Be Prepared – 1 John 3:3

Without Holiness, No One Will See The Lord

All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Worthwhile Warfare

You are under attack.  Whether you realize it or not, you are being bombarded in the three main areas your adversary – Satan and his minions – have found to be most effective in derailing your efforts at remaining in Christ:

  1. The lust of the flesh
  2. The lust of the eyes
  3. The pride of life

There is a VERY GOOD REASON that the Western World is not seeing the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus when He said:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

The reason?  We are not a holy people.  We go to church (rather than BEING the church).  We seek and revel in the prosperity The Lord Jesus Christ has provided to us but don’t seek as our first priority that His kingdom prospers, even in our difficulties, and we don’t take the time to ensure that God has our full attention to transform us into the image of His Son.

I was recently at a worship/revival service where a man said that every believer should be able to do what Jesus did in His ministry:

Heal the sick, raise the dead (Gasp!  Anyone try this one lately?), cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.  – (Comments in italics mine)

He then dedicated the people gathered (a local body of believers who knew each other and a few others that were invited) for service to the Lord.  He prophesied over their lives in the dedication part of the service with complete accuracy, telling people about themselves that he could not have possibly known (including the strangers among them, of which I was one).  After the dedication, he began to heal those who were sick.  Broken bones were mended.  The crippled and infirm stood up, jumped up and down, and praised God.  He drove out demons, calling them by type or name, and released people from their control.

This was a first for me.  Never had I seen someone operate with the power of God in such a way.  Then he made good on his promise that anyone can do these things.  My wife had recently had a concussion, and went up for healing.  After being healed, a man with a broken ankle went up for healing.  Looking around, the guest speaker at the revival service spotted my wife, and said to her, “Come here – YOU lay hands on him!”

My wife, in faith, walked over, placed hands upon the man’s ankle, and was told by the guest speaker to command the ankle to be healed, and say it with authority.  My wife did exactly that.  And then the most amazing thing happened – my wife said that under her hands she felt the bones of his ankle moving around and mending!  The guest speaker asked the man to walk around, and he did.  He could now jump up and down on it.  My wife doesn’t have the spiritual gift of healing.  She was just being faithful to the Word of the Living God, and He responded.

The following morning, I decided, in faith, to put this to the test.  My wife suffered (past tense!) from hypothyroidism.  I laid hands on her neck where the thyroid was located, and prayed, “In the name of Jesus Christ, thyroid, BE HEALED!”  I sensed the Holy Spirit of God tell me to command it to “BE HEALED!” two more times.  But, how do you take a thyroid for a walk?  Later that evening, after putting on her bed-clothes, my wife said to me, “I’m hot.”  The only way that she was warm in the past was severe sickness (fever).  We took her temperature, and it was normal – almost two full degrees higher than normal.  It has been that way ever since.

WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND OUR AUTHORITY IN CHRIST

The Western church (at least, a significant portion of it) is not teaching the disciples of Christ how to engage in spiritual warfare and how to use their authority in Christ.  I will not speculate here as to why.

God wants us to be free – to live free! – for if the Son frees you, you are free indeed.  But we continue to live in bondage.  And the reason why?  One of the very core reasons of this is that we are not preparing ourselves to meet the Lord.

Proper Preparation

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

We are to be a holy people, set apart from sin, and set apart to God.  But truly, how are we set apart?  Apart from telling people the Gospel, would anyone be able to identify you as a disciple of Christ from your actions?  Are we feasting our eyes on the latest R-rated films?  Do we feast our bodies with excessive alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, or food consumption?  Can anyone tell us apart by the way we speak (not only the words we use, but how we say them)?  These are just a few indicators.  It was once said (I don’t remember who) that we should ask ourselves, “If there was a trial today, would there be enough evidence to convict you as a disciple of Christ?”

We are to be preparing ourselves as the bride of Christ.  The bride removes her old garments and puts on the wedding garment.  She waits in eager anticipation for the coming of the groom.  She preens and puts on her best makeup, perfume, jewelry, and has her nails buffed and polished to perfection.  She selects the very best shoes to wear.  She seeks to be as beautiful as possible for him, to be his delight.  If we do that just for OUR spouses, how much more so should we be doing this for The Lord Jesus Christ?

It is time that the church takes holiness seriously, and that the holy ones of God are released to do what God has purposed for them to do since before the foundation of the world.

Heart Hunger

We are to seek the holiness of God in our everyday lives.  We need to hunger and thirst for righteousness.  It is to be our heart-cry.  We are to eagerly desire the transforming work of the Holy Spirit as we grow in righteousness:

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.

Does your heart crave the word of God?  Do you long for and desire to be in the continual presence of the Lord?  Can you say, with complete honesty:

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

If not, do you WANT to be able to say that with joy?

Delightful Deliverance

The good news is that there IS deliverance from the soul-crushing rut of running into the same sins and (to a certain degree the same temptations) over and over again.  If that is how you feel, YOU NEED DELIVERANCE.  Disciples of Christ can be overwhelmed and influenced by Satan and his minions in many ways.  Once we have granted the enemy LEGAL GROUND to afflict us through unrepentant sin, curses (generational and otherwise), and ignorance of the word of God, we are the enemy’s new plaything.

There are several fine resources available to help you to shake yourself free from the grasp of the enemy (a couple of them are listed below).  If you want to live free in Christ, please take the time to read these resources, do the hard work, and free yourself:

Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

Awesome Authority

You have AWESOME authority in Christ!  With the same power in you that raised The Lord Jesus Christ from the dead (the Holy Spirit of God), YOU can live a free life, do the works that Jesus did, and even greater works than those, as you consistently yield yourself to the authority of the Holy Spirit as Jesus did when He walked the Earth two thousand years ago, and now sits at the right hand of God praying for you:

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.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question – Am I truly walking in the freedom promised to me by My Lord Jesus Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, forgive me for not taking your word at face value.  Forgive me for not believing what You have made plain to me in Your word about Your authority, my authority in Christ, and for not seeking you with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength.  Lord Jesus, help me to be the bride that is radiant and adorned with holiness, greeting You when You come for me dressed and prepared for the wonderful future You have promised to me, sealing Your promise with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Help me to tear down any stronghold that holds me captive to the lie and does not comport with Your holy word.  Help me to rely completely upon the Holy Spirit so that I would walk in Your ways.  Help me to fight the good fight, to prepare as I need to prepare, and to stand for You, even unto death.  Help me to put to death anything in my life that would keep me from following you with utter abandon.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Holy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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


Notes:  Here are two resources that can be used hand-in-hand for deliverance of demonic oppression and interference in your life.  Please note that while I may not agree with everything the authors say or live out in their lives, the information in these resources is extremely beneficial to taking off the last of the grave-clothes, and keeping them off:

The Bondage Breaker” by Neil T. Anderson

DELIVERANCE and SPIRITUAL WARFARE MANUAL” by John Eckhardt

If you have not been taught about spiritual warfare and deliverance, these resources may be challenging to both believe and read.  Set apart time to fast (a juice fast or Daniel fast if medically necessary) and pray that God would open your eyes when you read the books, protect you from interference from the enemy, and reveal the truth about spiritual warfare and His word to you as you read.

If you find that you cannot read these books (you feel pressure to not read them), pray earnestly that God would show you anything that you need to confess in your life to Him and repent of, anything in your life you need to renounce, and any amends that you need to make first (and go make them).  After this, open your Bible and begin reading the four Gospels and Acts.  If you feel reluctance to do that as well, seek out a church that will pray over you and help you with this issue (the interference of the enemy).  The body of Christ is there to uplift, uphold, bear the burdens of, and hold accountable all of us in our walk with God.

