National Sovereignty and God – Nehemiah 13:1-3

It Is Not In The Best Interest Of A Nation To Allow Those Who Hate The Nation And Its People To Dwell Among Them

1 On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God, 2 because they had not met the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.) 3 When the people heard this law, they excluded from Israel all who were of foreign descent.

Enlighten Everyone

My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge

There has been a great disservice done to the people of the United States of America.  In an attempt to socially engineer an entire generation of people to forget and reject their country’s past as evil and antiquated, for years educators have been excluding the founding documents of the nation from the public instruction of the children.  These documents shed light on the foundation of the nation, as provided by the Lord God Almighty Himself, and provides the basis for which the nation has since been, for the most part, a place where people who yearned to be free from the oppression of tyrants and religious persecution to come and live without the fear of repercussion the practice of hard work and righteousness.  That era has passed, and now even their children have been deprived of the knowledge of what led to the formation of the nation, as well as the character and intent of the founders of the nation.

In this passage, the Israelites had listened to the reading of the word of God.  It is critical that we know our founding documents and laws.  For the Israelites, it was the word of God.  As disciples of Christ, it is STILL the word of God.  We are strangers in this world.  As inhabitants in a strange land, we have an obligation to follow the rules of the land where they do not conflict with the word of God.

But how can you follow the rules of the land if you do not know what they are?

How can you know if the leaders of the nation are following the rules of the land if you do not know what they are?

The Israelites, after learning again what was in the law of God, realized that they were not following God’s law, and attempted to make the necessary changes to begin to follow what God had required of them.

Unconditionally Unite

One of the first things that they did was to recognize that the word of God had authority in their lives.  We too must realize that not only does the word of God have authority in our lives, but that the leaders placed over us have implemented laws to help govern us in our day to day actions.  And while not every rule of man is righteous, every directive of God in His word IS righteous.

The people in Jerusalem at that time united together.  They had several common bonds:

  • Genetic ancestry (they were all family through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)
  • Geographic residency (they were living in Israel, specifically in Jerusalem)
  • Godly instruction (the word of God was their law)

United we stand, divided we fall – Aesop

It is important that the people of a nation be in agreement with the laws of that nation.  In the case of the United States of America, no one has a gun pointed at their heads instructing the people that they may not freely move nor forbid them to leave to go elsewhere.  They live there by choice.  If people live in a nation by choice, should they not unite in agreement with the laws that govern how they are to behave in that country?

Practice what you Preach

For the disciple of Christ, it is imperative that we practice what we preach.  Hypocrisy is a terrible sin and a temptation that each of us faces each and every day as we are presented with the challenges of life.  Joseph faced grave consequences for upholding the law of God when Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce him and he declined.  We too must take the time first to know the law, to obey the law (where it is not in direct contradiction to God’s law), and to not only obey the law, but encourage and exhort our leaders to do the same.

The laws of men are not perfect, but should be in place to protect the citizens of that nation from the harm that happens when sinful people seek to take advantage of, harm, impede, or otherwise cause damage to others.  If we do not follow the laws set before us, are we not being hypocrites?  In the United States of America, the people there have the ability to change the law.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  It is a blessing when an unjust law is changed so that the people can live in peace and freedom.  It is a curse when evil people seek to impose their will upon others by getting into the positions of power that permit them to manipulate the switches and levers of power to their own benefit rather than the freedom of their people.

The law of God is clear and concise.  It is not written in legalism, wrapped in an enigma, and shrouded in mystery.  It is plain and easy for all who read it to understand it.  So it should be with the laws of men.

In the case of the Israelites, the word of God told them to exclude the Ammonites and Moabites from them because they had not helped the Israelites in their time of need, but intended harm to the Israelites, even hiring Balaam to curse them.  In the same manner, nations should be permitted to exclude those people who ignore and refuse to respect the laws of that nation who are seeking entrance to live in that nation.

These people intend harm to the people of the nation; for if they are unwilling to submit themselves to the laws of the nation through the established processes that the nation has set for entry into the land, they certainly will ignore any other aspect of that nation’s laws when it conflicts with their own interests.  Such people are to be considered dangerous, and are to be excluded from the possibility of ever being permitted entrance into the nation, even for the purposes of visiting.  The Israelites took action, and excluded those foreigners from among them.  Nations who have leaders who are wise should consider doing the same.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I take the time to know the laws of my nation?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for Your word.  Thank You for freeing me from the bondage of sin.  Thank You for Your great mercy and compassion.  Thank You for being holy and righteous in all that You do.  Help me to better understand Your word so that I may live in a manner that better glorifies Your name.  Help me to understand the laws of my nation so that I may obey them and thus bring glory to Your name.  Help me to encourage the leaders of my nation to obey the laws of the land and act in righteousness towards all.  Give me the courage to do so, even if doing so may bring about my imprisonment or death.  Help me to fear no man, but only to fear You, Lord God Almighty.  Grant me the strength and courage to live a life that loves my neighbor, but doesn’t excuse or ignore their evil.  Help me to stand up to wickedness through righteousness as You empower me to do so.  Give me the words to say to all who ask why I do this.  Remember me today, Oh God, as I seek to step out for You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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The Heart of the Matter – Deuteronomy 6:6-7

The Word Of God Penetrates The Deep Areas Of The Heart

6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Heart and Honor

Every disciple of Christ should be filling their mind and their heart with the word of God:

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

Our minds have a tendency to be filled with something.  When we give our lives to Christ, we now have the opportunity to choose what we can fill our minds with.  The world, the flesh, and the devil are constantly offering suggestions on what we should use to fill our minds and hearts.  But God says we should be filling them with His law.  Additionally, we are to fill our minds with the following:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

By filling our minds with the things of God – His law and the affairs of Heaven, we crowd out the thoughts that compete with the will and ways of God.  This should be a priority for disciples of Christ, for we cannot effectively train our minds to intercept and process as garbage that which deserves such a fate without having the ability to recognize what is good for us and what will cause us problems:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Teach and Train

In addition to doing this for ourselves, we are to impart the knowledge of God – God’s holy word – to our children.  We are to impress upon our children the importance of following God’s law.  We are to impress upon them value of God’s law.  We are to impress upon them the holiness of God’s law by showing through OUR actions and words the very principles that we espouse.  Children learn more from our actions than from our words.  Even when they appear to be ignoring us, they are most carefully watching us to see if we practice what we preach.  Children look for hypocrisy to validate the truth.  Teach them not only with words, but with works.

Talk and Travel

Not only should we be talking to our children about the law of God when we are at our home, but also when we travel.  In the West, there is a movement by certain individuals to try to restrict the ability of people to practice their religion only in the home and their place of worship.  They believe that people should not practice it anywhere else, because it might “offend” someone.  But Jesus said:

Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.

If we limit our teaching to the home, we will not have the opportunity to fully impart our wisdom to our children.  “Teachable Moments” arise in everyday life, and it is important to impart the wisdom of God to our children at all times.  We can only do this if we take the time to teach them wherever we may be.

Sleep and Stand

God’s word is so important that we should even take the time to teach it to our children when we are getting ready to sleep, and when we first rise.  There is no time that we shouldn’t be imparting the wisdom of God to our children.  When we don’t CONSISTENTLY teach our children, their minds wander to the things of this world.  God implores parents to teach their children His laws during EVERY WAKING MOMENT.  To do otherwise is to invite other influences into their lives that could harm them.  Children observe EVERYTHING, so rather than let the world, the flesh, and the devil train them, take the time and effort to train them up in the law of God.

A Qualifying Question

Parents, let’s ask a question:  Am I training up my child(ren) in the way that they should go?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I love you and adore You.  Your law is beautiful to behold.  When it is practiced, great righteousness proceeds from the ones who adhere to it.  Father, You have made it plain to us that we cannot keep Your law the way that we should.  Thank You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for my sins and the sins of the world.  Thank You for your law, to teach me that I cannot please You without accepting Jesus’ sacrifice for my sin.  And thank You for the opportunity to speak into the lives of others about Your love and grace, and Your holiness and righteousness.  Father, help me to mindful of what I do every waking moment that I would honor and glorify You in every thought, word, and deed.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Effects of the Curse – Romans 8:18-25

Creation Groans In Anticipation For The Return Of The King

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Eager Expectation

Paul gives us some indications of what the creation is experiencing due to the sin of man.  It is interesting that creation itself is experiencing an expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For it is only after ALL of the children of God are revealed will Christ come to redeem creation and burn with fire the curse that has been placed upon it.  Just as we are baptized with the fire of the Spirit, creation will be baptized with fire when then elements melt away.

Forcefully Frustrated

Up until now, creation has been frustrated by the curse placed upon it by God:

17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

The Earth, and everything upon it, is under the curse.  It doesn’t do what it is supposed to do.  It is unable to reach its potential.  While many say that even the stars are “inanimate objects”, scripture indicates that day after day they pour forth speech.  Even the plants are to respond to God.

Bondage to Blight

There is decay in the world.  Iron turns to rust.  Cement crumbles to dust after centuries.  Mold, mildew, and other bacterial agents infect and destroy.  Disease strikes everywhere.  Prior to the curse, there would have been no “dis-ease”.  Even now, we see the effects of decay in everything that is around us.  The scientific name is Entropy.  Systems in order have a tendency to move towards chaos (not the other way around – that requires an intelligent force redirecting the efforts of the cursed physical material).    All of creation is in bondage to decay that the curse has wrought.

Great Groaning

Paul indicates that the creation is groaning.  That seems odd to us, since we don’t hear it with our ears.  But even Jesus said that the creation speaks to us:

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Even we who are redeemed groan in anticipation of the return of Christ.  Facing sin day in and day out is mentally, physically, emotionally, and psychologically draining.  Walking in the world with the curse constantly interfering with every aspect of reality – including relationships, business, health, hopes, and dreams, along with the flaming arrows from the enemy, life can be draining and miserable.  Those who are “in the thick of it” long for the day when curse of sin is broken, and the glory and righteousness of God is revealed to all of the world, and that which was corrupted is finally redeemed by the one who paid the ultimate price.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I long for the return of Jesus?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your creation speaks to us.  The heavens declare Your glory, and creation reveals your eternal power and divine nature.  Help me to draw close to You today, Father.  Give me a greater sense of Your power and presence in my life.  Reveal to me what You would have me do, and help me to have such a longing in my heart for the return of Jesus that it aches for it.  Remember me today and help me to draw close to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Enemies of Israel – Isaiah 17:12-14

Great Destruction Will Come Up Against Those Who Oppose Israel

12 Woe to the many nations that rage-
they rage like the raging sea!
Woe to the peoples who roar—
they roar like the roaring of great waters!
13 Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters,
when he rebukes them they flee far away,
driven before the wind like chaff on the hills,
like tumbleweed before a gale.
14 In the evening, sudden terror!
Before the morning, they are gone!
This is the portion of those who loot us,
the lot of those who plunder us.

Reckless Roaring

God does not take kindly to those who would overwhelm His people.  Even when He raises up those whom He would use to chastise Israel, their eventual end is destruction.  Even now, the offspring of Ishmael and many nations rage against Israel.  They roar against her like the sea of incoming tide, seeking to wash her from the face of the Earth, to remove her as her very presence is a painful thorn in their side.

The nations rage against her because they hate who protects her.  Her very presence, they beloved of God, is like the brothers of Joseph, watching him in his ornate coat, favored by their father, made them hate him and jealous of him.  And the nations do that today.  They fabricate lies against her and try to cheat her out of her inheritance – the land of Israel, given to her by The Lord God Almighty.  For years they tolerated her, broken and scattered among the people, scoffing at her and gloating over her as God disciplined her.  But when God did the impossible and gathered her again to her home and gave it back to her, it was too much for them to bear.  And even now, they seek to undermine, impugn, and utterly destroy what God has wrought – the fulfillment of His Holy Word.

Regal Rebuke

God, however, does not take this sitting down.  He has prepared a rebuke for the nations that oppress, antagonize, and refuse to recognize the sovereignty of Israel.  This is not some simple rebuke.  The people of the nations that are seeking the eviction and/or the eradication of every descendant of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob (now Israel) will come under a most difficult rebuke.  They will come under a rebuke that is even more terrible than that which they intend to inflict upon Israel

Terrible Terror

God will drive Israel’s enemies far from their homes.  They will flee with such speed that they will look like tumbleweeds in a great windstorm.  They will fly under the pressure of God’s rebuke.  There will be sudden terror in the evening, when light has fallen and they cannot see their attackers.  Terror will fill their hearts, and in a measure that pales in comparison to what they intended for God’s people.  So swift will be their flight, that by morning they will no longer be there.  No one will be exempt – they will all flee.

Guarantee from God

God has declared that this is the portion, the judgment upon and rewards reaped from their actions.  Any who loot Israel, any who plunder her, will be utterly destroyed and driven from their homeland.  Because God’s judgment is not swift and immediate, the nations brag that God does not see, or does not exist, because they do not immediately reap the consequences of their actions.  They incorrectly interpret God’s grace and mercy for impotence or imagination.  But God will certainly cause this, for He has spoken it, and it is the portion of God’s enemies to be reaped in its proper time.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I praying for Israel’s enemies to repent?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy and righteous, and every word that You have ever spoken has or will come true.  Father, remember the enemies of Israel.  Plow through the hardness of their hearts so that they will be positioned to receive the seed of the Gospel.  Grant them mercy in their cruelty, that they would see how good You are.  And when it is time, Father, may your rebuke upon them be so overwhelming that the nations would tremble, and that the fear of You would come upon all the Earth.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Wisdom and Well-Being – Proverbs 3:1-4

Wisdom Will Bring Spiritual Well-Being As Well As Long Life

1 My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.

3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

Cherish Commandments

Solomon urges us to keep God’s commands in our heart.  This is a calling to accept them as more than mere moral teachings or wonderful ideas.  Ideas are worthless unless they are put into action.  Solomon encourages us to embrace the teachings and commands of God and put them into action.  When we do not put into practice the teachings of the Bible, they are like a sports team’s trophies put on a shelf, looked at in admiration, while the players gorge themselves in food, gaining pound after pound of fat, refusing to practice, and expecting to triumph over the team who has been diligent in training and practice.

Prolong Presence

By putting the teachings of God into practice, they will guard your life against many of the pitfalls that are caused by careless and dangerous living as God views such lifestyles.  This is not a blanket guarantee that says that if you do A, then B will result.  This is rather a generalization that, all other things being equal, will have the TENDENCY to prolong your life.  Drunk drivers still kill people via vehicular homicide.  Earthquakes and Tsunamis and Floods and other natural disasters occur.  Yet over time, the commands of God will help a person to live in such a way that they will benefit their life with longevity.

Peace and Prosperity

When a person lives according to the commands and teachings of God, they will find themselves at peace with others (generally).  There are always going to be people who, no matter what you do, no matter what you say, will have it in their heart to despise you, be angry with you, abuse you, torment you, and otherwise be in conflict with you.  But for the rest of humanity that surrounds you, they will see a life lived in Godliness and will praise God for it, or desire the peace that you have.  They will see the prosperity in joy that you have, even if God has not blessed you with financial prosperity.  To the millionaire that is miserable, depressed, suicidal, and otherwise miserable, being poor and happy may appear to be a significant blessing.  Money cannot buy happiness, nor even rent it.  It can merely assist with some of our physical needs.  But who needs to be concerned with that when God is sovereign, owns everything, and will provide for your every need?

Labor in Love

Love and faithfulness go hand-in-hand.  Both love and faithfulness are commitments towards others.  They are inextricably wound together, forming two strong cords that hold each other steady in the storms of life.  God is love.   We are to be image-bearers of God.  To bear the image is to outwardly show the same characteristics.  Since God is love, we too ought to love others in the same manner.

Noble Name

When we labor in love and faithfulness, we will win a good name in the sight of God and man.  People honor the noble ones among us who labor for our good.  Love does exactly that – it labors for the good of another.  When we do this, we please God by obeying what He has commanded us to do.  We also gain a good name among men who recognize the good that we do in the light and in the sight of God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I embracing the wisdom of God so that it transforms my life?

A short prayer of preparation

Father in Heaven, You are able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine.  And You give us a good name when we honor You by heeding Your teachings and wisdom through the practical application of them in our lives.  Teach me to live according to Your will and Your way through Your word.  Help me to embrace You in a greater way so that I can honor and glorify Your name before men.  Help me to shine Your light before all so that they may see how good You are.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Moral Value of Wisdom – Proverbs 2:1-11

Morality Is Rooted In The Wisdom Of God

1 My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding-
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7 He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
8 for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.

