First Light is a short devotional that is posted daily throughout the week via email and this blog.  If you are interested in receiving a copy in your email, just contact us at office@thelambschapel.org and tell us you would like to receive First Light.

THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT

Posted by Brandon Patton on Wednesday, April 10, 2019 @ 10:47 AM

"The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing."

Psalm 92:12-14

There is much talk about the greenhouse effect in our nation today referring to carbon build up. However, God's Word speaks of a greenhouse effect that exists in His Kingdom. A greenhouse is a place that someone has purposely designed to create the best environment possible in order for plants to flourish. The Bible speaks of building a place for the Lord's own to flourish. If  parents were to ask me for advice on raising their young children I would ask them to meet me at the local greenhouse. I would point out how someone with wisdom had created the best possible environment to nurture young plants to maturity. How they created the perfect climate, controlled the nourishment, protected the tender plants from harmful chemicals and predators and watched over the whole process to insure the best outcome for the plants. I would advise them to go home and do in your home exactly what you see in the greenhouse. It doesn't really matter how good the seed is if the environment is destructive. Creating an environment that is conducive to our well being is priority number one of we want to "flourish in the courts of our God". This applies to our own souls, our families and our church family. Even the greatest saint will wilt and die in an unfavorable environment. The human soul simply was not made to thrive in a harsh environment. Our souls flourish in an environment of worship, encouragement, hope, good news (think God's Word), fellowship and peace. What kind of environment are you trying to grow in today? Our homes must be built into places that nourish the young souls of our children into mighty "cedars of Lebanon", strong and able to withstand the winds of adversity. We must create a culture in our fellowship that feeds and nourishes hearts that are being formed into the image of Jesus. Atmosphere is everything. When you consider the current atmosphere that our culture has created, is it any wonder that we are producing the "stunted" individuals that we are today? I can't control society, but I can control the atmosphere that my soul grows in. I have built a "greenhouse effect" of life that I live and flourish in. As long as I control my surroundings according to His Word I can plan on "still bearing fruit in old age"! I can build a climate in my home that is great for growing a healthy and prosperous family. At Grace Christian Academy the "greenhouse effect" is exactly what we are wanting to accomplish so that we can help parents turn out kids that "flourish like a palm tree" in their future lives. My dear friend Mickey Evans who founded and led Dunklin recovery center for addicts said that he was simply creating an atmosphere where men could hear the voice of God and be transformed by that voice. Do you want to "flourish" rather that wilt and die? Create and atmosphere around you and your family that will allow the "good seed" that God has planted in you to prosper and flourish. The Bible states in First Corinthians that we are "God's garden". Lets tend it so that it can "still bear fruit all the way to old age".

Father, you have planted the Seed of your Spirit in my heart. Teach me how to nourish that Seed in an atmosphere that will let Jesus grow big in me!

DEATH BY QUESTION MARK

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:15 AM

"Did God indeed say?"

Genesis 3:1

Every evil thing throughout world history began with a question mark. It happened when the enemy of our souls approached Eve and placed a question mark where God had clearly placed a period. In his subtlety he caused the woman to question something that was eternally settled by God's Word. The result was catastrophic. It brought all evil into the earth and robbed humanity of the wonderful life the Creator had destined them for. If only Eve had rejected the evil ones attempt to challenge God's truth by boldly declaring "yes He has said and what He has said is truth that is forever settled". But, she didn't stand firm and the rest is world history. Thank God that in His great kindness He refused to give up on mankind and sent His Son to purchase back at the cross what Adam and Eve forfeited in the garden. Those of us that trust Him as Savior are redeemed sons and daughters of the most high forever! However, the enemy of our souls has never changed his method of operation in an attempt to steal what Jesus bought for us at the cross. His primary scheme is still to place a question mark over God's revealed truth in His Word. He knows well that if he can get us to doubt God's Word he can snare us and rob us of the life Christ has given us.   Even the slightest hesitation to stand firm on God's Word in the face of doubt will cost us something. It is imperative that we follow the example of Jesus who when He was tempted by satan boldly stated "it is written". Don't allow any thought of doubt, any question over the Word to have a place in your thinking. When God's Word declares that we are "new creatures, chosen, accepted, forgiven, cleansed, blessed, children of the living God, refuse to entertain any thought contrary to what He plainly states in His Word. Our blessing and victory hinges on our vigilance to hold to His Word when the worm of doubt attempts to creep into our thinking with his time tested lie "hath God said"? Its been said before but it can never be said enough, "never put a question mark where the God of the universe has put a period".

