Witnessing Without Words – 1 Peter 3:1-2

Witnessing Without Words Only Works In Marriage

1 Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

Simple Submission

What’s the quickest way for a wife to win over her husband to God?  When she submits to him as leader of the home, he will be won over.  No amount of words can replace the simple act of reverential submission.  When a wife submits to her husband, there is a special provision that God makes for her so that her husband’s heart connects to her and God.

Won Without Words

When a husband’s wife submits to him, he feels appreciated and fulfilled.  His desire to step up to the plate as the head of the household is aroused, and he will be convicted by the Holy Spirit if he does not know God, as her Godly behavior will point out his less than Godly behavior.  He will be in a position to be won over by her conduct.  No amount of words can convince a man, but the simple act of submission of his wife can do this.  He will become curious as he is convicted, and ask what happened?  His heart will then be open to the words that were previously merely bouncing off of him.  While this does not guarantee that a man will respond correctly, it certainly sets the stage for the Spirit of God to prepare his heart for what both you and God desire – his obedience!

Beautiful Behavior

Actions speak louder than words.  When a wife acts in a Godly manner, she is able to influence her husband in ways that were previously unavailable to her.  He will be willing to listen as he ponders her behavior, and may be more open to coming to church, reading from the Bible, and other spiritual activities that nagging and gentle rebuking had no effect in the past.  It is so true that you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar…

Powerful Purity

When a wife is acting in purity, it does something to a man.  It awakens a desire to be worthy of that purity.  A man may even break down in shame when his wife is acting in purity and he is not.  He may very well need to see the proper example before he is able to start desiring purity in his own life.  And while there are cases where a man may simply reject God as he sees his wife display purity in her life, this will give him every opportunity to see out God as the pattern of holiness is displayed before him.

Respectful Reverence

And men do respond to respect.  It is their love language.  Just as women need to feel loved in order to grow and prosper in God, men need to feel respected in order to grow properly and prosper in God.  A man will be influenced more by the respect of his wife than a million words by her in helpful assistance.  Respect will resonate within him, and allow the wife to connect with him in a way that she may not have been able to connect before.  It opens a door and shows him that He needs to respect God and his wife in return.  That usually begins the process of reconciliation between him and God.

A Qualifying Question

Wives, let’s ask a question:  Am I respecting my husband in such a way that he sees how he should respect God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are able to do more than we could ever desire.  Please help me to respect others in the way that they need to be respected.  Help me to respect You as the best and highest example of love for men.  Help me to live a life that is submitted to You and to others.  Help me to overcome any difficulties that I may have that would hinder my ability to submit to You and to others.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

 

Blessings of Obedience – Psalm 128

Obedience To God Results In Blessings By God

1 Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in obedience to him.
2 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4 Yes, this will be the blessing
for the man who fears the Lord.

5 May the Lord bless you from Zion;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
6 May you live to see your children’s children-
peace be on Israel.

Revel in Reverence

Obedience is a word that is treated like the plague.  Very few people want to be obedient.  To be obedient means that there may be (most likely will be) great sacrifice, pain, and personal loss in a person’s life.  Jesus likened obedience to love:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Obedience to the word of God brings about the circumstances necessary to transform the lives of men and women into the character and capacity of Jesus:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

In obedience we find freedom.  And in freedom, we find joy and peace.  God greatly desires that we be free from the bondage of sin so that we can have the freedom to follow Him:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The difference between obedience and legalism is that obedience leads to freedom, and  legalism leads to bondage.

Bountiful Blessings

Obedience has its own rewards, apart from the joy of knowing that God is pleased with how you are living your life.  Obedience brings and abundance of blessings.  God is faithful and rewards those who seek after Him in obedience.  There are many blessings to be found in obedience.  The Psalmist lists several.

Wonderful Wife

The man who is obedient to God will have a wife that is fruitful.  Children are a blessing and a reward from God.  Additionally, the wife of an obedient man is most likely following in his footsteps, and is obedient to God and to him as well.  Everything that she does will pour forth out of her joy in Jesus and her husband.  She will be able to trust in her husband, and show him the respect that he desires and deserves, because she will already be showing God the respect that He deserves through obedience.  Her hands will be busy, and she will be fruitful in all that she does.

Chosen Children

When a man is obedient to God, his children will most likely follow suit.  Children model their parents, whether they want to or not.  They learn by watching our example.  And when it is real to them, they will embrace it as they taste and see that the Lord is good.  They will grow in grace and righteousness before God, and will be a blessing to their parents.

Powerful Prosperity

In obedience, those who follow God will be prospered.  God looks to the future and the spiritual rather than the present and the physical.  And while He desires that we prosper here on Earth, He has an even stronger desire that we prosper in Him.  Obedience produces the character that God desires in His children in the same way that parents desire that their children obey them.

Better the poor whose walk is blameless
than the rich whose ways are perverse.

After all, in obedience, we are afforded great, abundant, and valuable wealth:

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

Long Life

Obedience to God gives us wisdom, and God grants long life to those who seek Him in obedience.  They will live a full life, and be afforded the opportunity to see their grandchildren grow.  Their heritage will be available to be a blessing to them, and they will rejoice that God has given them the opportunity to witness it and to participate in their upbringing.  This is not an iron-clad contractual promise, but rather a generalization that bears out in our experience as we live long and prosper on the Earth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I seeking obedience to God, or His blessings?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have greatly blessed me in that You have revealed Your Son, Jesus Christ to me, and have given me the faith to believe in Him and to follow Him.  Thank You for all that You are, and all that You do.  Give me a heart of obedience so that I will be like Your servant David, who heart was continually turning or turned towards You.  Help me to overcome my sin so that I would be able to be even more obedient to Your word and Your will.  Give me clean hands and a pure heart that I might yield all that I am and all that I have to You in worship.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

National Security and God – 2 Kings 6:8-12

Seek Knowledge And Wisdom From The One Who Knows The End From The Beginning

8 Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.”

9 The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” 10 So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.

11 This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”

12 “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”

Ways of War

Throughout history, there have always been enemies of nations. Whether the leaders of the nation were God-fearing or not, the enemy of our souls, Satan, plants seeds of envy, distrust, discord, hatred, greed, and murder in the hearts of those who would exalt themselves over God, and refuse to acknowledge that God and God alone placed them in power.

When a nation goes to war, there are many efforts that go into preparing for it:

  • They send spies among their enemies to gather intelligence to plan their attacks
  • They may launch campaigns of information warfare against their enemies to demoralize the nation and cause fear and discord
  • They may send warriors to be embedded in the midst of the nation in an effort to stage attacks that would cause dissension, fear, and panic
  • They gather their armies together to overwhelm their chosen enemies by cunning or overwhelming force
  • They try to destroy their enemies by introducing immorality among them to get them to destroy themselves from within

Superb Surveillance

The key to all of this is having the necessary intelligence to plan attacks. It does a nation no good to launch an offensive against a place that they believe to be of strategic importance, only to later learn that those troops were fooled, and while they were preoccupied, the opposing side surrounds them and defeats them.

In the world of technology, we still use human spies to gather intelligence of every type. Using computers, specialized data-analytics software is used to arrange the overwhelming volume of data into specific patterns that can be used to determine trends and eventually accurately predict the outcome of your subject’s efforts. We now call it data mining. We even spy electronically on voice and data communications, GPS signals, web searches, anything we can get that will help us in our efforts to predict what is coming next.

We even use small “bugs” that gather information and either send it to us wirelessly, through the electrical system of a building (high-frequency signals over the low-frequency carrier wave of electricity in the wires), or devices that just gather data to be picked up later (like the hard drives in today’s modern printers, computers, Internet of Things [IoT], etc). Nations even wage cyber warfare against corporations, individuals, and governments, stealing proprietary data and communications through the use of malicious software, and social engineering – the exploitation of human nature.

All of these efforts are used to get the best and most accurate information possible to make decisions. But in the (even somewhat recent, as well as distant) past, these data-gathering techniques were not always possible. But there was always one source of information that was completely accurate, reliable, and invaluable.

Infallible Information

In this passage, the prophet Elisha would warn the king of Israel of the plans of his enemies, in this case, the king of Aram. Elisha would hear from the Spirit of God what Aram was going to do. This shouldn’t surprise us, since in the Bible, it is said that God knows what words will be on our lips before they even leave our mouth.

God is truth. There is no lie upon His lips. Anything that God tells us is absolutely, positively, the most unbiased, accurate description of reality that we can receive. God routinely told (and even now tells) His prophets of what is to come:

1 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”

But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”

4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.

5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.”

Tried and True

Time and time again, the prophets of God, as inspired by God, told the people what He wanted them to say. The true prophets of God knew God’s will and what was to come. God didn’t tell them everything, but what He wanted them to know. The king of Aram was in distress. In his confusion, he asked his officers who in his ranks was on the side of Israel.

God thwarts the plans of the wicked. He foils the plans of the nations. He has declared Himself sovereign, and overthrows the learning of the wise. God has declared of His righteous ones:

16 “See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
17 no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

Patterns of the Past

The reason that we fail is because we refuse to remember our past. George Santayana said the following: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” When we do not look to our past, we will certainly repeat our mistakes. We can only learn if we study the lessons that the past teaches to us. God had His people erect stones of remembrance because He knows that we are a forgetful species, and as a sign to future generations what God has done for us.

In our case, He was gracious enough to have His people record the deeds of the past in His book, the Bible. Anyone who wishes to grow wealthy in knowledge and wisdom would be wise to remember George Santayana’s comments and read the Bible to glean lessons from its rich history.

Simple Success

A note to any leaders who believe that they know the One True God, YHWH, and follow His ways:

Read the Bible. Learn from the past. As clearly indicated here, do you want to be safe? Do you want to know what your enemies are doing? Do you want to keep your citizen’s information private, except that which impacts National Security? Give your life to God. Believe God, obey God, and it will be credited to you as righteousness.

Ask God to send His prophets to you so that you may receive Godly counsel. Surround yourself with them. Heed their wise counsel. Turn from your wicked ways, and turn to God. Repent and weep over the sins of your nation. Make it your sole desire in life to serve God, and to serve those you have been placed over (and not yourselves or anyone else). Be Servants in Charge, and lead your people in righteousness. THEN God will reveal your enemies’ bedroom secrets to you (as well as their troop positions, spies, cyber-warriors, strengths, weaknesses, weapons, defenses, and strategies), tell you which of your citizens are enemy-terrorists who plot against you and your nation, and what you can do about it. And you will be shielded by the most powerful person in the known universe and beyond – The Lord God Almighty.

(And remember what happens when you don’t ask the Lord God Almighty beforehand about a matter.)

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: Where do I go for my information?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I pray that you will forgive my nation for its many sins. Help us to turn our hearts towards You. I pray for those whom You have placed in leadership over me in my nation. Give them strength, wisdom, and knowledge to do all that You want them to do. Help them to completely yield their lives to You. And I pray, Lord God, that You would send Your prophets to them to give them wise counsel, and to help them know the necessary information in order to protect my nation from its enemies, and Your enemies. Forgive me for my sins, and help me and my family to live for You, Lord God. 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 clarity, spelling and formatting.  Additionally, the prophet first reported for this scripture was Elijah.  The correct prophet for this scripture is Elisha.

Salvation and God – Colossians 1:21-23

Can Someone Lose Their Salvation?

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation- 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Two Thoughts

There are two main schools of thought concerning salvation:

  • Your salvation is secure because you did nothing to earn it, you can do nothing to jeopardize it.
  • Your salvation can be shipwrecked through your own actions

Since this is a salvation issue, it is important that we determine in our minds which of these is true.  This is one case where they cannot both be true; so one of them must be true and the other is at best a misunderstanding of the word of God, and at the worse worst, a terrible heresy.  Let’s take a look at both of them to see their merits and the reasoning behind them through the lens of the word of God.  Any time that we look at something, scripture must be taken as a whole.  If we only look at part of scripture, it can lead us to form improper conclusions, and possibly lead us into heresy.

Secure Salvation

The thought process around this is that since we did nothing to earn our salvation – that it is totally by the divine providence of God – that there is nothing that we can do to lose our salvation.  Since God is the author of our faith, we cannot somehow just lose it, because it isn’t from or of us.  Let’s look at some of the scriptures that this camp uses to reinforce this opinion:

Jesus Christ Himself has said the following:

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

This would appear to indicate no one who is called of God can be snatched out of the Father’s hand nor Christ’s hand.

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

It would appear here that God is not willing, in His Sovereign Will, to allow anyone who is saved to perish.  Note that they are already sheep in the flock.

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

Even here, it would appear that even if we build upon the foundation of Christ with hay and stubble, though it be burned up when tested by fire, we will still escape, although singed and smelling of smoke…

There appears to be very strong evidence that once you give your life to Christ, that you are saved.  Nothing that you do, the enemy does, or anything on Earth or in Heaven that happens can remove your salvation from you.  Anyone who abandons their faith then, by definition, was never truly saved.  Therefore, the hallmark of salvation is that you remain in the palm of Christ and the Father, unable to be torn from them.  This is very comforting, and helps us to remember the grace and mercy of God in all of our moral failings as we continually repent and turn back to God.  God is always encouraging us to return to Him, and He is faithful to forgive us when we repent, so there is no concern.