9 Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.

Desire Discernment

Each of us is given the opportunity to seek God.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.  We are to seek out wisdom and accept the commands of God.  Without the desire to be wise, we will act in foolish ways.  Each of us should desire wisdom and discernment so that we can grow in Godliness.

Wisdom is to be desired like silver or gold.  We are to place an even greater value on it than on any Earthly possessions.  Men will go to great lengths to find and extract precious metals from the Earth, but will they take the same time and energy to seek wisdom from God in prayer and through His word?

It is important to realize that without God as the source of wisdom and morality, our understanding of wisdom AND morality will be greatly skewed.  We will be subject to the whims of those who would try to convince us that their ideas of what is good and right is the truth.  However, the holy word of God clearly says that Jesus is the embodiment of truth.  We need to embrace the revealed truth of God as wisdom, and not the subtly or radically altered versions of morality that come from our fallen nature and the activity of the enemies of our souls.  Only in God will we find true wisdom.  Any source apart from God is suspect.

Wonderful Wisdom

Knowledge and understanding come forth from the mouth of God:

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

We will find success and fulfillment as we pursue a life of Godly wisdom.  It is in the instruction of the Lord that we find contentment concerning living our lives in ways that please and honor God.  It greatly pleases God when men are living in accordance with His ways.  Like finding a friend who shares your inner core beliefs in whom you can freely and openly be yourself, God desires to reveal through wisdom more of His character and ways so that we can draw close to Him.

Powerful Protection

Wisdom also provides us with protection.  It keeps us from engaging in evil ways, and helps us to avoid the pitfalls of certain temptations that can cause ruination in our lives.  King Solomon, son of King David, helps us to protect our lives from certain influences, such as promiscuity, financial indiscretion, and spiritual darkness.   Wisdom provides a shield to those who embrace her.  God guards the live of those who are just in their dealings and faithful to Him.

Divine Discretion

When we embrace Godly wisdom, we be able to rightly know the difference between good and evil. Discernment and discretion will be hallmarks in our lives.  We will be better able to answer others, and to refrain from doing and saying what is not Godly.  While this seems simple and evident, look at the state of the world.  When God’s people begin to accept worldly wisdom, their Godly discernment begins to fade, and they seem less able to make good judgments when presented with subtly skewed situations that may look OK, but lead to ruination.  Discernment and discretion protect the Godly from the wiles of the enemy.  The word of the living God shows the basis of wisdom, and His Holy Spirit reveals the unknown to those whom have given their lives to God and seek His guidance in their lives.

Umbrella of Understanding

Discretion protects us from wrongdoing if we are willing to accept the consequences of doing what is right.  There are times when we are forced into corners by the actions of evil people.  What seemed innocent becomes evil and ruination may result.  Understanding provides us with the ability to see where something will lead.  It is said that good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.  With discretion and knowledge, a lot of bad judgment can be avoided.  God has provided His word to give us instruction so that we can learn from those who have come before us.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I embrace wisdom as I should?

A short prayer of preparation

Father in Heaven, You are generous with Your wisdom to all who ask in faith.  Grant me the wisdom, discernment, and discretion needed to protect me and my family from the pitfalls of error that accompany bad judgment.  Help me to rely more upon You and less upon myself as I am faced with situations that could have immense consequences in my life.  Grant me the wisdom and knowledge to avoid that which will cause harm, and help me to be vigilant when the Holy Spirit guides me to be tested, that I may be victorious.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Value of Labor – Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

Work Is A Gift From God

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Subtle Satisfaction

Labor was never intended to be loathsome.  It was intended by God to be something else.  Work was to be so wonderful that people would want to do it all the time.  Work was originally intended to be so joyful that it was its own reward.  The fall of man changed all of that.

Rather than joy, work became difficult and drudgery.  Thorns and briers would pollute the ground, and weeds would choke the good plants out.  Man would labor in great difficulty for that which he planted.  Moving forward in time, we now have technological advances that set the pace for our work, which is at breakneck speed.  Slow down for a mere second, and management will replace you for someone younger and a little faster, to shave a penny off their costs every hour.

And even if you become an entrepreneur, manufacturing amazing and innovative products, online shopping markets like alibaba dot com will house counterfeits of your work, being advertised with your own website’s photos and descriptions, at a fraction of the price, reaping the benefit of your hard work, sweat, and intellectual capital for pennies on the dollar, putting you out of business.

Gift of God

But work was meant as a gift from God!  For the righteous, work was meant as its own reward.  A person could see the fruit of their labor at the end of the day, and rejoice that God had given them the intellectual ability, resources, and physical skill to do the work that they were doing.

God intended work to be so pleasurable, that He added a commandment in Exodus 20 to remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.  The idea was that people would enjoy work SO much, and the reward that comes with it, that they would forget that the Lord their God gave them the ability, means, and desire to work.

Wonderful Wealth

In yielding to God’s will and laboring with their hands, not working as unto men but as unto the Lord, God grants us knowledge, wisdom, and happiness.  The person laboring will be tired at the end of the day, but knowing that what they did was meaningful, had purpose, and was important.

Loathsome Labor

But for the sinner, labor takes on a different hue.  The sinner, unwilling to acknowledge God as provider and overseer of their work, labors to gain as much as possible so that they can have some measure of “safety”.  The sinner works their fingers to the bone, does whatever they can to get as much as they can to hedge against bad times, and places their trust in the work of the hands rather than the One who gave them hands.

They labor in vain, gathering and storing as much wealth and material possessions as possible, no taking into account that when God demands their very life, that the endless toil of their hands will pass on to someone else, who may squander it or use it in ways that the person who worked so hard to obtain it would find objectionable.   Work then becomes drudgery, misery, and a central focus of all time and energy, for who knows when the bad times will occur?

Meaningless Maneuvering

Work without God at the center of it is meaningless.  It has not real purpose, no real value, and no real reward.  For even if evil people come and steal it away from you, either illegally, or through lawful methods, when God is at the center of it, the person is secure in their knowledge that justice will be done.

When work is undertaken without God at the center, only grief, heartache, and disaster will occur.  Even if the person finds the labor of love, it will only provide happiness for so long, for God has placed in the hearts of men and women the desire to be in relationship with Him.  And no amount of work, success, money, or power will fill that God-placed desire.

It is for this reason that those who are so successful and don’t know God are so prone to depression and suicide.  Culture teaches them that they will find fulfillment in self-actualization.  Fulfillment, however, only comes when a person embraces a relationship with their Creator.  False advertising destroys the hope of people, pushing them to greater heights of intensity at work, only to find that they have no real peace.  And so the cycle continues…

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I view labor in the same way that God does?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for the ability to use my mind and body to honor and glorify You.  Help me to adopt the same attitude towards work that Your holy word reveals to me that it should be.  Help me to enjoy the fruit of my labor in that I labor for You and You alone.  Help me to be content in that, even and especially when evil people and difficult circumstances strip me of the fruit of my labor.  Guard my heart against bitterness, and help me to be content in whatever You allow in my life.  Give me strength to overcome the difficulties that I find myself in today.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Praise the Lord – Psalm 148:7-14

EVERYTHING Under The Earthly Heavens Should Praise God

7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
stormy winds that do his bidding,
9 you mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women,
old men and children.

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Praise the Lord.

Earthly Encounter

The Psalmist begins this part of the Psalm by entreating all creatures, weather, and even the Earth to praise God:

  • Ocean Creatures
    • Every creature in water is commanded to praise God.  From the fish to whales, from shrimp to sharks, every creature should give praise to their Creator.
  • The Ocean Itself
    • The Psalmist also commands the ocean to give praise.  God’s word tells us that the water of this world has a mind of its own, and without boundaries, would once again cover the Earth.
  • Weather
    • Every manner of weather should praise the lord – lightning, hail, snow, clouds and winds.  The Psalmist covered water in earlier verses.
  • Mountains and Hills
    • Even the mountains and hills should praise their Creator.  After all, if the rocks can cry out…
  • All Trees
    • The Psalmist entreats the trees of the Earth to praise God, and by implication, all plants.
  • All Animals
    • Every creature, cattle, and small animal should praise God as well.
  • Every Creature That Flies
    • The birds of the air already cry out to God in the early morning hours, seeking food, shelter, and assistance from their Provider.
  • Humans Placed By God In Authority
    • All people whom God has placed in authority over others should praise the Lord.  Their Creator has given them special privilege, and with great privilege comes great responsibility.  One of these responsibilities is to praise the One who raised them up, and to do His bidding.
  • All People, Young And Old
    • Every person on Earth should praise their Creator.  We have voices to sing, hearts to rejoice, and life to give thanks.  Every person on Earth should praise the One who gave them life and provides for their every need.

Present Praise

Everyone and everything should present praise to the One who is worthy of all praise.  God deserves praise for all He has done.  It is man who sinned and brought the curse of sin upon this universe.  God created everything good, and it was good until the fall of man.

Excellent Exaltation

It is God and God alone who is to be exulted.  Men, in pride, want to exalt themselves before others, to establish their pecking orders and to feel important.  But God should receive that Exaltation instead, being the one who gave each man life, appointed him in his proper place, and provides for him everything he has, even his very breath.

Prominent Position

God’s position in Heaven should be sufficient for us to realize that He and He alone is worthy of praise.  Man seeks to go to the heavens, but that is only a physical distance from where God created and grounded us.  God sees us through the glassy sea and knows our every move.  God’s position is far and above any vantage point that man could even conceive of occupying.

Supreme Strength

God has raised up for His people a horn.  The horn represents strength.  That strength is the God-man Jesus Christ, who was born among men, and now sits at the right hand of God, interceding for us in prayer day and night.  All authority in Heaven and the universe has been given Him by the Father.  He is King of kings and Lord of lords.  God has raised Him up to His proper position.  He has regained the keys of Death and Hades which man had lost.  He is able to deliver us from all of our troubles.  He is worthy of praise.

People of Praise

Because of the great work that God has done, His people should be a people of praise.  Life is difficult.  Many encounter situations that overwhelm us and threaten to crush us emotionally, physically, and even spiritually.  But God is able to help us to overcome.  And in His continual outpouring of provision, power, and His presence, His people should be a people who offer continual praise to the One who so richly deserves it.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: How can I praise God today?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for all that You are, all that You have created, and all that You provide.  Help my heart to be in continual praise to You for all things, even my difficult challenges.  Remove from me the enemy of my soul as he tries to drag me down with lies and leverages my pain against me and You.  I pray, Father, that the ones who try to torment me would be sent to their permanent place of dwelling, the Lake of Fire.  Remove them from their position of power and strip them of their ability to cause harm.  Protect me and my family from their actions, and remove all strongholds from our minds that we would be able to praise You at all times for all things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Praise the Lord – Psalm 148:1-6

All Creation Should Praise The Lord

1 Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights above.
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
3 Praise him, sun and moon;
praise him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise him, you highest heavens
and you waters above the skies.

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for at his command they were created,
6 and he established them for ever and ever-
he issued a decree that will never pass away.

Powerful Praise

The Psalmist commands that all creation praise the Lord!  God is worthy of all praise and honor and glory.  The majesty of God is being called to remembrance by the Psalmist as he ponders how great God’s creation truly is.  And then the Psalmist begins to call individual parts of creation in the heavens to join him in his praise of God:

  • All Angels
    • Angels throughout the Bible have praised God.  We are instructed in the word of God that four creatures surround the throne of God and continually praise Him day and night, forever and ever:
    • 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

      In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8 Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

      “‘Holy, holy, holy

      is the Lord God Almighty,’

      who was, and is, and is to come.”

      9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

      11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God,
      to receive glory and honor and power,
      for you created all things,
      and by your will they were created
      and have their being.”

  • Heavenly Hosts
    • The Psalmist then entreats the Heavenly Hosts to join:
    • Solar System
      • The Sun and the Moon are called to praise God.
    • Silvery Stars
      • All of the stars in the sky are called to praise God.
    • Highest Heavens
      • There were three heavens according to the Jews.  The first heaven was the clouds.  The second heaven was the great expanse of the Universe where the sun, moon and stars existed.  The highest heavens was where God’s throne exist, in the spiritual realm.  Here, the highest heavens were called to worship God.  Any aspect of heaven apart from angels was also called to worship God.  Today, that would be both heaven itself, and all the captives who were freed and now are in the presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
    • Wispy Waters
      • The waters above the skies is a bit of a mystery.  Is the Psalmist referring to the clouds?  Thunderstorms? Jet streams?  This is not very clear here, but by inference it is referring to any aspect of the sky that is not air.

Created by Command

The Psalmist reminds us that God has created everything through His spoken word by command.  We are to remember that we are created creatures, and the creators has the authority over the creation.  Because of the beauty, perfection (before the fall), and the ongoing care and involvement of our Creator, creation itself is called to praise God.

And as Jesus said:

37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:

38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Forever Faithful

God has established the heavens, including the Sun, Moon, and stars forever.  When the Son of Man returns in Glory, He will purify them of the curse of sin, wiping away their shame and replacing their groaning with rejoicing in the One who created them, forevermore crying out in praise to The Lord God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and thus restoring that which once was before the fall of Adam.  For God is faithful in all that He does, and He has promised to restore that which was tarnished by sin.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I praising God as I should?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for reminding me of Your goodness, faithfulness, and creativity.  Help me to praise You as You deserve.  Even in my most terrible circumstances, give me the same heart-attitude that You gave to Paul when He was praising You in song while shackled in prison.  May my praise to You be pleasing to Your ears, and may it lift my heart.  Help me to be filled with Your joy, that I may have the strength to do all that You command me to do, and be.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

 

National Sovereignty and God – Revelation 21:10-12,25-27

God Reserves The Right To Exclude Those Who Can Enter His City

10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel…25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Why Walls?

Many have wondered why, if we are all created equal and in the image of God, we should build walls, defenses, obstructions, barriers, or any other kind of impediment to people who wish to enter the borders of a nation.  For example, let’s choose a nation in particular, the United States of America.

The President of this nation as of this writing, Donald J. Trump, has made the very bold suggestion that a wall be built to separate the national borders between itself and its Southern neighbor, the country of Mexico.  Many have spoken out and said that building walls to keep people out of a country is RACIST, BIGOTED, and ANTIQUATED.

Yet, we see that GOD HIMSELF has built walls for His city, The New Jerusalem.  Let’s take a moment to look at the CHARACTER of God to see if God is RACIST, BIGOTED, and ANTIQUATED:

  • Is God RACIST?
    • There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:28
    • Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. – Colossians 3:11-12
  • Is God BIGOTED?
    • And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls. – Joel 2:32
    • And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. – John 12:32
    • For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
    • You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13
    • But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. – 2 Peter 3:8-10
  • Is God ANTIQUATED?
    • All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness – 2 Timothy 3:16
    • What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 1:9
    • He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything [continually*] new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Revelation 21:5

These are just a few passages from God’s holy word about HIS character.  From what can be gleaned here, it would not appear that God is RACIST, BIGOTED, nor ANTIQUATED.  If that is the case, then building a wall around a sovereign area is NOT RACIST, NOT BIGOTED, and NOT ANTIQUATED. Therefore, when a leader of a nation, such as Donald J. Trump, POTUS, desires to build a wall around a sovereign nation, he is not RACIST, BIGOTED, nor ANTIQUATED (for wanting to build a wall around the sovereign nation that God has appointed him in his position of governance).

These arguments are instead a deceitful, emotionally charged, slanderous and/or libelous attempt to defraud, defame, and otherwise impugn the character of a leader of a nation for the purposes of influencing public opinion on a particular subject.  This type of distraction is very effective when directed towards people who have been trained to think with their emotions rather than logical and ethical/moral reasoning.

Guardians at the Gates?

God has placed angels at the gates.  The word angel is used to denote a messenger.  But angels have had specific duties in addition to delivering messages to people.  Usually these involve protection, or destruction.  In this case, although the Bible does not clearly say so, it is most likely protection (when taken together with the verses that are after it).  Why place guardians at the gates of your city?  Should we not allow EVERYONE to have complete, unrestricted, access the city, its people, and it treasures?

Access Allowed?

