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.

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?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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?

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?

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.

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

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?

A Calling of God – John 9:4

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

Jesus indicated that we are to work while it is day.  Just as we can see the light fading into dusk, so it is becoming in the world today.  In the Middle East, there is almost no light at all.  It is reported that Jesus is revealing Himself to people in visions and dreams because the people there have effectively put out the light.  It truly is night there – no one can work.

In very rapid succession, countries that were once brightly lit with the light of Christ have become dim.  In England, the cathedrals are being turned into mosques.  There are fewer and fewer people who would darken the doorsteps of a church.  Faith is failing.  And nature abhors a vacuum.  A most egregious evil is now afflicting those people.  When the light is placed under a bowl, it does no one any good.

Here in the United States of America, we are experiencing the same kind of withdraw by people.  Once our young people reach adulthood, they go off on their own, and reject the teachings of their youth (if they were brought up in the church).  Seeking to validate the claims of Faith by looking at the practical effectiveness of Christian living, they wrongly conclude that because Christians aren’t living out their faith correctly, that faith doesn’t work.

Abandoning their faith, they are drawn by the pleasures and values of the world, the devil, and their own evil desires.  Those that do come back only come to their senses after 15-20 years, and only after great consequences have befallen them.  The Millennials also flock to the preachers that tickle their ears with what they want to hear.  Downplaying sin and righteousness, they receive a weekly dose of psychology that tells them God is Love and Grace (and He is!), but there isn’t mention of transformation and sanctification into the image of Christ.  Believing then only that God loves them just the way they are (very true!), they fail to grasp their need to repent, and go on to live their lives just as the rest of the world does, indistinguishable from those who are perishing.  And others, failing to look in the Bible to see how faith is truly vibrant, real, and effective, even if the outcome here on Earth is unpleasant, conclude that faith is foolishness.

As God slowly withdraws his protection and stabilizing influence from all of us as the world continues to reject Him, night falls and lawlessness increases.  The darkness HATES the light, and will do anything it can to flee it, or extinguish it, so that its wickedness will not be exposed, and permit the continuation of its evil practices.

But fear not!  Jesus has overcome the darknessWalk in the light, let your light shine before men, complete the works that God has given you to do, and let God deal with the consequences of obedience.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us a Light that cannot be extinguished, and shines brightly for all to see.  For Your Son Jesus Christ said that if He was lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself.  Father, I have been drawn, and grow weary today, not of doing what is right, but of wading through the thick molasses of evil and wickedness in the world.  Help me to overcome.  Grant me strength to keep on walking.  And as the path to righteousness grows more narrow every day, help me to not be swept away or held in place.  You have declared that I am an oak of righteousness,  and that no one can snatch me out of Your hand.  Guard me, guide me, try me, prove me.  Help me to be a bright light on a hill.  And whatever you allow to happen, even to the point of death, keep me strong that You may be glorified.  This I ask and pray in the precious and faithful character of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Saved by God – Joel 2:32

And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    there will be deliverance,
    as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
    whom the Lord calls.

For those who have questions:

What is being saved?

Being saved is a spiritual state where God has legally declared you righteous because of your acceptance of the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the cross as payment for your sins, as the final and only payment acceptable to God, and you have chosen to repent of those sins.  For it is by faith and faith alone, that we declare with our mouths that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead for our sins.  Because of this, God restores to us a spirit of life, for we are spiritually dead because of our sin nature.

What about works?

James says that faith without works is dead.  So what place does works have in our walk with God?  Works are the outpouring of our lives in gratitude for what God has done and is doing inside of us.  It is a visible manifestation of the change of heart we have towards God and sin.  Works do not make us any more acceptable to God than we already are – for it is Jesus’ righteousness that makes us acceptable.   God has prepared works in advance from before the foundation of the world for us to do in order to glorify His name, not to earn our way into Heaven.

Who can be saved? 

ANYONE who calls upon the name of the Lord.  And His name is The Lord Jesus Christ.  For all who would come to the Father must go through the Son.  Jesus said that if He was lifted up, He would draw ALL men to Him.  The Greek word translated “all” means exactly that – “ALL.”  Just because you are drawn doesn’t mean you have arrived.  If you are drawn to go to the Superbowl, but instead go bowling, it doesn’t matter how much you wanted to go; YOU WEREN’T THERE.  God says that He does not want anyone to perish.  But the wages of sin is death, so respond if you feel God tugging at your heart today.  For God so loved the world, He sent His one and only Son, that whosoever shall believe in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

What does it cost to be saved?

