Denise’s 28-Day Journey
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Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. — Galatians 6:2Not so long ago, a precious woman in our congregation came to church looking sad and depressed. It was unusual to see her this way, because she was normally cheerful and full of faith. She sat in her chair, dropped her head, and began to weep. I wanted to go to her right then, but she had come into the service late, and I was on stage getting ready to step up to the pulpit to preach. As I delivered my message, I kept glancing in her direction to see if she was still crying. Her head remained clutched in her hands, and I could see that she was sobbing about something that was greatly burdening her heart. When the service concluded, I went with my pastoral staff into the foyer to shake hands with people who were leaving the service. Soon she appeared in the line with heavy red eyes and a countenance that told me she was heartbroken over something. I pulled her out of the line and called for my precious wife. Soon the two of them were sitting alone at the far end of the foyer where they could talk without anyone overhearing the conversation. The woman told Denise that her husband, who had been delivered from alcoholism, had started to drink again. That weekend he had been violent toward her and verbally abusive toward the children, acting like the old man he used to be. The woman’s heart was simply crushed, but by the time she and Denise were finished talking and praying together, her face had lightened up, her countenance had changed, and it was evident that God had stirred hope in her heart for her family. I often think of how many church members come to church burdened by the cares of life. Perhaps the burdens they carry are due to finances, marriage, friendships, a problem at work, a child who is rebellious or who is running from God, a death in the family — the list of potential problems people face goes on and on. It saddens me to think of the vast number of churchgoers who come into their church services feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders. These people wish that someone would help them or pray with them, but no one ever asks how they are doing. Never having an opportunity to tell anyone what is happening in their lives, they frequently leave a service just as burdened as they were when they first walked through the church doors. Have you ever been so burdened by the cares of life that you thought you might be crushed by the weight of it all? Did you wish someone would crawl under that load and help you carry it? Perhaps you can remember times when you cried out to God, Please send someone to help me with these things that I’m dealing with in my life right now! In Galatians 6:2, the apostle Paul tells us, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” Answer this question: When are we supposed to help bear someone else’s burden? The word “burden” in this verse comes from the Greek word baros. It refers to a weight that is heavy or crushing. In fact, the word baros describes such a crushing weight that Paul used this same word in Second Corinthians 1:8 when he wrote about the terrible problems he and his traveling companions underwent in Asia. Paul wrote that these difficulties were of such a stressful nature that the men literally felt as if they were “pressed out of measure.” In Second Corinthians 5:4, he used the word baros once more when he said, “…[We] do groan, being burdened….” Again, this word refers to a load so heavy that it causes a person to feel that he is burdened or weighed down. The word baros could refer to either a physical or a spiritual problem. For instance, this type of pressing burden could be a habitual sin that has plagued you and weighed you down year after year. Satan may try to use these kinds of weaknesses and faults to hinder or completely abort God’s plan for your life. That’s why it’s so important that these “burdens” be dealt with and defeated. If you are unable to do it alone, you need to seek the help of others to pull you through to a place of victory. The point Paul is making here is that when a fellow believer is under a crushing weight — when he is under so much pressure that he feels like he’ll break if someone doesn’t get under that load and help him carry it — it is our Christian responsibility to help bear his burden, “…and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
In Galatians 6:2, the Greek expresses the following:
“When someone is burdened by crushing cares and difficult events in life that are too much for one person to carry all by himself, crawl up under that burden and help that person carry it, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”I want to encourage you today to be sensitive to the needs of others who are around you. When you go to church, go to work, or even spend time with your family and friends, ask the Holy Spirit to help you see when people are carrying too much by themselves. If you discern that they are burdened, go to them and ask, How can I pray for you today? What is happening in your life? God may use you to bring real relief and freedom into someone’s situation. Perhaps just providing a listening ear is all that is needed to help that person get through his or her dilemma. On the other hand, if an overwhelming problem, weakness, habit, or sin is pressing down on your life, you need to be humble enough to say, Hey, I need someone to pray with me! This is too much for me to do completely by myself! It may be difficult for you to open your heart and reveal your need, but it will be far more difficult for you to carry it alone until you eventually become emotionally devastated by that burden. As brothers and sisters in the Lord, we need to do everything we can to step deeply into people’s lives in order to encourage and refresh them spiritually and to help them get through their problems. When we see someone struggling, we must be bold enough to ask that person how we can help! When we work together as a Body in this way, every need will be addressed and met!