So, what do we do about these other scriptures?

Shipwrecked Salvation

The second school of thought is that a person, through their intentional disregard for scripture and actions, can somehow shipwreck their salvation.  A person can be saved by God, receive God, but then later reject God, and God will let them go.  This seems counter-intuitive to the scripture telling us that no one can snatch us from the hand of Christ or the Father.  So how do we process the following scriptures?

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

This scripture would imply that there are false disciples – people who think they are disciples, but are not truly disciples.  The passage indicates that this these may be people who believe that the proof of their salvation is in the working of miracles and the driving out of demons –  a works-based theology.  But here is a question: How did they perform the miracles?  Are not all miracles performed by God (Satan can perform signs and wonders)?  Was God somehow then performing miracles to allow these fake disciples to believe that they were disciples, only to be turned away from salvation on the day of the Lord?  What is going on here?

1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3 For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4 So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

It would appear here that the Apostle Paul is implying that the person who was engaging in sexual immorality might not be saved on the day of the Lord if he keeps up his sin.  Paul has pronounced judgment upon him, and ordered him to be handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh to preserve him.   If his faith is secure, and he cannot be snatched from the hand of Christ nor the Father, NO MATTER WHAT, why would Paul do this?

18 Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.

Here again, Paul has handed over two people to Satan so that they would not shipwreck their faith.  If they build on hay and stubble, and will come through the fire just fine, always saved (but without their reward), how can their faith can be shipwrecked?  When a sea vessel is shipwrecked, it is destroyed and remains just where it lies, short of its goal of reaching port.  The implication is that they were in the process of abandoning their faith.

5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Here, this is either a threat or a promise.  If it is a promise, it would indicate that those who overcome will surely not be blotted out of the book of life.  If it is a threat, then it should be a rebuke and reminder that God is holy, and will not tolerate continued, unrepentant sin or even ambivalence towards Him and His word.

22 May the table set before them become a snare; may it become retribution and a trap.
23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.
24 Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them.
25 May their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
26 For they persecute those you wound and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
27 Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation.
28 May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.

So, was David just venting to God, saying things that he really didn’t mean?  For instance, many people have said the following things in anger:

  • “I hate you”
  • “I wish you were dead”
  • “I hope terrible things happen to you”

But have you ever heard anyone so angry that they said, “I hope God doesn’t permit you to get into Heaven with the righteous”?  Does David really believe that God COULD, let alone WOULD, remove someone’s name from the book of life?  When we are saved, our name is written in the book of life.  Can or would God remove it for ANY reason, since no one can be snatched out of the hand of Christ and the Father?

Dividing Dilemma

These are very difficult things for us to understand.  On the one hand, God tells us to don the helmet of salvation to KNOW that we are saved.  On the other hand, we see passages in scripture that infer that there may be circumstances that could cause the ruination of our faith, and possibly jeopardize our eternal future (or is it just our reward?).

There are many scriptures that can support both sides.  But only one [school of thought] can be correct.  Each of us must search deeply into the scripture to be assured of our faith.  If we cannot determine which school of thought is correct, then let us consider one more scripture and its implications in our lives:

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 8 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

18 Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Which soil of the heart do I have?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are perfect in all Your ways.  Give us hearts that are tuned to yours, and this day I pray, Father, that you would give me wisdom and understanding to reconcile all of these scriptures so that I would know the truth.  Help me to understand Your word more completely.  Give me clean hands and a pure heart, that I may approach Your word with humility and learn the truth.  Keep me from being deceived, and help me to push on towards running the race well, that I would receive the reward that You have prepared for me.  Father, You are holy, and I know that You desire for me to live a life in holiness and righteousness.  Help me to focus on the goal, and to keep moving forwards.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

NOTE:  The following article was edited.  Brackets [*, *] were used to indicated text added later.

Announcing the Announcer – Luke 1:76-80

John The Baptist Would Prepare The Way For The Messiah

76 “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Proclaiming the Prophet

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, had been struck mute when he was confronted by the angel Gabriel concerning the birth of his son.  After proclaiming his son’s name by writing it on a tablet, the condition was removed, and Zechariah began to prophesy concerning his son.  The first words from his mouth were praise and glory to God followed by the announcement that his son, John the Baptist,  would be a prophet.  He then spoke of a few characteristics concerning John.

Prepare a Path

John the Baptist was to prepare the way for the Lord.  John fulfilled this prophesy by proclaiming that the people needed to be baptized for their sins:

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene- 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.'”

John came out of the wilderness when the Spirit of God came to him.  He baptized by water all who desired to be prepared for the coming messiah.

Speak of Salvation

John spoke of salvation to the people, not only baptizing them for their sin in preparation for the messiah, but telling them that they needed to change by being obedient to the word of God:

7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

In each case, John the Baptist called people to stop living for themselves, and begin to love their neighbor as themselves.  He encouraged them to produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  Merely going through an act was not going to do them any good.  They were to have a change of heart, and live their lives in such a way that they showed the change.  Salvation came to those whose hearts were changed by the word of God so that they would believe God.

Burn Brightly

The people wandered in their hearts if John the Baptist was the messiah. He pointed people to the messiah and responded:

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

John the Baptist faithfully pointed people to the messiah, and consistently told them that he was not the one they were looking for.  And when he saw his messiah come to be baptized by him, he faithfully announced Him to the crowds:

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

John the Baptist faithfully did everything that was required of him, and fulfilled the prophecy of his father in accordance with the will and word of God.  In every way, John had grown stronger in spirit in preparation for his coming assignment to prepare the way for the Lord.  John was faithful in all that he did.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I fulfilling the purposes that God has prepared for me to do for him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me the way to salvation.  Give me the strength and desire to bear fruit in accordance with my profession of faith in the completed work and shed blood of my Savior.  Help me to honor and glorify Your name with the works that You have prepared for me to do since before the foundation of the universe.  Strengthen me this day that I might be steadfast in shining for You as a light on a hill.  Prepare the soil of the hearts of all that Your word would take root and bear much fruit, for I know that time grows short and the return of Your son in imminent.  Help me to be aware of this always as I go about my day, and be in tune with Your spirit, yielding my spirit to You as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing in Your sight.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Bearing Fruit for God – John 15:6-8

Remain In Christ To Bear Great Fruit For God’s Glory

6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Wasted Wood

God is the master gardener.  He carefully prunes His vines, removing the dead portions of branches to make them more profitable, and when necessary, removing the dead wood from the vine.  Just as any gardener will tell you, it is never good when you have to remove entire branches from your plants.  Although necessary in order to ensure the survival of the plant, it impacts the plant and lowers the productivity of your investment.  Branches that are dead to the vine become a liability, and are good for nothing except to be burned in the fire.  We need to keep this in mind, for most of us are wild branches grafted into the vine.  And if God will prune out the native branches, how much more so will he for the grafted ones!

Favors Fulfilled

Jesus says something very profound here.  If we remain in Him, God will grant whatever we ask of Him!  Part of that is because when we are in Christ, we are walking in the same way that He did – in complete submission and obedience to the Holy Spirit of God.  As such, we are in the position to be used by Him to execute the plans and purposes that God desires to accomplish. We are other-focused, with our eyes on Jesus and the cross.  When we are focused in that manner, the requests that we make will be to ensure that God’s will be done here on Earth as it is in Heaven.  God certainly would grant any request that fulfills His plans and purposes.

The second part is that when we are submitted to God as Jesus was to the Holy Spirit, we will only be seeking what is good.  Self-centered prayers and desires will not dominate our thoughts, and we will put down the attempts by the enemy as he attempts to distract and derail our efforts by placing selfish thoughts in our minds.  If the enemy can distract us from fulfilling our purpose that God has planned, he is successful in doing the only thing that he can – to keep us from properly bearing the image of God.  And when that happens, we are not bringing glory to God.

Glory to God

Jesus points out that the purpose for granting our requests IS to bring glory to God.  It is not for our comfort, self-fulfillment, emotional happiness, material enrichment, or any other purpose than to bring glory to Himself.  God and God alone is worthy of glory.  We have been tasked with doing His will to bring glory to His name.  God will do everything He can to make sure that we are successful in our attempt to submit in obedience to Him for this purpose.  Anything that we ask that God has planned and desires will be granted:

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Decidedly Disciples

When we are submitted in obedience to the Holy Spirit, we will bear much fruit in season:

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither-
whatever they do prospers.

Since we are the branches and Christ is the vine, we are expected to bear fruit for Christ when He wants us to, in or out of season:

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

God is full of grace and mercy.  But if/when we continually refuse to bear fruit for the one who gives us nourishment and provides for our every need, eventually He will prune out the dead wood.  And for those who respond to His desire to bear fruit, He will prune the dead portions of the branch so that the rest of the branch will grow and bear fruit, thus honoring and bringing glory to God.  And when we bring honor and glory to God by bearing fruit for Him at His request, we show that we truly are His disciples.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I willing to bear fruit out of season for God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown great compassion towards me in bringing me to Your Son.  Grant me the strength and desire to bear much fruit for You.  Help me to be prepared to do all that You require of me so that I may bring glory to Your name.  Help me to be a better disciple, and grant me the ability to submit and obey Your word more and more each and every day.  Forgive me when I fail and succumb to selfishness desires.  Guard my mind and my heart against the plans of the enemy, and give me the character to consistently turn towards You in every circumstance that You permit in life, for You are Sovereign Lord over all creation.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Sanctification by God – John 15:1-4

The Gardener Prunes The Vine To Make It More Productive

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

Pruning for Profit

God the Father is pictured here by Jesus as the gardener.  He is in the role of vine-dresser, and as such, has the responsibility for the vine bearing the greatest amount of fruit.  And just like a gardener, He removes the branches that are consistently unproductive.  When a gardener does everything that he can to get a particular branch to bear fruit, and it does not, it must be culled so that it will stop taking the sap from the vine that the other more productive branches need to bear their fruit.

And when a branch of the vine IS productive, He removes the dead wood from it, pruning it so that the productive part of the branch becomes even more productive, and grows to its maximum potential, bearing as much fruit as possible, and honoring the gardener with its produce.  Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches.  We must take these things to heart, for although we cannot earn our way into Heaven, we are expected to bear fruit once we receive the nourishing sap from the vine.  Whether the branch is grafted in, or grows from the vine, the gardener expects it to bear fruit.  After all, faith without deeds is dead.

Washed White

Jesus reminds us here that He has already cleaned us up.  His blood has washed us white as snow, as white as wool.  We only need to have our feet cleaned as we walk in the dirty world.  In the same way, the Father prunes us as branches, cleaning us from the dead wood that is weighing us down, sapping our strength, and not producing the fruit of righteousness as we are intended to do as His image-bearers.  God has already joined us spiritually to the source of life – the vine.

Sap from the Source

It is the sap that provides the life and nourishment that the branches need to live.  Jesus uses this illustration because it for the agrarian society in which people lived, this would have had immediate recognition and understanding, as this is how they lived their lives.  The stories would have had significant impact, and immediately have been understood.  It is important to remember that without the life-nourishing sap from the vine, the branch is dead or will die.  If we are not joined to the source, we will not be able to bear any fruit.

Becoming Bountiful

The only way to bear much fruit is to be firmly attached to the vine, drink up the life-giving sap, and use that to grow fruit.  Any branch that cannot – or refuses to – draw life from the vine is removed.  Once removed, it will surely dry up and die.  We are, like the vine and branches, to do what we were intended to do.  We are to bear the fruit of righteousness:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

When we are bearing fruit in accordance with righteousness, we are able to be used by God to bear other fruit as well.  Whether we are spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, building God’s kingdom by building God’s people, or whatever other activity God intends for us to accomplish, we are only able to do them through a solid relationship with God, and relying on His strength and wisdom from His word, which is our sap, to nourish us into becoming the most bountiful fruit-bearing branches that we can be.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I bearing fruit in accordance with the purpose that God has intended me to bear?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have taken great pains to ensure that I am firmly attached to You, and drawing strength and nourishment from You and Your word.  Help me to bear as much fruit as possible for You.  Prune me of anything that would impede my growth and usefulness.  Help me to do that which You intended for me to do from before the foundation of the universe.  Guide me and empower me to honor and glorify Your name.  Sanctify me that I would draw close to You in holiness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Obedience to God – Psalm 81:11-16

Victory Comes Through Obedience

11 “But my people would not listen to me;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own devices.

13 “If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Learning to Listen

Listening to God is not one of the stronger qualities of mankind.  For millennia, we have ignored the commands of God and have gone our own ways.  For us, obedience seems to be a fleeting concept, just out of the reach of men, beckoning to us yet remaining elusive with the draw of every other manner of pleasure, satisfaction, and fulfillment.  The flesh, the world, and the devil intentionally sabotage every effort at obedience through their incessant cries for attention.  Their efforts are like delicious chocolate dangled in front of the faces of children with obedience like plates of broccoli, brussel sprouts, and kale in warm butter and garlic just outside their reach.  As children, we know what we like, and we grab what we can, not realizing the error of our ways until it is too late.

God beckons to us to listen to Him and obey Him.  Obedience and faithfulness of our hearts have been two of His primary tasks since Adam and Eve.  They were given only one command, yet even then they could not even be obedient in that.  Given the option to partake in the forbidden fruit, we often give in to our desires in a moment of weakness, unable to resist the sumptuous and easy bait lying in front of us.  But God desires that we ignore the bait, and desire Him more.

