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?

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?

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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Standing with God – Psalm 112:6-10

The Righteous Will Never Be Shaken

6 Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.
7 They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
9 They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.

10 The wicked will see and be vexed,
they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

Standing Strong

The author of this Psalm shows that the righteous will not be shaken.  Regardless of their circumstances, they will stand in the midst of trials.  They can do this because they have laid their foundation with the cornerstone of Christ, who is truth, and cannot be moved.  He is immutable, our rock and our salvation.  No threat against Him or those who are declared righteous will be able to eternally affect them.

Fearlessly Faced

The apostle John said that there was no fear in perfect love, because fear has to do with punishment.  The righteous have been redeems from wickedness, and just as a person who is pardoned for their crimes finds themselves in the legal position of having never committed them in the first place, so the righteous can stand for they have been declared pardoned by God for their sin.  Because there is no punishment lying ahead of them for their actions, they can fearlessly face the trials in front of them with their full attention on victory.

Total Triumph

God pronounces that He will give victory to the righteous in the end.  There may be times when we will need to remember that it is in God’s perfect timing that all things occur.  God may allow someone to go through terrible difficulty in this life, but IN THE END, when Christ comes again in glory, the last trumpet of God is sounded, and time as a construct ends marking the final chapter our mortal story, God will certainly give us triumph over our foes.

Without the eternal perspective of God, it can appear to some that God is slow in keeping His promises, or that He does not keep them at all.  The total character of God must be taken into account lest we forget that a day is as a thousand years for God.  Yet still, as God pours out His love, grace, and mercy upon a world that doesn’t deserve it, and in many cases doesn’t even want it, He reserves His judgment and wrath for its appointed time.  We must be patient and allow God the time He needs and desires in order to work out all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, as well as secure the outcome of His holy, divine plan.  Impatience on our part impedes the display of the glory of God through His image-bearers.

Generous Giving

The righteous give generously to the poor, for the Lord God Almighty provides super-abundantly to His children.  Even in poverty themselves, God gives each of us time, talent, and treasure.  We can be assured that time and talent are just as important in advancing the kingdom of God as is having treasure.

Do you want to make great kingdom impact?  Invest yourself and the gifts that God has given you in the lives of others.  Mentor children and model love to those who feel as though they are cast off and rejected by society.  Invest your talents in helping others too poor to pay someone for your unique expertise.  Watch as the cries of the hearts of hurting people turn to praise of God as they experience Jesus through your hands and your words.

Villains Vexed

We are not to gloat over the punishment of the wicked because we can be assured that God may very well see and disapprove, and turn His wrath away from them.  We need to leave room for the wrath of God in the lives of the wicked.  God will vex the wicked and frustrate their plans.  They will seethe in anger when they see the righteous prosper.  Their emotional distress at their frustration will destroy them from within.

While we are not to rejoice over their suffering, we can be assured that God will be faithful in executing His judgment against the wicked for all they have done to us.  By allowing God the necessary time to bring this all about, we can allow our hearts to rest in the knowledge that a man reaps what he sows, and to get out of the way when God finally sends his judgment upon them.  Although it may not ease our pain in the moment, the reassurance that God is a just and holy God should help us to set aside our compromised emotions in our time of trial to the joy of knowing that God will not abide wickedness forever:

9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.

Longings Languish

God gives us some additional hope.  He indicates that the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.  They will be frustrated because they are not seeing the fruit of their desire.  Although some of their longings will be fulfilled, they will seek endlessly and in vain to find what they so greatly long for.  It is good to know that God is not rewarding their wicked behavior and giving them what they desire as a reward for unrighteousness.  We can rest assured that God will indeed give us the fruit of what we have sown.  Those who sow thorns and thickets will not be rewarded with fruits, nuts and grains.  They will truly receive what they have sown.

Because of this, and since we ourselves have come out of this, we should make every effort to have compassion upon the wicked and do everything that we can to help them overcome evil, and embrace God.  We have been given a unique perspective life in the Spirit of God, and have been called by God to make disciples of all nations.  If we cannot get past our frustration at those who seek our ruination, we will be unable to minister the gospel message to the people who need it.  Since you yourself have experienced the joy of freedom from the burden of sin with a redeemed life in Jesus Christ, make every effort to help others to do the same.  And don’t worry if you need to shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them, for God may need to do a lot more plowing of the soil of their hearts before they are ready to embrace Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I leaving room for the wrath of God in my heart for those who (occasionally or continually) wrong me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given me Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be the rock of my salvation.  My heart cries out “Hallelujah!” and sings Your praises.  Father, help me when I am wronged, for You will surely reward the wicked with Your justice if they refuse to embrace Your grace.  Give me a heart of compassion towards the lost and wicked, to see them as You do.  Help me to be steadfast in all my convictions in the face of pain and trials.  Help me to stand upon the firm and solid rock of my foundation, my Lord Jesus Christ.  Give me strength to endure, and soften my heart when emotional pain causes me to forget Your love and faithfulness.  Provide me with eyes to see and ears to hear, so that I would be attuned to Your heart and Your ways.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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The First and the Last – Isaiah 44:6-8

The Lord God Almighty Is The Only God That Exists

6 “This is what the Lord says-
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.
7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come-
yes, let them foretell what will come.
8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

First and Final

The Lord God Almighty is the Alpha and the Omega.  He is the first and the last.  Israel’s King and Redeemer declares that He is the one and only God.  And He declares that He knows no one else who is like Himself.  God has the unique perspective to see through the lens of holiness, righteousness, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence to rightly see all that can be seen.  And He has declared that there is no other God but Him.

This is especially important because many people have declared that all paths lead to God.  Their understanding of God is marred through the veil of sin, their own preconceived desire to see God as they want to see Him, and the ever-present influence of Satan, the father of lies, to distort God’s character, motives, and purposes into a pretzel of misunderstanding so as to mislead any who refuse to seek God for who He truly is.  Any who seek God must do so on God’s terms, and not their own.

When we seek God on our terms – trying to speculate who God is from who we believe God should be, rather than taking God at His word and seeing Him through His unbiased and unvarnished perspective, we produce, at best, a distorted view of who God is, and allow ourselves to impose our own morality, judgments, and character upon Him.  God, however, desires that we know Him for who He truly is, and provides us with a record of history that clearly demonstrates His character through His interaction with people and His creation.  God provides us with the big answers about Himself that cannot be found through observation, so that we can focus on actively participate participating in close relationship with Him, rather than always question who God truly is in our hearts.

True Test

God has drawn a line in the sand.  He has laid down the gauntlet and provided the litmus test to determine if there is another God.  And the test is remarkably simple.  Since God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, He and He alone knows the end from the beginning.  He has divinely seen all that will ever occur.  He is able to know the outcome of all things because knowledge of all things is His very nature.

The test to any who would claim to be God is to predict the future.  Is there anyone out there who claims to be God, or know of another God than the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, YHWH, The Great I AM, who can rightly predict the future PERFECTLY and without fault?  If so, make your predictions now.  Let us see if they hold true.  Predict about the near future and the far future.  No one up to this time has been able to be right ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of the time, except the Lord God Almighty.  No one can see the future, except for the One who created all things, knows their true nature, and has seen the end from the beginning.

Many will claim that they can predict the future, or have intimate knowledge of what will come.  And to be sure, some of those predictions will come to pass.  But the challenge laid down by The Lord God Almighty is to be right ALL the time, every time.  And here is a clue – if anyone else makes predictions, The Lord God Almighty will certainly change the outcome to ensure that they don’t all come to pass.  He is sovereign over His creation, and none can rightly claim what He has done as their own work, and get away with it forever.

We are Witnesses

The Lord God Almighty again tells us to not be afraid of people who claim there is another God apart from Him.  He has proclaimed and foretold of Himself and other things from the beginning of time.  The disciples of Jesus Christ (and any who believe God, and through that believe belief, are now declared righteous) are now a cloud of witnesses to the world which suppresses the truth, glory, honor, and character of God through their wickedness.