My Prayer for TodayLord, I am asking You to help me be sensitive to the needs of other people. Help me to stop being so self-consumed with my own concerns that I am negligent in recognizing the needs of people around me who need help and prayer. Holy Spirit, help me see through the masks people tend to wear to cover up what is really happening in their lives. Give me the wisdom to know how to approach people who need strength and encouragement.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that I am sensitive to the needs of people who are around me. I see when they hurt; I recognize the times when they’re struggling; and I am a blessing to them in their time of need. God’s Spirit is helping me to become a better minister and servant to help meet the needs in other people’s lives. I am attentive, caring, and Christ-like in the way I deal with others. What Jesus does for me is what I am becoming to other people.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Have there been situations in your life when you thought you might break under the weight you were trying to carry by yourself? When that happened, did anyone come to you and ask how he or she might help or pray for your needs? 2. Have you ever gone to others to see how you could help them through the situations they were enduring? Or have you been too self-consumed to remember that other people have needs too? 3. Do you know of individuals you should check on today to see what you can do to help them through a situation they are facing? In what ways can you be a strength or an encouragement to them?
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. — James 1:19One of the biggest lessons to learn in life is to know when you need to be quiet and when you need to speak up. For instance, if someone over you in authority is trying to tell you something, that’s a time for you to be quiet and listen to what the authority is attempting to tell you. In order to really hear what he or she is trying to communicate, you have to stop talking! Listening and talking at the same time almost always guarantees that you are going to miss important facts and details. In James 1:19, the Bible says, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” The word “swift” in this verse is the Greek word tachus. It can be used to depict a runner who runs as fast as he can so he can reach the finish line before his competitors. Because this runner fiercely wants to win the race, he puts everything else out of his mind, focuses on the finish line, and then presses forward to obtain the first-place prize.
Because of the word tachus, the first part of James 1:19 could be rendered:
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, set your focus on becoming a good listener — and do it with all your might, as if you are in a competition to win the race of being the best listener.…”James is telling us that we should desire to win “first place” when it comes to listening! Because the word tachus depicts a runner that is totally focused on reaching the finish line, James lets us know that it takes effort to slow our minds down so we can hear what other people are trying to communicate to us. I am referring to that moment when we deliberately quiet our minds and shut our mouths in order to intentionally listen to and digest what someone else is endeavoring to tell us. This is a challenge for any of us who have busy minds and a lot of details in our lives to think about. Take me, for example. If I don’t make the choice to slow down and really focus on what someone is telling me, I know I will miss much of what he or she is trying to communicate. My mind is busy all the time. I have a church to pastor, a ministry to oversee, and television programs to film. I go on ministry trips that take me all over the world. I am constantly writing books. Besides all that, I am a husband and father. I rarely have a moment when I don’t have some important matter pressing heavily on my mind. I’ve learned that I must discipline myself to listen to what people are saying to me. Otherwise, they’ll think I’m listening when, in reality, I’m about a million miles away in my thoughts. Just because I’m looking into their eyes doesn’t mean I’m really listening. If I’m going to hear what they’re communicating, I have to push everything else out of my mind and deliberately focus on what they’re saying. This is a matter of discipline that I’ve had to work at developing in my life. I made a decision years ago that if a person believes he has something important enough to say to me, the least I can do is give him the courtesy of listening. Even if I don’t agree with what he’s saying or want to do what he’s asking, I should respect him enough to hear him out. To pretend I’m listening when I’m not is simply rude. Through the years I’ve had to train myself to be a listener. To make sure I’ve really heard the point being made to me, I often stop and repeat the conversation to the person speaking to me. I ask the person:
- “Is this what you’re trying to tell me?”
- “Is this the point you’re making to me today?”
- “Is this what you want me to get from this conversation?”
- “Is this what you want me to do after we’re done talking?”
- “Is this how I need to respond?”
- “Is there anything else I need to know about this?”
So make it a top priority to become a superb listener. Learn how to digest the information other people are trying so desperately to communicate to you!
My Prayer for TodayLord, it is true that I need to learn how to be a better listener. Forgive me for the times I’ve inconvenienced others and messed up their plans because I didn’t carefully listen to the instructions that everyone else obviously understood. I recognize that this is a flaw in my life. Starting today, I want to discipline myself to become a top-notch listener. For me to do this, I know I’ll have to break the habit of thinking about other things when people are trying to talk to me. So I’m turning to You to help me silence my mind, listen to others, digest what they are saying, and become a better team player!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that I am quick to hear what others are trying to tell me, and I don’t interrupt them when they are speaking. I am a first-place runner when it comes to listening to others. Because God’s Spirit is helping me, I am getting better and better in this area of my life. As a result, I am an effective team player, and others enjoy working with me.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Have you ever tried to talk to someone who you knew wasn’t really listening to you? How did it make you feel? Did you think that person really cared about what you were saying to him or her? 2. Are you a good listener? Are you able to remember what others have told you? If your answer is no, what are you going to do to develop better listening skills? 3. Can you think of someone at work, at church, or in your family who constantly makes mistakes because he doesn’t clearly listen to the instructions that are given to him? What kind of inconvenience does this create for everyone?