Father, I praise you that your Word is the immovable rock that my life and future are anchored to.

HIS PRESENCE

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:14 AM

"If your Presence does not go with us, we don't want to go from here."

Exodus 33:15

When God commanded Moses to lead His people to a land of promise Moses responded, "If your Presence does not go with us, we don't want to go". They had His promise of blessing and success. They had His Word to guide them. But they wanted more than that. They wanted the Presence of God Himself. If God would not be in their midst and them be aware of His activity among them they didn't want to go. Isreal wanted the Presence of God by His Spirit. They had His Book but they wanted Him. David had the Law of God, but he longed for more than God's Word. He wanted the Presence of God Himself. "My soul thirsts for God, the living God." In the book of Acts the first church had enjoyed God's Book for a long time but they prayed and cried out for the Presence of God by His Spirit. If was not the Book that changed their lives and then their community, it was the manifest Presence of God working in them and through them that made such a huge difference. I was saved and then placed in a religious camp that focused on the Bible. We "camped" around the written Word. As I read that Word I realized that something was missing. It was the Presence of God. I asked why the Isrealites and the early church camped around the Presence of God, but we are content to live without it. Ask me if I love His Word. My most valuable treasure on this earth. But I need more than His Book. I need Him. We have erred greatly in this generation by being content with His love letters. We need to follow the example of Moses and tell Him that even though we have His promises and His Word we want Him. We want to experience His Presence in our lives. The Bible says of itself that apart from His Spirit the "letter killeth". The Word alone is not life giving. Only "the Spirit gives life". Don't be content to be His child, have His Book, be involved in His church or sing His songs. Be like Moses who said "if I can't experience your Presence by your Spirit I don't want to go". What was God's response to such a heart of desire? Ask Moses.

Father, I thank you for your Word, your blessings, your promises and your faithfulness to me. But I want to see your face and experience your Presence in my life.

THE ULTIMATE PRIZE

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:14 AM

"I saw a new earth."

Revelation 21:1

On occasion I have heard people say that believers are "so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good". Upon close examination I have  found that to be untrue. I have yet to find someone that has seen the glory of heaven that it did not cause them to want to impact earth. However,  I have met a few believers that were so earthly minded that they were no heavenly good! We are often so concerned with helping to solve earth's problems and improving conditions for people on this planet that we forget that a patched up earth is not the goal. The ultimate destiny is a new earth. This earth was broken beyond repair in the fall of man. Life on this planet can only be a partial redemption of what our King originally planned. His Word reveals that His goal is "a new earth in which rightousness dwells". It is His command to see His Kingdom rule in this earth restoring what satan has destroyed. However, this also is not the ultimate prize. We are called "pilgrims" for a reason. This is a temporary dwelling on our way to our real home. I am enjoying myself greatly since Jesus took over ownership of my life and turned it around, however, something inside of me still longs for a the place that He created me for. "We groan inside waiting for our redemption". Our hearts have seen "a land that is fairer than day". Thats why they know there is more to come. The wonder of what we call heaven is beyond our capacity to envision. We trust Him with our eternity knowing that what He has planned will make our best day here look miserable by comparison. If you were to ask me if I believe that heaven really has gold streets, pearl gates and every color of the rainbow I would answer that heaven is best described in one word: Jesus. Heaven is where Jesus is without distraction. He is the glory and focus of our eternity. His love is the longing of our hearts. In prayer I have discovered that heaven is not so much what you see as it is what you feel at heart level. It is the baptism of God's great love, joy and peace all at once for eternity. Lets do all we can while we can to see the Kingdom come now. But don't ever lose sight that "this world in not my home, I'm just passing through". Keep one eye on the ultimate prize that He died to give to all who trust Him. I promise it will not make you "no earthly good". You will never be of more value to this earth and all that live on it than when you value eternity with Jesus above all else.  