God then asks a rhetorical question:  Is there any God but Him?  His witnesses will attest and affirm that there is none.  And He Himself declares that He knows of no other.  Since God is Truth, and He cannot lie, He is the perfect witness to His own character and nature.  Let us rejoice in the revelation of His goodness, love, grace, mercy, and holiness as declared in His holy word.

If there is anyone who declares that God is someone other than whom the Bible reveals Him to be, let them come forth with their god, and the writings and revelations of their god, and see if their god can truly, accurately, consistently, and without any failure predict all that is to come.  And if that god fails to rightly predict all things in the future, let that god be abhorred, rejected, and any method of worship to it be abandoned.   And if a God is able to rightly predict everything (because He is sovereign over His creation), let Him be the one that you worship, adore, obey, and revere.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What are my prerequisite tests for determining and confirming who I believe God to be?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You and You alone are able to accurately, consistently, and without fail, predict all that will happen in the universe every time that You open Your mouth.  You are truth personified, and there is no wrongdoing in You.  You cannot fail, because Your character, power, and glory will not allow for that to occur.  By Your very nature, You are unable and incapable of being wrong in anything You do or say.  Let my heart rejoice in Your immovable, immutable, and perfect character.  Let my joy in You be my strength, and may I reject any false god and prophet who claim to be You, but are wrong even once.  Give my heart discernment, and show me Your wondrous ways.  Help me to remember Your perfect holiness in times of trial, and let me not be deceived by any spirit, but rather test the spirits as Your servant John has declared.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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The Love of God – 1 John 4:19-21

Love One Another, For God Has Loved You

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Lasting Love

God’s very character is love, for God IS love.  So, which love is John talking about?

  1. agapao – This is the love of God.  It is the love that is unconditional, sacrificial, and volitional (born of the will rather than emotion).  This is love that is born from the heart, that supersedes emotion, and is lasting regardless of circumstances.
  2. phileo – Also known as brotherly love, it a love that is born from strong emotional bonding, as love born through years of friendship and trials together.  This is the type of love that is shared between close people, such as when soldiers go into combat, and come out as “brothers in arms”
  3. eros – This is the word where we get our word “erotic” from.  And it has the same meaning
  4. storge – This is a familial bond type of love, such as between spouses, parents and children, or brothers and sisters and/or cousins.

In this passage, John refers to agape love.  God has loved us with a lasting, eternal love.  The love that God shows to us is born out in the death of His Son, who died for us while we were yet sinners.  God consistently shows His love towards all of us insofar as He gives us every opportunity to be reconciled to Him.  He doesn’t withhold the sun or rain from any of us, and He pours out His grace and mercy upon us every moment of our lives.

John also points out that the reason that we are able to even engage in agape love is because God shows us how to love in this manner.  He is the ultimate example for how we are to treat one another, and by implication, that we need an example because we are unable to completely and properly model this type of love ourselves.  It should be noted that God did provide women with an innate ability to love others selflessly in both duty and desire.  Mothers especially are capable of loving their spouses and children regardless of how they feel about them.  But because of our sin nature, they are unable to model this love in its purest form.

Lack of Love

John warns us that if we cannot agape love others who we can see, we are certainly unable to love God who we most certainly are unable to see.   Our love is to be on public display, not carefully concealed in our minds, wrapped up in how we feel.  Unrequited love is not really love at all.  Love is used in the verb form specifically to show us that we need to act upon it to give it power.  If we do not express our love in actions, we relegate the word love, and any emotions, desires, or accompanying mental states to the status of that of a trophy placed in a closet.  It is pretty to look at, but has no real value.

And if we cannot show love to others, we are certainly not showing love to God.  Some may say that they love God, but hate people.  By implication, you cannot love God and hate people, because people are image-bearers of God.  If a person hates people, they are hating the one who created them.  We cannot love God without loving people as well.

Clear Command

Because of the extraordinary outpouring of love of God, we are to love one another as God loves us.  In order to experience God, we must partake in God’s character.  This is what transforms us into His image – the alignment of our character with the character of God.  This occurs through the indwelling, power, and motivation of the Holy Spirit in our lives to conform us to the likeness of God through the word of God.  Without experiencing the character of God, we will be unable to grasp and take hold of the lessons needed to move the intellectual understand of God into a practical expression and experiential knowledge of the character of God.  We must therefore love as God loves, for we are image-bearers of God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I loving the disciples of Christ as God has loved me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show me through Your constant display of mercy and grace that You are love personified.  Thank You for modeling love to me.  Help me to love others as You love me.  Transform my heart – all that I am – into a better representation of Your character.  Help me to forgive others and myself that I may love as You love me.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Love of God – 1 Peter 1:22-25

Love One Another

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,

“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.

Preparation for Purity

Throughout the Bible, there is a recurring theme – obedience.  It takes different forms, but keeps reappearing.  When Abraham believed God, it was credited to him as righteousness.  When you believe something, you act in accordance to your belief.  If we have faith, we will be obedient.

There is an intimate relationship between faith and obedience.   James says that faith without works is dead.  The works come from obedience to the belief in faith.  It is the obedience to what faith teaches us that leads to the works that God desires for us to accomplish – the works that He has prepared for us to do since before the creation of the universe.

Peter now ties purification – sanctification – to the obedience of truth, which is the word of God.  Our faith dictates that we believe the word of God, and therefore, our obedience to it will bring about our purification.  And when we are obedient, God will make His home in us, and we in Him.

Lavish Love

There are four Greek words for love, and this one is agape.  We are to love unconditionally, volitionally, and sacrificially.  Here we see “one another” used again.  We are to love one another deeply from the heart.  When we see “one another”, we are to take it as if the other person is The Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  We can be assured that when we love one another as Christ has loved us, we will indeed be lavishing love upon each other.  Jesus never held back His love for us, and neither should be hold back our love for one another.

Surviving Seed

Peter reminds us that we are like seed, to die and grow and bear fruit.  And the fruit that we bear is imperishable.  The seed we sow will take root  and grow, and bear more seed.  For the word of God does not come back void; it always has its intended effect upon the soil of the heart.  If the soil has been prepared, it will yield back one-hundred fold.  If the soil is hard and dry, it may not yield any seed at all.  Either way, our seed is being manifested from soil that has grown deep roots that are drinking deeply from the living water of God.  And, through brokenness and yielding to the Holy Spirit, the seed being born is from Him.

Perfectly Permanent

We know that we are like a mist.  We appear for a short while, fragile yet beautiful.  Yet in a short while, the mist is no more.  But since it is the word of God that is within us, and we are being obedient to the word of God, it is the word of God that will endure.  The obedience of faith leads to the permanence of the seed, for the seed does not come from us, but from the word of the Living God, and God endures eternally.

If the seed is from us, and not from God, it will not stand the test of time, for anything that we do in the flesh, and not in obedience to the Spirit of God, will burn up like wood, hay and stubble.  Only that which was planted by the Spirit of God will endure the test of time, trial, and fire.  The only way to ensure that our work will stand the tests is to be sure that God is the one working through us, for God is eternal, and His work lasts forever.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: Am I allowing God to show His love through me in my obedience to Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  You endure forever.  You have no beginning, and no end.  All that You do lasts for eternity.  Help me to yield myself to You completely in obedience to Your word.  Guide me and guard me as I am being pulled by my own evil desires to embrace that which does not come from You.  Help me to cling tightly to You, so that in obedience to Your word, You will bear Your fruit through me.  Help me to be a useful tool for You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Courage from God – Esther 4:12-16

And If I Perish, I Perish

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

Powerful Privilege

Queen Esther had overcome, beyond even her own expectations, to win the heart of the king, and become queen.  She held great sway over the king, for she had stolen his heart.  The words of her uncle, Mordecai, must have seemed bitter, for he assured her that in the light of the decree of Haman, the Agagite, that the Jews were to be destroyed, that she and her family would also be utterly destroyed.  Power and privilege are of no use when you have already received your death penalty notice.

