Character Development – 2 Peter 1:5-11

You Will Know Them By Their Fruit

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

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

Creating Character

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

Character progresses through four stages:

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

Powerful Properties

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

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

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

Always Advancing

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

Becoming Blind

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

Confirm your Calling

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

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

Rich Reward

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

God Reveals Himself – Psalm 18:25-27

God Reveals Himself Experientially

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

Opportune Observation

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

Experiential Encounter

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

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

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

Relational Relevance

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

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

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

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

Participatory Providence

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

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

Disciplinary Danger

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Compromising in Fear – 1 Samuel 21:10-15

Fear Drives People To Do Crazy Things

10 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. 11 But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:

“‘Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands’?”

12 David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.

14 Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? 15 Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”

Calamitous Compromise

Compromise has a tendency to lead to our ruination.  In David’s case, it saw him descend into such low depths that he went and camped out in enemy territory, even acting insane because he feared for his life.  It didn’t help that Saul was looking to kill him.  But it bears looking at the life of David to remember why compromise can ruin our lives.

Sometimes difficultly will find its way into our lives.  Saul had sent out the equivalent of the Airborne Rangers and the Navy Seals to go find and eliminate David.  When the best of the best is out to kill you, it can drive a person to fear.  And when we act in fear, we begin to compromise.

Embedded in the Enemy

In an effort to be free of the constant hounding by Saul, the king of Israel, David went to Gath.  The first sign that you are “off the rails” in compromise is when you believe that it is safer in enemy territory than where God has planted you (apart from direct revelation from God that it is time to flee).  Any time we begin to compromise, we set ourselves up to be placed in a situation that will require even GREATER compromise.  Upon hearing that he was recognized, and rightly so for his prowess in battle, David begins to act counter to his heroic nature.  Instead of hiding in caves, he does something worse – he hides in plain sight.

Distasteful Deceit

David begins to act insane.  He knows that he will most likely be left alone if he appears to be a non-threatening, drooling idiot.  Rather than inquire of God for what he should do, David takes it upon himself to try to provide his own protection through compromise.  And while it surely saddened God that David was acting this way, David looked to himself first and took matters into his own hands.

We compromise any and every time that we believe we have a better chance at success than God does.  And while most of us are certainly are in no position to criticize David, God was gracious enough to give us his example so that we could learn from it.  God had successfully hid other people from harm many times in the past:

Careful Consideration

Every time that we take a step in compromise, it leads us down a dark path.  As we walk farther away from the truth, it becomes more murky, and we find that it becomes easier to do things that, under normal circumstances, we would never even consider doing.  People in desperate times have eaten their own children during sieges to stay alive.

So what can we do when we are faced with compromise?

  • Turn our eyes upon Jesus.  He is the one who is our strength and shield.  Not every encounter with the enemy allowed the righteous to live (read the second half of Hebrews Chapter Eleven), but they faced death with dignity and brought great glory and honor to God in how they handled themselves.
  • Pray to God for wisdom.  Oftentimes, we are blind-sided with great difficulty that demands swift and immediate action.  Sometimes, we are so emotionally overwhelmed, that our first instinct is to act and not to ask.  That is when it is most dangerous.  There is certainly a time to act before asking (YES, pull the little girl out of the burning car first…)
  • Pray to God, asking for strength to do what is right.  There will be times when our enemies have backed us into a corner.  They have maneuvered us into what appears to be a no-win situation.  But when we hold steadfast to God, and refuse to compromise, God may yet deliver us from our difficulties.  And when we refuse to compromise (do what is evil in the sight of The Lord God Almighty), no matter the consequences, God is greatly honored and glorified.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with compromise, and possibly terrible consequences, what is my first reaction?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, there is no evil in You.  You do not compromise Your goodness in any way for any reason.  Give me strength as I face the consequences for doing what is right in Your eyes.  Uphold me before my enemies, and let them know that I fear and revere You more than I do anything that they can do to me.  Give me a steadfast heart that always seeks You, Lord God.  Help me to overcome any fear that the enemy is trying to place in my heart, and to boldly step out in faith.  I may not survive, Lord, but I know in my heart that You will be honored and glorified in this.  Help me to have great peace as I face difficulty, and I know, Father, that You will reward faithfulness to You, if not in this life, in the next.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

The Dangers of Deception – Proverbs 26:18-19

Satan Is The Father Of All Liars And Deceivers

18 Like a maniac shooting
flaming arrows of death
19 is one who deceives their neighbor
and says, “I was only joking!”

Just Joking

Have you ever been angered at what someone did, and their response was, “I was only joking!”  The good news is that this isn’t a new phenomenon – this has been going on for millennia!  The phrase “I was only joking!” is born out of the inspiration of the one who instigated the situation in the first place.  It is born out of desperation to justify the actions in the mind of the person responsible, as well as an attempt to pacify the anger in the intended recipient of the actions.  It is little consolation for the pain, heartache, and anger that result from the damaging situation that has just occurred.

Dangerous Deception

No one likes to be deceived.  There is an inherent desire in each human being to know the truth, and be told the truth.  Even when society and culture places snares all around us with the false promise of “happiness”, the moment that people take the bait and compromise themselves, the very people who placed the snares are the very first to point the finger and impugn their victim’s character, applying labels to destroy their reputations.  The motivations for doing this are many, too many to discuss here.  Some of the more obvious and insidious motivations are that people are looking for salacious headlines, they are trying to destroy a political opponent, or possibly even are out for revenge in vengeance.

Deception is very dangerous.  When discovered, it breaks the bonds of trust that we share with each other.  It makes it harder to develop trust with others in the future.  It sets up a stage where the economic potential of people can be adversely affected.  Deception undermines the unwritten rules of societal interaction.  And the very act of deception is born from a self-serving desire to manipulate the circumstances of others in order to gain a more favorable advantage in those circumstances.

While there are some people who actually receive great pleasure from the ability to deceive and rejoice in the consequences that others find themselves when they believe the lie, most people in their core feel shame once they have deceived another.  The writer of this Proverb likens the person deceiving as a maniac who randomly shoots flaming arrows of death.  That is a powerful word picture!  Only a maniac would shoot arrows, let alone flaming arrows of death, randomly into a crowd.  Deception affects more than just the person or persons who are the intended target; it affects the lives of everyone around them, and potentially, the lives of people who the targets will interact with in the future.  Deception does not only change the circumstances of the victims, but also of the perpetrator.