Choices have Consequences

And when we continually fail to develop self-restraint and self-control, we spiral out of control and allow our desires to control us, rather than the opposite.  Cain, in a fit of rage when his offering was rejected by God, lashed out at the only one he could – he murdered his brother Able, who provided the accepted offering.  And so murder was born into the world of men.  As we mature, we learn more and more that there are consequences with our actions.  We may ignore them, or emotionlessly calculate the risks versus the rewards of them.  And when we do so repeatedly, without seeking God, He gives us over to our stubborn hearts.

How terrible is it to be ruled by our every desire.  When people are ruled by their emotions, they make horrible decisions.  They injure and kill their neighbors.  They burn down their neighborhoods.  They steal and rob from others.  The strong quickly overpower the weak and lord their power over their victims.  And as they continually allow themselves to be fueled by their emotions, there is no end to the depth of their depravity.

Veritable Victory

God gives us hope in the form of a promise.  When we are obedience, we will experience victory.  We will have victory over our sin.  We will have victory over our enemies.  And our enemies – also the enemies of God – will experience the punishment in the form of judgment by God for what they have done.  We cannot expect God to punish our enemies while we are participating in the exact same behavior that they are.  God does not show favoritism among men.  Victory can only come through obedience and submission to God.

Do you want your enemies to be brought to justice?  Do you want an end to your torment?  Do you want to have victory regardless of our your circumstances?  Be obedient to God who gives victory not only over our enemies by also over our own sin nature.  It is only then that we can live in a way that truly glorifies God and brings Him honor.  No matter the end result of our circumstances, obedience and submission to God are the only way to ensure our victory over our own nature.

Lest we forget, Jesus Christ was completely obedient to God and fully submitted to His Spirit, yet even He had to suffer on the cross for us.  But his victory was OVER death, and his reward was to sit at the right hand of God, given the world as His footstool, to reign in everlasting glory.

Rich Reward

God also promises to reward us for obedience and submission to Him.  When we, AS A PEOPLE, submit ourselves to God in obedience, He brings peace and prosperity to our nation:

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

No longer will we suffer under economic duress.  No longer will we be pursued by our enemies.  God will bring peace and prosperity:

When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.

And as mentioned in this Psalm, He will also do the following:

But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing my stubborn heart to overpower my desire to be obedient to God in submission to His Spirit?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me in Your word the importance of obedience and submission, and the nature of my heart.  You have given me a heart of flesh for a heart of stone when I believed You and your word.  Help me to keep my heart from hardening in this time of great trial and tribulation.  Soften it so that it would be more receptive to Your gentle nudging.  Give me the desire, patience, and ability to carefully listen to Your voice.  And when I hear You through Your word and Your still small voice, give me a heart like Abraham so that on that very day I would be completely obedient to Your will and desire.  Strengthen me and keep my heart from going cold due to the increase of lawlessness in the world.  Protect me from my enemies and from myself, for each day it becomes harder and harder to do what is right.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Spiritual Maturity in Christ – Hebrews 5:11-14

Crave The Milk, But Move To The Solid Food

11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

Move to Maturity

When the letter to the Romans was written, there was a serious issue going on with that body of believers.  Although they had been walking with the Lord Jesus Christ as His disciples for some time, they were not maturing.  While this may seem odd, we see the same thing today in the Western Church.  We have people who have been walking with God for more than a decade who still call themselves baby Christians.  They should be at a point where you should be able to call on any one of them to come up to the front of a Sunday School class and lead it, but instead, they barely know enough to keep themselves spiritually alive in Christ.

This is the equivalent of a child who is sixteen years old and is still obtaining nourishment from his mother’s teat.  Most people would find it odd that the child has not been weaned from his mother’s milk and onto solid food (it’s a bit creepy as well).  Paul saw Christians in that same position.  These people cling to the promises of God but are not challenged by the word to grow.  They memorize passages like, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  However, they have not taken the time to dig deeper and to allow the word of the Living God to penetrate their minds and challenge them to be holy as their Father in Heaven is holy.

If the congregation is doing their job right (delving deep into the word of God and applying its principles and guidance in their lives) and the pastor is doing his job right (going deep and wide in the word of God, imparting the deeper truths about spiritual growth and development and how to implement them in everyday life), they should have the equivalent experience of a Seminary degree after five to ten years of instruction.

If your pastor is still preaching the milk of the word, and you desire the solid food of the word, talk to him and ask him to bring it to the congregation.  Most likely, the pastor will decline, citing that the congregation isn’t ready for it.  And that may indeed be true. In that case, ask that a course be developed that goes deep into the word, and be faithful in attending it.

If you have ever fasted for an extended period of time, coming off the fast requires a progression of dietary changes to prepare the body for the food.  First, liquids are introduced (broth).  After a while, more solid food is introduced with the liquid (such as well-cooked vegetable soups).  Then the body is slowly given solid food (meat is added to the soup, as well as complex starches such as beans and grain-based items).  Moving directly to solid food after an extended fast will cause issues with your digestive system (it’s bad on the Good/Bad scale).  In the same way, people who don’t want to eat solid food will try to maintain their liquid diet.

Develop Discernment

As people are weaned from the milk of the word to the solid food of the word, they need to develop discernment so that they can distinguish what is good from what is evil.  Romans 12:1-2 discusses this very thing:

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When we submit ourselves to the word and the Holy Spirit, we grow in truth and righteousness, able to test and approve what is good and what is evil.  Our minds are transformed, and we begin to see life from the perspective of a holy, eternal God, who is perfectly complete and balanced in every aspect of His character.  We will then be able to discern what is good and righteous from what is evil and offensive to God.

If we stay with the milk of the word, and don’t move on to solid food, we are like the sixteen-year-old who still suckles his mother, acting like a baby, when he should be growing into adulthood.  It is the trials of this period of life that enable us to take on additional responsibility and develop the ability to think and make well-informed decisions.  We learn about how actions cause reactions and what is needed to move forward in their life.  It is a harsh awakening for people when they are not prepared for the world and thrown out into it to survive.  Coddled young adults generally tend to continue to act like children, and when given responsibility and privilege, abuse it as a child would.

The law in the United States allows sixteen-year-old young adults (or so we hope) to apply for a driver’s permit.  Let us hope that when the time comes, and we are called upon to learn how to drive the more difficult vehicles of life such as marriage (and procreation by implication), operation of a motor vehicle, firearm ownership, and the rights to smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, and vote for who will be in authority over us, that we will be mature enough to do these things responsibly.

In the same way, we should be learning and growing in truth and righteousness, learning discernment, so that we can rightly handle the word of God and mature into the people who God desires us to be.  One last thing to remember – milk is still good for us, but solid food is better.  Peter tells us to crave spiritual milk so that we can grow up in our salvation.  Milk is just the primer, the jump-start, and starting point.  Our goal is maturity in the solid food of the word.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I able to digest the solid food of the word of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us Your word to help us to know You and to guide us as we walk with Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Give me the ability to digest the solid food of the word, that my testing, I would develop discernment in righteousness, abstaining from what is evil, and growing in Your knowledge and grace.  Help me to mature, regardless of where I am currently in my spiritual maturity.  Show me how to better apply Your word to everyday living, and give my heart a great desire to be more obedient to You in all things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Victory with God – Psalm 60:9-12

God And God Alone Is The One Who Brings Victory

9 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
10 Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us
and no longer go out with our armies?
11 Give us aid against the enemy,
for human help is worthless.
12 With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies.

Divine Direction

David asks a very interesting question:  Who will be able to lead David and his men to their objective and goal, and bring them to the fortified city to do battle?  David knows the answer to this question, for it is God and God alone who gives true direction and victory over the enemy.  David’s use of rhetorical questions should comfort us and give us instruction, for we too should ask ourselves questions that help us to remember our training in times of difficulty.

When faced with any type of difficulty, we should always seek God first in prayer.  For it is God and God alone who can answer those prayers, provide the information needed to overcome our difficulties, and provide the strength and resources to be victorious.

Reinforcements Rejected

David acknowledges that God had been withholding his protection and provision because of the sin of the people.  This is very serious, and cannot be overstated enough.  We need to remember that when just ONE member of the body is in pain, the whole body is in pain.  Each and every one of us must do our part to ensure that we are not hindering the progress of the rest of the body.

God has withheld his blessing from His people before just because ONE person was sinning.  Imagine that – the entire nation of Israel was denied victory in battle because ONE person was sinning!  It is important that we remember that sin affects not only us, but those around us as well.  Let us search our hearts daily to see if there is any wrongdoing within us, and ask the Lord God Almighty for His help in overcoming it and to repent of it.  None of us should ever want to be the stumbling block for the rest of the body…

Plea for Progress

David pleads with God for help in overcoming his adversaries.  We need to always go to God with our concerns and needs.  Even though God already knows them, and is preparing the answer to the prayers we have not yet even prayed, we must do our part in this by being obedient to God and submitting ourselves through prayer in humility.  God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.  Let us follow the example of David and humble ourselves before God, asking Him for the victory.  Let us trust in God and God alone for all victory.  And He will lift up our heads.

Recognizing Refuse

David also acknowledges that the help of man is worthless.  When faced with any issue, God greatly desires that we come to Him first, for He is all-knowing and all-powerful.  He desires to bless us with His grace and mercy, and teach us more about His character through our dependence upon Him through our trials and difficulties.  God desires that we deepen our relationship with Him during these times.

When we seek out men for help before God (and God may very well send us to others for advice, strategy, and resources, but only once we have sought Him out earnestly in prayer), we are in effect saying that God cannot help us, so we have chosen to men to help us.  This is greatly disrespectful towards God, given His clear instruction throughout scripture showing us that He desires to be the first consulted.  David recognizes that the help of man without the express prior approval and selection from God is utterly worthless.  One angel of God could wipe out every army on Earth.  Why would we seek out men and their strength when God can bring to bear LEGIONS of angels to assist us in our needs?

Heavenly Help

David now confirms what he already knows – that victory belongs to God and God alone.  It is only with the help of God that we will be truly victorious.  God has brought to bear great and mighty assistance to those in need, and will do so again.  It is God and God alone who can do this.  We cannot remind ourselves enough of this, for the truth shall set us free, and drawing close to God is always beneficial.  It is then that He gives us His peace and opens His storehouses of provision and protection to His people:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I face difficulties, who or what do I go to first for help?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show me again and again in Your word that You desire that each of us come to You first for all of our needs.  Forgive me Father when I go to others first who are wise.  You have all of the answers, and are sovereign over all creation.  It is You who provide victory and assign wise counselors.  Help me to stop listening to the world, the flesh, and the devil, who want to keep me from You and Your help and rely on myself and others.  Give me the desire to always seek You first in all things.  You have provided wise counsel and leaders to guide us, but it is You who are first in everything.  Blessed be Your name forever and ever, Amen.

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

Victory in Jesus – Joshua 6:1-5

Obedience Is The Key To Victory

1 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.

2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

Overcoming when Overwhelmed

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by what God has asked you to do?  Does it feel like God has placed you in front of Mount Everest with a plastic spoon in your hand and tells you to move the mountain?   This is by design.  If we could do things in our own strength, how would God be glorified?  He wouldn’t – everyone who saw would say, “Wow – what talent!”  rather than “That could only have been accomplished through the power of the Lord God Almighty!”  Joshua must have felt the same way.

Let’s set the stage:  The Israelites, after forty years of wandering in the desert, have just successfully crossed the Jordan during FLOOD STAGE on dry land.  God began the Exodus with a parting of the waters, and ended it with another parting of the waters. Moses is now with the Lord, and Joshua has called the nation of Israel to be circumcised and dedicated to God.  Joshua is now facing his first battle; here was one of his first tests in leadership.  And the people of Israel are at Jericho, one of the most fortified and defensible cities they had ever seen.  The walls were insurmountable.  They might as well have been made from armor-plated concrete for all the good it would do for the Israelites to try to overcome.

But God (always notice the “but God” in any spiritual victory…) had already prepared the city to be conquered.  They had heard that God had dried up the Jordan, just as He did to deliver the Israelites out of the hands of Pharaoh.  And knowing this – that God was for the Israelites and against them – their hearts melted, and they no longer had the strength and conviction to defeat the people of God.  If God is against you, how can you prevail?  You cannot.

Powerful Perspective

Then, the commander of the army of the Lord appears, sword drawn.  Joshua questions the man, who announces himself.  Then, the Lord makes a statement to Joshua:

See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.

From the perspective of God, who sees everything from the end to the beginning, the victory has already been accomplished.  In God’s mind, it has already occurred.  There is finality in it, because God DOES know the future, and sees it as it is, rather than as we see it (with uncertainty).  We are bound by time and space; God created both of these things, and is outside of them, with an eternal perspective.  Meanwhile, the city wall still stands, and the fortified city still stands.

He then gives Joshua some very specific and, in the eyes of the world, what would appear to be idiotic instructions – to march around the city for six days, then on the seventh day to march around it seven times, blow the trumpets, and shout.  So, have you ever shouted at an inanimate object before in anger?  Did anything change with it after you shouted, “Stupid car!” or “Worthless dishwasher!” or ?  If so, you are one of the rare people!  It may help us to vent our anger and frustration, but typically does nothing to improve our situation.  In the eyes of men, overcoming this city would have been nearly impossible.  It would only be through the hand and power of God that the city would be conquered.  Especially by just walking around it, blowing trumpets, and shouting.