It IS possible to live freely in Christ.  Just because you haven’t experienced it yet does not mean that it is not possible or feasible:

my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge…”

Maturing in Christ – Hebrews 6:1-3

Lay The Foundation Of The Basics Before You Move On To Maturity

1 Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

Begin with Basics

Paul encourages us to move beyond the basics.  We are not to remain babes in Christ, but, like teenagers, move on to maturity.  However, we do need to start with the basics.  Paul lists several of the basic principles of the Christian faith:

  • foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God
  • instruction about cleansing rites (they are no longer needed, since Christ has cleansed us with His shed blood)
  • the laying on of hands
  • the resurrection of the dead
  • eternal judgment

Each of these is important, as they are part of the foundation upon which we build with Christ as our cornerstone.  Without the cornerstone and basic foundation, the rest of the structure that we build will not be sturdy, straight, and sufficiently load-bearing.  Paul used these analogies because the average person at the time of his writing would have understood them and their relation to the spiritual truths he was attempting to convey.

Apprehend your Authority

The next step in this process is to understand who we are in Christ.  One of the reasons disciples of Christ in the Western world seem impotent in their endeavors (not all, but many church bodies don’t seem to have the impact that they should) is that we do not understand our authority in Christ.

The average Christian either does not understand or believe all of the verses in the Bible.  If we truly believe something, we will act upon it.

“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.”

This verse is to be tempered by remembering that Christ completely yielded Himself to the Holy Spirit, and only did what the Father was doing, and only said what He heard the Father say:

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.

4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

We are to be submitted to God.  When we are submitted to God, listening to Him, and obeying His commands, whatever we ask will be given us.  And the reason it will be given us is that our focus will be upon the Father’s work, and what we ask will be to the Father’s glory:

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Step in Subservience

The only way to successfully walk the walk of being a disciple is to walk in obedience to God.  We hear this over and over again.  Why?  Because it is FOUNDATIONAL to our victory over sin as well as maturing in Christ.

If we were to go out every night and drink ourselves into a stupor, sleep in until the afternoon, and basically do whatever makes us feel good in the moment, people would look at us as though we were children.  Only children don’t understand or take hold of responsibility.  Only children put up temper-tantrums when they don’t get their way, and refuse to do what they know they need to do because of petulance and self-righteous anger when they don’t get their way.

Until we get to the point where we fall on our knees and say,  “Lord Jesus, Thy will be done in my life”, and we truly mean it and seek His will in our life every second of every day, we will be less than optimally effective for Him in our service to Him.  Will we ever get there?  No.  We have a sin nature.  Even Paul said he wasn’t there yet:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

Possess your Plot

God has assigned to each of us our work to do.  We need to seek God and get our marching orders.  In the case of the Israelites, they were told to possess the land of Canaan.  God went out before them and drove the wicked inhabitants out so that they could claim the land that God had given to them.

In the same way, we are to possess the land that we have been given.  We are to conquer the sins that so easily beset us.  We are to understand, use, and become proficient with the spiritual gifts that God has given us.  We are to plug in and yield ourselves to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are to grow in holiness and understanding of the Word of God.  We are to become fully mature, do our work, and mentor those who are not as far along as we are.  We are to seek others to mentor us.  And we are to walk with those who can act as accountability partners.

There is significantly more that we should do.  But just like the Israelites, we are to take a little land at a time, inhabit it, fully possess it, and move on to conquer more of the land that God is preparing for us.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Have I matured in Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided victory of sin for me in Jesus.  You have made it possible to live in righteousness before You.  You have given me the opportunity to grow in You.  Help me to fully mature in Christ.  Help me to be a workman who is well-trained in how to use Your word.  Help me to overcome the sin that so easily besets me.  Give me victory over my flesh and the enemy of my soul.  Bind Satan and his minions that they would be unable to react as I plunder their dominion – to seek the lost and to tell them the Gospel.  Grant me victory today, and help me to be fully yielded to the Holy Spirit that I may honor and glorify Your name.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Staying Babes in Christ – Hebrews 5:11-14

We Are To Mature, Not To Stay Babes In Christ!

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

Spiritual Splendor

The word of God is full of the spiritual meat.  It provides guidance for every aspect of life, in every situation.  And while the word of God does not specifically say, “I want you, <Your Name Here>, to go to such and such a city and get such and such a job and do such and such a ministry…”, it does provide guidance for every area of our lives.

Psalm 119:105 says that the word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path.  There is just enough light to see the cliff, or where to put our next foot.  We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit through faithful and fervent prayer to God to get anything close to a longer-term indication of what we should be doing (further than our next footstep).

In the word of God, as we mature, we begin to understand the deeper truths of walking in step with God in our spiritual life.  God reveals wonderful nuggets of truth that help to transform our lives from merely adoring children into prepared adults, making mature decisions, walking confidently in His guidance and being resources to those who are still maturing in Christ.

Stop Shuffling

Everyone who has been walking with God for more than five years (and for many, perhaps even fewer years…) should begin to mature in Christ.  Paul says something very interesting here.  He gently scolds the Hebrews (and us!) for their passivity in failing to pursue a more complete understanding and comprehension of the spiritual truths of God, and even says, they are no longer even trying.

Many people believe simply that since they are saved, God will take care of their spiritual feeding through divine revelation through the Holy Spirit.  But God says to seek Him with ALL of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  God greatly desires that we mature, just as parents everywhere, wish that their teenagers WOULD JUST GROW UP ALREADY…

There is a great frustration among parents when they watch their 18, 19, 20, 30 year old children act exactly like that – CHILDREN.  There is an expectation that their children would mature, and then do something productive with their lives, not live in their parent’s basement until they are 50 only eating junk-food, watching TV, and playing video games all night with their friends.  In the same way, God desires that His children mature, stand strong, and do the works that He has prepared for them to do since before the foundation of the world.

Fabulous Feast

The good news is that as we mature, we have a veritable feast available to us to feed upon.  As a child, we grow and develop feeding on the rich milk of our mothers.  But there comes a time when we need additional nourishment in order to grow our bodies.  ONLY drinking milk (or not eating or drinking anything else at all…) will eventually cause malnourishment in our bodies.

In the same way, by feeding upon the “meat of the word”, we become nourished, strong, and able to do the work that we need to do.  Those of God’s people who are not seriously seeking him through prayer, reading his word, and seeking out an understanding of his word (its meaning and application in our lives, as well as implementing it as part of our daily routines) are on the path to spiritual malnourishment, as well as being weakened for the enemy of our souls, to pounce upon us, overpower us, and devour us.

As we feed upon the word of God and pray, we grow strong.  There is an amazing cornucopia of delights as we delve deeper into the word, and our lives are transformed by its principles and guidance.  Cheetos and milk duds may taste good for a snack, but what is better than a ten course meal with all of the trimmings to satisfy your hunger?  The word of God is like a good Amish buffet – wholesome, tasty, satisfying food, always with new varieties, to fill us, tantalize us, and give us strength as it satisfies our hunger.

Delightful Discernment

Those who truly are babes in Christ should feed on milk until they begin to mature, being able to distinguish the difference between what is good and what is evil in the sight of the Lord.  Just as adults don’t exclusively drink milk, we don’t feed steak to a baby that has no teeth!  As we train ourselves, though the transforming and renewing of our minds in the word of God, we are better equipped to understand and implement the deeper truths of the word of God.

We should all seek to want to feed upon the meat of the word, so that God would be able to use us in a greater capacity.  God is able to use anyone in Him in any way that He chooses.  He, however, is more easily able to use those who are mature in greater ways than the infants.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I as mature as I should be for the length of time that I have spent as a child of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for your patience, mercy and grace.  Give me a heart that constantly seeks after You, and greatly desires to grow and mature towards holiness.  Help me to get out of any spiritual ruts that I may be in, and to pursue You as the cheetah pursues its prey.  Provide me with strength, guidance, resources, and good mentors so that I can become who You desire me to be.  Help me to overcome any strongholds in my mind that may be keeping me from seeking to grow.  Help me to turn my eyes more fully upon Jesus, and look full in His wonder face so that the things of this world will grow strangely dim.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

The Great Commission – Acts 26:15-18

You Have Been Saved For A Purpose

15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?'”

” ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. 16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'”

Seeking Servanthood

When Paul had his encounter with the Living God, he was first directed to be the servant of the Lord Jesus.  The first concern of God after people come to him is to follow Him and to serve Him:

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

In a culture where we are told every moment of every day that it is all about YOU, this seems to be a foreign concept.  After all, if it is all about ME, why should I care about any of YOU?  This is a tool of Satan as he attacks our minds:

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.

This three-pronged attack is very effective at distracting us from being effective servants of the Lord.  If Satan can get us to desire fleshly things, or covet with our eyes, or fill our hearts with pride, he can effectively destroy our walk and ministry for the Lord.

Servants have no rights of their own; their master is Lord over them.  Many of the letters in the New Testament start with the author identifying themselves as bond-slaves of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself said:

25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Worthwhile Witness

A great deal of Christians, when witnessing to the lost say, “God has this wonderful plan for your life” or “Escape the fires of Hell!”.  And while both of these are true, we are to be telling people that God desires that people know Him.  We are to tell people what God has done for us in our lives – to free us from the bondage of sin, and to give us the opportunity to live life in victory.

We are to show that we are living lives in victory.  That is how Paul and Silas were able to sing hymns at midnight after being beaten with rods and thrown in jail, resulting in the jailer and his family coming to know Jesus as Lord.  Many have come to faith through the faithful witness of disciples of Christ after people see the peace they have in their lives through difficult time, terrible illness, and other distress.

Smash Strongholds

In order to live our lives in victory, and to help others live in victory, we need to break down the strongholds in our lives:

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

These strongholds are arguments and pretensions that we have in our minds that are contrary to the revealed word of God.  Just a couple of these (certainly not an exhaustive list!) are:

LegalismThere is no law against love

Our works earn us a place in heaven – It is by grace alone through faith that we are saved

God can’t forgive me of my sins, they are too great – If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive them

We can have strongholds in our lives about finances, sex, and any other number of topics.  God, through His word, is the only authority for all aspects of our lives.  He created the universe and us.  He knows everything there is to know about us.  He knows what will harm us and what will prosper us.  And since Jesus is the embodiment of Truth, we can trust what He says is correct.

Show Salvation

We are to tell of God’s salvation to the lost.  Before witnessing, we are also to pray that God will open the eyes of the blind and that the deaf might hear so that the lost will see the goodness of God, and the free gift of salvation.

By being faithful servants, who have been freed from the bondage of strongholds and pretensions in our minds through the word of the Living God, we are then able to go and do what we have been commissioned to do – make disciples of all nations.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I a faithful servant to Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious, and Your beauty is beyond description.  You shower us with your mercy and grace every moment of every day.  If I only knew just how much You provide for me and protect me from, I would not be able to get off of my knees in praising You.  Father, open my eyes to the strongholds in my life that keep me from being free to serve You as You desire.  Show me in Your word the truth that I need to see in order to shake myself free from the bonds that I have created.  Bind the works of Satan, and help me to be free, for since Jesus has freed me, I am free indeed.  And Father, please send me to people, or send people to me, that I may witness of what You have done in my life, that You would be glorified and that others would know of Your love for them, that they too might be freed and be saved.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

National Sovereignty and God – Nehemiah 13:1-3

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

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

Enlighten Everyone

My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

Unconditionally Unite

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

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

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

United we stand, divided we fall – Aesop

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

Practice what you Preach

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

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

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

 

 

Responding to the Word of God – Nehemiah 8:9-12

Don’t Just Read The Word Of God – Respond To It

9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.

10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.”

12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

Massive Mourning

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

As we read the word of God, our hearts should react.  The Israelites who were gathered before Ezra when Nehemiah was the governor over Jerusalem after the wall was rebuilt in fifty-two days experienced great mourning when they heard the word of God read to them.  Jesus indicated that this was to be our state of heart as well when we hear the word of God and we realize that we are falling short of it.

The word of God is not merely words inspired by God and written by men for us to give historical records and inspirational thoughts; rather, the word of God is living and active:

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

The word of God is able to show us exactly who we are in our inward attitudes as well as our outer words and deeds.  Scripture is able to accurately pinpoint the weaknesses and failings in our character, thought processes, and beliefs.  It is able to do so because it is both alive and absolute truth:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

When our hearts respond to the word of God, we are ready to be trained by it.

Supernatural Strength

Nehemiah records that the ordeal in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem was taxing on the people.  Anyone who has been under the threat of violence, where working with one hand and your other hand on your weapon is not a very peaceful ordeal.  The Israelites experience this even today on a near day-to-day basis with the threat of suicide bombers, shootings, beatings, and missiles being directed towards them.

The last thing that God’s people needed right now was to become overwhelmed with dread at the thought of just how far short they were from the glory of God.  Nehemiah commanded that the people not grieve on this day, for it was holy to them.  They were to embrace the joy of the Lord.  This is their strength, and our strength as well.  God has sovereignly paid for our sins with the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.  Our natural response is to mourn over our sin.  But we should then embrace the joy of our salvation, for it is in that joy that we have strength.

Pain, suffering, misery, mourning, and many other physically and emotionally draining situations sap our strength from us.  When we have joy in hope (the certainty of outcome, not wishful thinking), we are able to look at these difficulties and put them in their proper perspective.  Until we are able to grasp the joy of the Lord, we will be subject to the storms of emotion.  Life is hard.  For many, life seems impossible.  When every breath is a challenge, and the situations of life threaten to rob every aspect of normalcy in life from you, only the joy of the Lord can lift you out of the pit of despair.

Stay Still

The Levites (the Levitical priests) had counseled the people to be still.  Elsewhere in the word of God, that phrase is used as well:

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

But what does it mean to “be still”?  One of the best translations of this phrase is “cease striving”.  As humans, we have a desire and drive to do things our way.  We tend to rely upon the gifts and resources that God has provided to us rather than on the provider of the gifts and resources.  When we rely upon God, we will cease striving.  Our hearts will “be still”, for we will be expectantly waiting for God to act, rather than acting on our own.

Cheerfully Celebrate

God had done a mighty work in and through those who had rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem.  The Israelites were told to celebrate this great victory that God had given to them.  Do we take the time to celebrate what God has done in our lives?  Do we publicly acknowledge the victory God has given us over our enemies?  Do we embrace the joy of the Lord in such a way that it is winsome to others?  How we respond to what God has done and is doing in our lives is very important to God.

Embrace Erudition

All of this was very important because of one thing: the people had understood the meaning of the word of God.  We too should seek and embrace the word of God and its meaning in our lives.  Learning the word of God should be foremost in our minds:

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

[Blessed is the one…] whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
“Because you have rejected knowledge,
I also reject you as my priests;
because you have ignored the law of your God,
I also will ignore your children.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living in the joy of the Lord?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your joy is made complete in me through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for my sins.  Thank You for this gift, and for Your joy.  Help me to know Your word and to embrace Your word in my heart and my mind.  May Your law be on my lips when I first wake in the morning until I go to sleep at night.  Help me to understand Your word better so that I can live it out in my life.  Help me to cease striving, and to fully receive Your Spirit without measure.  Give me the desire and ability to die to myself so that the Holy Spirit can display Your character through the life that You have provided to me.  Help me to rely upon You more each day and less upon myself.  Help my heart to be attuned to Your word and Your direction so that I might live in a way that pleases You more.  Forgive me for my sins, and help me to have a heart that is sensitive to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Understanding God’s Word – Nehemiah 8:4-8

Seek Out God’s Pastor/Teachers To Better Understand God’s Word.

4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.

5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

7 The Levites—Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan and Pelaiah—instructed the people in the Law while the people were standing there. 8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.