Thank you Father for reminding me that we are on a journey to a new home. What it looks like isn't near as important to me as who will be there to greet me!

THE TRAPS

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:13 AM

"Those who seek to destroy me set traps for me."

Psalm 38:12

The Bible has much to say about traps, snares, schemes and wiles. All of these are in reference to the plans that are set in motion by the enemy of our soul to "steal, kill and destroy" us, our families, our health, our churches and our relationships and the "abundant life" that our loving heavenly Father has given us through the cross. We are warned to "be vigilant", to "not be ignorant" and to "walk carefully" in order to avoid these traps set for us. As a pastor I have witnessed many times the pain and destruction that has come from people falling into the various snares set for them by the powers of darkness. I want to live well, love well and finish well with great joy. As my beloved brother Paul said "that I might finish my course with joy"! Our Father wants us to live to the fullest. Thats why He has given us His Word to be a "lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path" in order to recognize destructive plans and avoid them. I have learned two great truths from special ops soldiers that I have met that help me to understand how to navigate the landmine of spiritual warfare. First is wisdom. Military leaders study the tactics of their enemies at length in order to be able to identify how their adversaries will attempt to destroy them. This knowledge is invaluable as it enables the soldier to beware of his opponents activity. The Bible is a war manual that gives me the intel report on my enemies activities. I am warned to look for the snares of bitterness, pride, lust, greed, anger and ingratitude among others and recognize the danger of being drawn into these traps. The other great wisdom I gleaned from specially trained warriors is vigilance. No soldier dances across enemy territory singing Jimmy Buffet tunes oblivious to the possibility of danger around him. He takes each step carefully while being on high alert to any possibility of enemy activity. Why do you think the Bible warns us in First Peter to "be vigilant, be careful because your enemy stalks about seeking someone to destroy"? I am watching the destruction of way too many good people today who didn't take the avowed enemy of their soul seriously.  It shouldn't be this way. Our Father has given us every thing we need to succeed and prosper. Determine that you will not be one of the casualties in this very real battle.

Father, I praise you for your Word and your Spirit that will be my shield and defense in this war that rages around me. Thank you "that you O Lord are a shield about me, the defender of my life".

THE "UPLOOK"

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:13 AM

"When he focused on the storm around him he was filled with fear and began to sink."

Matthew 14:30

You are no doubt familiar with the account of Peter walking on water in Matthew 14. Why did the Holy Spirit place this in the Bible? So we could learn to walk on water also? Seriously? This is one of the greatest lessons of faith I have ever been taught by Him. It has been invaluable to me over the years. It is so simple and practical yet so profound. Peter was called by Jesus to walk on water toward Him. It would require a supernatural act on God's part for this to happen. As long as the big fisherman stayed focused on Jesus and His Word the power to live above the storm was activated in his life. The moment he refocused his attention onto the storm surrounding him his faith was destroyed and the power was cut off. He became the wet fisherman. The very clear message? If we discipline ourselves (and it is a discipline today) to keep our mind and heart focused on God's truth there will be Holy Spirit power to live supernaturally above the storm that swirls around all of us in this nation today. There is a constant clamor around all of us to interpret the events of our society. News, opinions of people, our own perceptions. However, we have not heard truth until we have heard God's view of our surroundings. As Paul Harvey used to say "and now for the rest of the story"! God's view which is absolute and final truth in all matters is found  in His Word. That is the first place we need to look to understand what is happening around us. "Our nation is going to hell in a hand basket" is the common jabber. God's Word says "He rules in the affairs of men". Who is right? You may see no way out of your mess. Often by your own doing. God's Word states "God will make a way in the wilderness when there seems to be no way". Your problems may scream " insurmountable". God's Word screams "Is anything too hard for God"? Our enemy howls form the middle of our storm "darkness will win". God's Word declares "All authority is mine in heaven and earth". Circumstances mock "where is your God now"? God's Word answers "I will fear no evil for You are with me and He who began a good work in me will complete it". Believers are supposed to believe God's Word above the news, circumstances, logic, and the opinions of popular peedabs! (peedab: a goofball that is overly impressed with his own ignorance) When the outlook is bad, try the uplook! "Fixing our eyes on Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith"!