Satanic Source

Do not be deceived: it is Satan who is the father of all who lie and deceive:

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

Deception is the application of the art of historical revisionism, i.e., lying.  There are many forms of deception:

  • The exclusion of facts necessary to make a good judgment concerning a situation and that falsely and adversely affect the true nature of the situation
  • The alteration of existing facts to fit a particular narrative so that it favors a particular person, entity, or cause
  • The fabrication of information that does not have any basis in fact whatsoever
  • The promotion of an alternative “truth” to salve our own conscience – the art justifying our actions

There are many more ways to deceive.  The Bible says that we are so evil, we invent new ways to sin.  And when the scholarly and lawyer-like ones among us look at a list, sometimes our very first inclination is to look for loopholes in the wording to see if there is a way we can get away with it and still adhere to the letter of law while murdering the spirit of the law.  And in even that, the Bible proves true when it states:

10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Eventual End

The eventual end of deception is that we obscure the truth, and in doing so, reap the rewards of what we have sown.  Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.  He is the embodiment of truth, and in truth, there is no deception.  Truth sheds light on all that is evil, wrong, wicked, and deceptive.  The continued practice of deception will eventually cause us to have a seared conscience – a state where we are no longer able to recognize that some action we are taking is evil.  Those who lie and deceive do not have the truth in them, and they will eventually face judgment before the white throne seat of God.

But thanks be to God in Jesus Christ!  For He has overcome, and in His very public death, burial, and resurrection, through a perfect life, died for our sins so that we could be reconciled to the Father.  If you are caught in deception or deceptive practices, turn to God, confess your sin, and seek the help of The Lord God Almighty who does not desire that anyone perish, for Jesus has been sent to pay our penalty for sin.  Turn to the One who can save you, forgive you, redeem you, and change you through His great and mighty Spirit.

While there is breath, there is hope.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I engaging in deceit in any of my dealings with others, or even myself?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy, and no sin will be permitted in Your presence.  Even now, we cannot look upon Your face, for we would surely perish if we did.  Thank You for Your love, grace, and mercy that You pour out into my life each and every day.  I know that I don’t deserve it, but I am grateful for it.  Show me, Father, where there is deception in my life.  Forgive me for my sin, and help me to do what is right in Your eyes.  Restore my conscience to a sensitive level, that I would know immediately when I am in danger of sinning against You.  Give me joy instead of sorrow, and help me to live in truth rather than the bondage of lies.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

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

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

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

Model the Master

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

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

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

Traitors of Truth

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

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

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

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

Earthly Enlightenment

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

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

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

Anticipate His Appearance

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

Tremendous Transformation

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

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Standing with God – Psalm 112:6-10

The Righteous Will Never Be Shaken

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

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

Standing Strong

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

Fearlessly Faced

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

Total Triumph

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

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

Generous Giving

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

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

Villains Vexed

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

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

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

Longings Languish

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Trust in God – Matthew 1:18-25

Sometimes Trusting God Will Place You In Very Awkward Situations

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Social Scandal

In the birth of our Lord Savior, we have (yet another) scandal.  The seed of Abraham preferred that their line be “pure” – that all of their family be of the line of Israel.  Jesus’ line has some interesting bumps in the road:

  • Rahab, a prostitute in the walled city of Jericho who helped the spies of Joshua, was the wife of Salmon.  Together, they had a famous son – Boaz
  • Ruth, the Moabitess, was the wife of Boaz.  They bore a son, Obed, who also bore a son, Jesse.  And his son was none other than King David – a man after God’s own heart.

In just two generation of the family tree of David, who was anointed by Samuel at God’s request to be the second king of Israel, we see intrigue and scandal.  Talk about your “skeletons in the closet”!   But these were Godly women who feared God, and to them it was credited as righteousness.  God is able to use anyone for His purposes as He sees fit.

And now for the latest scandal.  Even just a half a century ago, it would have been major scandal for a young woman to be found pregnant out-of-wedlock.  The shame of it drove many women to flee their homes and stay hidden until they could have the baby, often giving it up for adoption before returning to their family.

But in this case, God had appointed this very awkward event in prophecy.  And Mary did not hide, but rather endured the social maelstrom that ensued.  Gabriel had announced that she had been chosen, and she was fully submitted to the will of God.  Sometimes that means great personal sacrifice and loss.  In this case, public opinion must have been fiercely harsh towards Mary.  Yet she endured it all in wonder, for God had ordained it, and she believed God.

Honorable Husband

Now, place yourself in Joseph’s place.  Traditionally, after getting engaged, the husband-to-be would go off and build the home where the newlyweds would live in anticipation of the blessed union.  Imagine at that time coming home, and finding your wife-to-be pregnant.  What to do!  Joseph had options at his disposal.  He could have her stoned for this “alleged” misconduct.  By being pledged as Joseph’s wife, Mary was effectively classified as married for the purposes of adultery.  Joseph could very publicly end the marriage.  But Joseph, being a man of God, in his heart determined that rather than cause Mary any more difficulty, chose to divorce her quietly (end the engagement).

Imagine if you were in the military and sent off to a foreign land, ready to be married, and come home to find your wife-to-be pregnant.  How would you react?  Imagine how you would feel.  Imagine the character and self-restraint that it took for Joseph to even consider handling this quietly.  This took great courage and character.

Angelic Announcement

But God…  Those two words are the source of great amazement.  Just as it seemed that all would be ruined, God sent an angel down to counsel and command Joseph.  Notice how the angel greets him:

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

In this, the angel invokes the royal line of David as the line of the Messiah.  Imagine his relief in finding out that what Mary has told him is true – this is of the Holy Spirit of God.  Imagine the relief in finding out that Mary has been faithful to him.  Imagine the dread of the social storm that is upon them.  Imagine his apprehension, being chosen by God to be the surrogate father to his Savior.  And imagine his joy and wonder, knowing that the time has come for God’s promise to be fulfilled, now in his very lifetime.  And imagine this happening all at once.

Faithful Father

And even in the midst of this, Joseph proved himself to be a man of God.  The angel commanded him to take Mary as his wife, for he was charged with naming his first son Jesus.  And as was the law, the firstborn son was to be dedicated to God.  How fitting that Jesus, the firstborn son of Joseph and Mary, the Son of God, be dedicated to the Father.  And Joseph, being the man of God that he was, fully embraced the responsibility that was placed upon his shoulders.  He passed the test with flying colors.