Destined for Deliverance

But God had placed Esther in a position of high authority to be used by Him to save His people.  God cannot ignore His covenants, and He had promised Abraham that his seed would be as many as the stars in the sky.  God would certainly keep His promise, even if Esther, her father’s family, and all people of Hebrew descent that were found through Haman’s decree, approved by the king, killed every Jew they could find.  God always has a remnant.  And God would raise up someone else to deliver His people.

When we fail to do what God has prepared for us to do, God has a backup plan, and a backup plan for that.  But He knows exactly how we will react, and what we will do, for He has seen the end from the beginning.  Like taking a snapshot of a battlefield, and carefully watching how everything plays out, God already knows what we will do, when we will do it, and how we will do it.  He has already planned for every contingency.

Powerful Preparation

And Esther, in preparation for her role to intercede on behalf of her people by approaching the king, was taking a very great risk.  Anyone who approached the king unbidden who was not then approved by the king would be put to death.  Esther recognized the danger to her life, and took the necessary precautions that she knew to take:  She had Mordecai tell the people to humble themselves with fasting and prayer on her behalf, when she did as well.  And in humbling herself before the Lord, He would lift up her head.

Capable Courage

It takes great courage to face death head on, doing what is right, unsure of the outcome.  Esther modeled courage for us, and resigned herself in trust to the One who can be trusted in all things to help the helpless.  Her response to Mordecai of “and if I perish, I perish” should be the cry of our hearts as well when faced with any difficulty.  Courage is the ultimate test and show of our faith.  We can be courageous, because we believe that God is completely and totally trustworthy, both in life and in death.

Total Trust

We are to trust that the King of kings and Lord of lords will work out everything to His glory and deliver us in life, and if not life, in death.  We need to take heart and trust God, for in all things, god can be trusted.  Knowing in our hearts that God can be trusted and then acting on it is the ultimate test of faith, and shows courage.  We need to be courageous in all that we do, operating without fear, so that the enemies of God will be afraid, knowing that our conviction in the truth is unshakeable because God is who He says He is, and will bear us up no matter the circumstances.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with difficulty, possibly even death, do we respond with courage born by trust in God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You gave Your One and Only Son the courage to face the cross of crucifixion for us.  You have, throughout Your word, shown Yourself to be faithful and true in all things.  Give me courage today to do what is right, especially in the face of opposition that threatens to destroy my reputation, career, family, and especially my life.  Help me to overcome all resistance by remembering Your faithfulness.  And help me to continue to be faithful, even if it means that I go to my death, for You will resurrect me as You have Your Son.  Help me to do all that You desire me to do, in life even to the point of death, that I may hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Meekness and God – John 2:13-17

Whips And Tables And Flying Change – Oh My!

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Body Building

There needs to be a preface to these scriptures.  Jesus was the firstborn child of Mary, stay-at-home mom, and her husband Joseph the carpenter.  However,being conceived by the Holy Spirit, they were not his biologically parents, but rather God’s chosen surrogate parents.  During the life of Christ on Earth, as the firstborn son, He would have been taught His father’s trade.  Carpentry at that time was far more intense than it is today.  Without the use of modern machinery, a carpenter would have to shape each piece wood using rudimentary tools.  This required a LOT of strength.  They would have to move beams and trees into position, cut them to their proper lengths, and further refine the wood into their final shapes, then use them in whatever fashion was required for the job.

There was a man in Pennsylvania who owned his own sawmill.  He was the only employee, a sole proprietor.  A man came in to his workshop one day to see about having some lumber that he and a friend had cut from a felled tree to be quarter-sawn into planks for use in building boxes and chests.  While he was talking, the sawyer picked up a huge tree with one hand that had just been sawn on the head saw, and placed it on the resaw to be cut into planks.  The tree section must have weighed well over one hundred pounds.  Most people would be unable to do this, but because the sawyer did this type of work every day, his strength was amazing.  He wasn’t a towering man, but extremely strong.  Now the stage is set.

Answer to Anger

Jesus never once sinned.  When He arrived at Holy Temple of God, he was the market that was occurring in the court of the Gentiles at the periphery of the Temple grounds.  This was a place where non-Jews could come and worship God.  Jesus became very angry.  But Jesus didn’t immediately go out and talk to the people who were desecrating the holy ground of the temple, like most of us would.  He did something else, something that each of us should learn – and do – when faced with a situation that infuriates us to the point of seeing red.  He paused.

Measured Meekness

Meekness is a word that is often misunderstood.  Meekness means “strength under control”.  It does not mean weakness, but rather a measured reaction proportionate to the circumstance.   The word of God doesn’t say that Jesus burst on the scene yelling and screaming.  He instead took the time to make a whip.  This is not a task that is usually done fast.  To braid a good whip, it takes manual dexterity, time, effort, and patience.  The word of God doesn’t say how long the whip was, but it gave Jesus time to reflect on how He would respond to this mockery and desecration of The Lord God Almighty’s house.

Many people believe that Jesus was merely a soft-spoken, wimpy, gentle guy who just loved everyone and exuded a form of effeminate weakness.  On the contrary – when the situation called for it, Jesus used His strength and powerful words:

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, … 34 “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

Jesus also said:

27 “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. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Jesus didn’t mince words with those that were self-righteous.  These are not the gentle, kind words of a soft-spoken, timid man.  And when He saw His father’s house being used to cheat the people, and denying the Gentiles access to worship God in the temple, He also said,

Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

Mighty Mayhem

But Jesus didn’t only talk.  Let’s go back and remember the sawyer placing the cut log on the saw for cutting.  Jesus was STRONG.  He put his back into His labor because He never sinned, and everything He did, He did with ALL OF HIS MIGHT to the glory of God.  Years of carpentry would have chiseled His body into that of a bodybuilder.  Jesus, under those robes, would have looked formidable.

Now let’s go back to the court of the Gentiles.  Take a step back, and look at the scene through the eyes of an observer nearby.  All of the sudden, a Jewish teacher of the law appears in his white robe with a whip in one hand driving out the cattle, and the other hand overturning tables.  He was furious!  He wouldn’t have just toppled the tables.  Although the word of God does not describe exactly how He overturned them, it would be easy to picture this: with a whip cracking in one hand, and throwing heavy tables UP INTO THE AIR with the other hand, no one would have wanted to be in His path.  Anyone capable of throwing heavy furniture WITH ONE HAND into the air – and deftly using a whip in the other – would have been an amazing, if not formidable, sight indeed.  Everyone would have scattered – the money they would lose would not be worth the threat of their life with this whip-wielding, table throwing man rebuking them for desecrating the house of Almighty God.

Jesus was no wimp –  He was meek.  His formidable strengths were completely under His control.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I am emotionally provoked, how do I respond?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your word is amazing.  Thank You for showing me how to temper my anger.  Give me the courage and ability to ensure that the strengths that You have provided to me are kept under control at all times.  Instill within me the ability to react and respond to any situation that I may find myself in a way that honors and glorifies Your name.  Help me to properly channel my emotions so that they will not control me, but that I would use them in a constructive way.  Help me to always remember that You are a loving and kind God, but that when required, You will show Your strength and power.  Help me to yield myself to Your guidance in all things, that I would not dishonor You with my thoughts, words, or actions.  This I ask in the precious and mighty name of Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

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

Joy of God – 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6

God Fills Us With Joy

4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

Children are Chosen

God has chosen His children.  He has predestined that all men should be drawn to His Son since Jesus was crucified.  The true children have heard, and will hear, the message of the Gospel with joy, and it will manifest itself with power through the Holy Spirit in the deep conviction that comes with the witness of the Holy Spirit about all things that are true. Truth is no longer an abstract concept relegated to relativism, but is now the embodiment of the Son of God who has declared:

“…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The Holy Spirit of God bears witness to the truth and power of the word of the Living God as the word penetrates into the hearts of all who listen.  God’s word will not go void;  everywhere it is heard, His word will have effect upon all who hear it.  The soil of our hearts is being plowed by the difficulties of life and the work of the Holy Spirit.  Even in the darkest of times, the Holy Spirit of God is able to soften the hardest of hearts in the emotional pain of suffering and loss.  God has said through His servant Paul that we are predestined to be His children.  We merely need to respond to the message.

