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?

Relics and God – 1 Kings 13:21

The True Power Is In God And Not The Item

Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

Powerful Position

Elisha was endowed with a double-portion of the spirit of God at his request.  He recognized the importance of God’s role in the life of Elijah, and as his protégé, desired to be even more effective in ministry than his mentor.  When Elisha saw Elijah taken away by the chariots of God, the sign that Elijah had given to him that his request would be granted, the miracles that began to occur in his life were evidence of the granting of his request by God.  Two other important people who had items of theirs (in these cases cloth they owned or worn) that were directly implicated in the act of a healing miracle were Paul (napkins and aprons were taken to the sick and their illnesses cured and demons fled) and Jesus Christ (a woman with a bleeding disorder touched His robe and she was made well).

Miracles Manifested

In each case, God confirmed their calling with power and might.  Elisha performed great and mighty miracles to men.  This was to glorify God, and to help strengthen the faith of others.  Paul was divinely protected through many shipwrecks, survived what would have been a fatal snake bite, and many acts of miracles.   Jesus Christ fed thousands from a simple lunch of fish and bread, raised the dead, calmed the seas, healed the sick, cast out demons, and many other mighty displays of glorious power as manifested by God for His glory.  The power of God was upon each of these people mightily.

Residual Radiance

In the case of Jesus Christ and Paul, it was the person’s faith that healed.  The true power of God being manifested is through faith and not the object.  God is the giver of all power and might, and He is the one who enables miracles to occur.  In the case of Jesus Christ, He would often say, “Your faith has made you well.”  In the case of Paul, the faith that they had in God, working miracles through him, would make them well when his napkins and aprons were provided to the sick.

In the case of Elisha, we see something a little different.  The Israelites who threw the dead body on the bones of Elisha in his grave were not looking for a miracle.  They were out to bury a body.  But God sovereignly resurrected the dead man when he came into contact with the bones of Elisha as a testament to the calling of Elisha and the mighty power of God.  God sovereignly restored the man’s life to bear witness to His grace, power, and glory.

Some have taken these references to show that God somehow imbued the articles and bones of the past saints of God with special powers, and now call them relics.  But the real reason is that God is manifesting His power and glory for the deepening of our faith.  The items that people touch are not necessarily somehow anointed with the power of God, but rather God uses them to display His glory and grace so that our faith would grow in Him.

Gideon was mightily used by God, and when asked by the people to rule over them, told them that neither he nor his sons would rule over them, but that the Lord would rule over them.  Gideon later made an ephod out of some of the gold plunder of their conquered enemies, and it became a snare to them:

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson-because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”

23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” 24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)

25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

When we worship created things, rather than the Creator, it becomes a snare to us.  We must understand that all power and authority in is God and God alone.  When we look at items that God has used by others and look to the item for help, rather than God, we will be ensnared ourselves.  Give thanks and praise to the one who cures all illness and reconciles the lost to Himself, for He and He alone is worthy of the glory and praise, and it is God and God alone who is responsible for curing our disease:

He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”

Other Opinion

Another opinion in this is that when you take the scriptures that show that Moses’ face would glow from his presence in the glory of God, that the items worn, used, or physically part of the person were somehow infused with the glory of God.  In Act:19:11-12, it might be taken from the translation to indicate it was the power of God manifested in the miracles themselves that imbued the items with God’s power:

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

This would indicate that it was the belief that when God was working miracles, His power was still in the items.

Yet scripture must be taken as a whole.  And in every case, miracles could not happen without faith, and that in Almighty God.  When Jesus returned to His hometown, He could do very few miracles because of their lack of faith.  In every case, it is faith that enables God to work.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Where do I go first when I am in need of healing?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the one who heals all of our diseases, gives us life and breath in our lungs.  Help us to look to You for all things.  Increase my faith, that I may always keep my eyes upon You.  And when miracles surround one of your disciples, help those watching to have faith in You and not in them or what they wear.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Redemption by Christ – 1 Peter 1:17-21

You Are Redeemed With The Precious Blood Of Christ

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Reason for Redemption

God does nothing without purpose.  He is sovereign in all things, whether we can see and understand the purpose or not.  God had redeemed us to live a life of holiness in communion with Him, as He had originally intended the lives of Adam and Eve.  It is to gather us back to Him in holiness and righteousness that God allowed the sinless blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, to be spilled and offered as a final sacrifice for our sin.  We rejoice at the thought of our salvation and redemption.  Do we spend time reflecting upon the true price that was paid so that we could be free from the bondage of sin?