God has, in His sovereign decree, restricted access to His holy city, The New Jerusalem, to ONLY those who names are written in the Book of Life.  By sovereign decree, God is specifically EXCLUDING some who may desire to enter His city.

Viable Vetting?

God is in the process of vetting those who can access the city.  For instance, only those whose names are written in the Book of Life can enter.  So, what is the exclusionary criteria for barring entry into the city?

  • impurity
  • shameful acts
  • deceitfulness

Why would God specifically exclude anything impure, or shameful, or deceitful?  After all, isn’t God “inclusive” and “wanting everyone to come to Him” and “wanting no one to perish”?  Why would God NOT allow some people access to the city?  What possible motivation could God have that would even place the thought of being “EXCLUSIVE” into His thinking?

  • God is HOLY
  • God is RIGHTEOUS
  • God is PURE

God cannot stand wickedness in His presence.  God’s very nature abhors that which is antithetical to the truth.  And those who cannot accept that there is truth (a measurable and quantifiable definition of the absolute nature of reality) will not understand the concepts of HOLY, RIGHTEOUS, and PURE, because to them, these are all RELATIVE TO THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE PERSON VIEWING THEM, rather than objective and concrete and universal.  Sin is like yeast.  It alters and distorts that which it comes in contact with.

“A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do leaders have the right to impose restrictions of entry to people within the sovereign borders of their nations?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are merciful and gracious.  Yet You are also holy, righteous, and pure.  Thank You for having the iron fist with the velvet glove.  Blessed be Your name.  You and You alone are able to completely, without error, rule in correct judgment all created things, including me.  Help me to understand Your position on National Sovereignty.  If my views do not align with Your views, please change my heart to align with Your heart.  Break down every stronghold in my mind that the world, the flesh, and the devil have erected to stand in opposition to Your revealed word.  Help me to embrace Your character and Your heart, that I may draw closer to You as the last day approaches.  Help me witness with my actions, but more importantly, with my words, about who You are and what You believe.  Strengthen me as I encounter opposition to You and Your word.  Remember me in my efforts to faithfully tell about Your Son and what He has done for everyone.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes: This blog has been edited for clarity

*The Greek verb here for making, poiO, does not have a direct English single-word translation.  Strong’s notes on this verb indicate that it is:

  • apparently a prolonged form of an obsolete primary;
  • to make or do (in a very wide application, more or less direct).

The implication is that God will, for all eternity, be making His creation continually new.  Imagine being in a finite place that never changes and is always the same.  Many people call that JAIL.  God, understanding that He has imbued us with His creativity and curiosity, will be forever subtly or drastically altering the very Universe He created so that we will not become bored.  His glory, majesty, power, and dominion will be continually demonstrated and experienced by us for all eternity.

The Weather and God – Job 37:5-6

God Controls The Weather, Not Us

5 God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways;
he does great things beyond our understanding.
6 He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’
and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’

Marvelous Mysteries

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

We read these words, and we look up in the sky, and we say to ourselves, “Oh, God created light!”  What we may not think about is that God created light on day one of creationHe created the Sun, Moon, and Stars on day four of creation.  What was the light that He created on day one?

There are marvelous mysteries waiting for us to learn.  Was light, as a construct, created first, then the objects to display the light created later?  The good news is that God has revealed some of those mysteries to us.  One of them is the weather.  God, in His infinite wisdom, chose to make known to man that He, and He alone, is sovereign over the weather.

Wonderful Weather

We have been greatly blessed to have different kinds of weather.  It was not always so.  Until the flood, there is reason to believe that it had never rained on the Earth*.  God commands His creation to give rain and snow and sleet and wind and every other type of weather that we experience:

8 He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain
and makes grass grow on the hills.

15 He sends his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He spreads the snow like wool
and scatters the frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
18 He sends his word and melts them;
he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.

Christ Commands

All power and authority over the Earth and the Universe has been given to our Lord Jesus Christ.  There is nothing that he does not have authority over in the physical and spiritual realm of all created things.  Because of this, we know that Jesus is master over the weather:

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.

Jesus not only commands the weather; He has it stored up for His express purposes:

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?”

Powerful Pride

Since we know that Christ is sovereign over the weather, we must now re-evaluate our position on human-induced climate change:

  • Who warms the Earth?  Is it man, or is God?
  • Who cools the Earth?  Is it man, or is God?
  • Are we arrogant enough to believe that we, through our feeble efforts, are able to influence the weather in such a grandiose way that we are now sovereign over it?
  • Though ants can move a mountain of dirt from a hill, what significant impact does that have on the rest of the world?

We deem ourselves too important in our own eyes when we say that it is we who are causing the temperature to change in the atmosphere of the Earth.  How convenient!

Forty or so years ago, scientists were warning us that “Global Cooling” was going to plunge us into another ice age (ask your parents and/or grandparents about that if you aren’t old enough to remember.  And try to find the write-ups anywhere now – most have been expunged.  Is it not Satan who is the author of Historical Revisionism [i.e., lying and deceit]?).

When they were wrong about that, about a decade and a half later, we were told that in a decade or so “Global Warming” would be so bad that the polar ice caps would melt, all the polar bears would die, and the world’s ocean levels would rise to such a point that our coastal lines would change.

When THAT didn’t happen, they came up with “Global Climate Change.”  Not content to attribute one swing in temperature to ourselves, we are now taking full credit for changes in the weather:

  • If it is cold, WE DID IT!
  • If it is hot, WE DID IT!
  • If it is neither, SOMETHING THAT WE DID MUST HAVE CAUSED IT!

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Whom do I believe when it comes to changes in the weather?

A short prayer of preparation:

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes:

*In Genesis 2:6, there is indication that rain had not fallen on the Earth, but that either springs came forth or a mist came forth to water the plants.  When Noah made the Ark, and preached righteousness, if there had EVER been a flood before (no matter how small), people most likely would have believed him.  After all, if a person had survived the flooding of the Nile every year, and could see that the rains caused it, would they not have believed Noah at least about the flooding portion of His message?  Even now, we have hundred-year floods that cause great devastation.  People generally lived along streams and rivers, because water was so important in agriculture.  Noah was six hundred years old when it flooded (Genesis 7:6).  He and others would have survived AT LEAST FIVE hundred-year floods in his lifetime.  Unless there had never been a flood before…

Provision From God – Psalm 146:6-10

God Is The One Who Supplies All Of Our Needs And The Needs Of Others

6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them-
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
8 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord.

Capable Creator

God is a most wonderful creator.  He created the heavens and the Earth.  Every day he paints the sky with clouds and the light of the Sun.  He continually creates as life abounds of every type, knitting together children in their mother’s wombs, causing seeds to burst forth from the ground to grow into plants, and eggs hatching to become other creatures.  There is no aspect of life that God is not intimately involved.

Faithful Forever

God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  And He has shown Himself faithful in every aspect of His character.  Because God is love, He cannot be unfaithful in anything.  God’s love always seeks out the betterment of others, and His word will never pass away.  His faithfulness is a sign that He can be trusted, and that His character is rooted in goodness and righteousness.

Compassionate Caregiver

As creator, God is also compassionate towards His creation.  He especially shows this aspect of His character in how He upholds the cause of the oppressed.  When men (and women) seemingly abandon others, God rises up to defend their cause.  God created ALL men and women in HIS image, and He assists the oppressed among us, as well as feeds the hungry.

Freedom Fighter

God desires that no one be a prisoner to sin.  He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to come and free the captives.  Even those who have been wrongfully imprisoned by men can have their souls freed by God.  Physical imprisonment cannot stop God from freeing men for eternal relationship with Him.  God will go to great lengths to set the captives free, bending Heaven and Earth to do so when someone seeks Him out with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.  And if God so chooses, He can free them physically as well.

Rejoicing in Righteousness

Part of God’s very nature is righteousness.  He is greatly pleased when He sees it, because His very existence is bathed in it.  It resonates true with Him, and He rejoices when He sees His children walking in righteousness.  Just as a parent is proud of their child when they are being polite towards others and living a life of serving others in joy, so does God when we do the same.

Helpful Hospitality

The Psalmist reminds us that God has a special place in His heart for the foreigner among us.  To be sure, God is referring to the foreigners who are among us lawfully.  God gives the sword to rulers to punish those who refuse to obey the law.  Civil disobedience is only tolerated by God when the rulers of a nation are using laws to oppress the people, obfuscate the truth, and deny lawful image-bearers of God their freedom.

God provides great hospitality towards the foreigners among us, as well as the fatherless and widows.  God does not forget those people who are unable to provide for themselves.  He fully expects the righteous among us, whom He has blessed with plenty, to help those in need.  And while He expects this of us, He does not expect us to give out free food and cash to lazy, indignant, self-righteous, and discontent people purveying a victim mentality:

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.

Just Judge

God is not indifferent to the suffering of people.  Neither will He put up with wickedness:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

God is righteous, and although wicked people may be allowed to continue on in their wickedness for what appears to humans to be an eternity, God is giving them every opportunity to change their mind and be saved.  Although it is a burden upon us when wicked people oppress us, and may even cost us our livelihoods, the material possessions that God has provided to us to manage, and perhaps our very lives, we are sheep being led to the slaughter, witness for God, so that the wicked might turn towards God.

And if they do not, let your heart be at rest.  For in death, they will surely pay in full for what they have done here on Earth.  Jesus came to pay our fine, but in refusing payment, they will endure for all eternity the punishment that is justly received since they cannot pay the price to redeem themselves.

Righteous Ruler

The Lord God Almighty reigns forevermore in Heaven upon His throne, rightfully in His play of power and glory, overseeing all that He created and ruling in righteousness as He pleases.  Let us not forget the sovereignty of God, and the wonderfully good implications that His righteous rule entail.  For nothing can happen in the universe without the express prior knowledge and permission of Almighty God, who is righteous, protector, provider, overseer, and master over all.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Where do I go first when I am in need?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show Yourself to be righteous in all that You do, even in allowing the wicked to prosper.  Help me to have a perspective that places You in Your proper role in all things.  Give me the wisdom to recognize in my darkest situations that You are right in the center of them.  Help me to be Your eyes, ears, hands, and mouth as other struggle in their daily lives.  May Your light show through me that people will be drawn to the light and seek freedom from darkness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Inner Beauty and God – 1 Peter 3:3-6

God Sees The Heart.  So Should Everyone Else.

3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Flashy Fashion

Culture teaches us that we need to be noticed.  And the only way to be noticed is to flaunt what we have.  Women in particular have been listening to this lie for millennia.  During the time when the writer of this Scripture lived, they women adorned themselves with beautiful hair styles, heavy perfume (quite costly and showed the potential of their dowry if unmarried, or the affluence of their husband if they were married…), and precious metal jewelry.

Today, it is how much skin can you show, how tight can you make your clothes, and how much bling you can safely wear without tipping over.  And while that certainly will get a woman attention from all who see her, is it the type of attention she is truly seeking?  Fishermen know that whatever you bait your hook with will determine what type of fish you will catch.  For disciples of Christ, this type of adornment is not at all in keeping with God’s plan for attractiveness and beauty.  This type of adornment is designed to evoke worldly desire from men and envy from women.  While that may seem desirable because it provides immediate feedback to the woman, it underscores the problem that the Christian community has in general:  Disciples of Christ have adopted modern cultural definitions of beauty rather than the Biblical model for beauty.

Carefully Clothed

Peter then goes on to remind women (remember, this is nothing new – it was going on two thousand years ago as well…) that they should adorn themselves with a gentle and quiet spirit:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

If a woman dresses like a street-walker, there should be no surprise if salacious men cat-call and undress her (and more than she already is) with their eyes.  If a woman dresses in Armani and Pravda and (name any other fashion mogul who designs outlandishly priced clothing and accessories), they should not be surprised when thieves and burglars stalk her to lighten her burden of wearing and carrying all of her clothing and accessories, or the vacuous playboys who will try to woo her heart to make her their sugar-mama.  People will crowd around like friends until the money dries up.  Then the leeches of society will move on to other feeding grounds.

Women must ask themselves a question:  What “bait” will I put on to attract a Godly man?  Godly men are attracted to women who have a gentle and quiet spirit.  Godly men attune their eyes and hearts to women who display this type of beauty.

Reverent Respect

When women put on a gentle and quiet spirit, they exhibit the character that Godly women of old used to display.  They showed great respect for their husbands and others, didn’t gossip, and dressed modestly so as not to entice LUST in the hearts of potential suitors or even other Godly men trying to keep their hearts pure.  When people can’t determine what’s beneath the clothing, they look to see what’s in the character.  When women show respect to God and others, that is like a bright light to moths for potential Godly husbands.  Proverbs has a lot to say about women and character.  Proverbs 31 tells of a woman of noble character.  And here are a few choice other ones as well:

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.

A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping
of a leaky roof in a rainstorm;
restraining her is like restraining the wind
or grasping oil with the hand.

A foolish child is a father’s ruin,
and a quarrelsome wife is like
the constant dripping of a leaky roof.

Better to live in a desert
than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.

Forego Fear

Women are prone to fear.  Their very nurturing nature predisposes them to assess potential dangers and to avoid them.  While this is a very useful skill, it has a tendency to bleed into all other areas of life, and can cause great distress as they try to fight the  response to flee.  Women are able to summon great courage, and fiercely protect their families, but this generally comes out when they are cornered.  It is when they are blind-sided or can see danger at a distance that fear envelops them.

Peter encourages women to let go of fear, for God is sovereign and is MORE THAN ABLE to protect them through their circumstances.  When women can let go of fear, God is able to use them more powerfully in every situation.  While the fear response has its place (seek shelter from tornadoes and lightning storms, lock the doors and go to the panic room when crowds come shooting up and burning down the town, etc.), so does trusting God in every circumstance.

A Qualifying Question

Women, let’s ask a question:  Do I exalt myself before men, or do I let God exalt me before men?

Men, let’s ask a question:  What attracts me most to the woman I desire?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me that it is You that I need to please, and not men.  Help me to dress in a way that honors You.  Help me to cloth myself with the character of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to live this life free of fear, for You are sovereign over all.  Help me to do what is good and right so that I will honor you with my body, words, and thoughts.  This I ask in Jesus Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Character Development – 2 Peter 1:5-11

You Will Know Them By Their Fruit

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Creating Character

Good character is created.  Bad character is following the path of least resistance.

Character progresses through four stages:

  1. Thoughts – our thoughts are the first step in what we will do.  We process our thoughts, and through our conclusions (right or wrong), we develop attitudes.
  2. Attitudes – We now move into beliefs.  When we have an opinion on something, we form beliefs.  We act upon our beliefs, because they form the worldview that we have.
  3. Actions – We are now putting our beliefs into action.  We project our worldview through the result of our beliefs in action.  We can say that we believe something, but if we never act on it, do we truly believe it?
  4. Character – As we act consistently, we form patterns of behavior that become character.  We may occasionally do something that is odd for us, or out-of-character, so to speak.  Character is the pattern of behavior that we instill in ourselves through repeated actions.

Powerful Properties

Peter advises us to build our character in stages.  God says things in specific ways so that we can be better prepared to follow Him.  In this case, there is a progression of character that Peter advises us to adopt.  We are to add onto the next AFTER we establish the previous.  Just as in any learning endeavor, we need to follow the steps to ensure that we get the full foundation of understanding and knowledge.  Here are the aspects of character, IN ORDER, that we should inculcate into ourselves:

  • Faith
    • Faith is the beginning foundation for our eventual goal – love.  Without faith, it is impossible to proceed in learning Godly character, which (eventually) displays itself in love.
  • Goodness
    • Without faith, it is impossible to please God.  We need faith first, and then we can begin to understand the goodness of God.  As we understand God’s goodness, and walk with Him, we are to emulate what we see.  And God IS Good…
  • Knowledge
    • As we grow in modelling goodness, we desire more knowledge of God.  We are turning away from worldly knowledge and towards Godly knowledge.  God will only provide you the knowledge that He knows you can be trusted with, for you will be held accountable according to the knowledge that you have…
  • Self-Control
    • Once we receive knowledge, we need to put it into practice.  This requires consistency.  Self-Control is the next step in our foundational building block of character.  Without it, we are merely doing what we want, when we want, and it is impossible to move forward.  How can we develop perseverance without first being able to do something consistently?
  • Perseverance
    • As we act upon our knowledge, we strive for consistency.  It does us no good to act Godly one day, and evil the next, with no rhyme or reason to our behavior.  We are to seek out perseverance in our pursuit of Almighty God.  But without the foundation of faith, goodness, knowledge, and self-control, we very well would pursue the WRONG path to perseverance…
  • Godliness
    • As we grow in our perseverance, we begin to truly experience Godliness in our actions.  We are now (fairly) consistent in how we practice what we have learned, and are growing in His character daily.
  • Mutual Affection
    • Is it not odd that mutual affection is this far down the line in the development of Godly character?  Just as in anything else, when we jump to the end, and don’t put in the time learning the basics, our ability to succeed rapidly approaches FAILURE.
  • Love
    • Once we have the basics, and are implementing them consistently, making the effort to embrace the body of Christ, we begin to show love.  God is able to help us to love one another as Christ loves the church.  He fills in the gaps where we are weak, and helps us by slowly weaning us off His overwhelming power so that we can pursue Godly character, which results eventually, in love.
    • He still helps us to love, for we cannot love as God loves apart from God, but we grow in His character by consistently CHOOSING His ways.
    • God will slowly remove the training wheels from our bicycle as we learn to ride.  If He was to constantly and consistently help us, how would we learn to make the right choices?  Do we not do the same for our children?  This is how we grow…

Each of these steps are necessary, in order, so that we can develop and grow in Godly character.  We do them out-of-order, or ignore them, to our spiritual peril.