Severe Suffering

We know that we are His children because we have responded to His word, and it has grown in us through the hardship of life.  Paul reiterates that when we become imitators of him, we are being imitators of the one who sent him.  Hardship and suffering produce perseverance,  which produces character, which then produces hope – a fully justified expectation of completion of what has been promised.

When we are tried through the crucible of suffering, our faith is tested, and it grows.  Those who do not have a deep faith in the solid rock of Christ will find that whatever they have placed their faith in will be eroded by the crashing waves of hardship and suffering, just as sand is swept away by the outgoing tide.  The sand erodes, and exposes the fragility of the foundation upon which the building was laid.  But upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ, no hardship or suffering can prevail.  For it is within Christ that we have our joy. and the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Justified Joy

The Holy Spirit testifies of the Son of God, and fills us with joy as we cling tightly to the author and perfecter of our faith.  And a peace that transcends understanding fills our heart.  We may not understand why, but we know that our joy is justified, well-placed, and authentic.  Nothing and no one can take that joy from us except that we take our eyes off of the one who beautiful gaze is the sole object of our affection:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace. – Helen Howarth Lemmel (1863-1961)

It is in the light of His glory and grace that we find our peace and our joy.  In these desperate and wicked times, turn to the author and perfecter of your faith, and witness the joy and peace that transcends understanding as He fills your heart with Himself.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing the joy of the Lord to fill me up during my duress?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, glory and power be to You who are exalted above all.  Praise be to You in all things, for You are all in all, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent.  Thank You for bringing me joy through Your Son, Jesus Christ, and the wonderful working of the Holy Spirit as I walk in Your ways.  Give me a heart of thanksgiving and joy as I contemplate the magnitude of all that You have wrought.  Tune my heart to Yours, and help me to endure the trials that are and that are to come.  Prepare me for the great and terrible day of the return of Your son.  Help my life to be a witness to the love, grace, and mercy that You extend to all people in the hopes of reconciling everyone to Yourself.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Hope in God -2 Kings 4:11-17

Even When It Seems Most Bleak, God Can Find A Way

11 One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite.” So he called her, and she stood before him. 13 Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?'”

She replied, “I have a home among my own people.”

14 “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked.

Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.”

15 Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.”

“No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!”

17 But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.

A Hospitable Host

The Shunammite woman was a hospitable host.  Every time Elijah the prophet and Gehazi  his servant stopped by, she encouraged them to eat at her house.  Hospitality was encouraged at that time, and she had the gift.  Eventually, she convinced her husband to build a room on her roof so that when Elijah and Gehazi stopped by, they would have a place to stay.  Elijah, after a period of time, summoned the Shunammite woman before him and asked her if there was something that could be done for her.  She was very humble, and indicated that she had a home among her people.  Although scripture doesn’t directly say so, it would appear that she was then dismissed.

A Particular Problem

Then Elisha probed further, and asked his servant Gehazi what could be done for her.  Gehazi indicated that she had no son.  Elijah would have known this, being a prophet of God.  With her husband being old, and with no son (a male heir to inherit the property of her husband), she would not have had any protection as a widow once her husband died.  This is a very serious issue for her in the culture during her life.

The Prophet Pronounces

Elijah then summoned the Shunammite woman back, and pronounced that she would, by this time next year, have a son in her arms.  Elijah’s walk with God was so close, that he was able to make this pronouncement, and be assured that it would come to pass.  What appears to be impossible to us is very possible to God.  He is able to do anything He desires to bring about His plans and bring glory to his name.

Distraught in Disbelief

One of the most difficult things to behold is a person, who has gone for so long without something that they desperately need, has given up hope on ever having that need fulfilled.  Whether it is healing from a sickness that has plagued us for decades, finding a spouse, being barren, or any other number of difficult circumstances, it is still hard to watch when the person who has given up hope is given that hope again.  They will often enter into denial.  They fear that if they allow this hope into their hearts, and for some reason it fails, it may finally break their spirit.  They have prepared themselves for their current circumstances, and are unwilling to change, because they are certain in their hearts that God has sovereignly appointed them to suffer with this continual need without the possibility of fulfillment.

The Shunammite woman was no exception.  When told she would have a son, she became distraught and reproved Elijah, a prophet of God, urging him passionately that it is wrong for him to mislead (LIE to) her about this.  She had already prepared herself for the coming trials of being an abandoned widow once her husband died.  She was also concerned for Elijah, for she certainly did not want to see him defile himself with what she believed to be something that was impossible in her own mind to occur – the opportunity to have a son and heir.

The Father is Faithful

But God is faithful.  And at the appointed time, just as Elijah predicted, the Shunammite woman gave birth to a son an heir.  For it is God who opens wombs and closes wombs.  No matter how difficult, God is able to make His will done.  The sun has stopped in its tracks; storms have arisen on the seasearthquakes have opened jails – Nothing is impossible with God.  And God, being perfect and complete in His nature, will ensure that everything He has purposed will come to pass.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I willing to have hope again after terrible loss or disappointment?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for the hope that You have given me through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me, Father, to have my heart prepared for anything that You may be willing to do in my life.  Help me to be open to hope again where it has been dashed on the jagged rocks of life repeatedly and with great pain, loss, and sorrow.  Give me strength to trust again, and to allow myself to believe that You may want to bless me in that great pit of anger, despair, and pain.  Guard my heart against bitterness for shattered dreams and expectations, and place within me the seeds of hope and trust that You desire to heal these areas of my life.  Please, Lord God, do not ask me to have hope where You have no interest or desire to fulfill some desire that I may have.  Desire that is put off for too long grows into disappointment.  But when You tell me directly that You will do something, regardless of my past circumstances, give me to the courage to believe Your word and to endure all that is necessary to bring it about, for You cannot lie.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

The Compassion of God – 2 Chronicles 30:6-9

The Lord Is A Compassionate God

6 At the king’s command, couriers went throughout Israel and Judah with letters from the king and from his officials, which read:

“People of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your parents and your fellow Israelites, who were unfaithful to the Lord, the God of their ancestors, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see. 8 Do not be stiff-necked, as your ancestors were; submit to the Lord. Come to his sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever. Serve the Lord your God, so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. 9 If you return to the Lord, then your fellow Israelites and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will return to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.”

Reciprocating Return

Hezekiah pleaded for the Israelites to return to God.  He urged them to do this so that God would return to them as well.  The people had become stiff-necked, refusing to do what the Lord God Almighty had commanded them to do – to yield themselves to Him.  They had refused to repent, and continued in their sin, and God allowed their enemies to overcome them and remove them from the land that God had given to them.  Even in disciplining them, God anxiously awaited their return to Him, so that He could return to them.

Terror to Traitors

When they had refused to repent of their unfaithfulness, God made them an object of horror to all who seen them.  Through their continued unfaithfulness, they were acting in a way that men would call treason.  They no longer held God to be of the highest regard, and began to follow someone or something else.  Treason in many countries is punishable by immediate public execution.  The fact that God does not immediately do so shows His unfailing love and compassion towards us.

Submit in the Sanctuary

Hezekiah implored the people to submit to Almighty God, and to come to His holy sanctuary.  The sanctuary was the place where God dwelt.  We have the great benefit of being the sanctuary of God, our very bodies being the naos, the holy of holies, with the embodiment of God within us – the Holy Spirit has already taken residence.  Today, disciples cannot avoid God, for He is with us even when we may not want Him to be.  Because of this great honor, we should constantly remember His presence and power, His glory and honor, and submit in holy reverence to Him always.