Worldly Wealth

Peter reminds us that we were not redeemed with the perishable wealth of this world.  Gold and silver has value among men, but God owns it all:

The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.

We have not been redeemed with the perishable, but with the imperishable.  The material wealth of this world will be consumed by fire and redeemed.  If we were redeemed with the perishable, our redemption would be perilous at best.  That which can change is not worthy of eternal praise or worth.

Precious Price

We are instead redeemed with the imperishable, perfect, sinless blood of the Son of God, shed by The Lord Jesus Christ Himself for our sins.  No other payment is worthy, for there is life in the blood:

11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.”

13 “Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, 14 because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, ‘You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.'”

It is only the blood of Jesus, who is perfect and eternal, that can give us eternal life, for life is in the blood.  And what a terrible price was paid by God for our sins, that the lifeblood of the Son of God was shed for us.  He died that we might live.

Salvation and redemption are provided to us freely by God.  But let us never forget the steep price that was paid by God to secure and obtain that freedom that we have received.  Though we freely receive it, the cost was immeasurably high.  Since the cost was so high, we should honor the One who secured our freedom with gratitude.

Redeemed in Righteousness

God did not redeem us merely to set us free.  He redeemed us so that we could once again be reconciled to Him in righteousness.  Sin chains us in its prison, keeping us from the freedom that lies in holiness.  Let us not forget that His grace and mercy are to woo us back to Him, to a life of righteousness, in submission to The Lord God Almighty.  Our free-will has given us the false impression that we can do as we please.  We are created for the pleasure and purpose of God.

There is an old expression that rightly embodies this (attributed to multiple authors, summarized below):

If you love someone, set them free.  If they return, they are yours.  If they do not, they never were.

God has set us free with the priceless blood of Christ.  We now have a choice – will we return to God, and live in obedience, or will we go our own way?  We have been given the choice.  Let us choose wisely.

Flourishing Faith

Since we have been purchased with such a great price, let us place our hope in Him who has set us free.  Let us lay our foundation of hope upon the Son of God who has redeemed us.  Let us glorify in His goodness, mercy and grace.  Let us rejoice that He desires that all people come to Him.  Let our faith prosper and grow in God, for our foundation is secure, and no one can snatch us from our Father’s handNeither can anyone snatch us out of the hand of the Son of God.  For eternal life has been purchased for you through the blood of the eternal God, which cannot tarnish or be destroyed.  His blood will last through eternity with the surety that the Son of God is immortal, free from the effects decay, and that His blood will forever ensure our freedom.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: For what purpose in His plan has God redeemed my life?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, please help me to understand and realize just how steep a price was required to secure my freedom from sin through the blood of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to always remember the price that was paid to liberate me from the bondage that I was born into, and provide the great freedom that I now enjoy.  Father, please call me to my purpose, then equip me so that I may fulfill Your desire.  Grant me grace and mercy as I fail on a daily basis to live up to Your perfect standard, and help me to remember my failings that I may continually lean upon You for the strength to live and do Your will.  Work Your will through my life, that You would bring honor and glory to yourself.  Keep me far from pride, for the world, the flesh, and the devil will try to constantly place the desire in my heart to think that what You are doing through me is of my own ability.  Grant me the wisdom to see with spiritual eyes, that I may not be easily fooled as I walk in this wicked world.  Come, Lord Jesus, and redeem what is rightfully Yours.  This I ask in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

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

Signs from God – John 2:18-22

God Gives Us Signs So We Can Draw Closer To See The Fuller Message

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Sign Shown

Signs in the Bible would precede great events, or validate what a prophet was saying.  Jesus had been performing great signs and wonders in front of the people’s eyes day in and day out.  He had cast out demons, healed people, brought people back from the dead, turned water into wine, fed thousands of people from a small boy’s lunch of fish and bread, and many other miracles.

But the people kept demanding signs.  They weren’t satisfied with what they were seeing with their very own eyes.  Like anyone who seeks after signs and wonders, they wanted to see more. Jesus had just fulfilled a prophecy about Himself by exhibiting zeal for His father’s house using a whip, driving out the market that was taking place on the Court of the Gentiles at the holy temple of God.  Jesus decided to use this opportunity to present us with an object lesson.  When asked what sign He would give to prove His authority, He gave a cryptic puzzle.

Esoteric Enigma

Jesus provided them with something that they could not possibly have understood at the time.  He gave them a cryptic puzzle indeed – How could a temple that took forty-six years to build be rebuilt in three days?  The Bible gives us clarification – Jesus was talking about His body.  And on April 5, 33 C.E.***, Jesus rose from the grave.  This sign confirmed that what Jesus said was true and accurate.  But they didn’t know or understand that until it happened.

