feels the need to escape the relationship, and the court system is ready and willing to satisfy that request without so much as batting an eyelash.

Edwin Friedman describes something he calls the ‘myth of incompatibility’ in his book ‘Generation to Generation.’ The idea that we have adopted as a society is that if marriage isn’t easy, the pair involved must not be compatible. Instead of working towards a solution, both parties hit the eject button after swallowing the lie that the marriage won’t ever work between them.

Marriage is hard work. It’s such hard work, in fact, that Paul recommended in his letter to the church at Corinth that everyone should stay single (1 Cor 7:7-8)! The Bible is the resource that provides us with motivation to make any struggling marriage work, along with a plan for making it happen.

The Way Out: God’s Design for Marriage

Instead of satisfaction, seek sacrifice. Jesus Christ died for the church. As husbands and wives, we must die to ourselves so that we can be alive for each other. When my wife and I were in premarital counseling at our church (THANK YOU Shawn & Sarah Martin!!!), we read a book called “Marriage on the Rock” by Jimmy and Karen Evans. The authors reinforced the fact that husbands and wives are equal, but distinct. Man’s chief need is honor: husbands all want a wife who makes him feel like a king. Woman’s chief need is safety: wives all want a husband who is a strong leader with a soft heart. When we don’t agree to follow God’s design for marriage as outlined in Ephesians 5, we aren’t respecting the way we’re designed. When we don’t respect our design, we dishonor God’s purpose for us. And when we don’t honor God’s purpose for us, we will never be happy.

Sacrifice is the answer to marital bliss. Stop focusing on yourself. These are all questions that should be banished from your thought repertoire during self-reflection: ‘Am I happy? Am I getting everything out of this marriage that I want to? Is my husband/wife meeting my needs?’

Instead, start focusing on your spouse. What can you do to make this marriage better?

The Biblical model for marriage is absolutely beautiful. When you try to achieve happiness for yourself, 1) it will feel like a lot of work and 2) it will never be attainable. However, if you’re trying to make your spouse happy, 1) it will feel effortless and 2) you will find yourself insanely happy as a by-product of your sacrifice. If a husband and a wife are constantly bending over backwards to meet each other’s needs, two things will happen: they will both be incredibly happy, and that happiness will feel absolutely effortless.

The Gospel

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. – Matt 16:25

Jesus’ message to us is simple: if you seek to live for yourself you will be miserable, but if you seek to live for Him you will find indescribable joy. Those are our choices in marriage as well. If you want to live to honor God, you have to start with honoring your spouse.

- 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 83: Go and Do It

Deuteronomy 2:1-3:29

Luke 6:12-38

Psalm 67:1-7

Proverbs 11:27

For full text click here: http://bit.ly/1h0VWJ4

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

“And the Lord spoke to me, saying: ‘You have skirted this mountain long enough…’” (Deut 2:2-3). We have been talking in service about hearing from God a lot lately. One of the most common questions we get is, ‘How can I hear from God more?’ Our initial response is usually, ‘What did you do the last time He spoke to you?’ Retrace your steps, and recall the last instructions God gave you. Did He tell you to look for a new job? Did He tell you to call a family member you haven’t spoken to in years? Did He ask you to stop and share the Gospel with someone on the street or on the train? Go back and do that thing He has been calling you to do. Don’t overthink it; just get it done. We tend to rationalize our way out of obedience. Once it’s done, God will flood your life with new direction and instruction.

 

Prayer:

Father, thank You for speaking to me! Help me to go back and do that thing You have been calling me to do for years. I have skirted this mountain long enough; it’s time to act on Your Word and Your Will in Jesus’ Name!

Day 82: Healing in Church?!

Numbers 36:1-Deuteronomy 1:46

Luke 5:29-6:11

Psalm 66:1-20

Proverbs 11:24-26

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

 

CityLight Pastor Commentary:

“So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath” (Lk 6:7). Jesus heals on the Sabbath. If you are seeking healing, there is no better place to go than church. Signs, miracles and wonders point to Jesus. They prove that God is real, and that He loves His children. The Bible records many Sabbath miracles, and Jesus demonstrates His power to members and guests alike every Sunday in service. So, if you need healing this morning, head to church!

 

Prayer:

Father, thank You that You have equipped us – Your body and Your children – with authority and power. Thank You that You have made us chosen vessels, through whom You heal Your children. I want to see people healed in church!

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