EVERYTHING!  It is like a drug addict on the verge of overdose coming to a methadone clinic.  They want to be healed.  But the only way to do so is to GIVE UP THEIR WAY OF LIFE FOR A NEW ONE.  If the drug user gets clean but refuses to stay clean, what good was it to them?  God cleanses us of our unrighteousness, and give us the righteousness of Christ.  We can then, with the power and help of the Holy Spirit (think AA with a multi-billionaire as your sponsor) you are able to live a life free from being enslaved to sin.  Sin is a drug – once it gets its claws into you, it is very hard to break free of its grasp.  And what you thought you could control, now controls YOU.  But God is merciful and full of grace, and is faithful and just to forgive us when we sin if we repent.

The good news is, just like the drug addict, when you come to God, He gets rid of your addiction, and then gives you His wealth and strength to crawl out of the hole you dug for yourself.  God says He owns all the gold and all the silver.  And He is more than able to give you what you need, for He created everything, and can create some more if He wants.  Not only that, He gives you Himself.  The Holy Spirit takes up residence in you to empower you, encourage you, direct you, and keep you clean and sober from sin. But because the world is like Bourbon Street, with bars lining both sides, it is hard to not walk in and have a drink.  When we do, the Holy Spirit becomes our advocate, and urges us to get sober, and gives us the strength to do so – no matter how embarrased we feel for falling off the wagon.  And as God helps us to grow in strength, it gets easier to say no to sin.  Whatever you feed inside you will grow.  Make sure you don’t intentially feed the monster by sinning…

When you come to God in intial repentance, you are basically saying that you are morally bankrupt.  God then fills your account with Christ’s righteousness until it is astronomically large (for you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing).  Who cares if you come to the table with 23 cents in your pocket?  God owns all the banks!  What’s 23 cents compared to immeasurable riches?  Change is never easy, is it?

How do I become saved?

Click here for more information.

Am I saved? 

Have you confessed with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead as payment for your sin by faith and faith alone?  Then you are saved!  Read the Bible.  Pray to God.  Beg God to help you to live righteously for Him and to get rid of all the things in your life that are displeasing to Him.  God is faithful and will joyfully answer those kind of prayers!  Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.  Having put on the helmet of salvation, (experentially) know that you are saved!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us in Your word how good You are.  For You are a just God, and must punish sin; yet being filled with mercy and grace, have given us a way to be reconciled to You.  Father, forgive me for my sins.  I deserve to go to Hell, but you have given me a way to be with You instead.  Help me to live this life in obedience to You.  Carry me when I cannot walk.  Strengthen me for the battles ahead.  Provide all that I need physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, that I may be equipped to do Your will.  Guide me in the way I should go.  This I ask in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

Combat Training with God – Mark 9:29

He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting (the text in these brackets does not appear in all of the manuscripts)].

Some of the greatest feats in the Bible were done by people who prayed AND fasted.  Fasting is a nearly lost discipline in the American church.  We have been so blessed by God, we truly miss our three square meals (and sometimes snacks in between) each day.  People in Biblical times knew the value of fasting, and its importance.

In Mark 9:14-29, we see a desperate father looking to the disciples for help with his demonically possessed son.  They had tried unsuccessfully to remove the spirit that had seized the boy and tried to kill him.  Luke tells us, however, that Jesus had already given the disciples power and authority to drive out demons and heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2).  So what made this so difficult?  Jesus provides us with the clue in His response to the disciples’ question about why they couldn’t drive it out – this kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.

It wasn’t the act of prayer, or even fasting, that made it possible.  It was the relationship with the Father that gave Jesus the ability to drive it out.  Prayer is our first go-to for intimacy with God (although some find it through praise worship).  However, we have a sin nature, and our flesh can cause us problems.  The flesh is constantly crying out, “feed me”, “pamper me”, “I don’t want to”, and all other kinds of rebellion towards God.  Paul said he beat his body into submission.

One of the easiest, or hardest – depending on your viewpoint, ways to bring your body back into submission is fasting.  The flesh greatly dislikes being denied its pleasures – food, sexual gratification, comfort, etc.  When we fast, the flesh initially protests.  But after a while, it calms down, and we experience a type of peace that we don’t normally have when we eat.  As our bodies are brought into submission, we are able to draw ever so much closer to God in prayer.