Always Advancing

Peter next implies that in order to advance in our Christian Faith, these “qualities” need to be a part of our lives in increasing measure.  Each of these steps are to be pursued constantly, not just one after another. Each of these should CONSISTENTLY and CONCURRENTLY growing in our lives.  We just should not pursue the next step until we have a good handle on the previous step, however.

Becoming Blind

When we ignore these steps, we become nearsighted (unable to see what God is doing, and where we SHOULD be going) and (spiritually) blind.  We become like the person who proudly says, “I am a babe in Christ!  I’ve been walking with Him for 30 odd years or so!  I’m goin’ to Heaven.  Woo Hoo!”.  Imagine a 30-year-old man walking in diapers, throwing temper tantrums, drinking formula from a baby’s bottle, and acting like a baby.  What would you think?  That is what we look like to mature, Spirit-filled Christians when we do not grow in Godly character over time (let alone those who don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior)…

Confirm your Calling

Peter then urges us to be diligent in this.  The verb that translates here as “make every effort” in the Greek is spoudasate.  It means “endeavor with great diligence!”.  It is an imperative command.  This is not a suggestion, but an exhortation!  When we pursue Godly character in this manner, it “confirms” our calling and election.  It is VISIBLE FRUIT that shows that we are saved.  We have the responsibility to learn Godly character as part of our sanctification.

Anyone who does not embrace sanctification is not willing to die to self.  This should be a “red-flag” to us that there is something not right in our heart.  Whatever the issue may be, get it resolved (seek Christian counseling if this sounds impossible), and begin your spiritual development and training in Godliness.

Rich Reward

Peter then says if we do these things, we will not stumble.  Are you tired of stumbling in your walk?  Are you tired of being tripped up?  Here are the steps to fill in the gaps in your spiritual training.  Did you miss a step?  Is the foundation a little shallow at one end?  Go back to the beginning, and lay the foundation deep and wide, with Christ as the cornerstone (of your faith).  Once the foundation is solid and secure, the building that is built upon it will withstand the attacks of the enemy.

And be assured that if you follow these steps, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide you as you pray for deliverance, strength, and wisdom to complete each of them, you will receive a rich welcome into the kingdom of Jesus Christ.  And certainly, you will hear these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Have I laid down the right foundation in my pursuit of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for the wisdom and revelation of Yourself in Your word.  Help me to review my foundation, and see if there is anything that I am lacking.  If I have missed a step, I pray, Father, that You will help me to see it.  Take me back to my earlier training, if necessary, and help me to learn each lesson again as You know that I need to.  Help me to shore up the weak points in my walk.  Father, strengthen me as I humble myself before You.  I know I don’t always do things right.  I stumble and I don’t know why.  Thank you for reminding me that to truly learn, I must put in the time and effort in the right way and in the right order for the results to bear great fruit.  Forgive me for my sins, and help me to honor you in every action, word, and deed.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Motivation for Discipline – Proverbs 13:24

Spoiled Children Are Like Spoiled Food – They Leave A Bad Taste In Your Mouth

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Worldly Wisdom

Everyone seems to have a word of wisdom.  Time-honored advice that has worked for them, and others who passed it on to them.  Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge for the betterment of mankind.  And the world, the flesh, and the devil seem to constantly pour out their versions of wisdom.

With children, wisdom from the world and the devil appears to be hands-off parenting.  “Be their friend; give their opinions, no matter how bizarre, the same weight as your own, and let them guide the way; after all, they are the future!”

The world does so at their own peril.  For children learn by observing and doing what pleases them.  The implied morality that human beings supposedly have – that we are inherently good – is believed and embraced.  And any correction to the natural learning cycle of children is no longer the imparting of wisdom, but rather considered an impediment and abuse.  After all, should not the child be able to decide for itself how it should think, act, and respond to the world?

Learning Love

The first fallacy of hands-off child-raising is that children, by their very “innocent nature”, implicitly know love and how to love.  But observe any child left to his/her own devices, and watch just how manipulative, conniving, scheming, self-centered, self-absorbed the child will become.  Rather than Timmy on the classic “Lassie” TV show, the child instead begins to resemble Damian in “The Omen“.

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Children need training.  They need to both be trained through instruction and correction, as well as having a solid example of behavior in the form of character that is congruent with what is being said.  Children are natural hypocrisy detectors.  Their “radar” is tuned to check what they hear against what they observe.

Love does not come naturally.  It makes no sense to love anyone else if there is no direct benefit to yourself.  Self-preservation and self-fulfillment are the goals of the untrained, undisciplined mind.  Even in adulthood, the world behaves in the same way:

  • Get as much of the pie as you can, because no one will help you out
  • Be concerned with yourself first and everyone else later (if it is convenient for you and your plans)
  • The strong should rule over the weak

Godly love does none of these things.  Godly (agape) love is

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Does not envy
  • Does not boast
  • Is not proud
  • Is not rude
  • Does not insist on its own way
  • Does not rejoice at wrongdoing
  • Rejoices with the Truth
  • Bears all things
  • Believes all things
  • Hopes all things
  • Endures all things
  • Doesn’t fail

Children, left to their own devices, will not embrace this type of character.  They must be taught character.  The first part of learning is accepting the correct role of authority in one’s life

Accepting Authority

Correction helps us to accept the rightful authority over our lives.

An old friend of mine had a nephew whose father was wild.  In a stunning, emotional scene where the child’s mother was allowing the father to see his son one last time (she had won full parental responsibility and the court ruled that the father would no longer have any rights [or financial obligations] towards the child), the father’s parting words to his son were astounding.  He basically said, “Son, you don’t have to listen to anyone, not even me.  Be your own man.”  His parting words were calculated to do the maximum damage that he could so that the child’s mother would have the most difficult time raising him up.

Years later, the uncle of that child and two of his friends took this child on their annual pilgrimage to a famous amusement park.  There were three sets of hawk-eyes trained on that young man, now just a little before the teenage span of his life.  Rather than hold the young man’s hand (and embarrass him in front of strangers), these three men kept a watchful eye on the young man.  The child, who had never had the opportunity to visit this amusement park, was in wonder at all of the sights before him.  The three men watching him were diligent in keeping their eyes on this child.

About three hours into the first day of this weekend-long trip, some sound caught the attention of all three men.  They looked away for a mere second or two.  But that was all that was needed.  The child, who was watching the men carefully, realizing his opportunity to be free from the control and authority of these men, bolted into the thick crowds.  Almost an hour later, the young man was found, greatly enjoying the freedom from oversight by those who had been placed in authority over him, unaware of the dangers that his “dash to freedom” placed him in.  Because this young man had the tendency to bolt like this, corrective action needed to be taken.  In this case, the weekend-long trip was cut short, as the risk was just too great.

When we refuse to accept the rightful authority of the ones who have been placed in charge over us (not only men, but also God), we set ourselves up for the opportunity to be placed in a situation where the outcome is less than desirable.  And like the young man’s story above, not every “dash to freedom” results in dire consequences.  But we fail to recognize the danger that we are in, because we are unable to see every aspect of life as it unfolds around us.

Readying for Responsibility

Correction readies us for greater responsibility.  As we accept correction of those who are in lawful authority over us, we begin to be prepared for greater responsibility.  Just as you wouldn’t give the keys of the $500K Ferrari to the 14-year-old wild-child, neither will God give us responsibility when we are not ready.

When God calls us, He then equips us.  But this is after careful preparation:

  • Joseph was prepared as a slave for more than a decade before God called him to save the entire world from famine
  • Moses was prepared for forty years as shepherd before God called him to shepherd his people into the promised land
  • The twelve disciples of Christ were prepared for three years (including Paul, who had his own three-year preparation with Christ in the desert before being released) by Jesus Christ Himself.

We need to be open to correction in order to grow and be prepared for greater responsibility.

Careful Correction

The manner of correction is just as important as its intensity and timing.  The strong-willed child will defiantly say, “I would rather DIE than have to submit to you!”  And the child is truly fully prepared to make good on that statement (it is NOT an idle threat).  What to do?  How do you prepare a child such as this so that they will be ready to be released from your care and supervision and then solely under the supervision of Almighty God?

God Himself will provide the manner, attitude, words, and consequences for training such a child if we allow Him to and invite Him to do so.  Some children appear completely compliant.  Those are the dangerous ones.  They seem OK, but what is really going on inside?  Are they compliant to get their way, or are they compliant because they desire to accept the authority over them?

God sees our hearts as they truly are.  And He is more than capable of applying the “rod of correction” to each of us in such a way that we will not soon forget it.  What works for you wouldn’t necessarily have any impact on me.  And what works on me might just irritate and turn you away from God rather than have the desired effect.

In any case, correction is necessary, for if we are permitted to continue on in our ways, we will surely pass the point where our consciences are seared, and we won’t even realize the deep depths of darkness that our lives slip quietly into until the terrible moment when circumstances reveal the true depravity of our souls.

Properly Prepared

God is the one who knows best how to guide, correct, and instruct each and every one of us at any age or stage in our lives.  We need to go before Him to receive instruction and correction.   The hyper-grace community of believers may be just as surprised as the legalists when they go before Almighty God saying, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?”  And our Lord Jesus Christ will reply, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

God disciplines us as His childrenAnyone who is not disciplined by God is NOT one of His.  Surely, if God disciplines us, should we not then discipline our children as well?  And what then shall we say of our motivation behind discipline?  Is it truly “child abuse”, as culture tell us, or is it loving care as we use it as a preparatory method for bringing about the fruit of righteousness?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I accept discipline properly?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, may Your holy name be praised.  Thank You for disciplining me so that I would not bring dishonor to Your name.  Thank You for showing me, through Your discipline, that I am one of Yours.  Thank You for the opportunity to grow in truth and righteousness.  Thank You for the opportunity to bear fruit in accordance with righteousness rather than selfishness.  Thank You, Father, for Your many lessons, painful as they are.  And I pray, Lord God Almighty, that should I be in the position of administering these lessons to others in a parental, governmental, judicial, and/or business environment, that You would guide me as to the best way to do so.  Help me to adhere to Your word, and to reject culture where culture conflicts with the truth.  Give me courage, resources, and assistance where necessary to defend Your tried and true methods against the rebellion of society towards You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

God Reveals Himself – Psalm 18:25-27

God Reveals Himself Experientially

25 To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
26 to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
27 You save the humble
but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

Opportune Observation

Everywhere in the Bible, we see God revealing Himself.  He does so through His word.  He reveals His amazing character through His interaction with His creation. We have the wonderful opportunity to observe through reading God’s word exactly how He interacts with us in the universe that He created.  We have been provided the perfect place to keenly observe, without filter or pretense, what has gone on before.  This gives us a better perspective of what we should expect from our God, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Experiential Encounter

But He goes much deeper than that.  As we start on the path of reconciliation with God through repentance and sanctification, we begin to desire to experience God on a more personal level.  The only way to do that is to walk with someone.

When you walk with someone, you have the opportunity to share in the life-experiences of that person.  You are there when things happen, and are immediately impacted by the results of the circumstances that you both encounter.  God does not merely want us to read about what He did yesterday (or a long time ago, in our cases); He wants to us personally be involved with Him in what He is doing today and what He is planning to do tomorrow.

Jesus called us to follow Him.  The Greek word for follow is akoloutheo.  It means to walk alongside someone, shoulder to shoulder, if you will, almost as if you were in lock-step with them.

Relational Relevance

When we being to experience God’s character by walking with Him, He reveals Himself in a greater and deeper way to us.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

In the case of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reveals that to those who exhibit the Godly character of Mercy, He will reveal Himself by being Merciful to them.  The benefits of experiencing God’s character is that God makes it real to us as we exhibit it.  It becomes experiential knowledge rather than just head-knowledge.

If a person always has food to eat, hunger truly isn’t real for them.  They may understand hunger at a simple level, maybe if they miss a meal, or fast for a short period of time.  But to truly understand hunger, a person must be in the position of not even having the option of eating for a very long time.  Whether that is self-imposed or imposed by circumstances, the reality of not even having the opportunity to eat reveals the nature of hunger as it affects those so afflicted.

Participatory Providence

While we are forgiven our sins at the time we confess Jesus as Savior, we are afforded a more intimate knowledge of the character of Almighty God.  To truly appreciate something, you generally have to pay for it yourself.  Then you begin to understand the sacrifice, effort, and cost of something.  Time, effort, and money are expended in the process that precludes the purchase of other things.  Everything comes at a price and, unless you have unlimited time, money, and skill, there are only so many choices that can be made.  Likewise, when we participate in the character of God, we give up the right to exercise other options that are available to us at the price of following the path of righteousness.

For instance, forgiveness comes at a three-fold cost.  First, there is the initial harm that we experience when we are wronged.  Second, there is loss as we give up all claim at justly recovering (if that is even possible) what was originally ours.  Finally, we suffer harm in knowing that justice for the offense will not occur (in the case of those whose sin has been forgiven.  In the case of those who refused to believe God in life, they will suffer the most grievous and just penalty for that in the Lake of Fire, and there justice is fully meted out).

Disciplinary Danger

We are warned by the Psalmist that we need to be careful in how we conduct ourselves with regards to character.  God reveals His character as a Just Judge when we exhibit ungodliness in our own character:

Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.

Even in the case of ungodly character, God reveals Himself to us as well, even if it is in a less pleasant manner and method.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I daily receiving a more experiential knowledge of God’s character?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have revealed Yourself to me in Your word.  Help me to put into practice all that I have read and learned, so that I may better experience Your character and understand the depth and breadth of the love that You have for me.  As I experience this, help me to better love my neighbor as myself, and love one another as You have loved me.  Help me to love You as You desire to be loved, and I pray that my character, daily, would more closely align with Yours until they are indistinguishable from each other.  I ask, Father, that You help me to yield myself to the Holy Spirit so that He can work more effortless through me and in me, that Your character would be on display for the world to see.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

God is Sovereign – Isaiah 40:21-24

God Is Responsible For Installing Rulers Among Men As Well As Removing Them

21 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

Forgotten Foundations

When events in our lives trigger great emotional distress, we are often at risk of forgetting our foundational beliefs.  For many people, the recent election of Donald J. Trump to the office of President of the United States has caused great anguish.  It was reported that upon hearing the news, many people wept openly and bitterly.  Others cheered and rejoiced.  Both were emotional responses to a desired outcome that either was fulfilled or frustrated.

When we experience this type of deep emotional response to something, we should take a step back, and check it against our core values.  We should then ask ourselves some questions:

  1. Why am I feeling this way?
  2. How should I respond?
  3. What is God doing?

In our emotional condition, we can often forget a most important aspect about God – that He is Sovereign.

Supreme Sovereignty

God is seated on His throne in Heaven.  He and He alone is sovereign over all of the universe.  God is the one who raises rulers up and takes rulers downThere is no authority on Earth except that which is established by God, either currently ruling, in training to rule, or being removed from their rule.