Now let’s take a look at a few of the events that transpired to make this blessed event come off at the appointed time and in the appointed way.  Imagine if Rahab had not protected the spies of Joshua.  Imagine if Ruth had gone back to Moab rather than stay with Naomi and later listen to the odd commands of Naomi (who now claimed the name Mara, which means bitter), as she carefully planned the circumstances of courtship between Ruth and Boaz.  Imagine if David had refused to be anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel.  Imagine if Mary had said “this is too much for me to bear” to Gabriel instead of announcing herself as God’s servant.  Imagine if Joseph had succumbed to social pressure and left Mary as a stay-at-home, unwed mother.  In each and every case, these people were tested by their circumstances, and their character triumphed as they chose to honor God.   Regardless of the scandals in our lives, and the circumstances that we find ourselves in, we too must exhibit great character.  Who knows what interesting things will come about as we submit ourselves to the will of God!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  How far am I be willing to go to endure great loss and scandal to be obedient to my Lord and Savior?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, with our lips we praise You, and with our lives we worship You.  Remember me that in every decision that I make, that You are always at the forefront.  May every word I speak, thought that I have and embrace, and action that I take reflect Your character, Your love, and Your sacrifice.  Help me when I feel pressure from anyone or any circumstance to deviate from Your express will.  Strengthen me, especially in my moments of weakness, that I would continue to honor and glorify your name, regardless of the pain, loss, or difficulty that I encounter.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Witnessing for God – Matthew 10:26-33

Do Not Fear, For God Will Reveal All

26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

Forgo Fear

Most people feel fear.  We are greatly concerned about the unknown.  We dread change, and know that there will be consequences to our actions and inaction.  Jesus tells us here that we have nothing to fear.  John clarifies this in his letters saying,

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

When we are in the Father’s love, there is no need for fear.  We can be assured that God will take care of everything, even if we are, as lambs, being led to the slaughter.  God has already provided for the eternal salvation for our souls, and we can look forward to spending all eternity with Him.  Because of this, we no longer need to fear men nor death.  God has provided in perpetuity for all of our needs.  We can then focus on what He desires us to do:  obey Him in submission to His Spirit, relating the revelation of Him and His Son through His word.

Relate the Revealed

God desires that we relate what He reveals to us through His word and His Spirit to the world.  He desires to be known by all people:

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Our job is to speak the word of God to anyone and everyone who will listen.  Some will plant seeds, some will water, but it is God who gives the increase.  Sow seed everywhere, and let God do with it what He desires.  Our job is to spread the seed; God’s job is to prepare the soil and grow the crop.

Our Creator Cares

In our distress, we may sometimes feel like God doesn’t care about us or our situation.  Nothing could be farther from the truth!  God greatly cares about all of His children, and He has been actively pursuing them in every place where they live.  For Jesus Christ allowed Himself to be impaled upon the cross nearly two thousand years ago for our sins while we were yet sinners.

Jesus reminds us here that He takes great care in all of His creation.  He is aware of everything that goes on in it.  He provides for the smallest of birds, the sparrow, who are worth very little in the eyes of men.  He reminds us that nothing can happen to them outside of the express will and consent of The Lord God Almighty.  And if He cares so much for the creatures that are of little worth, how much more will He care about us?  He cares so much that He knows how many hairs are on each of our heads.  While that seems strange, it is to imply that there is nothing too insignificant about us that He does not know about or care about.  We take great care and delight in knowing the smallest of details about the ones that we care about.  God does the same, only to a degree that we are unable to even fathom.

When we are tempted to believe that God doesn’t care, it is merely the enemy trying to sow discord, dissension, and distrust in our hearts towards God.  He has been using the same tactics from the very beginning of man – tactics that have been successful for millennia.  After all, what did he say to Eve to entice her to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil?

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Do not Disown

Finally, Jesus gives us a warning.  We are to acknowledge Him before men.  When we do this, He will acknowledge us before the Father.  And if, in fear, we choose not to acknowledge Him before men, He will not acknowledge us before the Father.  We must decide once and for all that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God, and that He is the one who saved us from our sins.  We must decide that no matter what happens to us here on Earth, our lives are bound with His.  Our very actions are the litmus test of our faith.  Faith without works is dead.  We must realize that what we do is a far stronger witness than what we say we believe.

In more modern terms, talk is cheap.  What we do reflects our true character and beliefs.  We can lie to ourselves and say that we believe and are fearless; however, when we are faced with our very mortality, what will we choose to do?  Decide now, for our actions will determine whether we are being truthful to ourselves and faithful to God.  Be prepared for what is to come, and trust in the Lord God Almighty who has numbered every hair on your head.  For He will follow through and take care of you, even in death, when by both your words and your actions you acknowledge that Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, is Lord of your life.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do my actions match up with my profession of faith in The Lord God Almighty and His Son, Jesus Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are to be praised and honored, for You are faithful in all that You do.  You have shown us through Your Son that You love us and have loved us, even when we were Your enemies.  Give me strength, endurance, and character this day so that when I am presented with the opportunity to magnify and glorify Your name, that I will not hesitate to do so.  Help me to acknowledge Your Son, Jesus Christ, before any and all men, regardless of the consequences.  Help me to prepare my heart for what may come, and trust in Your character and power to see me through anything that I may encounter.  Help me to be faithful even in death, Father God.  This I ask in the name and character of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Trust in God – Psalm 56:3-7

The Wicked Twist Our Words And Malign Our Motives

3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise-
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

5 All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
6 They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
7 Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.

Fear is Folly

David recognizes that his heart fears certain outcomes.  Like a man trapped in a burning building with no place to go, the anticipation of the pain of his flesh being consumed by fire is not pleasant.  David recognizes that to fear man is folly.  After all, what can mere mortals do to him?

Train to Trust

Instead, David had trained his heart to trust in God.  God and God alone is the one who can save us, deliver us, provide for us, protect us, and vindicate us.  David lets us know that the first place that his heart went during his times of fear was to trust in the Lord God Almighty.  David made it a practice in his mind to direct his will to trust in God when his emotions were overwhelming him with fear.

When we place our trust in God rather than in men, riches, idols, or even ourselves, we can rest in the peace that God gives to us that defies understanding.  God greatly desires that we come to Him first with our problems and our difficulties.  He knows about all of them, but desires a greater dependence from us upon Him as well as a strengthening our relationship with Him.  It is in times of great distress and need that we see exactly who or what we trust in.  David chose to make God his first option, and he was rewarded for it with the praise of God:

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

Warping Words

One of the tactics of the enemy is to twist the words of their opponents to misrepresent their position or their intent.  This enables them to attack the person by turning attention on their enemies.  This tactic is also used by those who practice the art of sleight of hand (magicians).  They intentionally misdirect your attention to where they want you to look so that you will not see what they are doing.  It provides them with cover to do all sorts of mischief.