Reverential Respect

In an insightful view of ancient worship, Nehemiah records the gathering of ALL of the people who were able to understand the law of God in Jerusalem after the wall was rebuilt.  After he opened the scroll (the book) of the law, the people stood up.

God is a holy God.  He desires, and deserves, our respect in all things.  In the same way that our Earthly fathers desire respect from their children, God desires (and more rightly deserves!) our respect.  Standing up when God’s law is about to be read is a way to show that respect.  It shows that we are attentive to it, and that it deserves our full and undivided attention.

Powerful Praise

Ezra next praised our great God, YHWH.  In response, the people raised their hands and responded with “Amen, Amen!”  This meant “truly, truly!”  It is a sign of acknowledgement and agreement with what is being said.  We hear it and we do it.  But how often do we think about it?  How often do we take the time to truly ponder how we respond to God and His word?

Wonderful Worship

The people then bowed down and worshiped God with their faces to the ground.  Do we show the same respect for our Father in Heaven?  Are we willing to bow down and worship the King of kings and Lord of lords?  Is our view of God so high that we bow down with our faces to the ground?  Do we give everything in worship to Almighty God, or do we merely acknowledge Him with words?

Concisely Convey

Due to the lack of modern convenience of sound systems and, in that location, a parabolic-shaped theater setting, the Levites (designated priests of God amongst the Israelites) were spread in the crowd of those gathered.  As they read the word of God to the people, they made sure that the people understood what was being read.

Reading without comprehension is filling time, or even giving lip service to the material being presented.  To honor the author, we should take the time to ponder and understand what the author intended for us to get out of their writing.  The Levitical priests, as they read God’s word, made certain that the people understood what was being read to them.  They took to the time to explain the full meaning of the law of God.

We need to understand what we are reading so that we can apply it in our lives.  When we read God’s word, and then don’t understand it, we may say “wow, that was interesting”, but what effect will it have on our lives?  How will it draw us closer to God and each other?  How will it penetrate our hearts to show us ourselves?  The word of God can only act as a mirror to our soul, properly reflecting what is there, when we can see what is in the mirror.

It is imperative that we seek out teachers of God’s holy word who have a clear and accurate understanding of it.  The selection of our teachers will greatly influence our understanding and application of the word of God.  And while God will certainly honor our attempts to live out what we know, He greatly desires that we understand His word more and more each day, so that we can participate in His character, and know Him more fully through living out His word in our lives.

Today, take the time to re-read the section of scripture that you read, and see if God reveals more about it to you, or more about you to yourself.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I take the time to fully understand the meaning of scripture that I am reading?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have graciously recorded for us the history of Your people and how You have interacted with them.  Thank You for Your diligence in doing so.  Help me to better understand Your word so that my life can be transformed from what it was into what it should be.  Help me, Holy Spirit, to better understand the word of God.  Show me where in my life that I need to make changes so that I will better honor You, Lord God Almighty.  Help me to take more time, and do more research, so that I will have a fuller, richer, and accurate understanding of what I am reading.  Help me to put it into action, for Your word is living and active an is able to help me to recognize my innermost feelings and desires.  Help me to align my heart with Yours, Oh God!  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Hunger for God’s Word – Nehemiah 8:1-3

When God’s Word Is More Important Than Food Or Drink

1 all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.

2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.

Community Call

After God sovereignly helped Nehemiah and the returned exiles rebuild the wall in fifty-two days (amidst threats of physical harm from their enemies, threats of false reports sent to the government, and spies leaking intelligence of their progress to everyone who would try to stop the work of God), the people wanted to hear the word of God.  They told Ezra that they wanted to hear from the God who had helped them.  Should not our first response to assistance from Almighty God be to seek our benefactor out to hear what He has to say?

Everyone Enjoined

The group gathered wasn’t just a few who wanted to hear; this was the entire community: men, women, and everyone who was of the age and with the capacity of understanding God’s holy word.  The people didn’t have to be coerced into going, or enticed with anything apart from the desire to hear from their God.  If only all the people who call themselves “Christians” had this same mentality – to eagerly desire and hunger for the word of God and its understanding…

Daybreak Determined

Ezra didn’t wait until after everyone had the opportunity to get plenty of sleep, and leisurely get ready to be present at the reading of the word of God.  Ezra began to read at daybreak, when it was light enough to read in public without the assistance of light from man.  Not only did he start reading the moment that he could, EVERYONE was gathered and was ready for him to read the law of God the moment that he could.

First Fruit

They gave up the first fruit of their day – the first half of their day – to hear the law of God.  There was nothing more important to them than hearing and knowing God’s law at that time.  In our modern fast pace of life in the Western World, how many people would willingly gather from daybreak until noon to hear the word of God, let alone be attentive to it for the first half of the day?

Conscientiously Concentrate

The Bible records that the people listened attentively to the law of God as it was read.  How do we fare with that?  When we read the word of the living God, do we listen attentively to what it is saying?  Do we just skim over it and fill ourselves with the good feelings that we have accomplished our reading (daily or otherwise), and move on with our day?  Do we take in and comprehend the deeper truths of scripture?  Do we apply what we have learned?  What level of comprehension, let alone implementation, do we allocate and achieve for this most important task?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I so hunger after God’s word that I would stand outside for the first half of the day just to hear it?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I say in my heart that I love You, and that Your word is more important to me than anything else.  Help me to truly mean it my following through with my actions.  Give me the desire, ability, and follow-through to spend more time in Your word and with You each and every day.  May I more greatly desire the bread of life and living water than my own portion of food and drink each day.  Help me to have such a longing in my innermost parts that I cannot wait to open Your word and dive deep into it.  Like David, help me to pant like a deer for water for time with You.  Help me to put everything in perspective, so that I can honor You in this way.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

God’s Favor – Isaiah 61:1-3

God Displays His Favor Upon His Son

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion-
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

Faithfully Fulfilled

God has faithfully fulfilled many of His promises to us already in scripture.  Jesus Christ fulfilled the first part of this scripture.  He has indeed fulfilled it:

“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.”

Jesus proclaimed that He was there to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, not to abolish them.  Jesus faithfully fulfilled all that was prophesied about Him, down to the minutest detail.  He perfectly fulfilled all scripture about Himself so that the Father could be glorified and so that God would not be mocked, for He is not a liar like men.

Bind the Brokenhearted

Jesus promises to bind the brokenhearted.  And oh, how many woes await us each day!

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

It is a good thing that Jesus has overcome the world!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

God restores what was broken and lost.  Even though there are consequences for our actions, God is able to restore and bring order and peace into chaos and unrest.

Proclaim Parole

God has freed the prisoners!  We were held in a prison of darkness, because we could not see the light.  Jesus is the light of the world.  Now that we have seen the light, we can join Him in displaying the light.  Lies and deceit keep us from seeing the truth.  Jesus IS the truth:

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

Jesus doesn’t just model truth; He IS truth.  “The Truth” is a title, not just a reflection of reality.  Jesus is the only accurate model of unvarnished truth that we have.  God has been gracious to proclaim freedom from darkness by sending The Truth into the world.  Now that The Truth has come, we are without excuse.

Value and Vengeance

God has pronounced His favor upon us.  By sending His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment for our sins as He was tortured and crucified, He has given us great mercy and grace – great favor.  He has done so much more than we can imagine!  We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing!  We are more than conquerors in Christ!  No weapon formed against us will prosper, and we will refute every tongue that accuses us, since this is our heritage and vindication from God!  Regardless of our circumstances, we have been greatly blessed!

But there is a flip-side to this.  For those who refuse to accept the Lord’s favor – His mercy and grace, there will be a terrible day of vengeance.  God, after doing everything that He could possibly do to win His image-bearers back over to Himself after His enemies try to drag them away, will eventually need to show the next portion of His character – JUSTICE.  God is a perfectly just God, and He will rule and reign in righteousness.  God cannot abide evil (rebellion against Himself), and He will, after exhausting every effort, bring forth the penalty for disobedience to a perfect and holy God – first, physical death, and finally, eternal separation from Him – complete spiritual death.