Disciples of Christ have a tendency to forget that we are merely ambassadors for Christ here on earth; our true home is in Heaven with Jesus.  And while the world around us is amazed and bewildered by the seemingly random and odd circumstances that they find themselves in, disciples of Christ should realize that God is sovereign, He has a plan, He is working His plan, and we have nothing to fear because God works out everything to good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Royals Removed

God is the one who topples rulers.  We are like a mist; here for a short while, and then gone.  There is no position of authority that we place men and women in rule above us that is not overseen by God. We think that because we have voted someone in or out of office, or they have been assassinated, or they are disgraced, that somehow we have done these things.  It is instead God who has allowed them to happen.  Nothing happens in this universe without the express prior knowledge and approval of God.

To think that we are solely responsible for the removal of persons in power is mere arrogance and pride.  God is able to protect His rulers from all harm and evil if it suits His purposes.  It was said that the American Indians realized that George Washington was blessed and approved by the Great Spirit.  Indian warriors of renown who never missed their prey with their arrows reported that their aim was true when they would fire upon Washington, but the arrows would not find their mark.  Even now, shells fired from rockets that get through the Iron Dome in Israel are sometimes blown out to sea by great winds that suddenly arise after the shells penetrate Israel’s defensive perimeter (much to the chagrin of those who fire them at Israel).

Deep Distraction

God’s people have allowed politics to cloud their vision of Him, His power, His will, and His way.  Many disciples of Christ set their hopes, fortunes, paths, and joy on the outcome of elections rather than the goodness, mercy, grace, holiness, and righteousness of God.  We place God in a second-tier position, as though God is the one who is responsible for executing our commands and fulfilling our every desire.

We treat God like a genie, and send prayers up to God (“rub the genie’s bottle”) every time we need something, only to shove the genie back in the bottle and cork it when we have our wish and don’t need Him anymore in our lives.  We relegate God to our slave and desire Him to only be sovereign in our lives when WE want something changed.

We have forgotten that God is sovereign.  We weep and wail when we don’t get our way.  James gently chides us for this:

1 What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people!  Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Instead of sorrow at our circumstances, or who is pulling the switches and levers of power in this Earthly realm, let us set our eyes upon Him who is in the Heavenly realm, and petition Him according to His will.  Let us submit ourselves to God, resist the devil, and watch as the enemy flees*.  Let us rejoice that our Creator is in charge, and that leaders come and go at His behest.  Let us set our hearts upon the commission that we have received, and let God take care of our provision and care.

Was God able to rescue Joseph from the hands of his brothers and Potiphar?  Was God able to rescue Daniel from the lion’s den?  Was God able to rescue Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the flaming furnace?  Was God able to rescue Peter from being chained in jail with guards?  Was God able to rescue Paul from those who sought his death?  Was God able to rescue Jesus Christ from eternal death?   If He is able to do that for them, why would you think that He is unable to do that for you?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I more concerned about politics or God’s will?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You and You alone are sovereign over all.  Help me to remember that I am merely a visitor here on Earth, and that my place is with Christ in Heaven.  Help me to have a proper perspective on all that occurs in life, so that I may not be shaken or swayed when events do not go my way, and especially when then do go my way.  Father, help me to have a heart that is always centered on You, and to accept Your sovereign rule in the lives of men.  Give me peace in the choices that You make in the rulers over my life, and help me to be a faithful witness of Your Son regardless of the circumstances I find myself in.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes: This blog was edited for spelling errors.

  • Jesus was comforted by angels after his encounter with Satan in the desert.  When we submit ourselves to God (the rest of these sequence of events is PREDICATED upon this primary principle), resist the devil (which may come at a very high cost in money, emotional distress, and/or difficult circumstances), it is only then that he will flee.  Don’t think that this is going to be easy.  You have signed up for a war.  Many of the combatants don’t even know they are engaged in it.  Be wary, and listen to your Commander-in-Chief, who will provide all necessary instruction to win the battles (Jesus already won the war on the cross…).

God Protects Israel – Ezekiel 38:17-23

God Doesn’t Take Kindly To Those Who Would Harm His Beloved

17 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You are the one I spoke of in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel. At that time they prophesied for years that I would bring you against them. 18 This is what will happen in that day: When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign Lord. 19 In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. 20 The fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground. 21 I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign Lord. Every man’s sword will be against his brother. 22 I will execute judgment on him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. 23 And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.'”

Malicious Men

The nations gather and, in word and action, throw their vitriol towards God’s chosen people, the Israelites.  Time and time again, God uses the nations to discipline her for her adultery and idolatry.  But God, for His name’s sake, continues to be faithful to the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God is faithful even when Israel is not.  And after 2000 years, He is gathering His people back to their promised land Israel.

Not everyone is heeding the call.  The pull of wealth and power has many Israelites loathing their own people.

For the love of money [that is, the greedy desire for it and the willingness to gain it unethically] is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves [through and through] with many sorrows.

So now, the Israelites will soon be dealing with all of the nations that hate the offspring of Jacob and the success and protection that God affords them (for more information regarding what God has done and is doing, read Ezekiel 36-39).  God will not turn a blind eye on Israel, but will protect the people and the land in such a way that He will be declared Holy before the nations.

Eventful Earthquake

A great and powerful shaking will occur in Israel and her mountains.   This is not some ordinary earthquake; it will level every wall, mountains will be overturned, and cliffs will fall.  But, as human beings, even such terrible natural disasters such as this type doesn’t keep our attention for very long.

Brother fights Brother

The weapons of the people who come up against Israel will be turned on each other.  Brother will kill brother during the ensuing chaos.  This will not be the first time that God has induced confusion into the armies of the enemy.  There will be a bloodbath.  Israel will need only to watch as God fights for them and rescues them from the blood-thirsty people who would see them harmed.

Powerful Plague

But just to make sure, God will send a plague among her enemies to ensure that any who did not die from the sword will be done in.  God will make certain that EVERY LAST ONE of the people who come against Israel at that time are utterly destroyed.  And then, for good measure, God will do something even better.

Nature’s Napalm

Not only will the enemy fight each other to the death; not only will God send a plague in addition to the bloodshed; God will use the very forces of nature that He sovereignly created and that He sovereignly controls to take care of the rest of Israel’s foes.  God will send torrents of rain, hailstones, and burning sulfur to take care of the rest.  There will be no doubt in ANYONE’S mind that it was God and God alone who did that.  Who else could send torrents of rain, hailstones, AND “nature’s napalm” – burning sulfur – at the same time?

He IS Holy

And when God has completed His thorough destruction of those who would dare come up against the people who are the “apple of His eye“, the nations will acknowledge that God is holy.  He is set apart from sin, and set apart to righteousness, for that is His character, His very essence – God IS Holy.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do my thoughts, words, and actions show that I for Israel, or against Israel?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, bless Your people Israel.  Protect them even now as they attempt to live in peace in the land that You created and gave to them.  Give them Your every support.  Bless them in all that they do, and may they be a blessing to all of the nations.  Strengthen their hands, their will, and their nation, that You would be glorified through them.  And reveal Your Son, Jesus Christ to them soon, so that they will embrace their Savior, and the prophecy You have given will be fulfilled.  Father, help me in thought, word, and deed to do anything and everything that I can to help Your people Israel.  Guard me and my family, for as we takes sides in this spiritual war, the enemy will surely try to overwhelm us.  Give us strength to remain steadfast, even unto death, that You would be glorified.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Children and God – Psalm 127:3-5

Children Are A Reward From God, Not A Punishment Nor A Curse

3 Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their opponents in court.

Helpful Heritage

God gives us children as a heritage.  While culture preaches from its bully pulpit that children are a curse and must be eliminated as masses of cells before they destroy the lives of the women who bear them, God sees them in an entirely different way.  “Back in the day”, when people still relied upon God for their very sustenance through working the land, it was a blessing to have ten to twenty children in the family.  The family farm would provide all of the food and resources needed to sustain the family, and as the children came of age, they could work the farm and contribute to the family.  This taught them selflessness, love, hard work, and the ability to work in conjunction with others towards a common goal.

Righteous parenting will not eliminate the bad apples of the group.  After all, God did give us all free will, and even the most loving and caring parents will encounter a child who refuses to embrace their love and the truth of God.  These children abandon rational thought in the pursuit of selfish pleasure and “freedom” from what they perceive as the “punitive restrictions” God requires of those who seek righteousness.  The good news is, none of them are immune from the answers given by God in response to the prayers of their righteous parents.  Yet most of the children in that era grew up to be great people, and sought the welfare of their families, their communities, their countries, and most importantly, their God.

If abortion is to be embraced, and God is to be abandoned, then we have doomed our race to extinction.  For if abortion is higher and mightier than God, in a generation or two or three, there would be no more humans.  And while some might consider the human race to be a curse upon this Earth, they are only half right – it is the curse of sin that Adam brought upon us that infects and affects each and every one of us.  And it is for this reason that Jesus Christ came down to Earth as a man, to be an example for us, and to die for our sins upon the cross at Calvary so that we could be redeemed from the bondage of sin and free to choose to serve God rather than Satan.

Real Reward

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Emphasis added)

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. (Emphasis added)

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. (Emphasis added)

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Emphasis added)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Emphasis added)

Culture teaches us that children are a burden, and that they are an obstacle to our path to:

  • Our enlightenment,
  • Our enjoyment of life
  • Our success
  • Our freedom
  • Our lives
  • Our careers
  • Our happiness

Because we have become a people who are self-centered, narcissistic, self-focused, self-absorbed, and self-conscious, we believe culture and abandon that which God has said in His holy word.  Children are a reward, not a curse.  Every child has a purpose that God has specifically given to them:

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. –  James 2:14-17,26

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:8-10

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” – John 14:12

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

God has planned in advance, before the foundation of the universe, the works that He has assigned to each and every one of them.  When we view children as burdens rather than rewards, that attitude will infect their souls.  So we should not be surprised when little Johnny turns out later in life to be a drug addict pimping women in dark street corners when he grows up, hearing throughout his childhood how he kept his parents from achieving their goals.

Children are God’s reward to parents.  They are to be a blessing, cherished in every way, raised in the Lord according to their own individual gifts, talents, and tendencies that God has placed in their lives.  We do them and ourselves a disservice when we try to make our children carbon copies of ourselves.  When we yield to God and allow Him to direct the way that our children are to be molded and shaped, God will be given the greater glory and honor, the child will be MUCH happier, and the life and ministry of that child will increase and blossom as they embrace God through the love that their parents showed them.  Children model us.  Let us be the right model for them.

Wonderful Weapons

God does not look at children merely as rewards and a heritage; in the battle of sin and righteousness, they are to be powerful weapons – highly skilled warriors.  The Psalmist Solomon, who was the wisest man (apart from Jesus Christ) to ever walk the Earth, uses the imagery of archery to convey this point.  An archer is responsible for aiming the arrow, providing the right angle for it, and releasing it at just the right time with just the right force to accomplish whatever goal the archer has been given.

In the same way, children are like arrows.  We train them up in the way they should go, preparing them to be used by God for His purposes, and when they are ready, we release them into the world to accomplish the goals God has already planned for them to do.  As a parent, you are to be the archer, listening intently to your Commander-In-Chief for instructions on how and when to arm yourself with your weapons, pointing them in the direction they should go, and releasing them with just the right force at just the right time to be effective.  That is both a great responsibility and a great honor.

Capable Candidate

And when we raise our children correctly, they will be formidable opponents against the evil of this world.  Even when they are falsely accused and brought before the courts by those who would seek to destroy them, they will more than adequately refute their adversaries in the courtroom battle, for it is not we who fight, but the Lord who fights for us:

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

“no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord. (Emphasis added)

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I cherish children the same way that the Lord God Almighty does?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for your heritage, blessing, and challenge of children.  Give me the right mindset as I interact with them, whether they are my own, or someone else’s, for they are Yours and Yours alone.  Just as you make us managers over your creation, You have chosen us to manage children in the same way, loving them as You love them, training them as You train us, and remembering that they are Yours and not ours.  Give us the wisdom, discernment, and ability to raise them up in the way they should go, not the way we desire them to go.  And help them to be mighty weapons, straight and true arrows in the quivers of their parents, ready to be aimed and deployed when and where You see fit.  And may they be mightily effective in every battle that they engage, for You, Lord God, go before them and fight for them with zeal and with their guardian angels.  Strengthen them, and keep them from evil.  Let them be light and salt to this wicked generation.  Give them a focus upon Jesus that we cannot even comprehend, and may their children be doubly effective for You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Home Security and God – Psalm 127:1-2

If God Is Not Involved In Every Aspect Of Life, Don’t Expect Success

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat-
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Count the Cost

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,”

In everything we do, we should count the cost.  Whether it is building a home, constructing a tower, starting a business, or any other endeavor, counting the cost is a natural and normal thing to do.  We should determine if we are willing to (and able to) spend the necessary time, talent, and treasure to see the vision be completed.  In this passage, the Psalmist indicates that it is foolish to even build a house if the Lord God Almighty isn’t involved in building it.

God owns everything:

The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.

for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.

Time after time, God takes credit for OWNING all things, including US.  When we fail to take this into account, we are in effect telling God that WE own ourselves, or our property, or our money, jobs, children, abilities, and anything else that we falsely lay claim to owning.  God, instead of making us accountable for OWNING these thing, in His great wisdom and mercy, only makes us accountable for MANAGING these things.  By doing so, GOD is responsible for ensuring that we, as managers, are provided with the proper resources to take care of HIS things.  We, in and of ourselves, have no way to create our own resources to take care of anything!

[A lesson in futility, all sarcasm intended] If you ever want to take care of YOUR own things, feel free to create matter from nothingness.  Then, form and refine it into whatever useful shape you desire, and God will certainly acknowledge that what YOU have created is YOURS, and not HIS.

Safe and Secure

Many people have home security systems installed to ward off burglars and would-be-thieves.  Those who have money to spend on armed security guards do so as a heightened level of protection for the assets that they manage.  The Psalmist rightly concludes that if God is not protecting the city (or even the home), those who watch for danger watch in vain.

Locks keep honest people honest – Unknown Author

If someone is determined enough, and they have sufficient resources, they will be able to thwart any security measures that are taken in order to obtain what they secretly (or openly) envy and desire.  Security measures are meant to deter people from attempting to steal, or interrupt them in the act of stealing.  But if God is watching over the house or the city, the thieves will surely look for other, easier marks, or be thwarted in their attempts.*

But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.

Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight – Origin Unknown

Even if you are watching over everything, day and night, you may not be fully prepared to deal with the resources that the enemy has brought to bear against you.  The only sure way to know that you and what you manage are safe is to make sure that the Sovereign Lord of the universe is watching over what He has placed in your care.

Vain Ventures

Man has, for millennia, toiled under the sun (and with the right resources, under the moon as well…) to gain wealth.  We work our fingers to the bone trying to make enough money to provide for ourselves and our loved ones.  This is especially prevalent when evil people are at the helm of the country who secretly (and sometimes even OPENLY) desire to ruin the economy and makes the citizens of their dominion their slaves.  When this happens, we slave away and have nothing to show for it, even when we are carefully planning finances and frugal in spending what little money is earned.

A famous song captured this quite succinctly:

…You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store… – Merle Travis, “Sixteen Tons

The author of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, puts it this way:

22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

Satisfying Sleep

And on the note of minds not at rest at night, it is God and God alone who gives us restful sleep at night.  It is God who helps us to sleep soundly without worry.  God tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and He will provide for our every need.

However, God does test us in our sleep through our dreams:

Though you probe my heart,
though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil;
my mouth has not transgressed.

In everything we do, we need to be mindful that it is God who gives us what we have, including our time, talent, and treasure.  Everything belongs to God, and we have an obligation to God to acknowledge that everything, including us, are His.  Management of what God has placed into our care is a great privilege and honor, and if God has chosen others to manage more desirable aspects of His creation, or greater portions of it, we should not envy our neighbor, for they will be held more accountable for what they do with it, and God provides to us exactly what He knows we are able to effectively manage.  After all, He is the one who gave us whatever ability we have to manage in the first place!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I acknowledge God’s sovereignty and ownership of everything, including myself, in how I manage what God has placed me in charge?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are gracious in Your dealings with me.  Your mercies renew every morning, and You show me mercy and grace with exceedingly larger measure each day.  Father, please help me to manage all that You have placed under my care with the utmost of respect and ability that I may honor You.  Help me to be like Joseph, in whom his enemies could find no fault as he managed Pharaoh’s vast empire.  Give me the correct attitude towards what I have been entrusted so that it will be used for Your honor and glory.  Help me to turn from the worldly cultural teachings regarding acquisition, ownership, and management, and look to You and Your word for wisdom and ability so that You would be honored.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes:

*In a true story that was told at a church, there was a serial rapist on the loose in a city.  No one could identify the man, because he brutally murdered all of his victims so no one could identify him.  One night, a woman was walking down the street alone.  The serial rapist saw her, but didn’t attack.  She got a good look at him, especially his face.  A few minutes later, another woman came down the street alone, and he abducted her in his usual way with his usual methods.  When the police found the second woman’s body, they began to ask around, and discovered that the first woman had been in the vicinity of the area where the second woman had been abducted near the time of her abduction.  When they questioned her, she was able to give an accurate description of the man that she saw, who the police later arrested and charged.  During interrogation, when the police asked the man why he didn’t take the first woman, he declared in exasperation, “Are you kidding?  There were two of the largest guys I had ever seen in my life, on her left and her right.  I would have been a fool to try to take her with them around!” If God is protecting you, evil people will seek other marks.