For instance, let us say that two people disagree on something.  Person A believes that they are correct in believing that the sky is falling.  Person B says that the sky is not falling, that the droplets of water coming down are rain.  If person A wants to misdirect others concerning person B, they could characterize the words of the person B as disparaging them with regards to some aspect of their physical nature rather than with a philosophical or factual/observational disagreement.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that person A has greatly increased melanin in their skin, and person B does not.  Person A could then say it is because of their skin color and racial prejudice that person B disagrees with them.  This deflects from the true reason that the disagreement has taken place, and positions person A as a victim of racism and person B in the position of racist.  This type of posturing and twisting of words evokes an emotional response from both person B and anyone who hears the argument.  The mere re-characterization of the argument as one of race rather than fact/observation deflects the requirement for person A to defend their position and assassinates the character of person B.  In this scenario, it is a total win for person A:

  • Public trust in what person B is saying is now destroyed through the accusation or racism
  • Person B’s position is seen as the position of a racist, and since it is characterized as such, may be rejected on this basis rather than on any factual or scientific basis
  • Person A no longer has to defend their position in fact or science, and receives sympathy from the public, regardless of the validity of their position
  • Person A’s standing in the public as a victim of a hate crime bolsters the emotional support of the public for anything else person A has to say
  • Person B is unlikely to challenge person A’s positions any longer, knowing the societal cost that they will have to endure should person A falsely accuse them again.

Terrible Tactics

David lists some of the other tactics that his enemies have used against him:

  • Their every scheme is for David’s ruination
    • Their lives have become consumed with ways to discredit and ruin David.  This is the act of vengeful people.
  • They conspire against him
    • They use their collective resources to act in a way to entrap or otherwise cause David to fail.  A favorite tactic of the enemies of God, they look to the past to dredge up anything that their enemy may have done that can be used to embarrass him, disparage his character, or cause public opinion to be soured against him.
  • They lurk about
    • Imagine having someone follow you every second of your day, recording what you say and do, looking for anything they can use to take out of context to give you a bad name.  Welcome to David’s life.
  • They watch his very steps
    • If David breaks the law unknowingly, they will be there to witness it, accuse him of it, and see that justice is swift (usually with paid witnesses).

Judge with Justice

David consoles himself in the character and nature of God.  He remembers that God is a holy, righteous, and just judge.  David calls upon God to remember the wickedness of his enemies, and to judge the nations.  David’s enemies have failed to grasp the love of God as displayed in His mercy and grace towards them, seeking only the destruction of God’s chosen servant, David.  Rather than take matters into his own hands, David rightly gives his life into the hands of the living God – He who is righteous and will deliver him from all evil.  For those who have been justified by God, who can bring an accusation against him?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with enemies, who or what do you turn to first?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is You who have redeemed me from the miry muck.  You have cleansed me of my sin through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Since You have removed my sin from me as far as the East is from the West, no one can lay a charge against me.  Give me shelter and sanctuary when my enemies seek to destroy me.  Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.  Protect me from those who seek my ruination, who conspire against me to assassinate my character.  For I am found in Christ Jesus, and it is His character and His name that I take, and it is His name that they smear and disparage.  Give me strength to endure, and may Your love be displayed in my thoughts, words, and deeds, as my enemies surround me to do me harm.  Blessed be Your name, Lord God.  Amen.

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

Love of God – 1 Corinthians 13:4

Nothing Is Impossible With God

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

Patient Persistence

In this well-quoted passage, Paul talks about one of the defining character strengths of God – Love.   The first aspect of God’s love is that it is patient.  Because of our sin nature, we are naturally impatient.  And, in recent times, we have taken this to a new level, almost making it an art form.

We have instant coffee, instant potatoes, microwave ovens, Gbps internet bandwidth, instant banking, instant (fill in the blank).  Just about every aspect of our lives denotes the very nature of our impatience.  People are so focused on the moment that they fail to take the time to wait in line.  On the roads in the United States of America, cars whiz by each other as fast as possible and change lanes without regard to the safety of themselves or others on the same road.

But God is patient, waiting for years – possibly decades – with a full-on assault of kindness and blessing to lead us into repentance with Him.  And we can barely stand still long enough to say “Amen!” when a prayer is offered.  Patience is a lost art in the Western world.  Yet it is the very first characteristic of love that is delineated by Paul in this great treatise on love.

Keeping up Kindness

It’s the little things in life that make the day go by easier and more smoothly.  Kindness is listed next in the characteristics of Godly love.  The primitive church disciples of Christ were known as chrestos, or kind-ones.  It was mistakenly believed that they were being called Christians because they followed Christ.  In reality, they were just so kind, that they stood apart from the world.

The chrestos ministered to a dying world in an amazing way.  When Roman citizens would throw their babies into the river to get rid of them, the chrestos went into the river, rescued them, and raised them as their own children.  When plague and sickness invaded cities, everyone fled, but the chrestos rushed in, providing comfort and care to those who were suffering, often dying of the very diseases that they were helping others to overcome.  Such was the life of kindness displayed in the primitive church.

Evading Envy

Having said what love was, Paul now tells us what love is not.  Love is not envious.  Envy is a terrible sin.  Desiring the property, relationships, wealth, position, status, authority, or anything else of someone else is effectively saying that God made a mistake in not providing it to you.  Since God does not make mistakes, it is we who make the mistake when we desire what we do not have.

Banning Boasting

We also have the desire to promote ourselves, rather than God.  We seek to lay claim to His glory as our own, for it is God who enables us to do all things.  Nothing that we do is done solely by us, but rather with the express prior permission, provision, and protection of God.  We cannot take a breath of air without His help.  Christ holds all things together, and created all things.

When we boast, we are in effect saying that by our own ability something was accomplished.  Yet anything done without the power and provision of God is hay and stubble, tainted by the very nature of sin that now threatens to usurp God’s rightful claim to glory and praise.  If we must boast in something, let it be in our weakness, for when we are weak, God is strong.

Purging Pride

The three main threats we encounter in our sinful nature are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.  Pride is the seed and root of boasting, believing that we are the authors of our own destinies.  Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.  We are setting ourselves us for failure when we buy into the belief that we are the authors of anything good.

God alone is good, and we need Him to help us accomplish anything worthy of praise.  And because of our dependence upon Him, we can rightfully give all glory and honor to God.  Since God and God alone is worthy of all praise and glory, it is right to give it all to Him.  The Bible says that we will be tested by our praise.  Let us remember the source of all our power, energy, strength, and ability – The Lord Jesus Christ, who is the vine.  We are merely the branches, drawing life from the root of the plant.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I demonstrating the love of God to others, or am I adhering to the cultural norms?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have demonstrated Your love for us, in that You sent Your One and only Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the punishment for our sins.  Help me this day, Father, to bear Your image properly.  Help me to see others as You see them, and to love others as You love them.  Show me how to shed the attitudes of culture so that I can embrace Your character instead.  Guard my heart against the desire to promote myself, and help me to promote Jesus instead.  Let my life be a testament to Your glory, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and the supernatural power that You have to free us from the bondage of sin.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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


This blog has been edited for spelling errors.

