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Increase

#storychanging

Increase

Increase

Monday  There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace…   Isaiah 9:7

One of the prophecies concerning the Messiah was that His government would increase. The Jews assumed “increase” meant that a political champion would vanquish the Romans and rule from Jerusalem. So when Jesus came, claiming to be that Messiah, they were angry. Instead of amassing an army, Jesus went to the loser pound and found twelve strays to follow Him around while He talked about peace. Even His disciples didn’t get it. “Don’t we need swords so we can get rid of these Romans?” they asked. They knew the prophecies. How could His government increase when everybody was out to kill them?

If Christianity was a religious movement fueled by zeal, it would have died out by the start of the second century. After all, the Leader was brutally murdered and His followers hunted like squirrels. But what God promises, God does. Despite every form of persecution Satan crafted, Christianity has only increased across the world. Today, the country of Iran has the fastest growing church in the world, doubling the number of Christians every four years. The underground church in China has started sending missionaries to America. According to recent polls, nearly 3 billion people profess to be Christian and the number is growing rapidly. Jesus brought Truth and humans cannot eradicate the truth. It will continue to increase until He comes again.

Final Thought: What are you doing to increase the number of Christians in your circles?

Prayer: Lord, thank you for bringing us truth through your Son. Thank you that nothing the enemy has tried can ever eradicate your message. I want to be a part of your increase. Show me how. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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TuesdayI tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”  John 4:35

–“I don’t see the big deal about the ocean,” Graham complained. “Just a bunch of water.” Marta frowned. “What time of day did you go?” she asked. “Late,” he answered. “We got there around midnight and stayed a few minutes. Not impressed.”

–“I don’t get why people rave about the view from Pike’s Peak,” Stan said. “I drove all the way up there, but stayed in the car. I peeked out the window a couple of times, but it just looked like rocks and dirt to me.”

If you tend to agree with Graham and Stan, you might have the same problem Jesus’ disciples had—they needed to open their eyes. When the Bible refers to “opening our eyes,” it doesn’t mean we’re blind. It means we can’t see the value of what’s right in front of us. We need a revelation that changes our direction. Today we are told to “open our eyes” to sexual abuse or racism. That means we need a revelation that propels us to do something about it. Jesus wanted that for His disciples. His time on earth was growing short and He wanted them to grasp the vision of lost people dying without Him. Hungry souls needed the Bread of Life. Thirsty hearts needed Living Water. “Look at them!” Jesus cried. “They’re right in front of you! I put them there so you could tell them about me.” They saw only crowds, irritating relatives, and obnoxious neighbors. Jesus saw a mission field.

Final Thought:  What harvest field might be right in front of you but you can’t see it until you open your eyes?

Prayer: Father, what am I missing? Where is my mission field? I don’t want to be blinded by comfort, fear, or denial. I’m willing to see people the way you see them, love them like you love them. Where do I need to open my eyes? In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Wednesday By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in fear built an ark to save his family.  Hebrews 11:7

“A flood, Lord?” Noah may have asked. “I’m not even sure what that is. The nearest lake is miles away and it barely rains enough to keep the vineyard alive. I don’t understand this, or even like it. But I’ll do what you say.” The account of God flooding the wicked world and destroying every living thing except those on the ark is not a cute drawing for a nursery wall. It was horrifying. Noah and his family had friends there. Neighbors. Coworkers. Customers. If what God told him was true, they would all be drowned at once. Was God cruel to do such a thing? We might think so from our frame of reference. But God does not operate from our frame of reference. Faith means we are willing to operate from His frame of reference. If we look at it that way, God was extremely merciful to even save Noah—plus his wife, three sons and their wives. And every kind of animal.

If we insist on understanding or approving what God does, we can never walk with Him. It took faith for Noah to do as God commanded. Second Peter 2:5 tells us that Noah spent several decades trying to persuade those same people to honor God with their lives, but no one listened. Discouraging as it may have been at times, Noah obeyed anyway. Despite the laughs, ridicule, and loneliness, Noah knew what God had said, so he kept on. And his entire family was spared because of it. God has spoken in His word. Our response must be: “I may not understand this, or even like it. But I’ll do what you say.”

Final Thought: In what areas of your life has God spoken but it wasn’t what you wanted to hear? What was your response?

Prayer: Father, there are some areas of my life that are not obedient to your word. You are convicting me about them right now. I am listening. Help me develop the faith of Noah, to obey even when I don’t like or understand it. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Thursday  “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”   Matthew 9:38

“Counseling looks like a fun job,” the church visitor said with excitement. “How much does it pay? I might like to try that.”

“I think I’ll be a preacher when I get out of school,” the college student announced. “Looks easy and I like to talk.”

“I’m thinking about going into either missions or business,” said Roy. “Depends on the benefits and what my girlfriend does.”

“No, I’ve never witnessed for the Lord,” snipped Drew, “but I should be the student pastor because I’m good with teenagers.”

These are not the people we should ask the Lord for. They may have certifications lining their walls, but if they are not Spirit-filled, humble servants of the Lord, their harvest won’t be eternal. They might fill mega-churches with their pizzazz, but never harvest souls for God’s kingdom. Jesus warned us that we should ask God to send us His workers instead of finding them ourselves. Only the Holy Spirit can save souls and only those equipped by God can harvest them. The church is not a business. Ministry must never be staffed by career-seekers. The results may look great on the outside, but they won’t be eternal. God Himself calls workers and infuses them with passion for His ministries. Those called of God can’t NOT serve. They may not fit the world’s definition of success, but those are the people we should ask God to send into His field.

Final Thought:  Are you a harvester God wants to use in His fields? What are you doing about it?

Prayer: Lord of the harvest, you invite me to work with you in your harvest fields. You don’t need me, but you’ve chosen me to help you. Press on my heart a passion for your work and place me where you want me to be. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Friday  …walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.  Colossians 1:10

Do you know more about finances than you did when you were 8? Are you a better driver than you were when you were 15? If you’re maturing, then your knowledge of those topics has increased. And if you’re pursuing wisdom, that increase in knowledge has also directed your lifestyle choices. We don’t expect 8-year-olds to make good financial decisions, but 30-year-olds had better learn if they hope to avoid painful consequences. Bad fruit results when knowledge is ignored or rejected. It looks like rage, gossip, sexual immorality, or arrogance. But good fruit results from an increase in the knowledge of God.

We all enter the family of God as spiritual infants. We’re cloaked in sin and wrongheaded thinking. But our goal is to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord who bought us with His blood. As we grow in our faith, we should also increase in knowledge. Faith without knowledge is false religion. Knowledge without faith is intellectualism. Neither is Christianity. We cannot bear good fruit for the kingdom of God without an increase in knowledge. Coupled with a desire to please the Lord, that increase results in a life that is fully pleasing to Him. God desires to see fruit in our lives that looks like His Son. When a skeptic increases in knowledge, he grows prouder and louder. When a servant of God increases in knowledge, he discovers more ways that he can please the Lord. We don’t increase in knowledge so we can boast about it but so that we can bear more fruit for our Master.

Final Thought:  Are you walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, increasing in knowledge so you can better serve Him? 

Prayer: Father, I tend to stagnate. I coast along on whatever knowledge I have of you without desiring more. Please forgive me. I purpose to set myself on a path of greater understanding, growing in knowledge and bearing good fruit.  Amen.