Comfort and Console

God greatly desires to comfort and console those who are grieving over their sin.  He will give us oil of joy instead of mourning and a crown of beauty instead of ashes (used by the culture at that time to show great anguish in grief, mourning, and sorrow).  God has provided us, though the sacrifice of the perfect lamb of God, the promised Holy Spirit as our down-deposit for our inheritance.  We have Him to console us, to comfort us, and to guide us.

Towering Trees

God sees us through the robes of righteousness of Christ that have been imputed to us (legally declared to be ours).  As such, He sees us as Oaks of Righteousness.  He sees the righteousness of Christ rather than our filthy rags.  Just like a bank account, we may not see the money, but it is there, registered in our name.  Given the vast wealth of righteousness that is afforded to us through Christ, should we not then incorporate more and more of it into how we live?  Should we not display this immeasurable (spiritual) wealth just as we show off our homes, cars, jewelry, and other items that we seem to hold dear and treasure?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I take the time to try to grasp just how truly rich I am in Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your generosity is beyond my comprehension.  You have given us uncountable wealth in Your Son, Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice for us.  Help me to better grasp just how far and wide Your love is for me.  Help me to internalize it, and to rejoice in it, as the cares of this world continually claw at me to drag me down to its depths.  Give me a right understanding of Your word, that I may embrace it more and more each day.  Help me to display to the world Your righteousness, for You have declared me to be an Oak of Righteousness.  Thank You for this and for all things, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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


Notes:

*The word used elsewhere in the scripture for the Gospel means “Good News”.

**During the year of Jubilee, the captives were set free, and land was supposed to be returned to its rightful owners.  Jesus may very well have been declaring that particular year a year Jubilee as God was freeing the captives.

Holiness and God – Hebrews 12:14-17

Without Holiness, No One Will See The Lord

14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

Pursue Peace

In a world where everyone is at odds with each other, it is not always easy to be at peace with people.  Although there is great evil in the world, Jesus Christ has overcome the world.  And as ambassadors for Christ, we need to live in this victory.  This is not to say that we will be able to be at peace with everyone.  This command is completely directed at us, not at the outcome.  Elsewhere, we are told:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

This does not mean that you are to be a doormat.  Make every effort to live in peace with others.  They are responsible for their own reactions.  Otherwise, we would be their perpetual slaves, forced to do their bidding in an effort to bring peace at any cost to our relationships.

You can’t please all of the people all the time.  – Miranda Richardson

We have been set free, and should no longer be slaves to people’s desires or expectations from us or for us.  We are to instead be focused on the expectations that our Lord Jesus Christ has for us.

Seek Sanctification

We are to seek the Holiness of God in how we conduct our lives.  This is not works-based salvation, but rather a fulfillment of a Christ-proclaimed directive:

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.

1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?

2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

God is holy.  He cannot abide sin.  It is for this reason that Jesus died on the cross, that we might have the opportunity through the righteousness (holiness) of Christ to be in the presence of God forever.

Being a disciple is more than mere intellectual ascent to the creed of your master.  It is the moment-by-moment imitation of your master’s activities, thought processes, and character so that you can be as near a perfect imitation of your master.  If a person thinks their way is better than their master, why waste the time, money, and effort of trying to learn their ways?  Discipleship is the recognition that your master knows how to do whatever it is you desire to learn to do better than you are able to do it.  God knows our hearts, and doesn’t seek people looking for “fire insurance.”  God desires those who espouse a great conviction that He is holy; He is truth; He is perfect; He knows best how to do everything; and we don’t.

Assist Another

Cain asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The simple answer is, “YES!!!”  We are to look out for each other.  When we see someone else begin to falter, we are to render assistance to them, help them back up, and restore them once they have begun to walk right again.

We are to encourage one another in psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.  We are to greatly desire that each member of the body of Christ be built up in the Spirit, fully mature, and lacking nothing.  We are to agonize in prayer over this.  The world says, “Family First!”  The body of Christ needs to place this in its proper perspective:  God first, family second, everyone else third.  Let us begin to treat other believers in Christ in our local body (where we worship) as our family, just as if you were born and raised with them.  Then, after we have that down (how much less strife would be in the church if we did just that!), let us treat the OTHER bodies of disciples of Christ as though THEY were our family as well!  United we stand, divided we fall.  This is just as true today as the day it was pronounced.

Impale Immorality

Sexual immorality was just as prevalent two thousand years ago as it is today.  We are reminded that we are to put to death anything that impedes our walk with our Savior:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Sanctification is the process of the renewing of one’s mind in such a way that not only do we desire to be holy, we begin to walk in the holiness of God, accepting the consequences of our actions without regard to their difficulty.  God is character-driven.  We are to adopt and emulate His character in how we conduct the lives that He has given us.  Immorality of any type is to be rejected.  God is the one who decides what is moral and immoral, for our hearts (the root of our emotions, desires, and motivations) in their natural state are wicked, and unable to properly discern the truth even about themselves.

Rejoice for the Reward

Finally, we are admonished to greatly desire the reward that awaits us in heaven. Esau, for a meal, gave away his inheritance.  He desired the immediate gratification of the flesh over the (seemingly) far off reward of his inheritance.  Like Esau, we are impatient, self-gratifying, self-seeking, and unable to keep everything in its proper perspective.  We need to put these things to death in us.  We need to embrace the same mindset as Christ, who endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I not only long for, but ferociously seek the holiness of God in how I conduct my life every second of every day?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy, and You cannot abide sin in Your presence.  Thank You again for the sacrifice of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, so that I might have the opportunity to be in Your presence.  Thank you for the very life and breath You give to me now.  Help me to actively seek and desire the character of holiness that shines forth from You and repels the darkness.  Help me to better understand Your holiness, and the principles of character that You desire to be perfected in my life.  Sanctify me so that I might draw even closer to You.  Help me to live in such a way that You are pleased with my conduct, my speech, and my every thought.  Test me during the day, and even at night, so that I will be prepared for the great and glorious day when Your Son returns in glory.  Help me to be like the virgins who brought oil with them as they awaited the bridegroom, for our bridegroom is coming, and is coming quickly.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Waiting for the Spirit – Acts 8:14-17

No Believer In Christ Will Walk In Power Until The Holy Spirit Of God Comes Upon Them

14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Beginning Believers

There is a debate amongst the bodies of disciples of Christ in various regions as to when the Holy Spirit comes upon the believer in power.  In order to understand this, the Bible must be taken as a whole.  For instance:

These are just a few examples to illustrate the differing circumstances that surrounded the Holy Spirit coming upon someone in power.  The simple fact is, disciples of Christ will NOT BE EFFECTIVE until the Holy Spirit comes upon them in power.

Power of Prayer

Prayer is the most powerful offensive tool that the believer in Christ has in the arsenal.  We are given unfettered access to the Throne Room of God at any time through prayer.  Anything we ask in the name of – the character of – Jesus, God the Father will do so that He may be glorified.

In this case, Peter and John went to Samaria to greet the new believers there.  Notice that the very first thing they did was pray.  John the Apostle was known by the nickname “Camel Knees” because he prayed so much!  Peter and John first prayed that the Holy Spirit would come upon the new believers (in power).  After bathing their requests in prayer, they acted upon their belief.  They laid hands upon the new believers.

Holy Hands

When they laid their hands, bathed in prayer, upon the new believers, the new disciples of Christ received the Holy Spirit in power.  They recognized from their own lives, having to wait until Pentecost to receive the Holy Spirit, that the new disciples would be ineffective until they had received the Holy Spirit.