Suffering with God – Romans 5:1-5

Suffering Is Good For The Soul

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

Peace made Possible

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

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

Grace of God

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

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

Honor in Hardship

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

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

Creating Character

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

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

Head towards Hope

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

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

Shedding Shame

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Character of God – Matthew 28:11-15

God Does Not Deceive

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

Honor in Honesty

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

Paid to Perjure

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

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

Corrupted Collusion

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

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Character of God – Psalm 18:25-27

God Reveals Himself When We Partake In His Character

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

Fully Faithful

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

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

Beyond Blameless

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

Perfectly Pure

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

Helping the Humble

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

Shrewdly Subdue

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Divorce with God – Matthew 5:31-32

Let No One Tear Apart What God Has Joined Together

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

Divorce is Difficult

Back in the time when Jesus walked upon the Earth, the Jews had a particularly low opinion of the permanence of marriage.  At that time, a man could divorce his wife for just about any reason.  Even if she displeased him in something small or facetious, such as burning the toast, a man could give a woman a certificate of divorce and move on to another wife.

In the United States of America, marriage has been reduced from a covenant to a mere contract.  Covenants were made to be binding in a way that compelled us to consider the agreement as sacred, sworn to by an oath before God. Contracts are merely agreements that any party can cancel at any time by paying the penalty.  There is no loyalty to the contract as people view contracts as disposable.  In the event that something better comes along, you can easily dissolve a contract.

We even have no-fault divorce.  This is a truly heinous dissolution of a covenant relationship that states that some of the parties are just tired of the agreement, even if everyone is keeping their end of the agreement.  By allowing the dissolution of this covenant with nothing more than the desire of one or two of the three parties involved (remember that God is the third party there to approve, empower, protect and provide in this covenant…), we have created a mindset that minimizes the seriousness of the oaths that were taken by all parties in the agreement.

Superior Signification

Jesus came to help us better understand the law, and showed us that there was a deeper connection in this than mere choice.  He indicated that there was no reason whatsoever that two people should dissolve the covenant relationship of marriage except marital infidelity.  Jesus later qualifies this by saying that Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of men’s hearts.  As a result, if a man divorces a woman for any reason other than marital infidelity, he was making her an adulterer.  That status and its results would be laid firmly upon his shoulders.  He would bear that burden.

And worse, by doing so, anyone who then married that woman would become an adulterer.  It was as though God did not consider the covenant relationship dissolved, and she was having an unauthorized relationship with another man.  These were serious charges, and the Levitical penalty for adultery was death to both parties.

However, to get to the root of this, we must first understand that this covenant relationship was done in God’s presence for God’s purposes.  The covenant was between one biologically male person (born with XY chromosomes) and one biologically female person (born with XX chromosomes).  Even in this, modern thought in culture has warped the definition of the covenant term “marriage” to be between any two consenting adults (and therefore removing God as the third party).

The good news is, although we can assign different meanings to words, it still doesn’t change what God has created – the marriage covenant and relationship.  Calling a rose a petunia does not make a rose a petunia – it merely clouds the understanding of the meaning of these words as people try to convince other people that they have different meaning.  Marriage is still between a biological man and a biological woman, in a covenant relationship that is made by oaths before God, and is approved and sanctioned by God.  Anything other than this is a perversion of what God has intended, and is neither approved by God nor accepted by God.

God does not join together two men in this relationship, neither does He join together two women in this relationship.  Any attempt to claim that God is approving of this and joins these people together is calling God a liar and impunes the character and nature of God by assigning qualities to God’s character that are false and fictitious.  This is especially grievous for it does so for the purposes of justifying the lusts of people who desire God’s blessing upon their choices when God has clearly indicated that He does not approve of such behavior.

Character Counts

God keeps His word.  Everything that God promises to do He fulfills in His time and His way for His purposes to bring glory to Himself (for which He is more than worthy).  We should do the same.  Compatibility in marriage has more to do with character than it does with how we feel about each other.  We grow compatibility with our spouse as we work on our marriage relationship.  Rather than succumb to the feelings that our spouse is not meeting our expectations, we should instead submit ourselves to our spouse, and pour ourselves out for them as Christ did for us here on Earth, on the cross, and even now at the right hand of God as He prays for us.

Love can conquer anger, misunderstanding, and even betrayal.  It is better to forgive and heal than it is to destroy something that God has created.  God is in the business of restoring that which was broken, defiled, and destroyed.  However, knowing these things now makes us accountable for our actions, and should urge and prompt us to do everything we can to fulfill the covenant relationship that we swore an oath before God and man to uphold.

A Qualifying Question

For those who are married, let’s ask a question:  Am I upholding my part of the covenant relationship that I swore before God to uphold?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for your word and for providing us with guidance on how to live our lives in holiness and alignment with Your character.  Father, strengthen me in my relationship with others.  Give me the ability to love my family in the same way that You love me.  Strengthen my relationships, and guard my heart against hardness when the relationships are tried and tested.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Character of God – Psalm 119:89-91

God’s Word Endures Forever

89 Your word, Lord, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.
91 Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.

Wonderful Word

God’s word endures forever.  His word guides us in our ways.  We can rely on God’s word not changing, for God is truth, and there is no deception in Him.  The steadfast nature of God’s Word helps us to remember that He is faithful as well.  We can depend upon His word to guide us in the way we should go.

The counsel of men is fallible, and can change over time.  God’s word has the perspective of eternity, providing us with a more full understanding of the character and nature of God, as well as understand His righteousness and man’s evil.  The permanence of truth is should be a great comfort to all who seek it and learn from it.

Fully Faithful

God is always faithful.  His faithfulness spans generations, and is eternal.  And even though Heaven and Earth will pass away, God’s faithfulness will not.  God will always keep His word.  When we are tempted to believe that God is not being faithful, we only need to look at the endurance of our planet to remember that God does not change.