Restoration by God – Psalm 126

It Is God Who Restores Us After He Disciplines Us

1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

4 Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.

Dreaming after Discipline

When we are being disciplined, it can seem as if there is no future.  Our very dreams may be stripped from us as God allows us to be sifted like wheat.  The fortunes of yesterday become the poverty of tomorrow.  Women who bore children may now be barren, and any thought of success is marred as God does the opposite in our lives.

5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

It may seem impossible to dream of the future while God is disciplining us.  And although discipline is designed to bring about the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it, the training may seem excruciatingly painful, cruel, unloving, and hateful.  But that is our Earthly emotional response to the unpleasantness that is required for training.  If we focus on the feelings rather than the goal, we can become embittered, disillusioned, distant, withdrawn, and even depressed.

While a significant portion of discipline is achieved through God allowing Satan to have his way with us, God does sometimes supernaturally intervene through the withholding of His blessing and hedge of protection for reasons that appear obtuse to us.  Even His silence during this time is calculated to drive us closer to Him in prayer, with pleading and tears, rather than anger, scorn, and bitterness.

When your dreams seem like a distant echo of some great feast of long ago, let go of them to embrace the discipline that God is using to train you.  It may very well be that God is trying to sanctify you by removing the Earthly dreams and desires that you have so that He can give you new Heavenly desires and future visions of His plans. For when the discipline is over, the time to dream dreams has arrived.

Jubilant Joy

When God restores our fortunes, we will have songs filled with joy and praise on our lips.  And like a woman who has travailed through a long, difficult, and painful childbirth, the joy of seeing her child for the first time makes her forget the pain that she endured to birth him/her.

For the first time in what seems forever, we will have laughter on our lips, and God will give us a new song in our hearts to praise Him.  The former things will have passed away, and the current joy will overshadow any pain that we may have endured.  This does not mean that we won’t bear the scars.  The emotional, psychological, and physical scars of our discipline may well follow us throughout the rest of our lives.  But God will restore and sanctify what was once broken.

It is the scars that remind us of where we came from, what we came through, and where we are going.  Humans are a forgetful people.  That is why God needed to tell us that we should praise Him in remembrance when He prospers us.  Soon after the pain is over, if we do not remember our training, like a dog returning to its vomit, we may very well return to our old ways of living.  That is why God had His people erect Stones of Remembrance.

Nations Notice

When God restores the fortunes of His people, the nations take notice, and they see the grace, mercy, and provision of the Lord God Almighty.  In 1948, God kept His promise and restored His people to their land.  In 1967, God kept His promise and His people threw off the yoke of Gentile control for more than 2,000 years.  God has been restoring the fortunes of His people, and it has been a great and mighty testimony to the faithfulness of God.  And while the enemies of God and God’s people gnash their teeth and cry out in agony at the sovereign power of Almighty God, YHWH, as He marches forth His sovereign plan, the rest of the world looks on in wonder and envy as Israel grows, strengthens, and prospers.

Howling and Hymns

When we sow with tears, we reap with joy.  God is close to the brokenhearted, and hears their cries for His help.  God is not deaf to the suffering of His people:

13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.”

Growing and Garnering

The Bible says:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

When we sow seed in weeping, God will send us away with joy in our hearts as we reap the efforts of our labors with the fruit that will satisfy us.  God gives us not only physical provision, but also spiritual provision as well.  He will give us the fruit of our labor, and we will be satisfied in it.  When we drink from the fountain of living water, and eat of bread of communion, we are filled with such great abundance of joy and satisfaction that the world in its desire to physically satisfy its carnal desires cannot even begin to appreciate what we have.  For the deepest hunger of our hearts – the spiritual need and desire to be in communion with God – will be truly fulfilled, and no amount of wealth, food, or Earthly attainment can compare to the immense riches of the blessings that we have in our Heavenly inheritance.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with trials and discipline, am I able to see God’s endgame – my sanctification and His glory – through it?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your discipline seems like blows on my back.  I can sometimes barely even breathe under its weight.  Give me strength through my trials, and keep my heart steadfastly focused upon Jesus, that I may honor and glorify Your name though them.  Father, even Your Son, Jesus Christ, asked three times to have His cup removed.  Father, may Your will be done, not mine.  Help me to endure my trials as Jesus did His.  Help me to see the light at the end of these trials, so that I can look forward to laughter, joy, and song, and dreams again.  May my suffering and loss glorify Your name. Please use my pain, suffering, sorrow, and loss for Your glory so that I may know that my suffering serves some greater purpose.  Thank You, Father, for all that You are and all that You do.  May Your mercy and grace be upon me and my family through all of our trials.  Remember me – act divinely upon my behalf – this day, and give me what I need to both survive and thrive.  This I ask in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

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Protection by God – Psalm 125

God Is The One Who Protects His People Israel

1 Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the Lord surrounds his people
both now and forevermore.

3 The scepter of the wicked will not remain
over the land allotted to the righteous,
for then the righteous might use
their hands to do evil.

4 Lord, do good to those who are good,
to those who are upright in heart.
5 But those who turn to crooked ways
the Lord will banish with the evildoers.

Peace be on Israel.

Total Trust

God greatly desires that we trust Him.  He has shown his trustworthiness throughout His word, and history bears witness to it by external observers.  As we develop in our relationship with God, there is a level of trust that comes into play.  When circumstances seem to show that God is against us, are we willing to believe that God is for us?  Will He ever truly leave us or forsake us?  Do we trust in His character, or the blessings that He bestows?

Secure Stronghold

The Psalmist indicates here that those who trust God wholeheartedly are like a mountain – they will not be shaken.  That is because any good building is completely reliant upon its foundation.  When we trust in Jesus Christ, we are building upon the cornerstone – the very first and largest stone laid down in a foundation.  When the cornerstone is laid properly – it is level and faces in the right direction – the rest of the foundation that is laid down next to it will be straight and true.

Jesus is our foundation, our solid rock.  Anyone who builds on Jesus, through trust in Him, will build upon the unshakeable cornerstone of God.  God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent; nothing and no one can cause Jesus to change.  He is securely seated at the right hand of God, His power and authority being vested in Him.  Nothing will move this cornerstone from its tried and true positioning.

Power Purged

It is good to know that the wicked will eventually be removed from power over the righteous.  God knows that if wickedness stays in power for too long, the righteous will begin to falter, and they may begin to do evil with their hands and hearts.  Human beings can only endure so much before they “crack”.

Imagine if there were continuously evil rulers since Cain murdered Abel.  What would people think and say?  “Where is our God?  Will He never deliver us from this evil?”  Their hearts would grow heavy, and under the constant barrage of evil, the unending torment of those in power, our will to endure would surely erode, and our belief that God is holy and just would fade as generation after generation prayed for relief but found none.  God surely delivers His people not only to demonstrate that He is sovereign over all, but also to give hope to the hopeless.

Crooked Crushed

And when God does act in justice and removes the wicked from power, He banishes them with the evildoers.  God originally intended the Lake of Fire to be for fallen angels only.  However, He will use this place of torment and separation from His power and presence for all who refuse to repent and turn towards the One True God in faith.  Those who suffer under the rule of evil people can take heart that God is a just, righteous, and holy God.  He will not abandon His people to the whims and depredations of the wicked, but will instead judge the wicked, unrepentant people and place them where they can no longer do any harm.

Permanent Peace

The Psalmist’s cry is that God do good to those who are good.  The funny part is that in and of ourselves, no one is good or righteous.  Everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ that He died for our sins, and clothed us with His righteousness.  We who believe and are obedient to Him are declared righteous and good before God the Father*.  And the lasting promise given to those who live for God and obey His commands (in holy fear, reverence, and gratitude) will be peace, first on Earth, and then everlasting peace in His presence for all eternity in Heaven.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I show that I trust God through my actions and my speech?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are my joy, my peace, and my sanctuary.  You have displayed Your awesome power through the creation of the Universe, and You display Your mercy and grace as You patiently, tenderly, and gently woo each of us back to Yourself.  Father, time is short, and even now You are calling the last of the remnant to Yourself in dreams and visions where Your people cannot work.  Give me a sense of urgency as the time grows near for Your Son to be revealed again in glory in the clouds.  Help me to show others that You seek peace for their lives in You.  Help me to get out and declare Your righteousness and our wickedness before You.  Prepare the hearts of all whom I will interact today.  Give me the strength, the words, and the will to boldly praise You in power and glory to others.  This I ask in the precious name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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This blog has been edited for spelling and grammatical errors, as well as clarity.

*Faith without works is dead – James 2:17; If you love me, you will obey my commands – John 14:15-24; Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved – Joel 2:32.

It is not our works that save us, but grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ – Ephesians 2:8.  God accepts us as we are, but loves us too much to leave us where He found us.  God cleans us up and prepares us to be a holy sanctuary for the Holy Spirit – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.  This process is called Sanctification.  God did not save us just so we could avoid Hell (fire insurance), but to be adopted as His children – Ephesians 1:5.

And just as every parent has expectations from their children (yet loves them unconditionally even when they misbehave), our Father in Heaven has expectations for our behavior as well.  He has forgiven all sins of ours, past, present and future – Psalm 103:12.  But we should, in gratitude, try to honor Him with our lives in every way, knowing the price that He paid for our freedom, and adoption into His family!  It is relationship that He desires with us, along with a singular pursuit of Jesus in holiness and righteousness – Matthew 7:21-23.

Obedience to God is not legalism, for we are to live righteous and holy lives, not sinning in order that grace would abound – Romans 6:1-2.  Obedience is an act of gratitude towards God as an acknowledgement of His holiness and righteousness – Romans 12:1-2.  Obedience to the word of God shows that we are growing spiritually and being sanctified by the Holy Spirit through the word of God – John 17:17.  It is something that every believer in Christ should greatly desire in their lives – 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8.  If you disagree, please bring this before God and the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of it to you – James 1:5-8.  God’s word is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness – 2 Timothy 3:16.

Order vs. Chaos – 1 Corinthians 14:26-33

God Infused Order Within Everything In The Universe

26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

Crazy Chaos

Paul was addressing the use of the spiritual gifts in worship in this passage.  The children of God were eager to use their gifts, but their eagerness tended to cause chaos when they gathered together.  Rather than build up the body, the gifts were causing chaos through cacophony.

Imagine a busy airport with everyone talking to each other.  The noise would have been deafening and confusing.  Or imagine being in a room with two hundred televisions, all set to different broadcasting stations, all at the same volume, all at the same time.  It would be nearly impossible to focus on just one of them with so many other streams of visual and audio information bombarding us, each demanding that we pay attention to them.

Chaos would be the rule.  The author of chaos and confusion is Satan.  God is truth, and the truth does not seek to cause confusion, but clarity in thought.  Truth takes the chaos and puts it into order.  Chaos can drive us crazy.  Truth pulls us out of the maelstrom and places us upon the solid Rock of Jesus, where the buffeting of chaos cannot touch.

Power in Peace

Paul attempted to address this with order in worship.  By limiting the number of people speaking at one time, it would be possible for the body to focus on what was being said, and that would result in the body being built up.  When the body is built up, working together in harmony, and focused upon the singular goal of yielding themselves to the Holy Spirit, order comes out of chaos, and the power of God is manifested through his people acting in unison.

Sovereign Signature

While we might say that these things are good for us as we relate to one another, what about the rest of creation?  Did God deem it proper to include order in the rest of creation? How about the things that exist outside of the physical universe?  Let’s take a look at the universe first.

The Golden Ratio

There is a special number, a ratio, that appears to exist in just about everything.  From the way that DNA spirals, to the way that plants’ leaves grow on the stalk, to the spiral arms of the galaxies, to the formation of crystals, and the spins of subatomic particles, there is a commonality in all of it.  The number is known as the Golden Ratio.  You can see it everywhere you look.  It appears in all of nature.  It is believed that the Golden Ratio may play a part in the human perception of beauty.

God left us a huge clue in both visually observable and non-visually observable (that which is too small to see with the naked eye) nature of all things.  God left us a signature that everything was created with purpose, and that it was the result of an ordered, intellectual pursuit rather than just random happenings.

Hierarchy of Angels

Paul clues us in to the structured order of ranks of angels, in this case, fallen angels:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

The Trinity

There is structure in the Trinity.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God, yet each one has purpose and responsibility within their relationship to each other.  The following is not an exhaustive list of this order, but a very primitive overview to show that there is order within:

  • The Father oversees and judges
  • The Son creates and redeems
  • The Holy Spirit indwells, empowers, exhorts, consoles, convicts, counsels, exalts and points us to Christ

Each are co-equal as God, but each have different assigned roles.  And in this, there is great order and unity.  There is no dissension in the Trinity, only unity and order.

Course of Collapse

Careful observation of nature shows that there is another order.  There is a universal tendency for all things to move from an ordered state to an un-ordered state.  In other words, all matter moves from order to chaos.  Iron, in the presence of water, will always rust.  Rust, without some extraordinary measures, will never “degrade” back into pure iron and whatever other elements are released.  Bodies decompose after death.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if we poured chemicals into a vat, and slowly the chemicals interacted and formed a new body!

God has designed the universe to have universal, observable laws.  Laws like gravity, inertia, mathematics, and truth.  Each of these, without outside interference, will always give the same answers when they are probed.  Two plus two will always equal four, all things being equal (no outside interference).  Matter is attracted to planets (as opposed to being repelled by them).  An object in motion will stay in motion if there are no other forces exerted upon it.  We accept these as laws, and rely upon their very dependable, repeatable nature.

Imagine what would happen if the Earth no longer orbited the sun.  Imagine what would happen if the laws of inertia and gravity were nullified.  Imagine if gases, like our atmosphere, were to suddenly and without notice, change temperature and volume, with no discernible pattern.  There would be pandemonium and chaos.  Our world, and everything in it, on it, and above it, would be in constant flux.  We would be in constant panic, perishing left and right, with no ability to control or predict how the very things that we rely upon to live would contribute to our eventual, and very swift, destruction.

Love and the Law

If we look at the Law of God, the Law that God gave Moses for the people, each of the Ten Commandments deal with our relationship with others – our interactions with God and each other.  Whether it is obedience to God, or righteous conduct with others, these Commandments should guide our interactions.  Each of them is based in love.  In (agape*) love, there is peace and harmony.  This brings order into our lives.  Love fulfills the law because the law is designed to point to Love as the principle that governs perfect order in the universe.  Love brings order to chaos, and provides the right environment for the flourishing of relationship and conduct between us all.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Does order or chaos occur when I get involved?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious in all of Your ways.  Please help to bring order to my chaos.  Teach me what I can do to help stand strong in the waves of difficulty that occur when the enemy sows discord and anarchy in people.  Keep me strong, and guard me in all my ways.  Help others to see Your love through the order that occurs when disciples of Christ act in unison.  Help me to be a part of order rather than chaos, and to be yielded to the Holy Spirit as Your Son, Jesus Christ, was yielded to Him when Jesus walked the Earth nearly two thousand years ago.  Thank You, Father, for instilling order in Your creation and Your commands, that I would have structure and stability in my ways.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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  • The word agape is one of four Greek words that describe love (agape, eros, philia, storge).  This type of love has three defining characteristics – it is unconditional (no strings attached), sacrificial (requires that the giver make personal sacrifice over self to show love to another), and volitional (an act of the will, not emotion).  This is Godly love – love that is born from the desire to see another person prosper, grow, be nourished, and succeed ahead of our own selfish desire.