The laying on of hands was to designate someone for a specific purpose or task.  When hands were laid upon the new believers, they received the Holy Spirit in power to provide them with the necessary means to be effective in ministry.  Each of us should greatly desire that the Holy Spirit come upon us in power.

If you are not sure if the Holy Spirit has come upon you in power, you should earnestly pray that God would do so.  Examine your life to see if you are living it in a manner that is pleasing to God.  Confess all sins, and repent of them.  Eagerly seek and desire the deeper understanding of the Bible and God’s will in your life.  God greatly desires that His people are ready and prepared to do the works that He has assigned for us to do since before the foundation of the Earth!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s as a question:  Has the Holy Spirit come upon me in power?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious and full of grace.  Father, please help me to walk in Your ways.  Forgive me for my sins.  Help me to turn away from them and leave them at the foot of the cross, for Christ has born them already.  Help me to better understand Your word, that I would be able to live this life in line with Your word more and more each day.  May the Holy Spirit come upon me in power, that I would be prepared to do the works that You have prepared in advanced for me to do.  Strengthen me as You did when the apostles laid their hands upon the believers.  May You and You alone be glorified in what You are about to do.  This I ask in the name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Baptism

baptism-complete

The Bible clearly teaches that baptism is the first step of obedience after surrendering to Christ: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Baptism allows a believer to communicate to the world their heart-felt commitment to Christ. It shows that they have decided to put Christ at the center of their life, after coming into life-changing relationship with Him. Baptism is an outward picture of what has already taken place on the inside of a person. Being baptized does not make you right with God, but it shows others that you have already trusted in what Christ did for you on the cross. Like a wedding ring in marriage, the action of baptism is a symbol of a commitment made, a declaration to others of the love and devotion you have for Christ.

Baptism FAQ

What if I’ve already been baptized? Do I have to do it again? 

Many people’s parents had them baptized as infants or children, and although we believe that those parents were doing what they thought best as a way to dedicate their children to the Lord, the Bible only gives examples of adults who made that decision for themselves.  So even if you were baptized as an infant, we’d love to see you take this step of obedience to declare for yourself that you wish to follow Jesus with your whole life.

Does it matter whether someone is sprinkled or dunked? 

Following the examples given in Scripture, we baptize by immersion (Mark 1:9-10). If you have a medical condition which prohibits full-immersion, please let us know and we will discuss alternatives with you, so you can still take this public step of obedience to Christ.

My child wishes to be baptized – what age does Grace Church baptize at?

If your child is 8-13, we’ll ask you to schedule a meeting with our Pastor prior to scheduling a baptism date. We typically do not baptize children under 8 years of age, because we want to make sure your child understands the abstract significance of baptism. We would, however, be happy to schedule a Child Dedication service, where you can publicly dedicate your child to the Lord during a Sunday morning service.

Our Core Values

subpage-master-core-values

As we fulfill our vision, we are guided by these values from the Bible…

  • Lost people matter to God. He wants them found. Luke 19:10
  • Prayer is the primary work of the people of God. Philippians 4:6-7
  • Everything we have belongs to God. We are His stewards. 1 Chronicles 29:14
  • Knowing and obeying God’s Word is fundamental to true success. Joshua 1:8
  • Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully devoted disciple. Matthew 28:19
  • Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish nothing. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5
  • Achieving God’s purposes means taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change. Hebrews 11:6

Our Vision

 

Businessman looking to the future with telescope

To be a Christ-centered Acts 1:8 family.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
-Acts 1:8

 

 

Spiritual Warfare and Fasting – John 9:14-29

When Confronting Certain Spiritual Powers, Prayer and Fasting Are BOTH Required

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.

17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer [and fasting*]”

Mental Mayhem

The modern world, especially in the West, has turned a blind eye to its roots, and now discounts the validity of demonic possession and oppression among people.  It was once said that if the Gospel were told to those in psychiatric wards, most of them would be healed and set free (author unknown).  Paul indicates that spiritual battle is not with people, but with the spiritual ranks of the enemy:

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

Here we see the evidence of demonic activity:  A demon was causing a young boy to do things that were detrimental to his and other’s safety.  The father of the boy even identifies the source of the issue as a “spirit”.  Since God’s spirit is a spirit of love, this is obviously a spirit of the enemy – of the nature of Satan.

Fact Finding

Most people would think that the first thing that Jesus would do is just command the spirit to leave the boy.  But since Jesus is our teacher, He guides us in how we should address the issue.  Jesus knows the truth about this (“I am the way, the truth, and the life…”), but for our benefit (just like He asked John to baptize Him even though He never sinned, to set an example for us to follow) He shows us the first step – engage in a little fact-finding.  Jesus asks the father about the boy to get a better understanding of what is going on.

Be a Believer

Notice that it Jesus was looking to strengthen the faith of the father of the boy.  Even in the midst of this, Jesus is on a mission to seek and save the lost.  Jesus reassures the father of the boy that all things can be done for those who believe.  We need to remember that when confronted with the activity of the enemy of our souls that has manifested in such a sinister way, we are to use these opportunities to help others to strengthen their belief and trust in God, or to instill a trust and belief in God.

There are two ways that demons can directly afflict people:

  1. Demonic POSSESSION
    • If a person does not have the Spirit of God within them, they are subject to the god of this world, Satan.  Once a person is freed from the control of any demons, they need to seek God to fill them with His Spirit:
    • 24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

  2. Demonic OPPRESSION
    • Christians are sealed with the blessed Holy Spirit.  Once the Spirit of God has taken residence in a Christian’s body, He locks all the doors and keeps everyone else out.  This does NOT mean that Christians cannot do things to give the devil a foothold in our lives.  For instance, if Christians willingly participate in divination (witchcraft, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, casting of lots, etc.), this can open a door through which the enemy of our souls can torment us and cause us much grief.  This is not demonic POSSESSION, but rather OPPRESSION.  While it may FEEL like demonic possession, the Holy Spirit of God seals us against such an opportunity.  Turning towards the occult can make us vulnerable to believing the lies of the enemy, which can then cause havoc in our lives.

The enemy of our souls can also indirectly afflict us by sending thoughts into our minds to try to influence us.

Name the Name

The name of something is very powerful.  It reveals the nature of it.  Notice that Jesus doesn’t just say, “demon come out of him”.  Jesus commands the evil spirit by its very nature.  This is important, because it more specifically identifies who/what is causing the issue(s).  Jesus elsewhere has commanded evil spirits to name themselves for this very purpose:

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”

9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.

11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Command and Control

Jesus then commands the evil spirit to come out of the boy.  He doesn’t ask it, he doesn’t plead with it.  He commands it.  We are to do the same in the name of Christ.  All authority and power resides in Jesus, not in us.  Jesus has said that we would do what He has done and even greater things.  All authority has been given to the disciples of Christ to do these very things to glorify the Father.  When people who are not God’s try to do this, they do not have Christ’s authority, which can be detrimental to their well-being:

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

Fasting Faithfully

So, what to do when faced with an evil spiritual entity that won’t listen?  First remember that where two or more are gathered, there God is in the midst.  Make sure that you have at least two mature, prayed-up, and fasting disciples present when confronting such a one as this.  Fasting draws a person closer to God.  By denying the flesh its wants and desires, the spirit of a man can draw even closer to God.   Make sure that when fasting, and especially for this purpose, that all known sin is confessed and repented.  Let there be nothing that any evil spirit can charge against you.  While a water fast is good, a hard fast (no food nor water) may even be better.

We cannot make ourselves any more presentable to God, for the righteousness of Christ does that.  By fasting, we are crucifying the flesh so that the spirit can draw even closer to God to do God’s will.  When a person has fasted and prayed up, the demon may even flee in the presence of the holiness of God as He shines through you.