Loving Laws

Since God’s word will not pass away, we can always be assured that He will be fulfilling His promises.  God has made us many wonderful promises that He has fulfilled and continues to fulfill today.  His laws guide us in truth and righteousness.  It is only through the law that we recognize our true condition and can turn from sin towards God.  Permanence seems to be forsaken in the world today for the less permanent wants and desires of man.  Nothing in God’s word will pass away until everything is accomplished.  We ignore God’s Holy word at our own peril.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I delight in the character of God when I am going through trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You do not change like shifting shadows, but are the same yesterday, today, and for eternity.  Help me to remember Your steadfast love as I encounter the many trials I face today.  Strengthen me in the knowledge of Your character and desire to fulfill in Your time all that You have promised.  Keep my heart continually pointed towards Yours as the difficulties of life pull at me, and help me to cry out to You for my every need.  Surround me with Your peace, and guard me in my ways.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

 

Faithfulness to God – Acts 14:19-20

Never Stop Doing What Is Right In The Eyes Of God

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

Difficult Days

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

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

Paul had some interesting trials to undergo:

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

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

Faithful Friends

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

Continue to Contend

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Can God Trust You? – Daniel 6:4

Can God Trust You to be Faithful?

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

Capable Character

God seeks to inculcate within us great character – HIS character. Our trials are designed to challenge us to rise to the occasion, and to cast aside our way of doing things in favor of doing things God’s way.  The Holy Spirit not only guides us in the way we should go, but provides the very means to do it, whether it is strength, endurance, wisdom, words, or anything else that is needed for God to accomplish His goals through us.

God greatly desires and has planned to do just that – to use His people to showcase Himself, rather than just appear as a great tower or smoke or pillar of fire as He once did for Israel.  We are to be used as His hands and feet and mouths so that His work in our lives can be displayed, rather than just signs and wonders to behold and possibly be ignored.  He seeks to have a relationship with His creation, and particularly with us humans.  This is shown in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, as well as the way that God has worked through people all throughout the Bible.

God doesn’t have a “Plan B”.  Christians are it.  If we fail to do what we are supposed to do, then God’s plans won’t be completed the way He desires them to be completed.  Even now, God must reveal Himself through dreams and visions to people who live in the Middle East under Sharia law, as the evil there is so bad that even mentioning Christ will get you beheaded.  It’s hard to get the message out when the messengers are murdered before the message is completely delivered!  Speaking of messengers, Proverbs 25:13 tells us something about the ones with good character:

Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time
is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him;
he refreshes the spirit of his master.

Trustworthy Through Trials

God is seeking men and women who are willing to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Jesus.  God needs people who are able to trust in Him to deliver them through the most difficult of trials.  Jesus experienced great hardship at the hands of men and His trials.  God appoints those who are trustworthy through trials to different positions depending on their ability and need.

God calls people to different many different responsibilities.  He who knows all things determines what and where His people should be called.  He selects them as He sees fit.

Administration Acumen

Many are selected to be leaders.  People should not seek a position of leadership without the calling of God.  The burden of leadership is great, and requires a specific personality and mentality to do it right.  Look at how many people are in leadership today that are causing so much grief to the ones that they have been placed over.  We should soberly look at this and give great consideration before accepting any position of leadership.  Remember – leaders will be judged more strictly than others because of the responsibility of their role.

Monetary Mindfulness

Some are selected to be the overseers of great wealth.  Although many (if not most) of us would say, “Sure – I’ll take that!”, it is most probable that they would fail miserably at the task.  The Bible says that if we can be trusted with little, we can be trusted with much.  Many Christians are living paycheck to paycheck.  It’s not that they don’t have enough money to live frugally and save, it is just that the call of culture and desire of our hearts is to spend the money provided to us by God on ourselves.  Many people are not fiscally prudent, nor even know how to be.  Self-control in this department sometimes seems absent, and the wisdom to know what to do with money, as well as what not to do with money, seems to be missing from many Christians’ lives.

It takes someone who have been trained by a knowledgeable mentor to understand these concepts and put them in practice.  For instance, in a perfect world, where the average rate of return on an investment is 12% per year (don’t laugh – we know times are tough and something like this is very unlikely at present), that a person that is eighteen years of age who puts $1000 U.S. into a Roth IRA investment every year for just 10 years, and leaves it alone, will have over one million U.S. dollars waiting for them at age 65 – TAX FREE.

How many people are willing to do that at that age, or consistently?  What if the return is only 8%, but they invest the maximum allowed per year every year (at this time, through two separate employers [you can be self-employed as well] a person can put in $5,500 U.S. dollars TOTAL) for just 20 years?  At age 65, they will have almost two and a half million U.S. dollars waiting for them.  Who knew?

In any case, it would be a terrible thing to have to give an accounting to God of how great wealth was lost through fiscal mismanagement or spent on personal enrichment.

Taken Through Trials

There is a reason that Jesus suggested that we pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  He Himself was led by the Spirit of God to be tested by Satan himself.  We are going to be taken through trials to purge the dross that we have within us.  We shouldn’t be surprised at the trials that we face.  Regardless of what we are selected to do, we will face trials of many kinds.  Sometimes, they can take decades before we are ready (it took God forty years to get the Egypt out of Moses before He called him to service…)  But there is one specific calling that no one wants to receive, and that God requires the greatest trust from His people .

Selected for Suffering

God trusts us with what we are able to do and won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to endure without providing a way.  God DOES give us more than we can handle so that we can grow in faith and character as we overcome our deficiencies with HIS strength, power, and ability.

One of the most difficult callings, or selections, is to be called to suffering.  God will eventually remove all suffering and pain.  Sometimes these things happen because it is God’s will that they happen and are not a direct result of sin:

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

It is very difficult for a person when God selects them for suffering.  Having to bear that tests a person’s faith down to its very core.  When the trial is prolonged (especially accompanied with excruciating pain) without help from others who support and encourage rather than assume and accuse, depression can set in, because the suffering is so great.

God greatly desires that Christians be patient and compassionate with people who have been called to this.  This does not include whiners who have a hangnail and act as though they have been skewered with a spear like a stuck pig.  These are people who have crippling diseases (like Lyme’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, and the like).  Not every disease manifests itself on the outside for all to see. And the mental and emotional abuse afflicted upon people is much harder to see than physical abuse.

Even though God’s people are called to suffering, God assures us that eventually all pain and suffering will end for those who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Sometimes that will be addressed in this life (like the blind seeing, the lame walking, the sick cured, and the like), or in the next.  Either way, God will eventually provide an end to it.  But just as Jesus said concerning the blind man who was that way from birth, there is purpose to it – not only for character development, but so that the works of God can be put on display.

Special Service

There was once a story about a man who came into a logging camp.  He was shown the logging operations, and was given the grand tour.  When they came to the river where the logs were being floated down to the logging plant from where they were cut, a logger stood at the edge of the river.  Every now and then, he would use a pole that he was carrying and reroute a cut tree down a smaller fork in the river.