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. — Ephesians 6:10In yesterday’s Sparkling Gem, we began looking at the kinds of power that God has made available to every believer. As noted yesterday, He has provided two kinds of power for every Christian. The first is kratos power, which is a demonstrative, eruptive, manifested power. But today we will look at a second word in Ephesians 6:10 that describes a second kind of power made available to the believer. In Ephesians 6:10, Paul says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” The word “might” is taken from the word ischuos, and it conveys the picture of a very, very strong man, such as a bodybuilder or a mighty man with great muscular capabilities. Now Paul applies this picture of a strong, muscular man, not to himself, but to God. Paul pictures God as One who is able, mighty, and muscular. Let me ask you — is there anyone more powerful than God? Is there any force in the universe equal to the muscular ability of God? Consider this:
- With one stroke of the hand, God’s mighty arm released so much creative power that the entire universe was flung into being.
- With one stroke of the hand, God’s mighty arm discharged such incredible force that the civilized world of Noah’s day was flooded and an entire period of civilization was wiped out.
- With one stroke of God’s mighty arm, Egypt’s rebellion against Him was crushed beyond recognition, and the children of Israel were set free.
- With one stroke of God’s mighty arm, the wicked powers of the heavenlies were forcibly shoved aside, and although it was physically and medically impossible, Jesus was conceived and miraculously born from a virgin’s womb.
- With one stroke of God’s mighty arm, His power surged into the throes of hell itself, where it ripped Jesus out of the pangs of death, stripped demonic principalities and powers naked, and made a public display of their embarrassing defeat.
- When the mighty arm of God moved on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came as a “rushing mighty wind” and filled the Upper Room with His awesome power, supernaturally enabling the disciples to preach the Word with signs and wonders following.
These words in Ephesians 6:10 are so powerful that they convey this idea:
“Be strong in the Lord and in the powerful, outwardly demonstrated ability that works in you as a result of God’s great muscular ability that is working behind the scenes.”
All that God is, all the power He possesses, and all the energy of His muscular, mighty ability now energizes the kratos power that is at work within you. With this power at your disposal today, you can confront the unseen demonic spirits that come to wage war against your flesh and your soul — and you can win every time! Since this power is available to you today, you are ready to lay hands on the sick, pray with power and authority, speak the word of faith in every situation, and see mountains move on your behalf!So the next time you run into a problem that seems a little overwhelming, remind yourself that “…greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). You have no need to be afraid and no need to shrink back in timidity, for there’s enough power at work in you to resist any force that comes against you and to supernaturally remedy anything that needs to be changed!
My Prayer for TodayLord, I am so thankful that Your muscles are the backup for the power that operates in my life! Just as Your mighty arm created the universe, divided the Red Sea, destroyed the Egyptians, ripped Jesus from the throes of hell, and raised Him from the dead, I know that now this mighty power also works in me. Help me learn how to flow with this power and allow it to be released through my life so I can be a bigger blessing to people who are around me.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI boldly confess that all that God is, all the power He possesses, and all the energy of His muscular, mighty ability now energizes me! With this power at my disposal, I confront every spirit that comes to wage war against me. I lay hands on the sick and see them recover; I pray with power and authority; I speak the word of faith to every situation I face. Therefore, mountains move on my behalf! Greater is He who is in me than he that is in the world. I have no need to be afraid, and I don’t shrink back in timidity, because there’s enough power at work in me to resist any force that comes against me and to supernaturally remedy anything that is out of God’s order in my life!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Can you name a time in your life when you suddenly felt so energized and quickened by the Spirit of God that it was as if a river of power flowed through you to help you get something important accomplished? When did that happen, and what triggered the release of that power? 2. Do you deliberately pray for God’s power to operate in your life? If so, do you expect your prayer to be answered? If you don’t pray for God’s power to be operative in your life, why not? 3. Why don’t you take a few minutes to remember the miracles you have personally witnessed in your life?