Once the person is in their right mind, and the demon or demons have left the person (either come out of them or fled from their presence), talk with the person to have them identify what issue has occurred that allowed this in the first place (sin for the disciple of Christ, or lead that person to the Gospel of Christ, who is probably now in a better position to hear, understand, and accept that God needs to be in control of their lives rather than the enemy of our souls).

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I drawing close to God as I should?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have promised Your children that You would never leave them nor forsake them.  Forgive me, Most Holy God, for my every sin.  Reveal to me where I have been disobedient to You, so that I may confess my sin, renounce any spiritual activity that is not of Your nor approved by You, and please close every door that I may have opened in this process.  Help me to live in Your freedom, for if the Son sets me free, I am free indeed.  Help me to draw as close as I can to You, that I would be as far as I can from doing what the enemy of my soul desires for me to do, so that You would be honored and glorified.  Prepare me as the sanctuary for Your Spirit, pure and holy, set apart for You and You alone.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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


*Notes: This blog has been edited for formatting and punctuation.

“And fasting” does not appear in all the texts.  However, this is a tried and true method to draw the disciple of Christ closer to God.  When the flesh is crucified, the spirit can flourish.  In spiritual warfare, this is especially true.  The value of fasting is very evident in the life of Jesus AND His disciples – “when you fast…”  When confronting these issues, engage a more seasoned Christian who has experience in this field.  Or contact a Christian group who can point you to someone who can guide you in how to proceed (Focus on the Family offers counceling and assistance with all manners of Christian issues – 1-800-A-FAMILY / 1-800-232-6459)

The Faithfulness of God – Micah 7:18-20

God ALWAYS Keeps His Word

18 Who is a God like you,
who pardons sin and forgives the transgression
of the remnant of his inheritance?
You do not stay angry forever
but delight to show mercy.
19 You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
20 You will be faithful to Jacob,
and show love to Abraham,
as you pledged on oath to our ancestors
in days long ago.

Perfect Pardon

Unlike men, God is perfect in all His ways.  When God pardon’s our sin, He pardons it completely.  It is as if it had never happened:

as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

God no longer holds our sin against us.  We who are in Christ, who have believed upon the name of the One and Only Son of God, have been cleared of all charges – past, present, and future.  God greatly desires that as former criminals we be reformed and act as He would desire, just as man wants former criminals to be reintegrated into society in a lawful and peaceful way.  Sanctification is the tool that allows that to occur.

Faithful Forgiveness

God is not a liar.  He is incapable of lying, for God IS truth:

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

God is completely faithful to forgive anything that we have done, anything we bring before Him.  We must, however, turn from our sin and turn towards God.  When we ask for forgiveness and then immediately (and WILLFULLY) go back to what we were doing, we are basically like the child who says to dad and mom “I’m sorry (that I got caught, please spare me the consequences of my actions, I’ll be more careful to hide what I am doing from you going forward).”

God greatly desires to see us walk in His ways.  His faithfulness to forgive frees us from the fear of punishment that the un-Godly will encounter.  God is faithful in all things, for His very nature – His character – allows Him no other course of action when we approach Him in good faith, no matter how many times we stumble and fall.  Will a loving parent reject a child who falls down and skins their knee when trying diligently to walk carefully and cautiously?  If we would not, why would God?

Abated Anger

We are created in the image of God.  God has emotions.  He gets angry.  But God’s anger only lasts a little while.  God will not turn His face away from us forever in His anger.  God will not turn His face away from those who are faithful to Him.  He delights in His children.  God tells us to be angry and do not sin.  He also tells us that we should not let the sun go down on our anger.  God is NOT a hypocrite like men.  If God tells us to do something, will He then not model it for us?

Moved to Mercy

God’s heart is a heart of mercy.  Knowing that we are unable to do what He commands us to do, He took it upon Himself to pay our debt.  In His great mercy and compassion, He sacrificed His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to bear our iniquity and to receive our just and due punishment upon the cross.  He now has legal authority to show us mercy.  God greatly desires for all of us to come to Him.  But without His mercy, we are unable to do so.

God’s mercies renew every morning:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

We fail to remember the mercy and compassion of God because the enemy of our souls, when we transgress God’s law, tries to convince us that God will not forgive us.  It is that much more important that we seek out God and his mercy that we may be free from the bondage of sin – our guilt.

Fully Faithful

God is faithful in all that He does.  He cannot be unfaithful, for His very nature relies upon it.  Imagine that God’s faithfulness wavered.  Would not everything that He did be tainted by that?  Imagine if gravity only worked some of the time, and it was completely unreliable, working and not working randomly.  What would happen?

In the same way that we can trust that the Sun will rise every morning, that the Moon will rise every night, that the stars will cross the sky, that God is faithful in each and every thing He does, and in each and every promise that He makes.  God has made many promises to Jacob about his inheritance and descendants.  God will keep each and every one of these promises faithfully in just the right time and in just the right way so that God will be praised and glorified to the utmost degree.

Profound Pledge

God has pledged to Abraham millennia ago that He would love his offspring, care for them, and make them so numerous that they would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky:

17 “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

God does not lie, and He does not make promises that He cannot keep nor will not keep.  God keeps every pledge He makes, no matter how long He takes to fulfill it.  Since He has prophesied through His prophets about these things, He fulfills them at just the right time.  And the time has come when God is calling all men to Himself.  His angel has gone out into the world and proclaimed the Gospel to all nations. He is gathering His people as He promised to the land He gave to their ancestors, and He is bringing all things to a close.  Seek Him while you may find Him, for time as we know it is about to end.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I relying on the faithfulness of God through my trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are completely faithful and trustworthy.  Nothing and no one can cause Your plans to fail.  You have carefully engineered through millennia the circumstances that have brought about each and every prophesy that You have given to us.  Your word will stand now and forevermore.  Help me to trust You completely in my pain through my trials.  It is very hard to do so because of the lies of the enemy.  Stand strong for me and with me as I overcome all things in Your strength.  Give me everything I need to grow through my trials, and comfort me as I fend off the stinging rebukes of my enemies.  Holy Spirit, plead my case before the Father, and pray for me, for I don’t know how to pray through these things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Prayer Meeting Devotion (March 22, 2017)

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”
James 4:8a

It is interesting to watch people gathered around a campfire. They will sit close to the fire until they warm up, then they scoot away when they get too hot. But as the fire dies down, they get cold and slide closer to the flames again. We like a comfortable temperature – give me 72 degrees at all times, right? campfire_t610

I find the same principle at work spiritually. We like to stay a comfortable distance away from the presence of God. We certainly do not want to be so far away as to be spiritually cold. But if we get too close, it gets uncomfortable. God starts pruning us. He starts convicting us. So we scoot back to our comfortable distance.

Can I urge you to press in deeper with the Lord? To draw closer to the fire of His presence? To get as close as possible to Him?

Prayer Meeting Devotion (March 15, 2017)

“Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards
are in blossom.”

-Song of Solomon 2:15

For most of us, it will not be the big sins that do us in. Most of us will not commit moral failure. We will not find ourselves in prison for tax fraud. For most of us, it will be the little foxes that undermine our relationship with Jesus. It will be time wasted in front of the television. It will SBZpair-723256be time spent on our favorite hobby. It will be time on Facebook. It will be time at the gym. None of these things are bad. However, it is very easy to allow those things to subtly choke out time in the presence of the Lord in prayer and His Word.

Would you be willing to let God reveal to you the little foxes in your life? The little things that are not wrong, but still crowd out time we could give to Jesus?

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

The Word Of God Penetrates The Deep Areas Of The Heart

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

Heart and Honor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teach and Train

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

Talk and Travel

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

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

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

Sleep and Stand

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Effects of the Curse – Romans 8:18-25

Creation Groans In Anticipation For The Return Of The King

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

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

Eager Expectation

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

Forcefully Frustrated

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

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

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

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

Bondage to Blight

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

Great Groaning

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

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Flesh vs. Spirit – Romans 8:5-14

Living According To The Flesh Leads To Death

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

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.