The man asked the logger who was directing the trees what he was doing.  The logger replied, “oh, those are special trees”.  The visitor asked, “What is so special about them, and how can you tell?”  The logger replied, “The trees I am selecting are very special.  They were harvested from the very tops of the mountains.  The winds are ferocious up there, and these trees are bent as the storms wail against them, but they stay strong and resilient.  Although all of the trees are profitable, these trees have endured the greatest of trials, and are greatly prized by furniture makers and artists, and are worth many times more than what the other trees are worth.  They will be used in ways that show their beauty, and when they are finally shaped, will endure for generations as priceless antiques and masterpieces.”

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

If you have been selected for great suffering, rejoice:  God plans to use you in the most beautiful of ways.  Once you have been tested, expect to be put on display.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I demonstrating to God that I can be trusted with whatever He is selecting me to do and be?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are good and gracious.  Help me to both find the area where I am called, and to do thrive in it so that You may be glorified.  Strengthen me so that I will be able to endure all the trials that I have been appointed to, and to overcome any difficulties that I encounter.  May Your character be put on display at all times, that as an image-bearer for You, I would be able to fulfill all that you have planned for me to do since before time began.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Philippians 4:8-9

All Character Building Starts in the Mind

8 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. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Clarifying Contemplations

Paul lists several things upon which Christians should meditate (fill your mind with the Word of God, then prayerfully seek to understand the meaning of what you are dwelling upon as it relates to the rest of the Word of God and its application in your life as the Holy Spirit reveals its meaning to you):

  • True
    • Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  He Himself is worthy of thinking upon and pondering.  Additionally, we should see what is true.  So much of the world we live in is built upon historical revisionism and incorrect understanding, that it is worthy to seek the truth and then to dwell upon it.
  • Noble
    • From the Greek, semna – to be grave, honorable, venerable
    • We are encouraged to seek out that which is deserving of honor and dwell upon that as well.  So much in the world is crass and dishonorable.  This helps us to remember what should be kept in a place of honor.
  • Right
    • From the Greek, dikaios – to be just, righteous
    • God is both Just and Righteous.  We should also think about events and actions that exemplify these Godly characteristics
  • Pure
    • From the Greek, hagna – properly, clean: i.e. (figuratively) innocent, modest, and perfect; and therefore chaste, clean, pure.
    • We are to discard the filth in our lives – anything that brings crassness to our speech, actions, or thoughts.  Instead, we are to focus on what is chaste, clean and pure.  This will realign our thinking from the base things of this world and remind us of the purity of things above.
  • Lovely
    • From the Greek, prosphilE – pros (to be for or inclined towards) and philE (to love with a brotherly love)
    • The fruit of the spirit starts with love.  We should think upon things that are lovely since God Himself is love.  It will help us to align our character with His.
  • Admirable
    • From the Greek, euphEma – well-spoken of, respectable, of good report
    • We should also dwell upon those things that are commendable.  They remind us of what we should be doing, that our actions would be commendable as well, that God would be glorified through them.
  • Excellent
    • From the Greek, aretE – valorous, excellent, to be praised, virtuous
    • We are to set our minds upon those things that are courageous, excellent, virtuous, rather than what is despised, selfish, and otherwise deserving of shame.  We are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ.
  • Praiseworthy
    • From the Greek, epainos – a commendable thing, praiseworthy
    • Since all glory, honor, praise, power, dominion, and strength belong to God, and we are the image-bearers of God, we should also focus our minds upon those things that are praiseworthy and commendable, as they will help us to train our minds to do the same when we are in difficult situations.

Experience Exercised

Paul encourages believers to look at his life and to do what he is doing that fits this criteria.  We should be looking towards leaders who exemplify these characteristics, and then emulate them as we are enabled to do so.  It is through practice that we are able to refine our skills and hone them to a sharpness that is able to cut through the garbage and be effective.  Watch what good leaders are doing.  Identify their commendable traits as proscribed by the Word of God, and implement them practically into your everyday life.

Peace Perceived

Paul leaves us with a promise.  When we put these characteristics into practice, God’s peace will be with us.  These do not make us any more commendable to God, for it is the righteousness of Christ that is upon us that does that.  The implementation of these characteristics by dwelling upon them in our minds will lead to actions of like kind.  God is pleased when we are living out our imputed righteousness, as we are image-bearers of God, after all…

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Is what I am putting into my mind going to lead to the type of character development that God is seeking?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I praise You for You are worthy of all honor, glory, praise, power, strength and dominion.  You have seen fit to make me, and to give me the task of bearing Your holy image – Your character.  Father, install within me today a better sense of Your holiness, that as I put things into my mind, that they would be beneficial to the growth of the type of character that You desire to see in me.  Help me to put aside anything that does not glorify You, and fill my mind with all that does.  Strengthen me that I would be able to put into practice all that You teach me through this.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Striving for God – Philippians 1:27-29

Live a Life Worthy of The Gospel

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

Christian Conduct

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

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

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

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

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

United Undertaking

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

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

Forgo Fear

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

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

Sign of Salvation

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

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

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

Sovereign Suffering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strategic Struggle

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Character of God – Genesis 17:23

God Is Character Driven, Not Emotion Driven

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

Character Counts

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

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

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

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

Emotions Evolve

God follows this model:

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

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

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

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

Intellectual Intrigue

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Unity in Christ – Philippians 2:1-2

Be One in the Spirit and of One Mind

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Edifying Encouragement

When we are united with Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and we are encouraged by Him as we seek to draw close to God.  He helps us by giving us strength that we do not have to do things that no one else under their own power would be able to do – to love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us; to forgive others; to shun evil; to love God; to restrain ourselves; and to glorify God.  As we do all of these things, the Holy Spirit provides the encouragement to learn and grow in God’s character.

Spiritual Sharing

As we partake of the Holy Spirit’s strength, power, desires, we begin to share in His peace and we spiritually prosper.  We see the work of the Spirit in others, and share in His love, grace, and mercy.  He helps to unify us with the Body of Christ in mind and in spirit so that just as parts of the body function together as a whole to enable a person to perform tasks such as walking, lifting, writing, carrying, and other common tasks, the body of Christ is able to accomplish the tasks that have been assigned to us to do.

Touching Tenderness

The Spirit of God gently and tenderly guides us in God’s ways.  He does so with great tenderness. Isaiah says this very well:

A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

God desires that we all grow to become mature and complete.  His tenderness in this process shows His willingness to have this happen, as we are fragile.  We aren’t called sheep because we have the strength and certainty of a lion or a bear.  We are easily scared and discouraged, and great tenderness is needed by God to fan the flames of our spirit to continually desire to follow Him, especially as we are trampled by the world and the devil.