Rightly Remembered

John records that it was only after Jesus had died and rose again that they remembered the words that He had spoke on that fateful day – a day they would not soon forget.  Their meek, compassionate teacher, in righteous anger and indignation, created a major scene at the temple, and did things that were shocking to everyone.  Many times, we will only remember the sign and understand its meaning and significance AFTER it has occurred:

In every sign ever given by God, we tend to recognize them only after they have occurred, and remember the prophecy of the sign later.

Forming Faith

John records that after they remembered Jesus’ words, they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.  It was the fulfillment of the sign that had catalyzed their faith and made it solid as rock in their hearts and minds.  Signs are given to us to believe and to verify.  But every sign is designed to draw us closer so that we might see the fuller message:

  • When Moses saw the burning bush, what did he do?  He drew close to see the fuller message.
  • When the Magi from the East saw Venus and Jupiter in conjunction, what did they do?  They traveled from Babylon to Jerusalem to see the fuller message.
  • When we see a headline in a story about something important or sensational, what do we do?  We draw closer to see the fuller message.

People were created by God in His own image.  God must be very curious, for humans are very curious creatures.  When we see something, we draw close rather than run away.  And when we do, and we gain the greater understanding, we are rewarded with a firmer faith and trust in God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What will we do when we draw close and get the fuller message once we see the sign?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have created all things, and have given us signs and wonders to behold, as recorded in Your word.  Help me as I read Your word, and see the signs that You have provided, that I will draw closer to You and get the fuller message.  Strengthen my faith, and provide me with understanding, wisdom, and discernment as I read Your word that I would better understand what You are trying to tell me.  Help me to recognize the signs, and to be vigilant when I see them to draw close and learn.  Blessed be Your name forevermore!  Amen.

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

*** This can be verified through clues that we have from the Bible.  Jesus was crucified on Preparation Day, the day before Passover started.  This is important, because the Bible tells us this was a Friday (the next day was to be a special Sabbath).  Passover starts on the Jewish day of Nisan 15, therefore Nisan 14 is Preparation Day.  Every year, dates appear on different days (for instance, January 1st is not always a Monday…).  By calculating when Nisan 14 would have been on a Friday in the known time frame for Jesus’ crucifixion, there was only one day in history that fit that profile – April 3, 33 C.E.  Therefore, Jesus rose from the grave on April 5, 33 C.E.

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?

Faith in God – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

Christ Will Not Come Again Until The Great Falling Away…

1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.

Separate Speculation

Paul warns the disciples of Christ to not be alarmed or unsettled by alleged teachings of the apostles that the second coming of Christ has already occurred.   There were people who were spreading false rumors that Jesus had already come, and that the faithful disciples had been left behind.  Paul was putting an end to these rumors, and sought to help any who had heard these rumors that they were not true, and to assure them that any such teaching did not come from them.

Remember the Rebellion

And here we see a very interesting sign that will precede the coming of our Lord – the great rebellion must first take place.  Paul is very care to remind us that before Jesus comes in the clouds, with a shout at the last trump of God, there will first be a great rebellion.  The people of God will abandon Him.

This seems to be odd, because once the Holy Spirit sets up residence in us, we would think that He would continue to witness to us about Jesus.  But for some reason, there will be a great number of people who will give up their faith.  Jesus warns about letting our love grow cold in the great Mount of Olives discourse in Matthew chapter 24:

9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Paul gives us a more in-depth look at what the rebellion will look like in 2 Timothy 3:1-9:

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 9 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

Paul is not talking about people who do not profess faith in Christ – these are people who claim to be believers – Christians!  But by their very actions, they demonstrate that they are not disciples of Christ, nor do they indicate that they love God.  If they did, they would obey His commands and submit to the Holy Spirit:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Christ will not come until the rebellion first appears.  Love is the primary characteristic of God that is prized above all.  Remember to guard your heart, and grow in love, even when everyone else around you is abandoning their faith.  Remain faithful unto death.  And when the Son of man returns, let Him find faith on Earth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I growing in love in the midst of the increase of lawlessness in the world?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given me the gift of eternal life in Your Son through His shed blood.  Help me to find peace in my heart as the world becomes increasingly filled with lawlessness and injustice.  Help me to cling to You and Your word through the most difficult of times.  See me through the valley of the shadow of death, and help me to be prepared that the lamp of my body, my eyes, would be filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, fully prepared for the return of the groom, Jesus Christ, when we least expect Him.  Grow in me the love that You have for all of us, that I would properly bear Your image before men.  Guard my tongue and my heart that I would not sin against You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Marriage and God – Titus 2:1-8

Our Elders Are to Teach The Young Families The Key Pillars To Marriage

1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Creative Chiasm

A chiasm has been formed in these verses.  It contrasts men and women, and specifically, the mature versus the immature.  The structure looks like this:

Older Women – Young Women
/\
Older Men Young Men

It is an interesting contrast between these groups, especially the instructions given to the younger men and women.