Obedience Overcomes

And, when we are given instructions that don’t make sense to us, this is our crisis of faith:  do we follow in obedience, or look at our circumstances.  It is only when we are submitted to and obedient to the instructions of God that we will overcome.  It is then, and only then, that God will give us victory in our impossible situation, bringing glory to Himself, and showing the world that the Lord God Almighty, YHWH, is the only one true God, and is to be feared, worshiped, and obeyed.

In obedience to His word, He brings about victory and supernaturally displays His sovereignty over all creation.  He is able to make the wind and waves obey Him;  Every living creature is at His beck and call; time itself is in His hands, and the Sun, Moon, and stars obey his every command.  By His command, man has been brought forth in life, and the dead have risen.  Bushes ignite in flames but are not consumed. His faithful have been thrown into the fiery furnace and returned without even the smell of fire on them.  Lions mouths were shut and opened at His command.  Death itself was conquered through the obedience of His One and Only Son.  Nothing is impossible for God, and victory comes to the obedient.

Remember that taking a fortified city at that time came with great risks.  If you got too close to the walls, archers would turn you into a pincushion.  If you managed to get past the barrage of arrows, you would them be subject to a couple of different attacks.  Once you got up against the wall, they would often pour boiling oil or tar on you.  They may then fire some flaming arrows down at you, and you would burst into flame.  That will generally ruin your day.  In addition, they would often hurl stones at you.  From a sufficient height, a stone the size of a basket ball could effectively crush you.  There were great dangers in venturing this close to the city’s fortifications.  Yet that is what God told them to do.  Obedience to God always yields reward.

Faithful Followup

And when we are obedient to God – regardless of how silly, insulting, embarrassing, or impossible the command that we have been given – God reaches out with power, strength and provision, and causes the mountains to move, the Earth to shake, and His glory and power are revealed to all so that God may not be made out to be a liar, but instead keeps His word in complete and total faithfulness.

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

In this particular case, the Israelites did exactly what God had told them to do.  And in return for their faithful obedience, the walls of Jericho fell, and the Israelites were victorious.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I being obedient to the known will of God in faith?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, throughout Your holy word, You have shown us Your character, and even sent Your One and only Son, Jesus Christ, to bear witness to the truth.  For if we have seen the Son, we have seen the Father.  Your character is perfect, and You are not a liar.  You will faithfully carry out all that You have said that You would.  You have shown me time and time again in Your word where You have been faithful when we show up in faith and obedience.  Help me, Father, to overcome the giant that taunts me, and threatens me, and causes my heart to melt in fear.  Give me the strength to meet all resistance with the knowledge and faith that You are faithful, Lord God, and nothing is impossible for You.  Help me to do all that You have commanded me to do, and give me clear direction so that I can be faithful and obedient to You.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of Jesus, Amen.

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

Suffering with God – Romans 5:1-5

Suffering Is Good For The Soul

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Peace made Possible

We give thanks to God, for He has made a way for us to have peace with Him through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  This is the milk of the word of God.  However, let us never forget these simple truths that help remind us of the grace and mercy of God.  For in our daily walk, Jesus said we would get our feet dirty, and we would need to wash them.

As we progress in our walk with God as disciples of Christ, we must keep in mind that He is faithful.  It is only through remembering even these basic truths that we correct ourselves and keep us averted from doing what is contrary to the word of God.  If we were thinking about the word of God every second of every day, how much less would we sin?

Grace of God

We also can never remember too often that it is by faith that we gained access to the grace of God.  When we are involved in ministry, even ministering to our own family, we can lose sight of the goal through the grinding day-to-day difficulties that wear us down.  The enemy will try to take advantage of us and plant thoughts in our head that we need to earn God’s love or grace or mercy through what we do.

Since God’s gift is based on faith rather than works, we need to keep everything in perspective as we are pulled in many directions, and the pressures of life are heaped upon our shoulders.  We must also remember that whatever God has called us to do, He will give us the strength, determination, resources, and time to complete.  The grace of God has been given to us through faith in the Son.  But that doesn’t mean we won’t suffer…

Honor in Hardship

In this next section, the author of Hebrews leads us through a progression that should help us to embrace our suffering.  The life of a disciple is not easy and care-free; rather it is filled with adventure, hardship, suffering, and difficulty.  It is through suffering that we grow in character.

As we are bound in the physical universe with these sin-disposed bodies, we are naturally impatient.  Enduring suffering produces perseverance.  Just as we train our bodies with exercise to run faster and farther, and to be able to life greater weight, we are trained by suffering to produce perseverance in our faith.

Creating Character

The training of perseverance leads to the development of character.  Most of us need patience.  Additionally, few have learned to be self-controlled with their tongues.  Our mouths get us into the most difficult of situations.  A lot of that would resolve itself if we were able to master what comes out of our mouths.

Character development is of great interest and importance to God, for He is character-driven, rather than emotion-driven.  We too should learn restraint and strength so that we can resist the urges that will lead to our downfall.  Additionally, as the image-bearers of God, we need to properly display the character of God.  How can we do that when our own character is lacking?  We can only fake it for so long before we reach our breaking points, and we have an epic failure of character.  However, as character is developed in us, we are provided an assurance that we would not otherwise obtain.

Head towards Hope

The perseverance of character leads to the assurance of hope.  The word hope is not used to mean the wishful desire of an outcome, but rather a steadfast knowledge that something will occur.  People don’t hope that the sun will rise in the sky the following morning; they know it will.  As long as we are here on Earth, we are assured that the sun will rise each and every day.  We have hope that this will occur.

In the same way, character leads us to the assurance of the hope that we have in God’s character and both in His ability and certainty that He will follow through on every promise He has ever made.  Nothing can stop Almighty God from fulfilling His promises to us, and fulfilling every prophecy that He has made, for God is not a liar, but the embodiment of truth.  And as we experience the character of God, we also are assured of the certainty that God is who He says He is, and we can find peace in our hope of our faith.

Shedding Shame

And we are not ashamed of our hope, for God’s love has been poured out into our hearts.  He has placed assurance of both His power and His grace in our hearts.  We see Him act, and are assured of His claims of truth, righteousness, and certainty of His character.  When we know these things in our hearts, we can shed all shame.  For the outcome is more than certain:  God CANNOT fail to deliver His promises.  So we can endure even more with the assurance of His will being done here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing God to train me through my suffering?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You discipline every child of yours.  Any child who does not receive discipline is not one of Yours.  Help me to not faint when You discipline me.  Give me the strength to endure it, and help me so that I will not despise it.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but I know that You seek to reap a harvest of righteousness in my character from it.  Give me the perspective that I need to endure all that You sovereignly allow into my life.  And if You should allow sickness to nearly destroy my body, give me the strength to hold onto You when there is no hope.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Warning from God – Revelation 3:14-18

Be On Fire For God

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

Neither Frost Nor Fire

God sees us as we truly are.  In the last days, there will be a great falling away – a great rebellion.  The fire that was in the church to be holy and set apart for Him will fade.  The church will be in a state of indifference, possibly due to the circumstances that surround them that cry out that there is no hope.  In Christ, there is always hope.  God tells us through James that we should submit ourselves to God, resist the devil, and he will flee.  When we are on fire for God, we are doing everything that we can to submit to God.  We should also resist the devil.  And wait for God to do His part and make the devil flee.

Don’t be lukewarm.  God doesn’t like us lukewarm.  He would rather that we be hot or cold.  Be on fire for the one who saved you, lifted you out of the murky depths, and placed you cleaned up on dry ground.  Submit yourself to the one who is able to strengthen you and provide for you.  And no matter what the devil throws at you, remember that God will not allow you to be snatched from His hand.  You may have to suffer greatly, but He always comes through, even if in death.

Self-Sufficiency

Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  How true that is!  Material wealth has a way of leading people into a false sense of security that it will provide for their every need.  Money can buy many things, and when we have a lot, we can forget that it is God who is providing everything for us.  In that, we begin to trust in money, and forget the one who gave it to us.  Additionally, we forget to depend upon God for our every morsel of food, for our every breath, and for all things in general.

It is only by following the example of Jesus, in complete submission to the Father, that we are able to overcome our desire or belief that our wealth will provide for us.  When we forget that it is God and not wealth that provides, we become spiritually poor, naked, wretched, and blind.  It is then that we become spiritually impoverished.

Spiritually Sparse

In our spiritual wasteland, we aren’t even aware of our need for God.  But He counsels us to buy from Him Gold refined in Fire.  Only God can provide the spiritual currency that will clothe us from the shame of sin, and blindness of spiritual sight, and the poverty of spiritual darkness.  He is able to provide, for Jesus has died on the cross and paid for it with His blood.  Let us never forget the price that was paid, and where we came from.  The church in the last days will forget for whatever reason, and God will spew them out of His mouth.  Let us not forget:

12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I hot, cold or lukewarm towards God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have done so much and continue to do so much for us that we cannot conceive the magnitude of Your great mercy and grace.  Forgive me, Father, for my many sins.  Help me to be on fire for You so that I would recognize my condition and further yield myself to You.  Help me to humble myself in Your presence, and lift me up so that I may do all that You would have me to do.  And when You provide physical riches to me, guide me in managing it for Your glory.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Faithfulness to God – Acts 14:19-20

Never Stop Doing What Is Right In The Eyes Of God

19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20 But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.

Difficult Days

Most people have a really bad day every now and again.  But Paul had it a little harder than most people.  Even God said (about Paul’s life):

15 …”Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Paul had some interesting trials to undergo:

23 …I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

Most of us have not had to face the threat of death even once for the cause of Christ.  We do not yet know the difficulties that Paul encountered.  But even if that should change, we should take heart; Paul has shown us the way to overcome.  He was stoned near to death at least once.

Faithful Friends

Paul had very good friends.  After he was nearly stoned to death, they surrounded him.  They too could have faced stoning as well.  When a mob begins to act in emotion, it is difficult to dissuade them from their course of action.  Look at the recent mob activity in the United States of America.  Once the mob engages in violence, then comes the fires, and the looting, the beatings of innocent people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It takes faithful friends to join you when the mob turns its full wrath upon you.

Continue to Contend

Most people, facing a near-death experience at the hands of an angry, murderous mob, would “take a hint” and go elsewhere.  Scripture shows us Paul’s reaction: he went right back into the city to preach.  That takes great faith and trust in God.  In speaking about hardship, Paul said:

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Regardless of our circumstances, we should continue to contend for the faith.  God will provide our strength as we are faithful in His service.  We have no fear of this: whatever God calls you to, he will provide the means and resources for you to complete your tasks.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I being faithful even when I experience great trial?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are faithful in all that You do.  You keep every promise that You make, and do so in perfect timing and in Your methods.  We know that we can count upon You to always be faithful.  Strengthen me this day, Father, that I would show that same faithfulness to You, regardless of my circumstances.  Help me to rely upon You totally and without reservation as trials come into my life.  Help me in my weakness that You would be strong for me.  Carry me when I cannot walk, and protect me from my adversaries.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Salvation and God – Obadiah 15-18

Jacob Will Be Saved, and Esau Will Be Destroyed

15 “The day of the Lord is near
for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you;
your deeds will return upon your own head.
16 Just as you drank on my holy hill,
so all the nations will drink continually;
they will drink and drink
and be as if they had never been.
17 But on Mount Zion will be deliverance;
it will be holy,
and Jacob will possess his inheritance.
18 Jacob will be a fire
and Joseph a flame;
Esau will be stubble,
and they will set him on fire and destroy him.
There will be no survivors
from Esau.”
The Lord has spoken.

Coming Calamity

The great and terrible day of the Lord is coming quickly.  It will overtake us with great speed and we will be unaware of its exact arrivalGod will redeem Israel, and destroy all whose names are not written in the Book of Life.

One of the most interesting things is that any whose name is not found in the book of Life will worship the beast.

Woeful Wrath

The nations will drink and drink as if they have never been.  The wrath of God will come upon all of them.  The justice of God is tempered by His love.  Eventually, God must mete out justice in accordance with His Holiness.  He will destroy everyone who refused to believe Him; for if they believed Him, it would be counted to them as righteousness.

Delightful Deliverance

God will bring about a mighty work on that day.  Israel will be redeemed!  The seed of Abraham will have the scales removed from their eyes, and they will worship and follow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  Israel in that day will finally receive their inheritance promised to them through Abraham by God.

Esau Eradicated

The interesting side note in this is that the seed of Esau will be destroyed.  And who might the seed of Esau be?  Those who rejected their inheritance.  Both Jacob and Esau came from Jacob, but Jacob’s line received the inheritance.  Remember what God has given to you, and stand fast in His love.  Do not deny Him, and He will not deny you.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I ready for the return of Jesus Christ (and if not, why not)?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me Your love and compassion in revealing Your Son to me.  Help me to be prepared and be the faithful servant whom the master finds has everything in order when he returns.  Guard my heart against unrighteousness, and help me to walk ever closer with Jesus.  Thank You Father, for You keep every promise that You make.  And bless Your people Israel.  Provide for them, protect them, and save them.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Obedience to God – Micah 6:6-8

Do What Is Required Of You

6 With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Sacrifices Scorned

A rhetorical question is asked by the prophet Micah.  What sacrifice is acceptable to God?  What can be offered for the sin of the soul?  The sacrificial system was set up in Levitical Law to show that there was a price that needed to be paid for sin.  The price was originally the life-blood of a creature – it’s very life was demanded.  These sacrifices pointed to the final, substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus’ perfect blood.