Eternal God, I praise you that there ain't no storm that can overcome you eternal Word!

OUR CONFIDENCE

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:12 AM

"He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you. So we may boldly say: the Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can a man do to me?"

Hebrews 13:5-6

One of the outstanding marks of the New Testament believers, if not the outstanding mark, was their great boldness. These were not educated, upper class movers and shakers. They were common blue collar humble people. Yet over and over the scripture records how they responded to situations with a great confidence and boldness. The court before which Simon and John were called before to testify were surprised "when they saw the boldness of these uneducated and ignorant men". Their was no possible way for this band of misfits to accomplish their God given mission apart from a fearless courage in the face of such withering attacks. Had there not been something supernatural in their strength to stand strong they would have wilted and run to hide from their assailants and critics. How did these mild mannered people transform into warriors that would die willingly for their cause? The secret was the presence of God's Holy Spirit within them. Do you remember how Simon cowered before a few people around a campfire when asked if he was related to Jesus? How he denied even knowing Him because of fear? What happened to him that just fifty days later he stood with boldness and confronted the whole city with the gospel and charged them with crucifying God's Son? It was the touch of God's Spirit that came on him at Pentecost. He was transformed from a coward into a powerful leader. You and I live in a day that requires great courage to truly follow the Man Christ Jesus. However, this courage and boldness is not to be a personality trait or a natural inclination. It comes form the same source that caused a shepherd boy named David to stand up to a giant that was taunting him declaring to him "I will feed you to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field". Have you ever heard that voice? The voice of fear that held you back when you wanted to take a God given risk? It taunts, "what will they think", "what if you fail", who do you think you are, remember last time? The voice of intimidation paralyzes us and banishes us to live on the sidelines of life missing the adventure of our God given callings. It is time to declare as Hebrews says, "The Lord is with me and will not leave me, I will not fear. What can man do to me?" Renounce the tormenting insecurity and timidity that robs you of God's best and decide to live in the very confidence of Christ Himself. Humble yourself before the great God who never fears and ask Him to fill you with His courage and boldness to fulfill your destiny. Determine that fear will never hold you back again as you pursue a life that honors Christ and serves people.

Dear Jesus, I praise you that I can do all things through you as you strengthen me!

 

RELENTLESS PURSUIT

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:12 AM

"What man of you having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, will not leave the ninety nine and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?"

Luke 15:4

Perhaps the greatest mystery in the universe is why a perfect, almighty, all powerful Creator is so captured by common, ordinary, sinful humans. As David asked in Psalm 8 "what is man that you can't take your mind off of him"? Our limited finite understanding will never be able to grasp this great wonder on this side of heaven. However, although we can never fully understand it or explain it, we can believe it and rejoice in it. Only when we have a Holy Spirit revelation of the passionate love that God has for the most terrible sinner will we be able to believe in His relentless pursuit of the people He loves so much. The Bible reveals a great mystery in Romans when it states that "there is none who seeks after God, no not one". Not one person has ever had any interest in God or finding Him unless God first caused it to happen in them. If you have any desire to know about Him or to find Him that is Him pursuing you. He has been pursuing you for your whole life. As a matter of Biblical fact He was pursuing you even before you were born. "You fashioned my days when there were yet none of them". Have you ever wanted a better life? That was Him pursuing you. "I will write my laws in their heart." Have you ever hit a wall and been frustrated by failures in life? He was chasing you. "He gave them their requests but sent leanness to their souls." You may ask "if He is so powerful why doesn't He just make everybody love Him in return"? Great question. Do you want to be loved by a spouse that has no choice in the matter? Forced romance? Because He is looking for a bride for all of eternity instead of a slave, He honors free will greatly. He will always respect your will to choose to love Him or reject Him. He never forces a relationship. You can choose to reject Him, run from Him or hide from Him but you can never stop Him from being more in love with you than you can ever imagine. And you will never stop Him from pursuing you. When Luke 15:4 says "go after the one that is lost until He finds it", what do you think the word "until" means?