Service avoids Soreness

Hezekiah goes on to say that we should serve the Lord so that His anger would be turned away.  We have been created to serve God.  We seem to flip things around, and desire that God serve us.  When we pray and ask God for help, but don’t bother to make ourselves available to serve God, is that not what we are doing?  God promises to give us strength and resources to do whatever He calls us to do.  And while it may not seem pleasant at the time (see Jonah), it is what God requires, and brings Him great glory.

God has planned before the foundation of the world the deeds that He wishes to accomplish through us.  We can submit in service to Him, and be part of His plan, or we can selfishly do what we want to do.  It is the terrible two-edged nature of free will.  But God believes that the rewards outweigh the risks, and knowing we would fail, provided His Son to die for our sins to get us back on track in our relationship with Him.  Or, do we tell our best friend, who just asked us to help Him, that He can go pound salt?

Compassion by Captors

When we return to the Lord, He returns and restores us.  He makes our enemies be at peace with us, and causes our captors to show us compassion.  Throughout the Bible, those who were captured and enslaved were shown mercy and compassion by their captors when they submitted themselves to God.

We are told that the Just shall Live by Faith.  We should do exactly that, and God will see us through all of the terrible difficulties He has allowed in our lives.  This is how we can be at peace with others.  When a people submit themselves to God, He is faithful.

Compassionate Creator

God takes compassion upon us when we return to Him.  It is part of His nature, a character feature that He cannot change or hide.  God will ALWAYS show compassion on those who humble themselves before Him, submit to Him, obey His commands, and show compassion to others.  God will not turn His face from those who do these things.  No matter what the devil tells you, God’s character is immutable – it will never change.  Heed the word of the Living God, and return in repentance to Him who loves You with an everlasting love.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I show compassion to others in the same way that God shows me compassion?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, blessed be Your name, for You are a compassionate and merciful God.  You seek and save the lost, and when I stray, You come after me to restore me to the flock.  Forgive me for my many sins.  Help me to overcome that which so easily trips me up.  Give me strength, guidance, and desire to follow You in every way.  Help me to show others the same compassion that You show to me each and every day.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

The Glory of God – Isaiah 42:8

To God Alone Be The Glory

I am the Lord; that is my name!  I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.

Name above all Names

The name of the Lord is the name above all names.  The Hebrew tetragrammaton for the Lord God Almighty is YHWH.  It means, “I am He who exists [without beginning or end] and is dynamically involved in your life”.  Also known as the great I AM, I AM is His name!  God and God alone may claim this name, for there is no one else who is un-created, existing before time and space, eternally present, and without end.

God and God alone is the one who created all things, and in Him all things are held together.  Only God is perfect, and in His character there is no defect.  God is perfect love, perfect mercy, perfect justice, perfect patience, perfect peace, perfect kindness, perfect goodness, perfect faithfulness, perfect gentleness, and perfect self-control.  And in Him can be found perfect joy.  God is perfect, for He and He alone is complete, lacking in nothing, with every aspect of His character in perfect strength, balance, and harmony.

Garnered Glory

Because of the perfect nature and character of God, He and He alone deserves and embodies all glory.  And He states here that He will not yield His glory with anyone.  God has provided His creation with abilities and capabilities.  There is nothing that we have that we have not received from God.  No one can create something from nothing, or even create something form what exists apart from God.  What we find, what we create, what we invent, all has its source in the sovereign will of God, for nothing occurs in the universe without God’s express prior approval and knowledge.

The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life continually tell us that we are the center of the universe and should receive glory.  We fail to take into account the overwhelming evidence of God’s involvement in our lives, and that it is only through Him and His graciousness that we can even take a single breath of air.  God and God alone is the embodiment of glory, and He will not yield it to another.  Satan’s downfall was that he desired the position and glory of God.

Portent of Praise

Likewise, God is the one who is deserving of all praise as well as glory.  For if it is God behind the scenes who created all things, provides all things, holds all things together, and sovereignly authorizes all things, should it not be God who receives the praise and glory?  Do we praise the tool, or the craftsman, once the masterpiece is finished?  God alone is worthy of praise.  Men are tested by their praise – what do they do with it?  Do they internalize it, believe that they have done something apart from God and feel worthy of it, or do they yield it to the One who is worthy of it and who has provided them with the means, motive, and opportunity to accomplish whatever feat has been wrought?

Praise is dangerous to hold on to.  In anyone less than God, it may easily drive one to become inflated, filled with pride, and seek to promote self rather than promote the glory and grace of God.  It is good that God does not yield His praise to another, for we are not capable to doing with it what should be done – reflecting the true glory and character of God.  Rather, we often believe the lie that somehow we are innately capable of existing or doing things apart from the Living God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I pointing all praise and glory back to the rightful owner, The Lord God Almighty?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You that Your Son, Jesus Christ, has shown us the way to live in His perfect example.  Help me today to reflect Your perfect character in all that I do.  May all praise, glory, honor, dominion, and strength be Yours and Yours alone.  Help me to remember my place in humility before You in every thought, word, and action.  And when I am tempted to keep any glory or praise that is rightfully yours that has been given by what You have done through me, help me to remember that You and You alone are worthy of these things.  Help me to remember that I am merely a tool, and You are the one who wields Your tools to bring about the circumstances that will provide You with the maximum amount of glory.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Character of God – Matthew 28:11-15

God Does Not Deceive

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Honor in Honesty

The guards who had witnessed the angels opening the tomb that held our savior first did the right thing: they told the truth to the chief priests.  This is interesting, insofar as they were Roman soldiers, and should have reported this to their commanding officer.  While the Bible doesn’t say why they went to the chief priests first, it is a fairly goo assumption that the presence and power of angels at the tomb both enthralled and frightened them. It is most likely that they sought to understand what they had experienced, and sought out the experts in this area, the chief priests.  God does not like deception, but honors those who tell the truth.  The guards, fearing for their lives, went to the priests first and did what was right: they told the truth.  And what an interesting story came out of that meeting.

Paid to Perjure

Imagine the surprise of the guards who went to the chief priests of the Jews with their story.  Imagine being told that you were believed, but that you needed to cover up the truth.  Not only that, but a large bribe was provided to ensure that you perjured yourself.  And not only were you asked to perjure yourself, you were told that you needed to admit that you had failed to complete your duties (in this case, sleeping on the job)?  This was unconscionable, and could have caused the soldiers to lose their lives.

Not only were they asked to falsify their account, they were asked to say that they were incompetent, and that a bunch of unarmed fishermen were able to somehow overcome them to be able to steal away the body.  Although corruption may have been occurring, it was coming from the very highest ranked people who were charged with teaching and modelling God’s law – the chief priests.  Jesus rightly called them a brood of vipers, and whitewashed tombs with dead men’s bones inside.

Corrupted Collusion

The soldiers were promised that if the report of their false story were to come up to the governor, they would satisfy him as well.  Imagine being a soldier and being told that your Commander-in-Chief would be bought off.  Perhaps it was the money or the disgrace, but the soldiers did what was asked of them.  And Paul rightly condemned this type of behavior:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness

Jesus said that these people were of their father, the devil, and that they spoke his native tongue – lying:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I honoring God with my speech?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown us Your character is perfect through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to remember this when I am placed in difficult circumstances and asked to do what is wrong.  Give me the courage to stand up for the truth, and to accept whatever consequences come from it.  Guard my heart as I stand for You.  Prepare me to be a holy vessel, set apart from sin and dedicated to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Mercy of God – James 2:12-13

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Precedent of Privilege

The law that gives freedom is mercy.  Mercy overrides judgment, and provides the vehicle through which God can have compassion on us.  God’s holiness demands that we be punished, but God’s mercy is the velvet glove over the proverbial iron hand.  God’s word says that His mercies renew every morning.  God can have compassion on us through His mercy.