But God’s people had become prosperous, and the impact of the sacrifices were lost on the people.  After all, if you sinned, all you needed to do was to offer your sacrifice, and everything was OK.  The breaking of one’s heart over sinning against God had been dulled.  Even in the Christian churches today, we lean heavily upon the grace and mercy of God.  The impact of sinning against a Holy God doesn’t seem to grasp us as it once did when we were first saved from our sins.  It is only as we recognize the Holiness of God, and His view of sin, that we again realize the impact that sin has in our lives.

Micah even puts forth as a type of sacrifice something that was loathsome to God – the sacrifice of the firstborn.  This was a type of sacrifice that was required by false gods.  This was egregious to God, and should have startled those who heard and read these words.  But the Israelites had often worshiped both God and false gods.  We must always remember that God has required a specific sacrifice from us – Obedience.

Royal Requirements

Micah now points out the sacrifice of obedience:

  • To Act Justly
    • When we act justly, we are not taking advantage of our neighbors, but rather we are doing all things with them in mind.
    • Justice is one of the recurring themes in the Bible.  The people of God seem to lack the ability to give justice to those who need it most.  We have been warned by God to mete out justice, or the One who is Just will judge us.
  • To Love Mercy
    • The first inclination of human nature is to retaliate when we are wronged.  But God’s mercies renew every morning.  We need to adopt the character of God as we grow in our faith.  Mercy is a Godly characteristic that integrates with justice.  It is the tempering force that encourages peace and tranquility in relationship between two people.  It is the olive branch that helps to mend relationships and encourages friendship.  To withhold mercy is to promote the eventual severing of the relationship.  This does not mean that we should enable wicked people by excusing their behavior; we are to show mercy to help them see the goodness of God.
    • Even within marriage, God allowed divorce only in certain circumstances, and only because of the hardness of human hearts.
  • To Walk Humbly with your God
    • God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.  When we are humbled before God, He is able to shape us, guide us, and use us for His purposes.  Humbleness is a Godly characteristic that is antithetical to western culture, which now promotes self over all.  Western culture promotes pride in advertising, music, literature, art, and just about every facet of the human experience.  Humble people are looked upon as doormats by others who seek to elevate themselves at the expense of those who will not (or cannot) do the same.
    • Only in humility are we able to be in right relationship with not only God but with man as well.

Each of these points towards relationship with God – Justice, Mercy, and Humbleness.  If we seek to draw close to God, we should embrace these and put them into practice.  Since Christ is our final and complete sacrifice for sin, we have nothing else to present to God for our sin, for nothing else is needed.  Let us embrace these Godly characteristics as we draw close to the One who sacrificed His one and only Son to reconcile us to Him.  It is only proper that we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, as our spiritual act of worship.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I broken by my sin, or do I take the blood of Christ for granted?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for the sacrifice of Your one and only Son on the cross for my sins.  Thank You for Your mercy and grace.  Help me to see my sin in the same way that You see it.  Help me, Father, to be broken when I sin, that the hardness of heart that comes with sin would not infect me.  Help me to love justice, mercy, and walk humbly before You.  May Your character be found in me as I am on display for the world to see.  Strengthen me as I walk with You today.  Help me to draw close to You through Your word and Your spirit.  Guide me in all that I do.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Romans 8:12-14

Live According To The Spirit.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

Outstanding Obligation

God greatly desires that we keep our obligations.  His very character is one that ensures that any promise that He makes is kept.  We can trust His word, no matter what.

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, we have an obligation to God – to stop living by the flesh.  When we live by the flesh, we are suppressing the Truth, and bring shame upon our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Fleshy Failure

We live by the flesh when we listen to our desires rather than to the Spirit of God.  When we seek to bring about the fulfillment of personal pleasure rather than obedience to God, we are setting ourselves us for failure.  Adam and Eve did this very thing when they disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden and ate the fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil.  We do the same when we seek out our selfish desires rather than the express will of God.

We have available to us the whole counsel of God, yet we often ignore it as we seek to alleviate the pain or pressures of this life in following our desires.  We are told that the heart is deceitful.  We must therefore rely upon the Holy Spirit to guide us in all things.  When we begin a path of ignoring the Holy Spirit of God in order to follow our own desires, we are setting ourselves up to spiritually die.

Spiritual Superiority

God reminds us that if we put to death the flesh by the Spirit, we will live.  This is accomplished through reading and applying the Word of God under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit of God. He will lead us into all righteousness, for He knows all things.  When we put to death (starve) the flesh, we are feeding the spirit.  And when we feed the flesh, we are starving the spirit.  Whichever one you feed, that is the one that grows.

God says that if we are led by the Spirit of God, we are His children.  Jesus has told us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  We need to follow in His footsteps.  We can only do that if we submit ourselves to the Spirit.  Jesus did the very same thingJesus said that if we love Him we will obey his commands.  Jesus also said that He is the vine and we are the branches.  The branches receive nourishment from the vine, and cannot live on their own.  Let us be known as the children of God by how faithfully we are obedient and submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit of God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we feeding the flesh or are we feeding the Spirit?

A short prayer of preparation

Father in Heaven, I thank You for Your Word and Your patience with me.  Show me in Your Word how to put to death the deeds of the flesh.  Empower me to live according to Your Word, and strengthen my spirit that it would submit to You.  Help me to starve my flesh from its evil desires, and to desire You.  Fill me with a sense of purpose as I kill off that which does not conform to Your image, for all change is painful.  Help me to deal with the consequences of obedience, that I may not flinch in the face of opposition or with any loss that may occur.  Show me your beauty and grace as I move closer to You.  This I ask in the precious name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Taught by God – Isaiah 48:17

Choose Your Instructor Wisely

This is what the Lord says—
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is best for you,
who directs you in the way you should go.”

Time of Teaching

Whether or not we admit it, we are always learning.  We (hopefully) learn from our mistakes.  Technology forces us to learn new skills.  Television shows us new things.  When we read books, magazines, pamphlets, and words put together in any medium, we see new ideas.  People talk to us about new products and experiences.  Satan whispers in our ears.  In everything, unless we close our eyes, put our fingers in our ears, and shout “La la la la la la la” over and over again, we are learning something.

We can choose from whom we will learn.  For those who can see, what you allow your eyes and mind to be exposed to will influence you.  For those who can hear, what people, music, and other audio you allow yourself to be exposed to will influence you.  We choose, whether we realize it or not, what programs our mind.

God states that He is the one who is able to teach us what is best for each of us.  It should be noted that what is best for you may not be best for me.  Being created by God for specific purposes, not every person has the same purpose nor is given the same gifts:

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

Because this is the case, we need God, who is all-knowing, to teach us how to use the very gifting that He has provided to each and every one of us.  When we don’t do that, we will not be able to fully honor Him nor glorify His name for His purposes in His timing.

Directionally Driven

Everyone is driven to move in a direction.  Whether that is standing tight, in circles, or towards a specific location which is the goal, we are moving in a direction.  We can choose which direction we want to take.  Do we:

  • Listen to the world where everyone tells us where we should go, what we should do, how we should act, and how we should think, and what we should say?
  • Listen to the devil who tells us where we should go, what we should do, how we should act, and how we should think, and what we should say?
  • Listen to our own flesh that tells us where we should go, what we should do, how we should act, and how we should think, and what we should say?
  • Listen to God who directs us where we should go, what we should do, how we should act, and how we should think, and what we should say?

Each of us chooses one or more of these influences when choosing a direction.  It is only by consciously choosing which influence (or influences) that we pay attention to and heed that will ultimately determine which direction that we will take.

Particular Path

We are told in the Bible that, effectively, there are really only two directional paths that we can take:

Any path that was not entered through the small gate and is on the narrow road was entered through the wide gate and broad road.  Only one path leads to heaven.  Jesus has said:

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

We all make our own choices because God has given us free will.  We need to carefully examine the advice that we have available to us, and choose wisely, for actions have consequences.  The good news is, if we are on the wrong path, we can stop, ask God for directions, and get on (or back on) the narrow road that leads out of the small gate.  And Jesus is the small gateAllow the Good Shepherd lead you into the way everlasting.  It is only there that you will find rest and provision, not only in this life, but in the next life as well.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What influences am I allowing into my life that are directing my path?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided for all my needs.  You seek me out when I am lost and stray from You.  The Holy Spirit provides me with instruction, encouragement, and empowers me to do what You desire.  Help me to stay on the straight and narrow path, that You would be honored and glorified.  Forgive me today of my sins.  Bring to memory all that I have done that displeases You, that I may turn from it, and walk in righteousness.  Show me where I should go, how I should think, and how I should act.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

 

 

Combat Training with God – Matthew 7:21-23

Obedience is the Key to Discipleship

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Only Obedience

Anyone who would call themselves a disciple would be obedient to their master.  Disciples would follow along behind their master and copy everything they did.  They would even copy how they went to the bathroom.  In the time of Jesus, disciples would want to learn EVERYTHING about their masters so that they could replicate their success.  Obedience is more than just mentioned in scripture – it is a foundational principle of discipleship:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

“We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Knowledge without obedience is a trophy.  It sits on the shelf of your mind, gathering dust, pretty to look at, but of no real value to the one who ignores its commands and calling.  Sanctification comes through obedience to the Word, not just knowing the words.  A person can read every book and manual on how to create software through coding.  But if they never put it to use, how much software do you think will come out of it?

Wasted Works

We are declared righteous through the perfect blood of Jesus.  Our works are as filthy rags.  It is only through submission to the Holy Spirit that He is able to do His work through us.  We may try to do great and mighty things in God’s name, but it is us who are doing it rather than God through us.

Works do not ingratiate us with God.  God desires relationship with us.  When we have that relationship, we are in tune with what God wants to do with us and through us.  Many will say that they have been doing things for God.  But what they are really doing is going off on their own.  People may see the miraculous, but we are also told that Satan will perform signs and wondersSatan has already performed false miracles.

Anything that we do in the flesh will be counted as hay and stubble, and will burn up when tested by fire.  It is only what God does through us that will withstand the test of fire and be shown to good and lasting.

Character Counts

Without obedience, we will go and do our own thing.  We will not experience sanctification, nor will we, through relationship and the Word of God, be transformed into the character of God.  We will not be able to experience Him, and who He is, if we are not obedient to His Word and His Spirit.

God will rightly declare us evil in His sight if we do not obey Him.  Without character and relationship, all of the works in the world will be meaningless.  If anyone tells you that your good works will get you into heaven, be forewarned that Jesus has already addressed that heresy:

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

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we being obedient to God, or trusting in our “good works”?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for the example that You have given to me in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me Father that I may live a life of total obedience and submission to Your will.  Help me to humble myself that I may be totally obedient to Your Word and Your will.  Remove from me the desire to rebel, and replace it with a desire to serve.  Strengthen me in my walk today that I would learn and grow in Your grace and mercy.  Show me the way everlasting, and forgive me for my many sins against You.  Help me to turn from sin and turn to righteousness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Humbled by God – Jonah 1:17

It Is A Terrible Thing To Fall Into The Hands Of The Living God

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Angry Answer

Jonah was faced with, in his mind, an impossible situation:  Preach destruction to a people that he wanted God to destroy, knowing that God would show them mercy.  Rather than proceeding with God’s plan, Jonah fled in the hopes that he would not be embarrassed should God relent of his stated position to destroy Nineveh, also greatly desiring the destruction of his enemies.

The sailors who drew lots to determine who was responsible for their difficulties determined it was Jonah.  When confronted with his disobedience by the sailors, Jonah does something odd.  Rather than repent, or tell them to take him to a port near Nineveh, he instructs them to throw him overboard!  He would rather die, drowning in the water, than be responsible for the Ninevites repenting to the Lord.

Powerful Provision

God calmed the storm immediately after Jonah was thrown overboard.  Not only did God relent against the ship and crew, they began to fear God and worship Him.  God, rather than destroying Jonah, wanted to bring about some character refinement in him, and instead of letting him drown, sent a fish to swallow him.

God often wants to do more with us and through us that we would like.  We sometime fight Him kicking and screaming, because our flesh interferes with our obedience.  And, as in the case of Jonah, it was so much so that he forgot to take into account the lives that were with Him, to the point that he probably didn’t really care if the sailors died with him.  But even in that, God provided for both the sailors’ safety, and for the safety of Jonah.  We can be assured that God will provide for us in our time of need.

Contemplative Confinement

Imaging the stench of being in the belly of a fish for three days and nights.  Jonah was so angry and distraught with what God was asking him to do, that it took him THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS before he could bring himself to repent.  How much anger would that take?  It must have been something very powerful to compel Jonah to wait so long in such a difficult situation.