Mature Men

Paul indicates that older men should be taught the following:

  • Avoid Excessive Wine (Temperate)
    • Excessive consumption of alcohol can severely impair a person’s judgment.  This can lead to terrible words and actions that cause great pain and resentment long after the effects of the alcohol wear off
  • Be Worthy of Respect (Honorable)
    • Paul touches upon a very core need for men – to be respected.  It is hard for a man to love a woman when he does not feel respected.  Paul urges men to live their lives in such a way that they are worthy of respect.  They are to make it as easy as possible for their wives to give them the respect that they so desperately need and desire.
  • Be Self-Controlled
  • Be Sound in Faith
  • Be Sound in Love
    • Paul exhorts men to unconditionally, volitionally, and sacrificially love their wives and others.  When they love their wives in this manner, it will help their wives to blossom and open up like a flower unfolds it petals, fully displaying its inner beauty to the world, confident in itself.
  • Be Sound in Endurance

Wise Women

Paul also urges that older women be taught the following:

  • Be Reverent in the Way They Live (live holy lives)
  • Avoid Slandering
    • The gift and curse of the great capability of women to communicate is the potential for gossip.  This needs to be avoided at all costs, so that no one is slandered.
  • Avoid Excessive Wine
    • Wine has the ability to lower the inhibitions of all who consume it, and everyone who does must take extra care to guard themselves against its effects
  • Teach What is Good

The interesting part is that Paul indicates that only after these characteristics are taught to older women that they will be able to properly guide the younger women in their ways.

Little Ladies

Paul then lists several ways that the older women should urge the younger women:

  • Love Their Husbands and Children
    • The interesting part of the word “love” here is that it comes from the Greek word phileo – to be greatly fond of.  God has already placed unconditional love – agape – into the hearts of women.  Older women must now teach the younger women to like their husbands and children.
  • Be Self-Controlled
  • Keep Chaste
    • It is ever more important that young ladies carefully guard their hearts against the wooing of other men.  In moments of emotional distress or feeling unloved by their husbands, younger women can be particularly vulnerable to a man who breathes life into her heart.
  • Be busy at home
    • In the time that this was written, it was mostly men who went out to work the land and provide for their families.  Yet it was documented in Proverbs 31 that a wife of noble character engaged in entrepreneurial enterprises as well as taking care of the family:
      • 13 She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
        14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
        15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.
        16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
        17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
        18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
        19 In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
        20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
        21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
        22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
        23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
        24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.

  • Be kind
  • Submit to their husbands
    • Submission is the dreaded word that every women cringes at.  It brings about the feelings of some patriarchal tyrant who tries to keep his wife barefoot and pregnant, staying silent, and doing everything he asks – being at his beck and call and essentially his slave.  But submission is a beautiful thing.  We each are to submit to the Holy Spirit as Jesus Christ Himself submitted completely to God.  Submission has been described as being willing to duck so that God can throw a right-cross at the one who is in charge.  But only a fool would not listen to the counsel of the one that God has placed at his side for his benefit.

Growing Guys

Paul then goes on to tell what the young men should be taught:

  • Be self-controlled
  • Set an example by doing what is good

Paul provides these instructions for our benefit.  It is at our own peril that we scoff at them or ignore them.  Western culture teaches us that we should seek our own welfare before the welfare of others.  But God in this passage shows us just how important it is to self-regulate rather than indulge our heart’s every desire.  It is better to follow the word of God than it is to follow our own hearts.  This is because our hearts are deceitful above all, and without the transformation by the Holy Spirit and the word of God, we will be duped into desiring what the flesh wants, rather than what the Spirit of God desires.