Fleshly Failure

Carnal Christianity is a danger that faces the every disciple of Christ.  The world, the flesh, and the devil try to draw us away from the Spirit of God through the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.  In the United States, the blessing of God has provided a petri dish where it is easy to focus on the pleasures of the flesh.  Financial prosperity clouds the judgment, and can provide an environment where people can forget that it is God that provides.  Culture seeks to please the flesh, rather than the Spirit, and leads people into every manner of evil.  Moral Relativism, self-actualization, Secular Humanism, the media, the entertainment industry, and advertisements all seek to draw people away from reliance upon God to reliance upon self, or the goods and services that are for sale.

Spiritual Specialization

Disciples of Christ are called instead to submit to the Spirit of God.  This is how we know that we are in Christ.  For the flesh desires what the flesh wants, and what our spirit wants is contrary to the flesh.  The Holy Spirit of God woos us through the word of God, gentle prodding and encouragement.

Yielding to the Spirit gives life.  Even though the flesh is subject to death because of the curse through the disobedience of Adam, the Spirit gives life, and life abundantly through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Though the flesh may fail, the Spirit gives us life.  The Spirit can do this because of righteousness.  God is holy, and cannot abide rebellion to righteousness.  When we submit to the Holy Spirit, He conforms our desires to pursue righteousness instead of that opposes that which is righteous.

Careful Commitment

If a person claims to be:

  • A child of God
  • Saved
  • A Christian
  • A disciple of Christ

then they have an obligation to submit to the Spirit so that they will grow and draw close to righteousness, for the image-bearers of God should not be bearing the image of any other.  Salvation is not fire-insurance; it is the opportunity to be reconciled to a holy and righteous God.

Just as a criminal who claims to be reformed should act reformed, so should we as redeemed sinners.  What good does it do a criminal who has been freed to go back to the same life that they lived before?  Their actions will certainly catch up to them, and they will face judgment again for what they have done.  In the same way, disciples of Christ have an obligation to allow the Spirit of God to conform us to the life that lives in harmony with God.

The signature evidence that a disciple of Christ is a true child of God is that their life gives evidence that they are being led by the Spirit of God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s as a question: Am I being led by the Spirit of God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for the opportunity to draw close to You.  Thank You for giving me Your Holy Spirit to lead me, teach me, guide me, encourage me, convict me, pray for me, and advocate for me.  Father, help me to walk in righteousness before You.  The temptations of this world are strong, and I pray for the strength to resist their pulls on my life, and the wisdom to recognize that which will cause me harm.  You have provided the things on Earth for our pleasure, but to be enjoyed, not worshiped or pursued.  Help my heart to also pursue You first.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Enemies of Israel – Isaiah 17:12-14

Great Destruction Will Come Up Against Those Who Oppose Israel

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

Reckless Roaring

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

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

Regal Rebuke

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

Terrible Terror

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

Guarantee from God

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cherish Commandments

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

Prolong Presence

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

Peace and Prosperity

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

Labor in Love

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

Noble Name

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moral Value of Wisdom – Proverbs 2:1-11

Morality Is Rooted In The Wisdom Of God

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

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

Desire Discernment

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

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

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

Wonderful Wisdom

Knowledge and understanding come forth from the mouth of God:

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

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

Powerful Protection

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

Divine Discretion

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

Umbrella of Understanding

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation

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

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

The Value of Labor – Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

Work Is A Gift From God

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

Subtle Satisfaction

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

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

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

Gift of God

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

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

Wonderful Wealth

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

Loathsome Labor

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

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

Meaningless Maneuvering

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Developing Discernment – Proverbs 1:10-19

Don’t Gain The Whole World Just To Lose Your Soul

10 My son, if sinful men entice you,
do not give in to them.
11 If they say, “Come along with us;
let’s lie in wait for innocent blood,
let’s ambush some harmless soul;
12 let’s swallow them alive, like the grave,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we will get all sorts of valuable things
and fill our houses with plunder;
14 cast lots with us;
we will all share the loot”-
15 my son, do not go along with them,
do not set foot on their paths;
16 for their feet rush into evil,
they are swift to shed blood.
17 How useless to spread a net
where every bird can see it!
18 These men lie in wait for their own blood;
they ambush only themselves!
19 Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
it takes away the life of those who get it.

Wicked Works

Solomon, the wisest man to ever walk the Earth (with the exception of Jesus Christ), penned these words to help his son, and us, to glean from the supernatural wisdom that God imparted to him.

While it may be obvious to many that aligning ourselves with wicked men (and women!) is to be avoided, the wicked acts of men are readily seen and understood.  It is the more subtle acts of men that do not seem on the surface to be wicked that we are to avoid as well.

Wicked Words

Men (and women!) have learned how to play on the fears of others to get them to do what they want them to do.  The modern term is social engineering.  Most people will respond to someone who speaks in an authoritative voice to them, because they have been taught by their parents to be respectful and obey authority.  Although that may no longer be the case with our youngest generation, we react this way naturally.  Other types of psychological manipulation are used by these people as well.

Men (and women!) will also try to lure us into doing evil things by making good sound evil, and evil sound good.  They will play on our desire to “get ahead”, or fulfill a need in a way that does not honor God.  Humans have a natural capacity to justify our actions when our consciences bother us.  We avoid pain as much as possible, and we are then placed in circumstances where we will have to make a (often life-altering painful) decision to honor God, or go another way.

Wondering Why?

There are many reasons why we should avoid the advice of wicked people.  Solomon lists several:

  • Their feet rush into evil.
    • Rather than seek God to honor him with their minds and hands, they rush headlong into evil, both ignorant of its eventual outcome, as well as the consequences here in the physical realm.
  • They are swift to shed blood.
    • These people care nothing about each other, nor others.  They are swift to shed blood, as long as it benefits them somehow.  They do not have any concept of the value of human life, and may even traffic in it so that they can gain wealth and power.
  • The consequences are that others will see our actions plainly.
    • These people think that they are operating in darkness, when their deeds are made plain to the world!  But the question becomes, does the world even care?
  • The outcome is that they figuratively (and sometimes literally) shed their own blood!
    • Rather than do harm to their intended victims, they harm the very people they are attempting to protect – themselves!  Like Esau, they spurn their inheritance and gladly trade it for a little physical comfort.
  • Their eventual end is that they have ambushed themselves towards a specific end.
    • Their eventual outcome is that when they die, they cannot take their ill-gotten gains with them.  They must then face Almighty God before the White Throne Seat of Judgment, and pay at that time the most steep price imaginable – their eternal soul – for what they have done in the flesh.

Death and Destruction

The eventual outcome of these people is that they face death and destruction of their souls.  Discernment is required to avoid the schemes that others use to try to entice us into doing what they want us to do:

The only way to avoid these schemes is to put on the full armor of God, spend time with God in His word and prayer, and learn to discern when to spurn that which will burn.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I rightly discerning good and evil?

A short prayer of preparation

Father in Heaven, You are pure, holy, without blemish or spot.  You greatly desire all people to walk in holiness and righteousness before You.  Help me to rightly discern when others are trying to do me harm.  Help me when I inadvertently find myself cornered by the deeds of wicked men intent on destroying me, my family, my career, or my character.  Father, protect me from the wickedness of others, and help me to see Your wisdom, will, and way so that I may keep myself and my family from harm’s way.  And when You do allow wicked men and women to place me in circumstances that I did not willingly choose, I pray, Father, that You would deliver me from them just as You delivered Peter from the jailers.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Praise the Lord – Psalm 148:7-14

EVERYTHING Under The Earthly Heavens Should Praise God

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

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

Praise the Lord.

Earthly Encounter

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

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

Present Praise

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

Excellent Exaltation

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

Prominent Position

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

Supreme Strength

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

People of Praise

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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