Most likely, a root of bitterness had taken great hold in Jonah’s heart towards the Ninevites.  God will often use a situation where we are called to be compassionate towards, and reach out to, our enemies to remove a root of bitterness that grown within us.  Jonah’s root was very well entrenched.  How many of us would have waited THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS to finally surrender to God?  Most of us would probably, in that miserable condition, have surrendered in the first few minutes.

Regardless of the situation that we find ourselves in, God will use the perfect situation to humble us in our pride, anger, bitterness, or whatever situation that we have that causes us to act contrary to the will of the Living God.  For it is only God who is able to get us to see ourselves for who we really are, and to provide opportunity for reflection and repentance.  We can only hope it won’t take being in the belly of a fish to do it.

Awesome Acknowledgement

And out of these trials comes a greater understanding and acknowledgement of the character and nature of God.  Jonah’s prayer to God shows that He yields to God’s sovereign rule in his life:

1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 2 He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.

7 “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.'”

When we come out of the other side of our humbling, we will praise, honor, and glorify God in Heaven for who He is and for our salvation through the difficulty.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  What does it take from God to help us to change our minds and humble ourselves before Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are able to humble the proud and bring low all who resist You.  You are full of mercy and grace, patiently dealing with me in Your own way.  Help me to not resist Your discipline, Lord, but rather to embrace it and be changed by it so that You would be glorified.  Help me to remove all resistance to You in my heart, that You would have unfettered access to the deepest, darkest regions of my soul, places where even I dare not visit.  Shed Your perfect light in all of the areas of darkness, and redeem what was lost by me through sin and pride.  Show me what You desire of me that I may do it, and do it with a cheerful heart, knowing that it is Your will.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Return to the Lord – Joel 2:12-17

We Need a National Call to Repentance

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent
and leave behind a blessing—
grain offerings and drink offerings
for the Lord your God.

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
declare a holy fast,
call a sacred assembly.
16 Gather the people,
consecrate the assembly;
bring together the elders,
gather the children,
those nursing at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room
and the bride her chamber.
17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord,
weep between the portico and the altar.
Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord.
Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?'”

Regretful Return

God asks that Christians return to Him in mourning, fasting and prayer:

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

Revival in the Church has been a recurring theme throughout the last two thousand years.  Just as Israel returned to God after He disciplined them, they quickly turned from God again and again.  We have a tendency to do the same.  In UNITY, the body of Christ should gather as God’s people and mourn, fast, and pray to God for His deliverance from the evil that has beset us.  And while we are doing that, we need to remember that the justified shall live by faith.

How must we appear to God when we cannot even put aside our differences and get the local bodies of believers to come out in unison and seek the One we call upon for our deliverance together?  Can we not designate a call to repentance?  Are our egos and pride so great that brothers in Christ cannot come together?  How sad must our God be with us.

Compassionate Care

God IS gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and when we return to Him, He relents from sending calamity.  We are told here that God may even be gracious and restore some of what He has taken so that we may be able to give offerings to Him.

In the time that this passage was written, the locusts had destroyed the crops, and the people were facing great hardship.  God needs to get our attention, and what better way than taking away that which He has already provided?  We are God’s children, and we are disciplined like children.  But God relents because of His Mercy and Grace.  We should always remember that.

Sacred Session

In this passage, everyone is asked to gather, regardless of their station or circumstances.  Even the newlyweds are to interrupt their nuptial bliss to participate.  This is not just the church regulars, but all who are called according to God’s name are to gather at the assembly.

And once the assembly is gathered, we are to be consecrated to the Lord.  We are to shed our desires for the things of this world and seek the One who created all things and desires for us to be with Him eternally in the next.  We are to put on Christ; let us remember our calling and do as we are directed.  Is it not disobedience that causes this issue in the first place?  Does God, when His people are doing His will, not protect and proper them?  For what purpose would God, if His people are living according His will, send in their enemies to overtake and destroy His people?  To bring them closer to Him?  If so, where is the evidence in the Bible?

And lest we forget, He reminds us several times:

but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.

He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations

He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations

Ardent Appeal

Once we have gathered and have been consecrated, we need to make our impassioned plea to God to spare us lest the nations say, “Where is your God?”  He will not tolerate sin among His people.  He is long-suffering, and waits patiently for us to turn from our sin.  But we should not mistake His patience for a seal of approval.  Let us not give God any reason to display His displeasure at us.

We need to individually and corporately seek out the Lord in tears of repentance, crying out for mercy.  If some of our brothers or sisters won’t join in, we need to pray for them as well, for are we not a royal priesthood?  Where is our longing to be free from sin, united in Christ, seeking the lost sheep, and protecting the flock?  What has happened to harden our hearts so much that we are disconnected from each other and from God?  Let us cry out to Him and beg Him for mercy.  If you hear a voice saying that it is too late, that is not from God;  evaluate everything based on His word, not on your emotions

And the God of mercy will relent and restore what He has taken.  Do not despise His discipline, for all discipline is unpleasant at the time it takes place.  But it will yield a great harvest of righteousness when it has been completed.  Let us seek the Lord for our sanctification and dedicate ourselves to our God in holiness.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Why aren’t we able (or willing) to be united with all of the body of Christ in national prayer, fasting, and repentance in accordance with the will of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a Holy God, and You cannot tolerate sin.  Place within the hearts of Your people a desire to return to You.  Begin a revival within Your church, and help me to change my heart attitudes to match Yours.  Please help our leaders to unite together and work for unity within the body.  And remember me as I seek Your face, humbling myself in prayer and fasting, desiring that I would be sanctified and live righteously before you.  This I ask and pray in mighty Name of Jesus, Amen.

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

The Law of God – Psalm 119:17-20

We Should Meditate Upon God’s Law Day and Night

17 Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.
18 Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
19 I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide your commands from me.
20 My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times.

Following Faithfully

The psalmist recognizes that it is much easier to obey God’s law when we are experiencing the goodness of God.  When we are in the midst of trials, being tormented by our enemies, and trying to deal with our emotions, it takes a significant amount of concentration, control, and effort to react appropriately.  It is especially difficult when we are being tested, and the awareness of the presence of God about us seems to have disappeared.  God has not forsaken us, but is showing us what is really within us as He watches at a short distance, just like a teacher who is observing the student take a test.

There is nothing wrong with asking God to reveal His presence and peace to us during trials.  But in order to grow, God must take the training wheels off of our bicycle, and we need to put more effort into it to learn our lessons.  It is especially difficult when God does the opposite of what you request as you seek to honor and glorify His name.

Precious Perceptions

Sin clouds our perceptions and judgments.  We need God to remove the blinders from us so that we can see clearly.  When our blinders are removed, God can show us wonderful new things in His law.  As we are more obedient to the revealed truth of God, He entrusts us with more of Himself.

We will be judged not for how much we know, but for what we did with the truth that was revealed to us and that we understood.  As we are faithful in observing God’s laws and statutes, the blinders of sin will begin to fall away.  The psalmist greatly desires to know more of God’s character and insight.  We should do the same.

Concealed Concerns

The Earth is not our home.  We need God to reveal Himself and His truth to us so that we can live faithfully for Him.  We cannot live faithfully for God if He conceals His truth from us.  The psalmist knows that if God hides His face from him, he will not know the truth.  And since we are not yet with Him in Heaven, we need Him to show Himself to us as we patiently await the glorious day when His Son, Jesus Christ, returns in Glory, and we will know Him as we are fully known.

Delightful Desires

As we are yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit, He will put an ever-increasing desire to know God’s character and to live it out within us.  The desire to live righteously and to see righteousness be done will increase greatly.  We will become so driven that the desire to live righteously will consume us.  We will long for it as the pants for the water.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Is the desire to live righteously for God a consuming desire in our heart?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your love for me is amazing.  You greatly desire that I be consumed with You.  As the desire of my heart is increasing for You, You have said that You will give me the desire of my heart.  Please do not hide Your face from me, but rather, help me to know Your holy character and live it out in faith.  Strengthen me as I am being tested, and keep me from stumbling.  Father, place such a great desire in my heart to know You and to live righteously that I will be consumed with it.  For Your Son has said that if we love You we will obey Your commands.  Reveal them to me, and help me to be faithful in following all of them, regardless of my circumstances.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Waiting for God – Psalm 42:8-11

The Long Dark Night of the Soul Will Be Redeemed by God

8 By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Lavished Love

God pours out his love to us all of the time.  By day we see His hand as He provides for our every need.  He is involved in every aspect of our lives as we struggle in our daily lives.  Even when we cannot feel His presence, He is there, just as a father is running behind a child learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels as the front wheel wobbles back and forth.

Solemn Song

By night we experience His comfort as our souls cry out to Him. God tests us even as we sleep, yet still we seek Him out in song and prayer.  This does not happen automatically.  We must make every effort during our waking hours to instill this desire in our hearts so that at night, it will reveal itself in our subconscious wanderings.

Oppressed by Opposition

An old nursery rhyme says, “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  This is given to children to counter taunts and jeers, but it is not accurate.  Words CAN and DO hurt.  And the enemy knows this well.  Whether they try to attach a label to the focus of their wrath, or merely mock us as we go through our trials (many of which THEY have caused), the pain of enduring the trial is greatly amplified when God appears silent, and deliverance is not quickly forthcoming.  This is especially true when the trial is prolonged and filled with physical as well as emotional suffering.

Downcast with Despair

The authors of this Psalm challenge themselves and us to ask ourselves a very important question:  Why should our souls be downcast?  Why should we be in emotional and spiritual despair?   Is not our God YHWH, who exists eternally and is dynamically involved in our lives?  Is God even able to break His word when He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you“?  What part of our despair is based in truth given the Word of the Living God who says that we are more than conquerors through Christ?  Or that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing?  Or that He knows the plans He has for us to give us hope and a future?

Heavenly Hope

The sons of Korah encourage us to put our hope in God our Savior.  Let us not forget His benefits, His lavishing of love, grace, and mercy upon us.  Let us breathe strength into our weary bones and emotional pain by remembering the Character and Nature of God and what He has done for us.  Remember also that God has a tendency to come during the fourth watch of the night – at the very last second.  Our faith is stretched and we grow when we are able to endure through the trial, especially when the devil and his demonic minions are hurling their insults, accusations, doubts and ideas of fear at us while his earthly minions are doing their best to oppress us and make us feel even worse.

It is never easy to wait for God.  As we are standing and waiting to be delivered, God will often allow great difficulty into our lives.  Let us not forget that we may even be called upon to bear His witness through isolation, torture, and even gruesome death.  Yet Jesus has overcome death itself!  We can be assured that regardless of the outcome, our hope in God is not misplaced.  Patiently endure your trials so that God may be glorified.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question: Are we filling ourselves with God and hope in His promises as the devil and his minions are beating us up, having backed us into a corner, as we wait for God to deliver us?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, blessed be Your name forever and ever!  It is always so difficult for me as I endure these trials.  Help me to overcome them, Lord God, and to do so with joy in my heart.  I know that You are never far from me, and that You are watching in expectation to see my faith grow.  Why must this always be so painful?  Remember me, Father, as my enemies lie about me to others, accuse me falsely, and seek to destroy my reputation and character.  May I find strength in Jesus, that He has provided me with His reputation and His character.  I know, Father, that my enemies don’t understand what they are doing.  They, like all truly evil people, lash out at the loved ones of their true target to cause the object of their fury the greatest amount of pain.  I pray, Father, that You would have mercy upon them and bring them to a saving knowledge of Your Son, Jesus Christ, that they would cease from bringing shame to You as Your image-bearers, and instead bring You the glory and honor that You so rightly deserve.  Strengthen me during these trials that regardless of the outcome, my faith would grow and when Your Son comes in glory, that All would glorify Your name.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

 

Family Living by God – Ephesians 6:1-4

Children are Adults-in-Training.

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

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

Righteous Request

Paul encourages children to obey their parents.  The rebellion started when Adam rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden.  It continues today with children.  No one is immune, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  The fallen nature of man gives us a presence of mind to think that we know better than our elders.  And although information is abundant, and children see themselves learning much faster than their parents, the lack of depth and breadth of knowledge, coupled with inexperience, growing brains, and raging hormones, yields a perfect storm that blinds them to the value of wisdom.  And in today’s generation, how a person feels is more important than facts, and held to be more valid than critical thought and sound judgement.  This further witnesses to the need for children to listen to and honor their parents.

Holy Honor

Children who honor their parents bring great glory to God.  It shows that they are fulfilling their designated role, and helps to display the unity of the family.  Additionally, when children honor their parents, they help the learning process along by displaying self-control, learning obedience (a skill that transfers to their relationship with God), and it makes the job of the parents that much more easy.  This reduces the burden on the parents and allows them to fulfill the designated roles assigned to them by God.  Although children may not initially see how honoring their parents is honoring God, as they mature and their minds grow, they will be able to see the wisdom in this.

Particular Promise

Paul indicates that a promise is attached to this Commandment, and that children benefit from doing this, rather than it being just a rule to follow.  With experience comes wisdom, and the life lessons learned by children through honoring their father and mother will yield a harvest of righteousness later on.  This wisdom will assist them in making decisions that will have a positive impact not only in their lives, but in the lives of people with whom they interact.