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. — Ephesians 6:10In Ephesians 6:10, the apostle Paul gives us some very important insight into the kind of power God has made available to every believer — including you! This is really important for you to understand because it describes the kind of power that God wants to operate through you, so be sure to carefully read every word of this Sparkling Gem. First, let me remind you that Ephesians 6:10 is a verse about the supernatural power God has made available for our fight with unseen, demonic powers that come to war against the soul. The word “strong” used at the first of this verse is taken from the word endunamao, which describes a power whose purpose is to infuse a believer with an excessive dose of inward strength. This particular type of endunamao power is so strong that it can withstand any attack and successfully oppose any kind of force (see January 12). A historical study of this word proves its supernatural nature. It was used by early writers from the Greek classical periods to denote special individuals, like Hercules, who had been handpicked by the gods and supernaturally invested with superhuman strength in order to accomplish a superhuman task. Now Paul uses this word endunamao to tell us that God has made this kind of supernatural strength available to believers in Jesus Christ! Let’s see what else Paul tells us about this power. In Ephesians 6:10, he says, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Especially notice the words “power” and “might.” Today we will look at the word “power,” and tomorrow we will look at the word “might.” The word “power” is taken from the Greek word kratos, and it describes what I have come to call demonstrated power. In other words, kratos power is not a power that one merely adheres to and believes in intellectually. Rather, this kratos power is a power that is demonstrative, eruptive, and tangible. It almost always comes with some type of external, outward manifestation that one can actually see with his or her eyes. This means that kratos power is not a hypothetical power; this is real power! Ephesians 1:19,20 declares that when God raised Jesus from the dead, He used this very same kratos power to do the job! It says, “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power [kratos], which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead.…” The King James Version is a bit reversed from the original Greek. The Greek says, “…according to the power of his might.…” Why is this difference so important? Because the phrase “the power of his might” is the same identical phrase used in Ephesians 6:10 to denote the power that is working behind the scenes to energize us! This power that God used when He raised Jesus from the dead is the same, exact, identical power that is now at work in us. That means we have resurrection power working in our lives! Kratos power is so overwhelming that the Roman soldiers who guarded Jesus’ tomb on that resurrection morning fainted and crumbled to the ground beneath the full load of this divine force. And the soldiers continued to lie prostrate on the ground, paralyzed and unable to move, until the resurrection was complete. This kratos power was indomitable, overpowering, and irresistible on that day long ago. Flooding the grave where Jesus’ dead body lay, this conquering power permeated every dead cell and fiber of His body with divine life until it was impossible for death to hold Him any longer! God’s kratos power was so overwhelming that, had we been present at the resurrection, we would have felt the ground trembling as this electrifying force entered the tomb where Jesus’ body lay. The power that raised Jesus from the dead was an eruptive power, a demonstrated power, an outwardly visible power. It was the strongest kind of power known to God or man. And now Paul uses this very word to describe the power that is available for our use! With this empowering Presence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives, we can expect the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead to operate in us! Remember, this is a demonstrated or outwardly manifested kind of power, so when this power begins to operate in us, it immediately seeks an avenue of release so it can demonstrate itself. So turn up your level of expectation! Start anticipating that this mighty power of God will begin to flow through you!
My Prayer for TodayLord, I thank You for making such power available to me. Now I see that I have no excuse to ever complain that I am weak, for You have placed at my disposal the very power of the resurrection itself. Teach me how to tap into that power so it can be released in my life. I know that this power is the answer for many people’s needs and that You want it to flow through me. Holy Spirit, as my Great Teacher, please teach me how to open my heart wide so the river of Your divine goodness can flow through me.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that God’s indomitable, overpowering, conquering, and irresistible power flows through me! The very power that raised Jesus from the dead resides and operates in my life. It is an eruptive power; it is a demonstrated power; and it is an outwardly visible power — the strongest kind of power known to God or man. With this empowering Presence of the Holy Spirit working in me, I expect the power that raised Jesus from the dead to operate in my life. I deliberately turn up my level of expectation and anticipate this mighty power of God to begin to flow through me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. If you were asked to give a personal testimony regarding a time in your life when you actually experienced a special touch of God’s supernatural power, what experience would you talk about? Could you relate more than one experience? 2. What do you imagine it was like for the soldiers on resurrection morning? What do you think they felt, saw, or heard as the power of God surged into that tomb and raised Jesus from the dead? 3. If you could choose to witness any kind of miracle, what kind would you want to see?