Wisdom and God – Psalm 111:10

Wisdom Is The Practical Application Of Knowledge In Truth To Determine The Right Course Of Action To Take

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

Awakening to the Almighty

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  When we come to realize that there is a God, and He is not us, we begin on a journey of developing wisdom – the practical application of knowledge in truth.  Obtaining wisdom should not merely be an academic pursuit; it should guide us into a greater understanding of ourselves, God’s creation, and God’s character so that we can be more fruitful in His service.

God gives us faith so that we would recognize that He exists and is working in our lives.  Fear, in this sense, is not merely relegated to the dread of reaping the consequences of our actions, but moving from a clear understanding of God’s Holiness to God’s Faithfulness.  Wisdom teaches us that God is not ONLY holy, not ONLY just, but also that He is love, and full of grace and mercy.  His perfect holiness is tempered in love through mercy and grace, and is evidenced by His willingness to allow His one and only Son to die on the cross for sins so that we could be reconciled to Him.

When we fear God, we begin to trust God.  And as we trust God, He joyfully moves in our lives to bring about His plan and display the beauty of His character through His wisdom in how He made everything and interacts with His creation.

Spiritual Strength

Wisdom is greatly to be desired.  Knowledge without wisdom is a trophy on a shelf.  A savant may be able to recite every fact known to man, but without the ability to collate that information into practical, useful direction, it is merely an interesting aside.

Spiritual growth and strength occur when we practically apply our knowledge of God’s word in wisdom in our actions.  As we being begin to be obedient, God reveals the reasons behind why He does what He does.  It helps us to better discern what actions to take when faced with difficulties, and to choose rightly in the moment of action.  Wisdom tells us that God knows everything, so we should FIRST go to Him if we need it.  Wisdom tells us to how and why to avoid evil, and how to embrace and engage in truth and righteousness.  And it is only as we are willing to apply wisdom in our own lives that we being begin to truly understand the benefit of it as we reap her rewards.

Wealth of Wisdom

As we grow in Godly wisdom, we are able to honor God in a way that pleases Him.  It has been said that we have two beasts within us.  And whichever one we feed will grow stronger, and the one we don’t feed will grow weaker, yet will grow more desperate in its cries in our life until it grows so weak that it quiets down.  We choose which beast to feed.

We can feed the evil nature within us, or we can feed the godly nature within us.   As we spiritually mature, God gives us not only the wisdom and knowledge to act, but also provides us with the strength to ignore the cries of our sin nature and our cursed bodies as we strive to walk more closely with God.  Paul likened this to an athlete’s training:

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

We are to use what we learn so that we are not being hypocrites before the world.  Who wants a doctor who weighs 350 pounds, has a terrible cough, drinks alcohol on the job, smokes in the office, and then tells someone who weighs 200 pounds that they need to lose weight and exercise more so that they can become healthier?

Wisdom has great practical application in what is truly important – our spiritual growth and intimacy with our Creator.  But is also has wonderful application in other areas of our lives that appear more practical and have more immediate consequences.

Practical Protection

Wisdom tells us that we should lock our doors in areas with high crime.  Wisdom tells us that we should avoid physical intimacy with people other than our spouses (and to avoid it until we have a spouse).  Wisdom tells us that we should drive sober.

Why?

The answers seem obvious to people who have wisdom, but to those who do not, these general statements of conduct may seem genuinely odd, but make perfect sense once a person who has gleaned wisdom explains it:

  • Those who grew up in areas where there was great trust in their neighbors because they helped one another, and who don’t pay attention to the news, may find that living in Chicago or New York City or Baltimore to be a new experience…
  • Ask anyone who has AIDS, HIV, or any other number of terrible diseases that have a tendency to spread through physical relations with others, and they will tell you their wisdom in the matters of physical intimacy with others
  • Ask the man who lost his job, his family, his car, his home, and everything else he found dear in this life after he has taken the life of another human being while drinking and driving

It has been said that good judgment comes from experience; and experience comes from bad judgment.

Potential for Prosperity

When we apply wisdom to our finances, we may stop spending money on unnecessary items (or re-prioritize what is necessary and what is not) so that we have more money to save or invest.  Proverbs 31 tells of a woman who has great wisdom in many areas of her life.  She applies that wisdom in how she conducts the household while her husband is off at the city gates being an elder (the modern equivalent is being on City Council and the local Judge)

The practical application of knowledge in how life works helps us to make important decisions concerning how we conduct ourselves.  It is only valuable when we are willing to put the lessons that wisdom teaches us into practice.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I willing to make the necessary sacrifices to employ all of the wisdom that God has provided for me in daily living?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You know the beginning from the end.  Nothing is hidden from You.  Even before a word is on my lips You already know what it will be.  With all knowledge, and Your perfect character, You are all-wise as well.  Father, help me to navigate through this day so that I honor Your name in all that I do.  Help me to make the necessary changes to how I act, think, and speak so that I can grow in wisdom and knowledge.  Show me how to better conduct myself through Your word so that it would benefit me, my family, and everyone around me.  Provide for my every need, and guard me against all influences that would seek to derail my efforts living for You.  This I ask in the precious name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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This blog has been edited for spelling and grammatical errors.

Give Praise to God -Psalm 105:1-4

The Lord God Almighty Is Worthy Of All Praise

1 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
2 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
4 Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.

Profoundly Praise

The heart of this Psalm is praising the Lord for what He has done.  The author immediately begins with a command to praise God: not just in private; but to announce to the world what He has done.  As image-bearers of God, we are to loudly proclaim, as the works of His hands, the glory of the One who created everything and even now directs the paths we take.

It brings great glory to God when His people, who are called by His name, proclaim what God has done.  Not only what God has done in the past (as recorded in the Bible), but also what God is doing right now.  After the fall of man through Adam, God hasn’t rested.  He has constantly been at work in the lives of everyone and in the order, motion, and the progression of all things that are occurring.

We would do well to remember that God’s name, YHWH, means “I am He who exists and is dynamically involved in your life.”  We are to publicly praise God for who He is and what He has done.  The Psalmist next describes three ways to do this.

Symphony of Song

The first way that we can praise God is through singing.  When you have time (OK, you can stop laughing now…), search through the Bible for the words sing, singing, sang, and sung.  Throughout the Bible, the only times that these words are used are when human beings are using their voices in song.  Nowhere does it say that angels, who are mightier than humans, express their praise to God in song.  The angels proclaim the glory of God, but they don’t sing of it (at least the Bible doesn’t record that anywhere).  But we are told to make music and sing to God as part of our praise and worship of Him.

Singing God’s praise may be a function that is given only to humans, in that singing evokes an emotional response that resonates within us.  The angels will never know of the glorious and inexpressible joy that we have from our release of the bondage of sin and invitation and acceptance into the household of God.  We have been given the great opportunity to make a joyful noise to the Lord in gratitude for all that He has done.  Even if you sing out of key, or can barely make a sound, use all of your might to express your joy to the Lord as best you can in song, for it is not only for the benefit of man that we sing praise about the Lord, but it is to extol and recount the glory of the Lord and His mighty works.  And when we make every effort to glorify God in song that expresses the deepest desires and emotional state of our hearts, it pleases God to hear us express it in this manner.

Revel and Rejoice

As part of our praise experience, we are to glory in His name and rejoice in our hearts as we contemplate all that God has done for us and through us.  Our hearts are to be tuned to praise God rather than ourselves or others.  Nehemiah said that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  We should have the attitude of gratitude when it comes to the Lord.  As we remember how the Lord has helped us and brought us through deep waters (our most difficult trials), our hearts will be tuned to rejoice in the One who has done all of these things.

See and Seek

And, as part of our praise, we should always look to the Lord and His strength, and seek His face always.  We are to constantly desire to be in the presence of the Lord God Almighty.  We are most protected and strengthened when we are in the will and the presence of the Lord.  When we make it our heart’s desire to seek the Lord in all things, our very lives pour themselves out to Him in a continual song of adoration and praise.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I have the attitude of gratitude?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, my heart rejoices in You.  May I ever seek Your face, and desire to be in Your presence.  When I sin, I am appalled at what I have done.  But when I repent, You are faithful to forgive and help me to draw close to You again.  Give me the strength to get back up when I have fallen.  Help me to recount all that You have done, that men may know of Your mighty works and deeds, and know Your heart that is filled with love for Your creation.  Give me a new song to sing, that my praise would be ever vibrant and changing, not a mere repetition of words to music, but a continual outpouring of praise and adoration towards You that is impossible to stop.  May all praise, honor, glory, power strength, and dominion be Yours forever and ever, Amen.

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The Rewards of Righteousness – Proverbs 21:21

The Intellectual Pursuit Of Anything Pales In Comparison to Reaping The Rewards Of Experiencing It

Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

Rewards of Righteousness

The disciples of Christ read in the word of the Living God that we are to live lives in righteousness.  (Self-)Righteousness is not required because we have been adopted into the family of God as sons and daughters.  We receive our righteousness though belief in Jesus Christ, made possible by His perfect life, death, and resurrection on the cross.  His shed blood covers our sin, and we are clothed in His righteousness.  Our sanctification is the application of our imputed (legally acquired) righteousness in how we live our lives in holiness before God.  Righteousness (in this case, the pursuit of sanctification) has its own specific rewards.  We can rest assured that God both rewards faithfulness as well as punishes wickedness.  The author of this Proverb, however, links love with righteousness

Linked with Love

Love is THE defining aspect of God’s holiness and righteousness.  A person cannot be righteous without displaying agape love – a love that is volitional, sacrificial, and unconditional.  The two greatest commandments in the Law are:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love [agape] the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love [agape] your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Notes in brackets added for clarity.)

Without love, we cannot be righteous.  And righteousness, or even exercising spiritual gifts without love is worthless:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

When we pursue righteousness and love, we are shown* that we will find three things – Life, Prosperity, and Honor.

Long Life

The very first promise is that we find life.  But we don’t just find life here on Earth – we find Eternal Life with God in His kingdom.  As we pursue righteousness and love, freed from the bonds of sin by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we are obeying God’s will for our lives.  We find spiritual life in abundance:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Powerfully Prosperous

Most people use their physical eyes to see the world.  God challenges us to see with our spiritual eyes and listen with our spiritual ears:

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

All Earthly wealth will eventually rot and burn, but spiritual wealth has made us wildly rich:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

When we have eyes that see and ears that hear, we recognize that we are being made prosperous in heavenly treasures.  And while God may or may not prosper us here on Earth, our reward will be great in Heaven as we pursue righteousness and love.

Heavenly Honor

There is but one note of praise that every disciple of Christ desires to hear.  That praise is not from men, but from our Lord Jesus Christ when we go to be with Him:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Those who pursue righteousness and love labor for the reward of praise from a most holy God.  It is the greatest honor for God, as our master (for we each should be a doulos** to our Lord) complements us in being faithful to His commands.  This is the equivalent of the highest form of accolade and accomplishment possible.  This is the Heavenly equivalent of getting a Grammy Award in music, or a Nobel Prize, or a Congressional Medal of Honor.  It is the highest achievement possible in our field of endeavors.

And God will not only honor us there.  When we pursue righteousness and love here on Earth, He will acknowledge us among men as well, regardless of our circumstances.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What will my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, say to me when I am reunited with Him in glory?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is You who raise people up and bring people low.  You alone are sovereign Lord over all.  Thank You for adopting me as Your child.  Please help me to grow in grace, love and righteousness, that I may honor and glorify Your name.  Show me what I am to do, for You already have prepared my work for me in advance.  Help me to submit myself to you as Jesus submitted to You.  Watch over me, and use me as You see fit.  I look forward to my report from You when I will be joined with You in glory.  Help me to have the best report that I can.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Please Note:  This blog has been edited for clarity (changes have been made in the first paragraph to provide better insight into the difference between the imputed righteousness of Christ and the pursuit of sanctification [holy and righteous living in the presence of God]).

* The proverbs are not promises, but rather generalized truths about life and spiritual matters.  We are able to glean great wisdom and insight from their truths, but it is not proper to interpret the proverbs as being absolute promises.  God is still sovereign, after all…

** A doulos is a slave, but not in the ordinary sense of the word.  Slaves had no say whatsoever in their situation.  A doulos was a slave who was freed by his master, but loved that master so much that he begged his master to take him back as his bond-slave.  The doulos‘ ear was pierced by an awl on the door, and everyone would recognize that mark as one who loved his master and voluntarily submitted to him because he was treated so well.

In a spiritual sense, the word doulos speaks to the willingness of the disciples of Christ to submit themselves to the Holy Spirit, being freed from the bondage of sin, and voluntarily submitting themselves to the commands of their Savior.

Many of the Epistles in the New Testament were written by those who identified themselves as a doulos of Christ.

Chastisement by God – Habakkuk 1:5-11

God Will Use Evil Nations To Chastise His People

5 “Look at the nations and watch-
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;
9 they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings
and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on-
guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”

Crisis Counseling

In the verses just before these, Habakkuk asks a profound, appropriate, and Godly question:  What are you going to do about the wickedness of Your people, Lord?

2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

God answers Habakkuk’s cry for intervention by the Lord with an answer that he did not expect, and one that would cause us all to take pause – He declared that He would raise up the Babylonians to conquer His people.  Habakkuk and the rest of us were most likely expecting a different response, something like, “I know it is difficult to watch, but I will surely turn the hearts of the people back to me, and all will be healed and restored, and there were be great joy and celebration of the people as they give their lives back to Me.”  Instead, Habakkuk now gets to hear about God’s plan to conquer Israel and enslave His people.

Careful Correction

The people Israel, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have had a tendency throughout history to wander off the beaten path to pursue their own desires.  God had shown them in the past that they should follow Him, in good times and bad.  However, Israel has required repeated correction.  Gentle rebukes by the prophets of God were met with stoning (they lashed out at the messengers because they couldn’t do it to God Himself, it would appear).

Time and time again, God increased the severity of hardships He placed on His people to get them to turn from wickedness and turn back to Him, the only Holy and Righteous God that exists.  But Israel, after turning back to God, quickly prospered, and then just as quickly went their own way.  And just as a human parent becomes annoyed when they spank a child and see in their eyes that, even during their correction, they are planning their very next act of rebellion, God took it up a notch.  They would be enslaved by the Babylonians.

Creative Chaos

It was bad enough to be “spanked” by God, but by the Babylonians?  That is like taking your child to the local bully guild, and then saying to them, “OK, beat up my child, he certainly deserves it.”  It was not only a rebuke by God, but humiliation as well.  Not only was God withdrawing His protection from His people, but using the equivalent of today’s modern gang-banger drug lords to do it.  God’s description of the Babylonians should give us pause:

  • They have no sense of law (God gave the Israelites the Law of God, something that they were very proud of)
  • They promoted their own honor (God warned against pride and haughtiness.  Rather than chastise the Babylonians, He was using them to chastise His people)
  • They were a violent people (God wanted the Israelites to be a people, and was using violence, antithetical to their law, to chastise the as well)
  • They mock kings and rulers (God’s law showed the Israelites to be respectful of authority.  God would use this very thing against them as a rebuke, since they themselves refused to honor and glorify God)
  • They were idol worshipers (they worshiped their own strength, rather than the One who gave it to them.  Again, a serious rebuke to the people who were told to worship God and refused to honor Him)

God would introduce chaos into their lives through a most stinging rebuke – a people who God would not immediately judge for doing even worse things than they were doing.  God is perfectly capable of bringing people back to Himself with love and kindness.  But when a people refuse the very love and kindness that are offered to them, what can be done?

Day of Distress

When we refuse God’s gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) nudges and rebukes, God resorts to the “bend your back” beat-down methodology.  God will allow another nation to thoroughly cause distress in the lives of His people.  And He does this for both the righteous (those who believe God) and the unrighteous (those who refuse to believe God, and through their sin, obscure the truth about God in their actions, words, and thoughts).

In the past, it was the Babylonians who were feared.  In today’s world, the new Babylonians are the Fundamentalist Adherents to Islam.   The F.A.I. have no fear – they strap bombs to themselves, their children, and anyone they can to cause the maximum amount of fear and disruption in society.  They behead, mutilate, rape, and disfigure anyone that has the impudence to oppose them and their belief system.  They pour acid on the faces of women who they accuse of disobedience to their laws.  They accuse women of sexual infidelity if a man rapes her, and her word is so despised, she needs several male witnesses to testify on her behalf that she was not at fault.  In all things, they act in ways that they believe honor their god, but that are, in God’s eyes, absolutely abhorrent.  They are promised great rewards in eternity, and are guaranteed entry into their heaven if they die while killing their enemies.  Only YHWH, the one true God, in His sovereign will, can change the mind of someone who is convinced that murdering others brings glory to their god.