If parents attempt to impart wisdom in financial matters to their children, and the children honored them by following the examples provided, even if they didn’t necessarily understand why they were doing what they were doing, the results from that would speak for themselves, and show the wisdom of the decisions.  This could include setting aside money for retirement at an early age, budgeting, using self-restraint and purchasing what they need instead of what they want.  The application of restraint in this area in life would keep them from the pitfalls of debt and monetary indentured servitude.  Most children cannot appreciate being debt-free, owning a house and a car, and having all of their income going into a bank account instead of living paycheck to paycheck until they are actually in that situation.  The pain of self-denial and self-restraint may take years to reap a benefit.

Avoiding Angst

Because fathers are wired to respect and not to love, displaying love does not come naturally to them.  This can lead to conflict as they seek to impart discipline (not punishment but self-control) in their children.  Paul sees the danger and warns fathers that their efforts with instruction and correction can exasperate their children.  Fathers often expect that the children should learn the lessons fast and adhere to their principles immediately.  When children aren’t able to (and sometimes not willing to) do this, the father’s reactions, speech, and discipline can cause a child to just want to stop listening.  The child may feel that no matter what they do, it just won’t measure up.

Fathers must take great care to distinguish between a child’s true intentions – whether they are truly trying to obey their parents, or whether they are engaging in the manipulative feinting of exasperation in order to avoid discomfort in the tasks and lessons being imparted.  Children are master manipulators, being instructed by the world and through the whispers of the devil as he tries to tear apart the family.  It is only the Word of the Living God that can break the power of these evil influences.

And even in all of that, children have free will.  Even the most dedicated, loving, and encouraging father may run up against a child that absolutely refuses to learn the lessons provided (think Oppositional Defiant Disorder).  Someone with ODD doesn’t care if you punish them.  They live to be in opposition to you, and everything you stand for.  This is a strong-willed child who, understanding the repercussions for their reactions, would rather lose their life and liberty than to obey.  The need to be in control and to throw off the yoke of authority is so strong in them that they truly would rather die than to listen.  These children often become expert in the art of manipulation.  They lie with a straight face, telling falsehoods to even get their parents imprisoned just so that they can be free from their authority, or anyone who would attempt to exert authority over them.  Their conscience is seared, and their own personal desires justify any actions that they take.  They often know the exact outcome of what their actions will have on the adults that they malign, and have no compassion towards them or their circumstances once the effects of their plans have taken effect.

Scripture provided a recourse for this in the Old Testament that many today would think harsh and possibly cast a shadow over the grace and mercy of God.  This solution was needed in order to showcase that first and foremost, God is HOLY:

18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

The Trials of Training

Oh, the trials and tribulations of training a child…  Especially during the teen years…  It can sometimes seem like herding cats, or grasping oil in your hand – a fruitless effort.  The good news is that it is not fruitless.  Everything that you impart, whether the child grasps and runs with it or not, is being stored in that wonderful sponge of a brain.

Scripture also tells how they should be trained:

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

Parents are not to make carbon copies of themselves.  They are not to plan their child’s life from cradle to grave.  Rather, they have been instructed to “train up” the child in the way they should go.  This is difficult, as it requires the parents to recognize what God has placed in the child and then nurture it.  These characteristics can be the polar opposition of what was in the parent.  This then requires great prayer, research, submission to God, and following God’s teaching as the parent may not have any knowledge or expertise in the child’s God-given bent and abilities.

Image a family where both parents are scholars and spend most of their time reading books and watching movies.  Now imagine a son who is constantly moving, and loves to jog, play football, soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, and every other conceivable sport.  The parents are to encourage this in their child so that the child can fulfill what God has placed in them to glorify Himself.

If the parents just try to turn this child into an academician, the child will lose heart, and suppress what is in him to do what God has not necessarily gifted the child to do.  This would require the parents to either go outside their comfort zone to be a part of their child’s life, or involving a trusted and respected mentor to help their child to excel in their strengths.  In either case, training up the child in the way they should go would prove to be challenging and counter-intuitive to what they know.

A Qualifying Question

For children, let’s ask the question:  Are we honoring our mother and father the way that God wants us to?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, give me strength as I walk with You today.  Help me to understand my role that You have assigned to me.  Regardless of my age, help me to honor my mother and father, that it would be pleasing to You and bring great glory to You.  Show me the way I should go, and provide the people who are mentoring me through life the ability, knowledge, and wisdom to help me to become the person that You desire me to be.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Family Living by God- Ephesians 5:21-24

Jesus Submitted Himself to the Holy Spirit

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Sacred Submission

Paul starts this section on family living with a very provocative statement: that ALL of the body of Christ should submit to the REST of the body of Christ.  Unity within the body of Christ CANNOT be obtained unless we are willing to submit ourselves to one another.  He prepares the reader with this for the next big challenge – that wives should submit to their husbands, and not only submit; but submit to them as they submit to Christ.

God has created within Men and Women certain traits that have been corrupted by the fall of Adam in the garden of Eden.

  • Men – by nature – understand how to respect each other
    • They can live in a state of quasi-harmony with each other in respect.
    • They do not have agape love embedded into the DNA of their brain.  As a result, they will tend to do things that show respect to others, but they may not necessarily show love to others.
    • This can be seen in the business world, and even in gangs.  Men are risk-takers, and do things that tend to benefit themselves.  When men do things to each other, they have a sense of respect when it happens, understanding the need for certain situations, but then say, “It’s nothing personal – it’s just business.”
    • This can come off as being aloof, uncommunicative, unloving, dispassionate, emotionally distant, and relationally cold.
  • Women – by nature – understand how to agape love each other
    • They can live in a state of quasi-harmony with each other in love.
    • They do not have respect embedded into the DNA of their brain.  As a result, they will tend to do things that show love to others, but they may not necessarily show respect to others.
    • This can be seen in the family, and even in women’s gatherings.  Women are natural communicators, and seek the best for others at their own expense.  They are protective of others, and are wonderful for showing love and raising children.  When something needs to change, they often use their communication skills to spark a controversy (repetitive criticism can sometimes be seen here) because women want wholeness in relationship, and will respond to that with compassion and a heart to reconcile the relationship.  Their natural sensitivity helps them to stay connected and desire smoothness in relationships.
    • This can come off as a critical spirit, gossiping, and nagging.

Wives are told to submit to their husbands, and this is very difficult for them, especially if they don’t have respect for them, or see them failing as leaders of the family.  How can a person submit to another person that they don’t respect?

Because of this issue, Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands as they submit to Christ.  This is the hardest thing they will need to do in marriage.  But it can also be the easiest thing to do in marriage.  Paul next tells us why this can occur.

Household Headship

God is a God of order.  There is order in the Trinity:

  • God the Father is the head of the organization, but submits to God the Son and God the Holy Spirit
  • God the Son submits to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit
  • God the Holy Spirit submits to God the Father and God the Son
  • Someone has to be in charge for the purpose of accountability and to establish a hierarchy of authority so that order can be established and maintained.

In the same way, there is hierarchy of order within the family:

  • The husband is the head of the organization, but submits to his wife (and any children).
    • He is a servant-leader, who is charged with bringing about the spiritual growth of his wife and children, teaching them the things of Christ and revealing to them the Word of the Living God.
    • He is charged with taking care of them and providing for them physically, financially, and spiritually.  God has placed this burden upon his heart, and he eagerly seeks to meet this goal.
    • It is a terrible thing when he rebels against this and abandons servant-leadership to become self-centered.
  • The wife submits to her husband (and any children).
    • She has an advisory role in the organization, able to see things about people and situations that the husband is unable to see because of his giftedness.  Her input is very valuable, and should be given great consideration by her husband when making decisions.
    • She is in tune with the needs and desires of all affected people in the organization, and can provide balance and unity between husbands and children.
    • It is a terrible thing when she abandons this and cultivates a critical spirit that does not encourage and love but rather verbally reminds others in her care of their shortcomings, often in anger, fueled by the memories of all of the other similar things that happened to her that flood into her mind during the situation.
  • The children submit to the husband (father) and wife (mother).
    • They are adults-in-training, and don’t have the skills yet to be independent of them.  They should carefully consider their parent’s advice and decisions.  When both the mother and father are acting in the role of servant-leader, they are taking their children’s best interests at heart, and are making decisions that are meant to be beneficial to everyone involved.
    • Children are born needy and selfish.  If left alone, they would do great harm to themselves and others.  It is only through the care, teaching, and correction by their parents that they are able to train themselves away from this natural-born state.  But it is just as important that they acknowledge and submit themselves to God so that they can overcome these tendencies.
    • Sometimes, decisions made by their parents may not appear to the children to be in their best interest.  An example of this is when they have to move because the father and/or mother has lost his/her job, and now are going to be separated from the safety and security of everything that they have known until now.  What they fail to grasp is that if the family stays, they may become homeless and encounter all of the difficulties associated with that particular life situation. They may not grasp that this would be far worse than if they moved.
    • It is terrible when they rebel against the authority of their parents (in the Lord). One example of this is when the children seek to do them as much harm as possible to get back at them in retaliation for feelings they may experience when their desires are not immediately granted (the entitlement generation syndrome).

When the order that God has imposed is followed by the family organization, there can be unity within it.  When a husband (fathers) submits himself to Christ, he is listening to the One who Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent.  God has everyone’s (including the family’s) best interests at heart and will direct the husband (father) in the ways that the family should go.

When this occurs, he will display the love of God to his family, and it will be much easier to respect him in his role.  They should remember that he will be held accountable by God for the success or failure of the family organization.  While individuals have free will, and they certainly can rebel against both God and the husband (father), he will be held accountable for his submission to God and obedience to what God has directed him to do.

If a husband (father) is seeking God with all of his heart, mind, soul, and strength, it should be a joy for his wife to respect him and submit to him in all things, for in doing so, she is both submitting to the one placed in authority over her by God, as well as to God Himself as He works through His servant, the husband (father).  When the children (if any) see this relationship being displayed, their unity and Christ-likeness should fill them with a sense of safety and security and fill them with joy, knowing that they are loved and respected, and that their best interests are being kept in mind in all things.

When a wife submits to her husband, even (and especially) when he doesn’t deserve it, she is fulfilling her obligations with regard to the organization.  This must be done in love and without a critical spirit.  When this occurs, her love and respect for him will be used by the Holy Spirit to convict him and bring him back into line where he should be.  This is to be done with tender and tearful prayer by his wife, so that God would get a hold of him and help him to be the man of God that he is called to be.  Once that occurs, it will be a joy to submit to him.

A definition for submission of wives to husbands was once described as wives being willing to duck so that when God throws a right-cross at the family leadership, it lands firmly upon their husbands.

A Qualifying Question

For wives, let’s ask the question:  Are we submitting to our husband as the church is supposed to submit to Christ, with great respect and joy (even and especially if he doesn’t deserve it)?

A short prayer of Preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is a difficult thing to do what is the opposite of my nature to do.   Father, give me strength and guidance in every area of my life.  Help me to be who You made me to be.  Give me peace as I fulfill my role that You have provided for me.  Help me to see Your perspective in all things, and to love and respect my family the way that desire.  Show me where I need to change, that I may grow in You, and be an example for others.  Watch my ways, and keep me from sinning against You.  You have called me to be Holy – to be set apart from sin, and set apart to You.  Only You can bring that to fruition.  Encourage me when I feel frustrated, and remind me of Your goodness, mercy, grace, and compassion that I may lean upon them and show them to others, even when I am experiencing great trials.  This I ask in the name of Jesus my Lord and Savior, Amen.

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

Sanctification of God- Colossians 3:8-10

Be Less Like the World and More Like God

8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Shedding Sin

The Bible both generally and specifically tells us what we shouldn’t (and should) do.  Here are a few more things that we are told to remove from our lives:

  • Anger
    • In the Greek, orgEn, or angry indignation.  Have you every been indignantly angry at something or someone?  This has the appearance of pride – that you have been wronged – and the person or situation must be addressed to preserve your good name.  But Jesus was falsely accused, and did not defend Himself, but instead entrusted the issue to the One who judges justly.  We should do the same.
  • Rage
  • Malice
    • In the Greek, kakian.   Again, we are not even to entertain thoughts of retribution or desire that harm come to others.  Jesus says that we are to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those that curse us, and pray for those who do evil against us.
  • Slander
    • In the Greek, blasphEmian – we get our word “blaspheme” from it.  Our speech towards others should build up, not tear down.  Again, as with the other issues above, we should not take these situations into our own hands, but rather let God deal with them.  Sometimes God will deal with a person far more powerfully than we could ever do or even imagine.  But did not God also show us favor and woo us even when we hated Him?
  • Filthy Language
    • In the Greek, asischrologian.  When we use foul, filthy language, we do not show the purity of speech that God desires of us.  Who would want to be around someone whose speech consisted of every other word being a profanity?  While (darkly and shockingly) colorful, it both detracts from the beauty of whatever the person was trying to convey and sacrifices the power of the message for emotional shock value.  It may also indicate that the person may not have a sufficient command of their spoken language to express themselves with clarity and forethought.  Use of this type of language also shows a lack of maturity.  Imagine what the world thinks when a person uses profanity to convey the Gospel message!  Does God ever do that in the Bible when He speaks to people?