When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. — John 6:5,6After ministering to multitudes for numerous days, Jesus and His disciples privately retreated to the top of a mountainside just outside Jerusalem. It was the time of the feast, and before He and the twelve entered the city, “…Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples” (John 6:3). The word “sat” is the Greek word kathemai, implying that they reclined on the slopes of the mountainside. Certainly they must have been tired, because they had been ministering to multitudes of people who were following them for many days. So before Jesus and His men entered Jerusalem to resume their ministry activities, they took a break on top of a mountain apart from the crowd, where they could enjoy a cool, refreshing breeze and a welcome rest. Suddenly, “…Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him…” (John 6:5). The word “saw” is from the word theaomai, our word for a theater. It means to really look, like a patron who attends a play and carefully watches every act, listening attentively to every word because he doesn’t want to miss anything important in the play. By using this word, John lets us know that Jesus carefully looked out at this crowd in amazement — observing the entire scene, analyzing the size of the crowd, and determining what needed to be done for them. The words “great company” in Greek are the words polus ochlos. These are exactly the same words used to describe the massive number of soldiers who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (see April 4). This was a massive crowd of people. As that vast crowd marched toward Jesus on the mountainside, Jesus turned to Philip and asked, “…Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” (John 6:5). The word “buy” is the Greek word agoradzo, from the word agora, which describes a marketplace. When it becomes the word agoradzo, as it appears in this verse, it means to purchase something at the marketplace. But this was a strange question for Jesus to put to Philip, because they were seated on top of a remote mountain where there were no markets! In fact, Mark 6:36 tells us the disciples were worried about where to buy food for this crowd. In fact, they pleaded with Jesus, “Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread.…” There was simply no place nearby to purchase bread for the people on that mountaintop. Even if there had been a local shop nearby, it wouldn’t have been possible to purchase enough bread to feed a crowd that size — a crowd of “five thousand men” (John 6:10), plus “women and children” (Matthew 14:21). Yet in spite of the huge crowd and the impossibility of the situation, Jesus asked Philip, “…Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” John 6:6 goes on to tell us the reason Jesus asked this question: “And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.” The word “prove” is the word peiradzo, which means to put to the test, to test in order to prove, or to test in order to expose the truth about the quality of a substance. An example of this is how the word peiradzo was used to describe the purifying fires placed under molten metal. The metal may have looked strong, but only a blazing fire could expose all the hidden defects. Once the defects were exposed, they could be scraped off and removed, but without the test of fire they would remain undetectable. This test wasn’t just done for the sake of testing, but to assure that the metal would be purer, finer, and stronger. In other words, the purpose of the test was to make the item better. Jesus asked Philip this question to expose any deficiency in His disciple’s faith. You see, these disciples had lived in the presence of Jesus and had seen Him perform every kind of creative miracle, including turning water into wine, cleansing lepers, and even raising the dead. Miracles were nothing novel to them. But at this moment, they were being confronted with a problem that was totally different from anything they had faced before — they needed food to feed a multitude! It is amazing to me that after seeing Jesus perform possibly thousands of miracles, the disciples didn’t immediately say, “Lord, we trust that You can provide for all these people!” Instead, they went on a food search and frantically tried to solve this problem by themselves. Philip certainly didn’t consider a supernatural solution. In verse 7, he and the other disciples began to “grasp at straws” as they went looking for a way to solve this problem through natural means. Philip told Jesus, “…Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little” (v. 7). Philip didn’t realize God’s stores of supernatural provision are always more than enough! It is simply a fact that new challenges often expose a deficiency in our faith and accentuate any weak area in our lives. Jesus knew exactly how He was going to meet the need, but He asked Philip the question so Philip’s lack of faith would be exposed — and so the disciples would see that there was still room for improvement in regard to the level of their faith! Don’t be surprised if Jesus asks you to do something that seems impossible to your natural mind. When He tells you that He expects you to take a leap of faith and accomplish what others say can’t be done, His request may expose the fact that you need to work a little more on your faith! What a blessing that Jesus would ask us to do things that reveal who we really are — for only then will we really discover the areas of our faith that need improvement! So the next time Jesus gives you a fabulous, impossible-looking job to do, rejoice if it reveals a little shakiness in your ability to believe. Now you know that you have a deficiency in your faith walk — and you can start today to do something about it!
My Prayer for TodayLord, I want to thank You for allowing me to be a part of Your great plans. You could use someone else, but You have chosen to use me. For this, I am so thankful to You. If there is any faith deficiency in me, please expose it NOW so I can get it fixed and be prepared for any assignment You give to me in the future!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that I am ready for God to use me! My faith is growing. It’s getting stronger, and the deficiency in my faith is being reduced day by day. There was a time when I was weak, but now God’s Word is making me stronger. There was a time when I would have doubted and feared, but now I am filled with faith. In fact, I’m excited about taking on ANY assignment Jesus Christ wants to give me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!