Conviction without Clemency

Because mercy is a character trait of God, we are expected to display it as His image-bearers.  James tells us that when we are without mercy, we will be shown God’s judgment without the tempering action of His mercy.  That should be very sobering to us.  No matter what anyone does to us or to our loved ones – physical, emotional, financial, sexual, or any other kind of assault, the act of sinning is far more egregious to God than what was done to us by men.  We must keep in mind that God displays His character to us as we experience His character through the way we live our lives.  When we show mercy to others, God gives us a better appreciation for and understanding of His merciful nature.

Grander Grace

Isn’t it wonderful that mercy triumphs over judgment?  Without mercy, the first time anyone sinned they would be immediately thrown into Hell.  The human race would have ended before it had begun, with Adam’s immediate incarceration in the lake of fire (Eve was just deceived – Adam was the one who sinned).  We greatly desire justice, but should also desire mercy for others.  We cry out to God to show us mercy.  Why should we not extend the same courtesy to others that we ourselves desire from God?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Is my first inclination to desire mercy or judgment for those who have wronged me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I am grateful that You have shown me mercy in the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for my sins through His death and resurrection.  Help me to have the same attitude towards mercy that You have, that I might show mercy to others when they have wronged me.  I recognize that mercy does not excuse their behavior, but provided a loving outreach to them so that they can have a change of heart about what they are doing.  I recognize the pain that I will have since justice has not been fully meted out, but I greatly desire to better understand Your merciful nature as I do my best to live out Your character in my daily life.  Strengthen me in this, for my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Sovereignty of God – Job 1:6-12

Nothing Happens In All Of Existence Without The Express Prior Permission And Knowledge Of Almighty God

6 One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Supreme Sovereignty

The Lord God Almighty is the only non-created being ever to exist.  He has existed before time, matter and the angels.  And in that, God and God alone has ultimate sovereignty and authority over all that has been created.  John the apostle tried to show this in the very first verse of his gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The interesting part about translations is that they don’t always capture the full meaning of the original.  In this particular case, the Greek work for “was” is En, and the verb is conjugated as “was continually (with no beginning)”.  This speaks of the eternity of Jesus (who is the Word of God), and of God, with whom He is:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Created Creatures

God reveals something very powerful in this passage.  ALL of the demons, and even Satan himself, are created beings:

  • The devil can be in only one place at a time
  • As a created being, he is subordinate to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  As such, he was required to present himself before God to give an accounting of his activities and whereabouts.

Powerful Praise

When faced with trials and tribulations, we don’t have all of the facts.  In the case of Job, God highly praised him before Satan.  Scripture speaks of our trials in a favorable way:

  • Trials produce perseverance, which makes us complete, lacking in nothing
  • Trials are to be put in the joy column of our spiritual accounting ledger (the Greek word “count” in James 1:2, hEdEsasthe, is an accounting term as well as an imperative command!)
  • Trials are a way that we identify with Jesus, for the student is not greater than the teacher

When faced with trials, we must remember that God may be praising us as well, and the trials can be a testing of that praise.  If so, we should count it as joy, for if God is praising us, we have truly received the highest praise possible.

Allowed Authority

And as we suffer through trials, we must remember that they are sovereignly allowed in our lives.  Nothing happens to any of us without God’s notice or express prior approval.  In this passage, Satan complained to God that he had placed a hedge of protection around Job and his possessions.  It was only until God permitted Satan the authority to harm all that Job had been provided by God that he was able to do anything.

As we are going through our trials, we must remember that God is sovereign, and that nothing escapes His attention.  Additionally, we must remember that He is the one who has sovereignly approved or appointed our trials.  And while these trials may not directly benefit us (with the possible exception to produce perseverance), they will be used to bring glory to God.  And they may well be used to open the eyes of some who, in seeing the sincerity of our faith and trust in God through the most grueling and difficult circumstances, may see that our faith is not in vain.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I remembering that God is with me as He allows the trials of my life to destroy that which keeps me from drawing close to Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious and beautiful to behold.  Help me to remember Your goodness as I am struck down by sickness and foes.  Help me to remember Your sovereignty as You allow unseen spiritual forces to assault and harass me.  Help me to remember Your faithfulness when You allow me to be dragged through the valley of the shadow of death.  Help me to persevere, and praise you as Paul did after he was severely beaten and placed in prison.  In all things, help me to remember that You and You alone have approved these trials.  Help me to not despise Your discipline, though the trials that You have appointed may not end until I am rejoined with You in Heaven.  For You are good in all that You do, Lord God Almighty, and none may lay a charge against You.  In all this, help me to remember Your character, for if man had done this, it would be bearable to be found worthy of suffering disgrace for Your name.  When there is no one who can be identified as being responsible for the trials – no one I can pray for – it is unbearable.  This I ask in Jesus Name, Amen.

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

Character of God – Psalm 18:25-27

God Reveals Himself When We Partake In His Character

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.

Fully Faithful

God reveals His character as we participate in it.  He has shown that He is faithful in His word.  He has ensured that all of the promises that He has made in through His prophets have or will come to pass.  Prophecies made over twenty-five hundred years ago have only recently come to pass.  The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises, but does so on His timetable in order to bring glory to Himself.

When we are faithful to Him and others, God shows us His faithfulness.  He manifests this aspect of His character in His dealings with us.  He will bring about circumstances in our lives that will cause us to rely upon Him for His help, and then He will show Himself faithful in extricating us from those circumstances.

Beyond Blameless

When we are blameless before God, He shows us that He is blameless as well.  This does not mean that no difficulties will be encountered, but that God does not fail to keep His promises.  God will show the blameless that He is blameless.  In every aspect of God’s character, He shows us more of Himself when we participate in it.  To the merciful He shows mercy.  In every way, God is faithful to reveal His character.

Perfectly Pure

And when we are pure in heart, He reveals even more: for we will see God.  God delights in revealing His character to us.  He greatly desires to be known as He knows us.  And although we will only see in part in this life, He will fully reveal Himself in the coming eternity.  God is greatly desiring us to know Him better in this life.  We should take every opportunity to experience His character through our actions and words to others.  For it is only in the experiential knowledge of His character do we truly begin to know and see His character more fully.

Helping the Humble

Jesus said that he was gentle and humble in heart.  God helped Jesus through every trial and tribulation that He faced.  He provided Jesus with food and other provisions as were required.  God provided Jesus with power and wisdom.  In all things, God helps the humble in heart.  He even lifts us up when we humble ourselves.  Humility is the correct and appropriate manner of behavior before Almighty God.  Jesus has shown us how to behave before God, and being God, revealed the Father to us fully.  If you are having difficulties, humble yourself before God.

Shrewdly Subdue

And for the proud and devious, God has a different aspect of character to reveal – His holy righteous judgement and, eventually, wrath.  God gives us every opportunity to humble ourselves before Him.  Whether that was a prophet declaring the coming wrath of God, His holy word speaking to us, and/or the occasional terror that comes through our enemies overcoming us, God gives us the opportunity.  And when we do not heed His merciful and gracious promptings,  He is forced by His character to do what is necessary.