God has been raising them up for more than a millennia now, and God blesses the fruit of their women’s wombs, while the rest of the world experiences barrenness and strife.  Their hatred of anyone who is not like them is amazing and appalling, and their adherence to the idea that the end justifies the means should place us all on guard (take a look at what is going on in Europe, especially Great Britain, France, and Germany…).  Any group of people who believe that what they do, no matter how cruel, evil, heinous, and despicable, is honored by their “god” because it advances the agenda of their “god”, is a people who should be watched and guarded against.  Just like the Babylonians more than two millennia ago, these people are the new force of evil that God is raising up to chastise the nations.  And they are very effectively chastising the nations even now.

Regal Rescue

YHWH, the one true God, is a God who is our strength and our rescue.  He is able, and willing, to rescue us from our every difficulty.  And just as God sent Jesus Christ to rescue us from our bondage to sin, He will rescue us again when we turn towards Him and away from sin:

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing anything that would justify God bringing His chastisement upon me, my family and my nation?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your judgments are holy and righteous.  Everything that You do is right and good.  Father, forgive me for my sins.  Forgive my nation for its sins against You.  Father, because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of most is growing cold.  Forgive us for not better guarding our hearts against such wickedness, and for not speaking up when we had the opportunity.  Give me the courage to do what You desire me to do when faced with injustice.  Help me to encourage my family, my neighbors, and my nation to turn to You, worship You, and live our lives for You.  And when You send Your holy judgment upon us to chastise us, remember me, and keep me and my family safe from Your anger.  This I ask In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Legalism and God – Galatians 2:4-5

Do Not Allow Anyone To Enslave You And Take Away Your Freedom In Christ

4 This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.

Fake Followers

Do not be deceived:  not everyone who calls themselves a “Christian” is a disciple of Christ.  Many people labor under the false moniker of Christianity and in doing so, lead people astray or into bondage.

I was one of them.

I came out of the Mormon church.  Not understanding that being a disciple of Christ involved relationship with our Creator, I believed I was a Christian because I believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God.   So do the demons, and they shudder at the thought.  I thought that was all that was required to be a Christian.  It wasn’t until God confronted me with a final warning to turn to Him and follow His Son that I actually became a Christian.  I did not just need to acknowledge that Jesus Christ was His Son, I needed to become a disciple of Christ to be a Christian.  I had to acknowledge that Jesus Christ was LORD – and accept the relationship and the responsibilities that accompany that profession.

I did great damage to the cause and name of Christ, living a life that was not only indistinguishable from the rest of the world, but in many respects, even worst that than most people.  Anyone who looked at my life as I “proudly” declared myself to be a “Christian” would have immediately rejected Christ out of hand because my example was so bad.  I didn’t understand that when I claimed the name of Christ, and then lived a terrible life, I was bringing shame upon the One whose name – His character – I was made to show to the world as an image-bearer.

There are many false followers of Christ.  Every one of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and each one of us will continue to struggle in one way or another with sin.  We must remember that we will never be perfect image-bearers of Christ in this life.  But let us not dishonor God intentionally, and if you are watching us, please be aware that we are flawed because of the curse of sin, and will not ever perfectly follow Christ [in this life].  That being said, be wary of those who don’t even have the appearance of discipleship in their lives.  And extend grace to those who are earnestly following the One True God, even and especially as we stumble in our failures while we seek to walk righteously before our God.

Subversive Spies

Those who are steeped in legalism become spies for the enemy.  They seek out those who don’t follow the same onerous, “You must do this exactly right or you aren’t a Christian” man-made rules that place a burden upon the shoulders of men and women.  They seek to impose their pious righteousness upon others to make sure they are doing everything exactly right.  They hate the freedom that God has granted the disciples of Christ, and spy them out in the hopes of winning them over to “their side”.  But remember this:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Encroaching Enslavement

When we begin to believe the lies that surround legalism, we become sucked into believing a lie, and we become enslaved in bondage.  Bondage in this sense is the feeling of oppression that comes over us as we desperately attempt to do whatever we need to do in order to ensure that we are fulfilling a specific aspect of the law so that we don’t sin against God.

The following is a worldly example that is meant to show the danger of this.  Some people believe the myth that if they step on a crack in pavement, it will somehow bring them bad luck.  People who accept this as truth will go to great lengths to avoid stepping on cracks and so avoid the pain and suffering that “bad luck” brings them.  As disciples of Christ know, God is sovereign, and there is no such thing as “luck”.  However, once we submit to this “rule”, our lives become burdened with an unnecessary rule that is supposed to help us, but rather complicates our life, makes us miserable and fearful, and generally causes us to miss out on the freedom and joy of walking freely where we would like to walk.

Foundational Freedom

Christ died to set the prisoners free.  We were once slaves (prisoners) to sin. The interesting part is that human beings have been, and always will be, slaves to someone or something.  Sin has enslaved us to do the will of Satan.  When we are free, we then choose who or what will then be our target of worship.

The act of worship is what makes us slaves.  Whether we worship God as His bond-slaves, worship our jobs, worship our “idols” (sports stars, TV stars, film stars, leaders of the world, etc.), worship the created things (sun, moon, stars, Gaia, animals, insects, birds, fish, rocks, trees, etc.), even worship ourselves, we will worship something or someone.  And when we worship, we will follow the rules that we believe are given to us by the very person(s) or thing(s) who/that we worship, thus putting us into a form of bondage if we do not worship God.

And though God has given us freedom to worship Him in truth and righteousness, we need to be careful about what we do with that freedom:

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say-but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”-but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God- 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Standing Strong

When faced with legalism, it is the right and duty of every disciple to stand strong and remember that Christ died for you on the cross so that you could be free from such bondage.  Stand strong against such people, and prayerfully consider your response to them, because they truly believe in their hearts that they are correct, not realizing the bondage they have placed themselves in.  If you are strong and mature, gently guide them through the scriptures and help them to see the freedom that they have in Christ.  If you are younger in your faith, or don’t know the scriptures well enough, find shelter with another body of believers who are not steeped in legalism, or you yourself may find that you have become their prey.

Guarding the Gospel

And in all things, guard the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ with fervency steeped in love, grace, and gentleness.  Do not allow others to besmirch the name of Christ who claim to be His followers, but gently guide them to the truth.  And if they refuse, understand that a seed has been planted, and God may want another to come and water it, and another to come to harvest it.  Do your part, and guard the gospel:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I live part (or all) of my life in legalism?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have freed us from the bondage of sin so that we can worship and obey You in freedom.  Help me, Father, to walk in the freedom that was purchased with the tortured, shed blood of Christ.  Help me to walk in a way that honors and glorifies Your name.  Grant me the strength to go on when I am weak, and help me to study so that I would be an approved worker, handling the word correctly in truth.  Give me boldness before those who unknowingly oppose You in legalism, and guard my heart when I engage others that I will not be misled by smooth talk or intellectually compelling arguments.  Instead, help me Father that in all things Your word would be the defining word of truth in deciding what is right and what is wrong.  Give me discernment as I encounter these difficulties, and help me to rightly judge them and obey Your word in freedom.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Holy and Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


This post has been edited for clarity and spelling errors.

Planning Ahead with God – James 4:13-17

Acknowledge The Sovereignty Of God In All Things

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Brash Boasting

Money is an interesting device.  It allows us to exchange our labor and efforts for the goods and services of others.  Money in and of itself has no real value apart from what people perceive it to be.  We often think that we cannot live without money.  But is it money that we need, or what it can obtain for us?

Most people would do just fine through barter.  Even if, for some strange reason, a kind benefactor were to provide you with food every morning on your doorstep (at a house which they provided you a clear title as well and paid all taxes), daily restocked your woodpile for your cast-iron stove, refilled your well with water, provided every tool and item to repair anything that broke, and left clothing (that fit you) every day, who would need money?  You would have everything that you needed to survive!

But we still seek after money, and when God gives us success in our endeavors, we forget that it is because of His mighty providence that we have what we have, even the ability to breathe, and we make mighty boasts about what we are going to do tomorrow.  This greatly displeases the Lord, for we have forgotten our place in His plan.

Mighty Mist

In this passage, we are likened to a mist that is here today, and gone tomorrow.  For the Lord, a thousand years is as a day.  Time appears to be against us.  In just a few years, each of us age, and our bodies begin to fail, until they can work no longer.  Just as the mist rises in the morning, then fades away once the sun shines down upon it and heats it up, our lives are but a short speck of time throughout eternity.

It behooves us to remember just how little time we have, and how fast it marches closer and closer to the time when we must give an account to God for everything we have done in the flesh with the gifts, provision, and calling He has provided to and for us.  By remembering just how short that time is, we will be better prepared to make the sacrifices that are necessary to honor and glorify God.

Moses once asked God to help him to number his days.  He recognized just how short our time here on Earth would be.  We should do the same.  When we ask this of God, we acknowledge that He is sovereign over all of His creation.

Solely Sovereign

We can acknowledge that God is sovereign through our attitudes and speech.  Rather than boast, “Next year we will go here or there and do so and so and be successful,” we can honor God by saying, “If we are alive and it is the will of the Lord, we will …”  It is this attitude of the heart that God is seeking in each one of us.

Once we begin to believe that we did these things with our own hands, apart from the divine strength and provision of the Lord God Almighty, we will begin to erect an idol in our lives out of pride and haughtiness.  We have been warned about what comes next:

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Avoid Arrogance

Without the eternal perspective that God has through His nature and sovereignty, we are likely to become very arrogant when He richly blesses us.  And God has shown in His word, time and time again, that He will not tolerate such things.  It is for reasons such as these that Israel was continually conquered by her enemies and enslaved, Over and Over Again, to their great shame and dismay.  And if they are part of the true vine, and the rest of us are merely grafted in, how much more will we be subject to that very same treatment if we go the way of arrogance?

Onerous Omission

James, the author of this passage of scripture, reminds us that not only should we be avoiding those things that are abhorrent to God – sins of commission – but also that we are to be doing the things that we know God wants us to do.  When we fail to do them, we are engaged in sin – the sin of omission.  Both are abhorrent to God.  Let us now carefully evaluate what we do, what we plan, and what we say so that it comports to the attitudes, thoughts, and actions that please God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I acknowledge God’s sovereignty in how I make my plans and go about implementing them?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are to be praised and exalted above all.  Thank You for Your continued provision and providence in my life, and helping me to even breathe.  Father, show me the way I should go, and help me to get there.  Provide me the wisdom, discernment, and direction that I need to accomplish all that You desire to be done.  Give me clear direction, the strength, and the vision to overcome all obstacles that the enemy places in my path that I might bring honor and glory to Your name through everything You do through me.  Keep my heart far from pride, arrogance, and haughtiness, and instill within me an attitude of humility as I remember my place in Your presence.  Help me to experience success and joy in knowing that You are working out all things to good for me, for I love You, and I know that I am called according to Your purpose.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


This blog has been edited for spelling errors and clarity

Be An Example For Others – Philippians 3:17:-21

Live Your Life As Paul The Apostle Lived His – Wholly Dedicated To Christ

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Model the Master

Paul led an exemplary life.  Initially hunting down and stoning disciples of Christ to death, his powerful encounter with Christ turned him completely around.  And with the same determination and fervency that he displayed in suppressing the message of Christ, he embarked on preaching Christ and Him crucified.  Jesus indicated that those who have been forgiven much, love much.  And Paul was filled with love.

Paul was taken under Christ’s wing for three years and discipled just as the other Apostles were discipled.  He was then able to join them in their holy appointed quest to spread the word of salvation to all the world.  Paul lived with a singular purpose in mind – to honor and glorify his Savior, Jesus Christ.

In the same way that we are to follow Christ, when we see a fellow disciple leading a righteous life, we are to model how they are living out that righteousness as a living example to us.  And in doing so, we become the next generation of those who will used by God as models of righteousness for His people.

Traitors of Truth

Paul warns us that there are many who live as enemies to the cross of Christ.  Their god is their stomach.  They live to please the flesh, and not our God.  These people go beyond being carnal Christians – they are Christians In Name Only.  They present a front of false piety and, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, they are hungry for their prey.  Many know they what they are, and either don’t care, or actually enjoy it.  We must be on our guard against the leaven of these people.

God has charged us, through Paul, to judge amongst the body.  We are to gently, in love, help our brothers and sisters when they are in sin to come out of it.  We are to encourage them, pray for them, and uplift them in their time of difficulty.  This applies to disciples who respond to correction and mourn over their sin.  We are to restore them once they have overcome.  But we are NOT to judge those who are not of God.  That is His purview, and His alone.  The Law of God judges them.  We are ONLY to judge the fruit of those inside the ekklEsian – the called-out ones of Christ.  So, if someone claims to be a disciple, we have the right to look at their fruit and encourage them in pursuing righteousness.  If a disciple says, “You have no right to judge me!”, they may not understand what the scriptures say.

And when we judge, let us make absolutely certain that we have removed the plank of wood in our own eye before we point out the splinter of wood in our fellow disciple’s eye.  We are to judge in love, with gentle correction.  For those who enjoy seeking and correcting the body, carefully go before God, and ask Him to reveal the source of your joy in this endeavor.  Be sure to be open to His leading, and follow Him in whatever He directs you to do.

And if you are certain it is God who is directing you, find two or three other men (preferably elders in the church) and ask them to pray to God for wisdom, and confirm what God has told you.  If you can’t find two or three men who are living righteous lives in the church, ask yourself if you are in the right place, and if your heart is in the right place.   For it is with great and laboring prayer that we should seek the will of God in all things.

Earthly Enlightenment

The hallmark of those who are enemies of Christ is that they delight in the pleasures of the flesh to their ruination.   God gave us the world to enjoy, but we are to place the enjoyment of His provision in its proper place.  When we desire to fulfill worldly desires more than to listen to our Savior, we have been sucked into a deep well that requires us to seek out someone who can help us back out.

There are some who have an appearance of righteousness on the outside but are full of rot and decay on the inside.  Many of the cult leaders in the past appeared to live wholesome lives on the surface, but inside were corrupted:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

Anticipate His Appearance

Rather than dwelling on the here and now, we should keep our eyes on our true citizenship – for we are citizens of Heaven as the children of God.  When we do that, we should eagerly keep watch for our Savior, who will be coming soon.  God is not slow in keeping His promises, but in everything, He has perfect timing.  We need to be patient for His timing, because as His word has shown, time and time again, His timing is perfect, and everything that He does is executed to be in alignment with His perfect, sovereign will.  Let us not be caught sleeping when we should be working.  As we put our backs to the plow, let us always look forward at our goal to make sure we are plowing in as straight a line as possible.

Tremendous Transformation

And as we work, let us remember that God will transform our bodies from the corruptible into the incorruptible, to His glory and praise.  Eagerly desire this, for it will be the end of sin, temptation, sorrow, pain, tears, and misery.  But we should also keep in mind that when God does execute his righteous judgment upon all the Earth, that those who remain and refused to bow their knee to the King of kings and Lord of lords will be judged at the white throne seat of judgment, to their everlasting imprisonment in the lake of fire.

Because we know these things, we are now responsible for telling everyone about it, and giving them every chance that they could possibly have to give their lives to Christ.  Let it not be said that God had appointed us to tell someone about Him and we refused.  For if that is the case, their final destination will be, in part, due to our sin of omission – not doing what we know we should have done.

And now a word of encouragement from Paul the Apostle, author of this epistle:

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living a life that others would desire to imitate because they see it lived in righteousness?

A short prayer of preparation:

Lord God Almighty, You are holy, holy, holy.  Abba, none can stand before You and see Your face or they will die.  You greatly desire for us to live out the righteousness that you placed upon us that came from the perfect life of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Give me strength today to live a life worthy of the calling that You have placed upon my life.   Give me wisdom, discernment, and guide my ways so that You would be shown to be holy and righteous.  Help me to live an exemplary life dedicated to You.  Show me how to do this in Your word, and help me get the lessons that I have learned from my head to my heart through practicing what I have learned.  Show me new and wonderful things in Your word, for You constantly amaze me.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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