Talking Truth

Satan is the father of lies, and it is his native tongue.  We should no longer talk in his language when speaking with each other, but rather talk in the language that our Father speaks.  Jesus said:

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

If Jesus is the Truth, and the Word of God, should we not also speak the truth when we speak?  How can we properly bear God’s image to others when we don’t speak as He speaks?

Changing Clothes

We are told to put on our new self.  This is a conscious action, something that we must do.  We have already been provided imputed righteousness.  It is time that we begin to speak and act in accordance with it.  When we do not, it is like a person who says “Yes” to you but nods their head back and forth in a “no” gesture.  It sends mixed signals to the intended recipient.  Let’s ensure that our words and actions are in alignment with our positional righteousness.

To ensure that this occurs, we must continually renew our minds with the Word of God.  Only by studying and applying the lessons learned in the Bible can our minds be transformed into thinking the way that God thinks.  One of the most interesting effects of reading and praying over scripture is that we become aware of connections to other scripture that we have not seen before.  This reinforces scripture into our minds, and helps us to more obediently live in accordance with the Word.  And as we do that, God will reveal deeper truths to us.  He does this both broadly and with precision.

It is very interesting to notice that as we become obedient, God shows us nuances in scripture to prune us so that we can become more obedient. Do you yearn to grow in God’s Word?  Be obedient to the truth that God has already revealed to you.  It is through obedience that God shows us that we are ready to receive a greater revelation of truth.  Remember – you will be judged based on what you did with what you understood.  This should be a sobering warning to all who claim the name of Christ.

Once our mind operates this way, our actions will follow.  As we experience victory in areas of our life that were contrary to the Word of God, we should take encouragement that God is helping us to be better emissaries for Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I acting and speaking in a manner that properly reflects the righteousness of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You greatly desire that Your children represent You in their actions and words.  Grant me wisdom and discernment that my thoughts and actions would reflect Your holiness and righteousness in such a way that it brings glory to Your name.  Remove from me anything that would cause me to improperly represent You as I work out my salvation with reverential fear and trembling.  Help me to be reminded of Your character and nature before I do or say anything.  Bring to mind Your word that it would be a guide and example to me so that I will not stray and bring shame upon myself and Your holy name.  May my speech be seasoned with salt, and my life a light on a hill, that all who hear and see me would hear and see You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Sanctification with God – Colossians 3:5-7

Be Less Like the World and More Like God

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

Deadly Detriments

Everyone seems to know what Christians are against.  So, why do we still keep doing what say we are against?  We know that it is our sin nature.  But has the Word of the Living God pierced your heart to the point where you say with disgust and revolt, “I just CANNOT do this anymore!”?  So, what are some of the worldly attitudes that Christians are told to stop walking in?

  • Sexual Immorality
    • In the Greek, porneian.  It’s from this word that we get our word pornography.  It is unnatural (not-God-approved) sexual conduct. God has sanctioned sexual conduct within the bounds of marriage to illustrate His model of love and physical gratification through mutual submission of a man (humans born with XY chromosomes) and a woman (humans born with XX chromosomes) in a covenant relationship with each other and to Himself.
    • If we are involved in sexual conduct outside those parameters, it is time to confront ourselves and bring it to God who, through His word, will instruct us through His Holy Word by the Holy Spirit in proper conduct towards others and ourselves in this area of life.
  • Impurity
    • In the Greek, akatharsian.  We get our word catharsis from it.  In this case, it is a wrongful filling of ourselves (a- being the opposite, yielding a filling up rather then an emptying), in this case, a lack of purity.  We are to experience God’s character.  How can we do that when will fill ourselves with impurity?
  • Lust
    • In the Greek, pathos epithumian, or passionate, emotional desire.  The outcome of this is best illustrated in the story of Amnon and Tamar.  Amnon become so obsessed with sister Tamar (his desire to have her sexually) that he made himself ill.  It grew until he finally acted upon it and raped her.  Then, after he molested her, he hated her even more than he previously desired to have her.  Lust is one of the desires of the heart that is never filled, and whose outcome is often not what is advertised when contemplating and indulging the desire.
    • Once lust grows in the heart it always seeks more and more until action is inevitable.  Lust can truly consume a person.
  • Evil Desires
    • In the Greek, kakEn.  Strong’s Notes indicates that this is “worthless (intrinsically, such; whereas [this word] properly refers to effects [of worthlessness]), i.e. (subjectively) depraved, or (objectively) injurious.” Brackets and text within brackets added for clarification.
    • God builds up, but evil desires destroy not only the person that harbors and exhibits them, but those whom that person interacts.
  • Greed
    • In the Greek, pleanexion.  It means more-having, or desiring more and more.  It is not necessarily covetousness, but rather a lack of contentment with what a person already has, and the desire to increase whatever it is that is seen as insufficient.

We are told something interesting about these.  The Greek word for “which” is  hEtis, and means “which-any” or “any/all of which”.  And God, through Paul, classifies them as idolatry.

Walking in Wrath

Paul goes on to say that these are some of the reasons why the wrath of God is coming.  When we engage in these, we are denying the character and truth of God, for ALL human beings are made in the image of God, and are to be the image-bearers of God’s character in this life (and throughout eternity).

Glorious Growth

We all fall short of the glory of God.  We are told to repent.  As part of repentance, we need to introspectively examine our lives to see if we are engaging in, holding onto, in agreement with, or otherwise not completely rejecting as evil the things that God holds to be loathsome.  To be certain, cultivating these attitudes (aligning our attitudes with the attitudes of God) takes time, determination, and spending time reading, reflecting upon, and praying about God’s Holy Word.  In this way, our minds will be transformed through alignment with God’s thoughts and ways.

It is then that as living sacrifices, we will be less inclined to squirm off the altar when we face trials and difficulties in this life.  But be of good cheer!  We have a Holy High Priest who sits at the right hand of God praying for us and our success in this!

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I spending time each day (each week?) to see if I am harboring a positive, or even neutral, attitude toward the things that repulse God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You delight in Your children, and You have chosen not to leave us nor forsake us, even when we fail.  Strengthen me this day as I face new and existing challenges that stretch my faith and sometimes, even my ability to breathe from moment to moment.  Guard me, guide me, forgive me, and restore me as I navigate this world and my feet become dirty.  Wash me clean with the precious blood of Your Perfect Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And when I fall, pick me up, dust me off, wipe my tears, and carry me until I can begin to crawl again.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Freedom in Christ – John 8-32

Freedom is not Free

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Finding Freedom

Freedom can only be found in the truth.  And there is only one person who can rightfully claim the title of truth – The Lord Jesus Christ.  The word freedom is bandied about quite a bit.  But what is really meant by “freedom”?  Have we not already been given free will?  Are we “free” from obeying laws?  Where are the boundaries of “freedom”?

Boundaries Bared

Christ came to fulfill the law, not abolish it.  So we find that we still have boundaries.  Jesus said:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

We also know:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

The boundary of freedom is love.  So, what exactly are we being freed from?

Pardoned Prisoners

Sin entered the world through one man, and through one man we have been redeemed.  Sin leads to bondage.  When we sin, it is like we are taking a very powerful, very addictive drug.  It immediately has its grasp on your life.  And, just as an addict is a slave to drugs, we become slaves to sin.  When we sin, we voluntarily enter into bondage, whether we realize it or not.

Sin prevents us from living out a full life.  Just as boundaries exist to protect people from danger, sin creates a different type of boundary, much like a prison cell.  It keeps the person from being able to do what God has called them to do.  Every person has a calling from God on their life.  Most don’t recognize that or see their calling because of sin.  As a result, we often lead meaningless lives in pursuit of whatever will temporarily fill the void in our soul, a void that seeks to be filled.  That void can ONLY be filled by having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  And we are prisoners in an invisible jail cell until we are freed by Jesus Christ, who brings truth to us.  And when we know the truth, we shall be set free from the bondage of sin.

Vexing Vigilance

But like God, who pursues all of us in an attempt at reconciliation with Himself, sin seeks to capture us again, and make us its prisoner.  John Philpot Curran said the following:

“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”

To keep free from sin requires eternal vigilance.  The world, the flesh, and the devil continually exercise pressure upon men to conform to their desires.  It is only by spending time with Jesus Christ every day that provides us the power, desire, and ability to withstand the tugs.  Like a reformed alcoholic who is forced to walk past bars and liquor stores every day, we must resist the temptation to once again indulge in that which caused our imprisonment.  Only through eternal vigilance in this shall a man remain free from sin’s grasp.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I resisting or yielding to the things that so easily ensnare me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for my sins.  My soul replies, “Hallelujah!”  Please help me as I navigate through this world.  I am bombarded every day with temptation.  Guard my eyes and my heart that I may not yield to it.  Rather, help me to yield completely to the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit that I may honor you, Father.  Your word says that when I am weak, You are strong.  Provide me with the strength to follow Jesus and resist evil.  Instill within me a steadfast spirit of contentment and obedience.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Abiding in Christ – Judges 16:20

The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance

Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”  He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.

Complete Committal

One of the saddest phrases in the Bible is, “But he did not know the Lord had left him.”  Samson’s confidence in himself was the blessing that God had bestowed upon him – his great strength.  As long as no one cut his hair, God had poured out His blessing upon Samson.  He was so confident in God’s blessing upon his life that he started to do things that God had expressly forbade the Israelites to do:

Samson did not follow the Lord – he assumed he was fine because God kept blessing him with supernatural strength.  We need to be very careful, especially when God has blessed our ministry, that we are in the faith.  We need to be completely committed to God and His ways to prepare us so that we can avoid many pitfalls.

Subtle Separation

The separation from Samson from God didn’t just happen overnight.  It occurred over a period of time.  Sin does the same thing in our lives.  Once we veer off the straight and narrow path, we become further and further from the truth, and we are able to justify what we are doing.  The Holy Spirit will try to reconcile us, but if we ignore Him we will eventually sear our conscience (“con”=with, “science”=knowledge) and sin will truly blind us to what we are doing.  Samson kept going further and further away from God.  Although he led Israel for twenty years, he did so moving further and further away from God.

Odious Outcome

Captured now by his enemies, betrayed by his wife, eyes gouged out to cripple him, Samson languished in prison, a trophy of the Philistines.  We need to be very mindful of the consequences of our actions, especially when we are surrounded by people who seek to cause us harm, and possibly even death.  Samson is a prime example what can go wrong when we allow sin to reign in our lives.  David did the same thing when he went into the Philistine area during the time of Saul’s quest to destroy him.  He went there for a year and four months.  In that time, he lied to the king about who he was raiding and didn’t plan security for the wives and children which were under his care which resulted in their abduction by the Amalekites.

Resounding Restoration

God always wants us to come to repentance.  He restores us once we confess our sins and turn from them.  Samson had been humbled.  His hair had started to grow back.  Standing in the temple between the main pillars holding up the temple as the Philistine leaders gloated over their conquest of Samson, he asked the Lord to restore his strength.  And the Lord came upon him mightily.  In few moments, he destroyed the temple where they were and dealt a mighty blow to a people who had been oppressing Israel.

God seeks to restore us as well.  It doesn’t have to turn out in tragedy like it did for Samson.  We need to be on guard against the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We need to seek God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength.  And through this vigilance we can avoid many of the pitfalls that we see of the great men of old in the Bible.  Their lives are both warnings and instructions to us so that we won’t repeat their mistakes.  But Solomon, the wisest person ever to live, rightly said “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Even with these warnings, we continue to do what we know is wrong.  But thanks be to God for His Son, Jesus Christ, who redeemed us and paved the path to repentance!

The Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Do I learn from my mistakes?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us Your mercy and grace through Your Word.  Help me to be vigilant in all my ways that they may be pleasing to You.  Guard me from the influence of evil that I may walk in truth and righteousness.  Help me to abide in Christ, so that I may abide in You.  Help me to see the warning signs when I go astray, and reconcile me when I turn back to You.  Help me to have a steadfast spirit that is for You.  As You bless me and any ministries I am in, keep me free from pride and help me to keep everything in balance.  Deliver me from evil this day, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

 

 

 

Submission to God – Colossians 3:1-4

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The world, the flesh, and the devil all vie for the attention of our thoughts.  If they can just persuade us to take our eyes off of Christ, we can be led astray.  Paul provides us with the framework for preventing this, in that our lives are hidden in Christ.  Our thoughts should be continually towards the things of God.  We are also told where our treasure is, there are our hearts also.

Time and time again, we are distracted with the troubles of life.  Even when we are focused on God, tragedy seems to occur to cause us to take our eyes off of the object of our affection, and be focused in the here and now of trials and tribulations.  It takes great self-control to refocus on the things that matter, as the threat of pain, suffering, and loss loom over us in those moments.  We are directed (both imperative commands!) to set our hearts and set our minds on things above.  It is an act of the will, contrary to our natural inclinations.

It is an act of submission of the will to God that enables us to make this unnatural change in our thought lives.  In everything, Christ submitted Himself to the Father through submission to the Holy Spirit.  In the same manner we need to submit ourselves the same way to the Holy Spirit.

So, let’s ask the question:  How well are we submitting to the Holy Spirit?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we are so easily distracted by the difficulties of life.  Give me strength today to have a heart that is steadfastly focused upon Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Remove the veneer of importance from those things that try to grab my attention, and place everything in its proper place, so that You are honored in everything.  Guard my heart, and help me to submit to Your perfect will.  This I ask in the precious name of your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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