And while mercy and grace triumph over justice, it is justice that must be meted out when we refuse to obey.  God will be shrewd with those who are devious, and eventually thwart their plans.  For some He will allow them to greatly prosper and literally get away with murder here on Earth.  But they will be lulled into a false security, for when they are required to give an accounting of themselves before His great throne of justice on that final and terrible day, they will only then realize the terrible end that they have reaped according to what they have sown.  Remember that God is faithful in all things, even if His timing is not our own.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I participating in God’s character through experiential knowledge of it?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You reveal Yourself to us both through Your word and Your character.  You always seek to help us so that we would know You better.  Remember me this day, and help me to participate in Your character in a greater way.  Help me to experience Your character as I put it into practice in my daily life.  Help me to be faithful, blameless, pure, merciful, gentle, and humble in heart.  May each of these qualities be found in my character as I interact with others.  Forgive me for my many sins, and show me how to live this way.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Thankfulness for God – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

God’s Will For You

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Remember to Rejoice

Rejoicing at all times is not the easiest thing to do.  Pain, misery, and other terrible circumstances can all damper our desire to rejoice.  But we see in the Bible time and time again where God’s people rejoice in times of great difficulty:

Persist in Prayer

Prayer is something that every Christian should be an expert.  We have many examples in scripture to draw upon.  We can openly pour out our hearts to God in praise and petition.  Prayer can be silent or spoken.  The only thing that stops us from praying is ourselves.  We need to take more time to be in the presence of our Almighty God.  As in all things, we need to practice to become good at prayer.  And as we grow, we will notice our prayer life changes from our immediate needs to the needs of others and praise of the One who hears our prayers.

Thoroughly Thankful

Thankfulness is a state of the heart.  It is dependent upon the level of contentment that we experience.  If a person is not content, they will not be inherently thankful.  And when difficulties arise, they will find it even more challenging to be thankful.  It is easy to be content in times of plenty.  Let us practice thankful contentment when we can so that in times of difficulty we can apply ourselves to that difficult task.  Job first set the example:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.

Paul tells us he learned to be content:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I thankfully content, praying continually, with rejoicing?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, may my heart be content with my circumstances, and may Your praise be continually on my lips.  Even in my worst circumstances, You are with me, guiding me and providing for me.  Help me to remember that You are constantly involved in my life, regardless of the pain I feel.  Help me to praise Your name, even if it is with tears, for You treasure them.  And when there are terribly long times of difficulty, with no end in sight, give me the strength to continually praise You, pray to You, and be thankful; for this life is very short, no matter how painfully long it feels.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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


Morality with God – Isaiah 5:20a,23

Moral Relativism Is Abhorrent To God

20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
but deny justice to the innocent.

Opposing Opinions

Free will is a gift and a curse.  It allows us to both make decisions in life, and have opinions, that are far outside the will and ways of God.  The author of the Book of Romans gives us some insight into how this process occurs:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

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.

The first steps are:

  1. Ignoring God and his commands
  2. Belief that God does not exist
  3. Belief that Man’s deductions and interpretations of life are correct
  4. The worship of the Creation rather than the Creator

Moral Morass

The author of the Book of Romans now breaks it down for us.  Once God is removed from the picture, absolute Truth is no longer a possibility in their minds.  Given that opinions and desires change from time to time, as well as from individual to individual, people no longer adhere to Truth and Righteousness, as they have no external, immutable standard with which to base any semblance of morality upon.

Morality is now subject to the whims of man’s depravity, and thus, moral relativism is born.  What is right for you may not be right for me, but I must tolerate (read: agree with) whatever YOU think is right, even though YOU may not have to tolerate what I believe is right.  As such, truth no longer holds any value, as it has no basis with which it can be moored and evaluated.

The next steps are as follows:

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

After abandoning God, the strongest desire that God has placed in mankind is corrupted:

  1. God withdraws His hand from guidance in man’s sexual desires
  2. People engage in sexual ways that deviate greatly from the pattern that God set forth in the Bible.  This step involves sexual relationships that occur between men and women:
    1. Swinging
    2. Adultery
    3. Lewdness
    4. Orgies
    5. Etc.
  3. As time goes on, even more people worship the creation rather than the Creator

Pushing further, Man delves deeper into sexual unrighteousness:

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Being unable to satisfy their desires with the opposite sex (natural relations, as described by Paul the Apostle), they now choose same-sex partners with which to satisfy their ever-increasing desires and lusts.  We see this in the world today, but this is not the first time that sexual depravity has been reported in history:

  • Solomon reported, and rightly so, that there is nothing new under the sun.
  • Lot dealt with this issue during his days (including his daughters’ unrighteous acts of incest)
  • Amnon took his sister Tamar
  • Paul witnessed them during the Roman Empire
  • Monarchs and their families have been dealing with incest for generations (in order to keep the leadership in the existing families

Once they have embraced sexual impurity, the gateway to complete depravity is opened:

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

After the people become sexually “liberated”, they become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  They don’t just do them; they approve of those that do the same.  Because of this, justice is no longer to be found in them.

Bought with Bribes

The Bible has quite a bit to say about taking and giving bribes.  God does not approve of bribery.  Yet, once God has given people over to a depraved mind, the idea that accepting and giving bribes is now excusable and may even become the way to do business.  Truth and honor have no part in the life of people who have been given over to their shameful lusts and desires.

Since they have abandoned the belief that God exists, provides for them, and that they are accountable to Him, they begin to believe (and as their viewpoint excludes God, it appears to them to be valid) that they have to take care of themselves because no one else will.  This opens the door to justifying all unrighteousness for the sake of self-preservation.

Inexcusable Injustice

Now that people have been compromised by accepting bribes, if there are laws against such things, they can be blackmailed to do what others want them to do.  Justice has been corrupted.  People who were once stalwarts of truth crumble in light of the possible exposure of their misdeeds.  The very people who provided the opportunity and pressure to cave are now the very people who threaten others’ livelihoods and loved ones if they don’t comply.  We begin to see where people who have always been strong in conviction do something that is antithetical to their stated and previously lived-out life.

Justice is now bought and sold.  The rich and powerful get a pass for unrighteous behavior, while the lowly and poor are given the maximum penalty allowed.  This truly becomes a two-tiered justice system.  Those who agree with the people running the country are given special privilege, and those who dissent are destroyed.  The courts are used as a battering ram to financially destroy their opponents, incarcerate the righteous, and provide such terrible consequences that anyone with lesser character will be easily cowed into silence or into publicly agreeing with their world view (if only in words).

To God, who is Holy and Righteous, this must be infuriating.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What or whom is our basis for truth?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are full of mercy and compassion.  Yet You allow us to go our own way.  You seek after us and watch expectantly for us to return, even though you know the outcome of all things.  You are to be praised and glorified forever.  Father, help me to be strong and to reject any bribery that is offered to me.  In all my ways, keep me from sinning against You.  Help me to keep You in mind at all times.  As I am pressured by people and circumstances in life, give me strength to resist and to stand fast in Your Word and in Your character.  Deliver me from my enemies, and thwart their every effort to oppose You and Your people.  Guard me and guide me this day, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Striving for God – Philippians 1:27-29

Live a Life Worthy of The Gospel

27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Christian Conduct

It is not just learning Bible verses that is important: it is living them out under the power of the Holy Spirit – putting them into practice – that is ultimately desired by God of us.  He delights when we draw close to Him and experience His character.  He has put on display for all to see through the Bible the framework of His conduct.  Although God does interact with us on a personal (and sometimes unique) manner as befits us and our character, He is consistent in His dealings with mankind.

We have no excuse for not living a life of God-like character.  Jesus has shown us the character of God the Father.  Jesus said:

7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

United Undertaking

We are told to stand firm and strive together in the Gospel.  The most powerful thing that we can do is act in unity.  When Christians are united, it is as if everyone is pulling on a rope attached to a great weight in the same direction.  Imaging one hundred people pulling on one hundred different ropes in different directions.  How far do you think the weight will move?  If everyone took their rope, gathered together and pulled in the same direction, do you think it would have a different outcome?

When we do not work in unity, we are acknowledging to the world that (at least some of us) are not listening to the directions of our Commander-In-Chief, Jesus Christ, through the voice of the Holy Spirit.   This causes onlookers to wonder if it is even possible to know God and listen to Him.  When we unite together, great and powerful work is accomplished for the Gospel.  God has said that when working in unity, nothing is impossible.  We can choose to work in unity or not.  Let us choose to be united.