Jesus knew this spiritual discipline, and practiced it often.  When the Holy Spirit let Him out into the desert to be tempted (tested) by the devil, He was fasting.  He was fasting the day that he drove out the spirit from the boy that was brought to Him.  Jesus is our role model.  We should walk as He walked.  And He fasted.  Even the Pharisees fasted, but to outwardly show their piousness, rather than draw close to God.  Daniel, when seeking an answer, fasted by only eating simple food to mourn and draw close to God.

Are you lacking power in your spiritual life?  Do you require answers in order to move on?  Do you seek a more intimate relationship with God?  Be obedient to God’s word, and fast.  Tell God in prayer that it is the desire of your heart to draw close to Him, and when you fast, He will meet with you in a mighty way.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is my desire to draw very close to You.  Help me to overcome my flesh, and be obedient to Your word.  Help me to set aside time to fast, that I may experience Your presence and power in a more intimate, satisfying, and joyful way.  Help me to bring my flesh into submission through fasting.  Grant Your servant success that it might bring glory to Your name.  This I humbly pray in the character of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Obedience to God – John 14:15 (AMP)

“If you [really] love Me, you will keep and obey My commandments.

How do we reconcile all of these statements?  Why does it appear that there may be some works that we need to do?  The answer is that we are being sanctified.  God is in the process of renewing our minds so that we move from the world’s way of thinking to His way of thinking.  Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 (AMP):

1 Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].

We are (or should be!) progressively transformed into the likeness of Christ as our thinking changes and we act on what we believe.  The word transformed is very interesting.  In the Greek it is “metamorphousthe” (an imperative command – we are expected to do this – it is not a suggestion!) from the root word “metamorphoo”. We get our word metamorphosis from it (think butterflies. They don’t just look a little different from caterpillars; in their cocoon they literally liquefy [in our case, it is the Word of God, and trials that cause crises of faith] and emerge on the other side something completely and irreversibly different).

Transformation is not merely intellectual ascent, but rather the practical application (or implementation) of the values and ideals that we have learned into everyday living.  How does this work, do you ask?

  • Do you believe that you need to eat food in order to live?  So, do you eat food?
  • Do you believe that you need to put gasoline in your car to keep it running?  So, do you put gasoline in your car?
  • Do you believe you should put on clothes when you are in public?  Do you put on clothes when you leave your residence?
  • (Special thanks to Dr. Steve Vesolich for all four example questions)

If you have answered yes to these, it would appear that you act upon your beliefs by implementing them in practical ways in your daily life.  Now let’s ask another question:

  • Do you believe that you should pray continually?  Do you pray without ceasing?

If you answered, “Well, I guess I fall a little short (a lot short?) in that department,” then do you really believe it?  How long can you go without food before your body suffers (that is a GREAT feedback mechanism that God gave to us!)?  How many times do you need to run out of gas in your car until you fill it up BEFORE the needle gets to “E”?  When we pray, we are spiritually filling up with God.  The problem is that we don’t always “feel” the spiritual feedback mechanism that occurs when we don’t “fill up” with God until the consequences of ignoring this very important requirement of spiritual life impact our lives, often in very detrimental ways.

Jesus calls us to be obedient to all that He says.  This is for our benefit, the benefit of others, to produce righteous living in His called out ones, and finally, it brings glory to God.  Jesus became completely obedient to the Father though submission to the Holy Spirit.  How much more should we then, who need guidance every second of every day of our lives?

The works that pour forth from us are a response to the love of God.  Additionally, He has graciously planned in advance to use our gratefulness to Him in a real and practical way to save the lost and bring glory to His name as we are being transformed into His image.

So, let’s ask the question:  Are we being obedient to the portion of God’s word that we know and understand?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy, holy, holy.  You have called us out of sin and into righteousness.  Father, our sin natures are interfering in our ability to be obedient to You and Your Word.  Help me, O God, that these hindrances would be removed, and that in every aspect of the life that You have provided to me, that I would be obedient to You.  Cleanse my heart Lord God, and give me a greater desire to be obedient to You, especially where I feel any resistance in my heart.  Holy Spirit, reveal to me the root cause of any resistance.  Bring it out of me, and show it to me, that I may deal with it, for my heart longs to obey you.  Help me to overcome any fears with it, and heal my heart where needed so that I can let go of the past.  Help me to be accountable and take ownership of any part of my past that has led to this rebellion.  Father, give me strength that I may confess these sins to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that we may pray for one another and be forgiven.  You long for holiness in your people; please start with me.  This I pray as a representative of your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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