Thank you Father for never, ever giving up on me.  

A BATTERING RAM OR A LIFELINE?

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:11 AM

"You study the scriptures for in them you assume that you find life, but the scriptures point to Me and you are unwilling to come to Me that you might find life."

John 5:39-40

How is it that the religious leaders that studied the Bible day and night could not recognize God when He stood right in front of them in the Man Christ Jesus? An even more bizarre question, how could they use the bible to justify killing God? If this verse in John is true, that the Bible is a book that points people to Jesus and life, how can religious people miss it by so much? Does this still happen today? The difference is the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can open the mind and heart to the beauty of God and see the abundant life that He gives through a relationship with His Son. Jesus revealed this in the Bible when it states "He opened their minds to understand the scripture" in Luke 24:45. Unless His Spirit is present with us to reveal the Word to us it will become "the letter that kills" instead of "the Word of life". People with a religious spirit use the Bible as a battering ram to beat people with or control them with. It becomes an instrument of pain and damage apart from His Spirit. However, when the Spirit is present the Word becomes a "River of living water" that "heals everything it touches" as it was when Jesus spoke it. Jesus didn't use the Bible as a battering ram, He used it as a lifeline to those in need. The first mention of the Gospel was to a band of shepherds and it was called "Good news that brings great joy"! Often I hear preaching or speaking that is destructive, manipulating or at best "good advice", but there is no life to be found in it. The Word of God apart from the Spirit of God is boring at best and often dangerous. That's why you and I must pray over His Word and ask Him to do for us what He did for those early disciples and "open our understanding" to have revelation from Him through His Spirit. It is imperative to pray as David did "open my eyes that I might behold wonderful things from thy Word". Don't ever read His Word without Him present. The same Jesus that wrote the Bible will speak to you as you read it. Then you can say as the men in Luke 24, "did not our hearts burn within us as He opened the scriptures to us"? His Word is not bondage nor it it destructive. It is "life to those who find it and healing to their whole being". The last thing I need in my struggling state is some goofball preacher beating on me with his Bible. What I need is a "Friend of sinners" extending a lifeline to me.

Dear Jesus, please open the eyes of my heart, I want to see your beauty in your Word.    

WHAT IS HE LIKE?

Posted by Brandon Patton on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 @ 9:11 AM

"Show us the Father."

John 14:8

A. W. Tozer was a great saint and writer of another era. He made one of the most profound statements in history when he said "what comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you". I would add also that it is the greatest indicator of your future.  What comes into your mind when you think about God? Put another way, what do you think He is like? Personally, as a young man I viewed Him as an overbearing angry deity that was going to get me for being bad. A cosmic cop with his eye on me. Where did that come from? No idea. Where am I going to find out what He is really like? Preachers? Churches? Parents? Christians? Maybe. The only sure way is to read His Book. His Book reveals His nature. It is the only reliable place to get an accurate picture of His true nature. Read looking for Him. When I read "He turns my mourning into dancing, my grave clothes into gladness!", that tells me what He is like. When I read "make a joyful shout unto the Lord, serve the Lord with gladness", realizing that He wrote it, now I know what He is like and what He likes. When I read about Him eating with sinners, I see that He enjoys being around normal people. When I read about a father kissing a prodigal (read hell raising) son, now I know what He is like. The more I read, realizing that He is showing me who He is, the more I come to like Him. Pardon me pastor, didn't you mean to say "love Him"? Yeah, that too. As I read about Him slam dunking preachers for their self rightous attitudes I find myself cheering for Him and liking Him more. When I see Him step in front of a misguided woman to offer her forgiveness and protect her from angry bird preachers I find myself wishing I could be around Him, maybe be one of the sinners that gets to eat with Him! But above all else when I see Him step in front of me to take my place on a judgement cross that settles it for me. I'm going to follow Him. I'd like to recommend that you read His Book. Its a best seller. Might want to start in Mark. (too late for "in the beginning") I suspect that as you read about what He is really like, you will begin to be attracted to Him also.

Father,  I pray for my friends that you will show them what the Father is really like.

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