Forgo Fear

God has placed within human beings an emotional response system.  It helps guide us when intellectually we may not be as motivated to react to situations in self-preservation.  The beauty of a tornado is awesome to behold, even if it is coming in your general direction.  However, if we didn’t have fear, we might just stand there admiring it until it was too late.  Fear helps us to avoid situations that might otherwise harm us through our action, or in other cases, through inaction.

However, we have a great and mighty God who is able to provide for all of our needs.  He is able to shield us, protect us, and deliver us.  When faced with threats from evil people, loss of life, or other situations that should normally cause us to flee or act in throws of fear when fulfilling the work of God, we are to be as bold as lions and stand our ground.  We have a strong deliverer who will act on our behalf.  Even if we perish we are to show no fear, for there is no fear in perfect love.  This is not for our benefit, however.

Sign of Salvation

When people see that we do not show fear in the face of loss, death, torture, immolation, or any other threats or situations of physical, monetary, or property loss, our boldness is a testimony to our faith in the saving nature of our God.  It is during these trials that our faith is on display for others.  When they see that we are willing to lose everything for what we believe, our faith is made real in their hearts, and they then are the ones who will fear.

This is not a false sign of bravado, but rather an unshakeable knowledge (hope) that God, whether in life or death, is able to keep us and save us, whether alive in this world or with Him in glory.  Most people love their lives more than they love their Savior, and in a moment of panic, may deny Him when they are threatened.  We are told that when we put our full faith into effect, regardless of the outcome, this will be God’s sign to them that God is real, our faith is real, and they are in a lot of trouble:

Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

Sovereign Suffering

God has appointed us to suffering.  He does this for several reasons:

  • No student is above his teacher:
    • The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.

    • Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

    • All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.

    • So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

    • Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

    • 10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

    • 10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

    • 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

  • Suffering is the vehicle through which God sanctifies us
  • Perseverance through suffering displays the character of God for all to see.
  • Life is difficult, and we can comfort those with the same comfort we received during the suffering we experienced in our trials.

Strategic Struggle

As we experience trials and tribulations, we are continually being tested, and our character refined.  Eventually, every Christian reaches a tipping point.  We must ask ourselves a question and determine the answer in our heart: Is God’s love dependent upon our circumstances?  The answer that we should come to  (but may be very difficult to achieve when experiencing prolonged, significant, excruciating, painful, and unyielding agony) is that God’s love (or any part of His character) is not based on our circumstances.  Rather, it is above our circumstances, for He is sovereign, and does not change.  His love will never fail, and He will never leave us nor forsake us.

When we are striving for God, we are like a nail that has popped out of the board, and the devil has a hammer looking to put it right back down where it was before.  Withstand the abuse, the torture, the threats, the loss, whatever may come.  You have a much greater inheritance with God in Heaven, and this momentary pain will cease when you go to be with Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question: Are we living God’s character sufficiently to experience the sufferings that His Son, Jesus Christ, experienced?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us Yourself through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  I thank You and praise You for revealing Yourself to me.  Help me to live in such a way that I experience the same sufferings as Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to see where You are working, to join in with that work, and the bring glory to Your name.  And when I experience suffering, whether from the trials of living my faith, or from any other thing, help me to endure them so that You are glorified, and my character is refined.  Sanctify me through these trials, and help me to learn the lessons that You are trying to teach to me.  Give me the strength to persevere, and to wait until You release me from the trials.  Help me to resist the urges to take control over these circumstances, and allow you to perfect and complete that which You have begun.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of Jesus Christ, Your One and Only Son, Amen.

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

Character of God – Genesis 17:23

God Is Character Driven, Not Emotion Driven

On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him.

Character Counts

Aren’t you glad that God is driven by perfect character?  Imagine a universe where God, rather than keeping His promises, did whatever He felt like doing?

  • Moses cries out to God to part the Red Sea.  God COULD have said to Moses, “You wicked and unbelieving generation!  I should let you all die at the hands of Pharaoh.  I am angry enough to just start over again with ANOTHER flood and choose a new Abraham.”
  • When David said, “I have sinned” after Nathan confronted him about Bathsheba and Uriah, God COULD have said, “I am so disappointed in you!  I raised you up from the lowliest of positions to the highest position in the land, but now I am filled with such sorrow.  I’ll find another king to use.  You are no longer useful to me because I am tired of you.”
  • When Saul of Tarsus was murdering Christians in the name of God, The Lord Almighty COULD have said, “Saul, You disgust me because you are killing my people.  It is now time to face judgement for what you have done.  Your life is required of you.  I’ll find another person to use as my twelfth apostle.”

God ALWAYS keeps His promises.  If He didn’t, why would we follow that God?  How is a capricious, moody, deceiving God worth following?  If God deceived us, why should we call Him Holy?

The good news for us, as we know, is that the character of YHWH is perfect, and everything that He does conforms to His perfect character.  So when God says He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life, we can believe it, rejoice in it, own it, be secure in it, and draw close to God through it.

Emotions Evolve

God follows this model:

  1. God’s Intellect (mind) directs His Will.  Since God is all-knowing, wisdom should be our guide.
  2. God’s Will then submits to His Intellect
  3. God’s Will then directs His Emotions
  4. God’s Emotions then submit to His Will

The devil likes to corrupt everything that God has established.  So the devil tries to convince the world that they should “listen to their heart” and ignore their intellect – their conscience (con=”with”, science=”knowledge”) – and reality.  After all, the emotions make us “happy”, and we all want to be “happy”!  So the devil instructs the world to follow this paradigm:

  1. Man’s emotions should direct his will.  Man’s emotions don’t lie to him and we are heartless if we don’t listen to them.  What will others think of us?
  2. Man’s will then submits to his emotions
  3. Man’s will then directs and informs his intellect.  After all, facts don’t matter, logic doesn’t matter – just follow your heart, and you will be fine!
  4. Man’s intellect then submits to his will.  Man wants to be liked by others and cares very much about what others think about him.  “Peer pressure” is the defining influence in our lives, therefore rules and logic have  no place when we feel comfortable with what we are doing.  So we “justify” it in our intellect, and don’t let anyone convince us otherwise – we are listening to our hearts!  We are at the apex of understanding!  We have transcended facts and logic!  We have evolved into a higher plane of thinking!  We are now superior to everyone and anyone else!  Don’t you feel better about yourself now?

Our emotions are about as stable as a small boat in the ocean.  One minute we are happy, fine, enjoying ourselves, and the next moment, someone says something or something happens to us, and we go on an emotional roller-coaster as the waves break over the sides of the boat.  Our emotions are the shakiest foundation upon which we should base our decisions.  Yet, isn’t that how most people make decisions today?

Intellectual Intrigue

Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.  The scripture says that very day Abraham circumcised all of the males with him.  Abraham was serious about what God had to say.  He was obedient!  He didn’t pass it through a committee; he didn’t have everyone vote on it; he didn’t stop and ponder how he felt about it; he didn’t question God about why anyone would alter their body in such a painful fashion; he just obeyed.  His intellect directed his will, and his will told his emotions to line up with the intellect, and he did what was required of him quickly and without argument.  Is that not how we should respond to the Word of the Living God?

Here is a non-exhaustive list comparing character driven vs. emotion driven people:

Character Driven Emotion Driven
What are my responsibilities? What are my rights?
Be there on time Cancel because something better came up
Learn all about the job Wing it
Submit to others Do it my own way
Do the work to best of my ability Do the minimum amount of work needed

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I Character Driven, or Emotion Driven?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I will sing praises to You, for You are holy, righteous, just, but full of mercy and grace. You do everything that You say that You will do, and we can rest in full assurance that Your promises will be upheld by You.  Your character is perfect, and you do not change like shifting shadows.  Father, mold me, shape me, and change me so that my character matches Yours.  Help me to walk in way that Jesus walked when He was with the disciples.  Guard my ways, and help me to always do what I say I will do.  Strengthen me when my emotions rise up like a flood and threaten to drown me.  Provide me with Your peace as I seek to be obedient to You.  This I ask and pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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