Comforting Compassion

And when we are trampled, God greets us with His great compassion, placing His arms around us and giving us comfort in His peace.  Without His great compassion towards us, we would stay broken, unable to do anything of value, and wallow in self-pity as the world and the devil rejoice at their victories – just as they did when they subdued Samson.

Unique Unity

It is very seldom that people can get together and be truly unified in mind and in purpose.  When that happens, a unique opportunity presents itself:

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

There is great power in unity.  When we put aside our personal differences, and all work towards the same goal with unity of mind and spirit, there is very little that can stop us.  God confused the language of the people during the time of Babel to stop them.  But God greatly desires that the Body of Christ be united in mind and spirit so that we can do great things:

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.

Jesus was able to do great things because He was united in mind and spirit with God the Father through submission to God the Holy Spirit.  And we are told to submit to God as well as to one another.  When we do this, we begin to experience the unique unity of spirit that God greatly desires for us.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I experiencing unity with God and His people the way that God wants me to experience unity?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I greatly desire to be united in mind and spirit with You and Your people.  Show me where I am not submitting to You and to them, that I may humble myself and repent of my independence from both You and them.  Help me to be Your servant, that I may serve others as well.  Give me the heart of a servant, and deepen my dependence upon You for all things.  Father, I pray that You would work in Your people, that all of us would desire unity with You and within the body of Christ.  Forgive us for our petty infighting and ridiculous stubbornness to hold onto ideas that divide rather than unify.  Help us to agree to disagree on all points that are not doctrinal or salvation dependent.  Help us to grow in each other and You that we may put Christ firmly and uniformly on display for all the world to see.  This I ask in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Faith in Christ – Hebrews 11:35-38

No Servant is Greater Than His Master

35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

Faith Followed

Are you being persecuted for your faith in Christ?  Rejoice!  You are in good company!  You have been found worthy!  Most of us, when reading about faith the book of Hebrews, want to dwell on the earlier portion of Hebrews 11.  But since Christ suffered for His faith, we shall suffer also.  Following Christ in many nations is worthy of the death penalty.

Here in America, a country founded on Christian principles (Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence), we embarked on an experiment in liberty that afforded to its citizens great freedom (especially of religion, not just worship) through the idea that people who are able to self-govern themselves through the belief in accountability to God don’t require draconian authority over them to live civilly in society.  When this occurs, the founding fathers of the United States of America reasoned, it was possible that such a level of freedom was achievable.  It should be very evident now, that in light of the people of the United States of America throwing off the yoke of Christ for the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, that such a government is untenable, the citizens will (and do) selfishly seek to codify in law government favoritism towards their particular desires, passions, and industries at the expense of the liberty of others.  As such, Christians are now being persecuted for living out their Christian faith in accordance with the freedoms that they were promised in their founding document of law.  But rejoice!  Here is how we should respond:

You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

Creating Character

Faith helps us to endure all of the trials of life.  And when we endure, we gain character:

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

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Sometimes it is tough when we are going through trials that test our faith (especially at night while we sleep).  But you can be confident that God will never leave you or forsake you, for His character is perfect.  And since God will not allow you to be tempted (tested) beyond your ability without providing a way, there is always a glimmer of hope – even if that means your release from trouble is when you go to be with Him in glory.  God may place circumstances in your life that overwhelm you.  However, this usually happens when He is trying to get your attention.  But let’s not forget that many have been tortured and murdered for their faith.  And in those trials, God can give you peace beyond comprehension to help you through the difficulty.

Faith Fortified

When we are suffering for our faith, we are told to rejoice!   For as we surrender to God in our suffering, it strengthens our faith in Him to be able to get us through it.  Jesus said that only a little faith is needed to accomplish mighty things:

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

If only a little faith is required to move mountains, and that nothing will be impossible for us, what great and mighty things does God want to accomplish through us that would require the great faith and trust that comes through enduring our trials as we walk with Him?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Do I merely endure my trials, or does my faith mature in reverential trust and fear of God with joyful expectancy of what God will do next in my life?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, my strength is failing as I wait expectantly for You to act in these dark and evil days.  Give me the strength to go on so that I will not faint as I wait for my character growth to be completed in the crucible of trials.  Help me to trust You as a young child trusts their parents, completely and without reservation, as these fleeting difficulties are worked out by You, for I know that You are sovereign, and nothing happens without your express prior knowledge and approval.  Help me to soar like an eagle, for I feel grounded, unable to even spread my wings.  Comfort me in my sorrows and difficulties, and guard my heart with Your peace, that no weapon formed against me shall prosper.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

 

Knowledge of God – Philippians 1:9-11

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Paul wrote several times indicating that he desired that we would have greater knowledge of God.  But the knowledge that Paul desired for us was experiential, not just insight.  We experience God when we walk in the same footsteps as Him.  And as we do, God reveals his very nature and character to us:

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. – Matthew 5:7

It is the experiential understanding of God that Paul desires of us.  When we get head knowledge, we can become puffed up, and pride can enter into our lives.  When we live what we know, we become humbled as we realize just how far short of the glory of God we truly are.  Humility is the key to understanding:

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. – James 4:10

It is when we experience God’s character ourselves that we begin to change drastically.  We are better able to walk in His ways as we practice living His character.  When we merely come to an intellectual ascent to God’s word, we may agree in principal but not in practical application with what we have learned.  It is only through the practical application of knowledge that true progress in any field of endeavor is made.

A person can study tennis for years by watching matches, reading books, news articles, and listening to radio shows on the subject.  However, after years of study, without practically applying what has been learned, for most people, they would be unable to return a volley from a seasoned tennis player.  What a tragedy it is to see people comb through the scriptures but never to experience God’s character!  The Jews did the same thing.  They searched the scripture seeking eternal life.  The law only points us to the fact that we cannot keep the law, and therefore we seek salvation from God Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ.

So, let’s ask a question:  How has God revealed Himself to you as you have personally experienced His character?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are wonderful and beautiful to behold.  You reveal Yourself to us through Your word, and experientially as we walk in Your character.  Reveal Yourself to me today in a greater and deeper way as I walk in Your footsteps.  Show Yourself to me, Lord God, for I greatly desire to see You, and be in Your presence.  Give me such hunger for You that my soul would pant for you like a thirsty deer for water.  And like David, I can say with gladness that a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  Strengthen me this day as I strive to experientially know You better.  Help me to walk in Your ways, and to have better heart-knowledge of Your Word as You reveal Yourself to me.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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