There are now a higher percentage of Christian marriages ending in divorce than those who are not professing Christians.  This should not be!  There can only be one reason for such widespread failure in our marriages – we are not being obedient to God’s word.  Let us now take the time and remember the advice given by God to Solomon, the wisest man ever to live:

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

The choice is ours.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing what God desires me to do as revealed in His word to ensure that my marriage is as best protected as it can be?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the embodiment of truth.  You know all things, and reveal Your truth to us through Your word.  Help me to learn Your truth and put it into practice so that my marriage would flourish as well as bring you honor, glory, and praise.  Help me to submit myself to my spouse and to live life in accordance with what is good in Your eyes, so that You will be able to bless us in our marriage.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Victory with God – Psalm 60:9-12

God And God Alone Is The One Who Brings Victory

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

Divine Direction

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

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

Reinforcements Rejected

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

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

Plea for Progress

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

Recognizing Refuse

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

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

Heavenly Help

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Combat Training with God – Galatians 3:10-13

The Righteous Shall Live By Faith

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”

Crushing Curse

God gave us the Law – The Ten Commandments – to show us how we should live in harmony with Him, with family, and with others.  The most important feature of the law, encapsulated within the Tenth Commandment, is that even if we, with our mouths and our actions, outwardly appear to fulfill the law, the attitudes of our hearts betray us.  The law was intended to be a plumb line, showing us that with our sinful nature, we are incapable of keeping it in its entirety without the help of Almighty God.  For if we could, Jesus would not have had to show us His example of submission to the Holy Spirit of God, saying only what the Father told Him to say, and doing only what the Father does.  He could have done it on His own.  As it is, those who place the law upon their shoulders as the way to God are under a curse.  And Jesus tells us to take His yoke (burden) upon us, for we will find rest for our souls, and His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Live the Law

The law cannot justify a person.  It merely identifies those under its curse as lawbreakers.  Jesus Christ – simultaneously both man and God – was the only man ever to completely fulfill the law.  Anyone under the law is required to keep it perfectly.  The very first time that there is any deviation from the law, the person is guilty before God.  And while the Jews were given animal sacrifice for their sins, it was merely as a type and shadow of the perfect sacrifice that would be made by the Messiah – Jesus Christ.

Christ and Christ alone was able to completely live the law without any deviation from it.  Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit within Mary, the wife of Joseph.  He was conceived without sin, born of the virgin.  Only someone who did not have a sin nature to tarnish their every thought, word, and action could be an acceptable sacrifice before God.

Fulfilled in Faith

The only way to fulfill the law is through faith in God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  The just shall live by faith.  And just as Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, so our faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ as a payment for our sin is credited to us as righteousness.  It is through faith and faith alone in Christ that man is justified before Almighty God.  In the great exchange, Jesus has taken our sin and imputed His righteousness to us.

Now, we can live in the power of the Holy Spirit.  And when we are completely submitted to Him, it is God working through us for His goals and purposes, and we become merely tools.  Our actions and deeds are no longer our own, but those of Almighty God, untarnished by our sinful nature.  It is only in the life of complete submission to God that we are able to realize our full potential and fulfill the purposes that God has placed within us since before the creation of the universe.

Righteous Redeemed

We are redeemed by the blood of the lamb of God, Jesus Christ.  As the perfect and only acceptable sacrifice for sin to God Almighty, we have declared legally righteous.  It is up to us to embrace God through His love, mercy, and grace, so that we can live out our lives in a way that honors the sacrifice that Jesus has made.

Regardless of who is in governmental authority over us, we are to live our lives through faith in the One that has redeemed us.  We are now free to live righteously before God through our continued and absolute dependence upon our deposit – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The Holy Spirit will enable us through strength and the living word of God to live for God as we were intended to live before Adam and Eve fell.

Christ Crucified

It must be remembered that those who are dead are no longer under the influence of the law.  We have died to ourselves and have been made alive in Christ.  Jesus Christ was crucified so that He would bear our curse of sin rather than us.  And since we are declared dead to sin in Christ, and spiritually alive in Christ in His resurrection, we are able to say no to sin, and yes to God.  Let us live our lives in such a way that it brings glory and honor to Jesus our Savior who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  For if we truly love Him and respect what He has done, we will be obedient to Him and all that He says.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living my life in complete and total faith in the sovereignty of God in all things?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have indeed blessed me and everyone who has believed upon Your Son, Jesus Christ, as the perfect sacrifice for sin.  Help me father to live in such a way that I may honor His gift to me, the free gift of Salvation.  Help me to live life completely submitted to the Holy Spirit as Jesus has shown me in Your word.  Help me to be emotionally and intellectually invested in what is on Your heart, and not what is crying out in the culture or my flesh.  Help me to say no to anything that would impede my walk before You.  Forgive me of my sin, for there is not a day that goes by that I do not get my feet dirty while walking through life.  You have washed me clean in the blood of the lamb, and for that I am forever grateful.  Let my thoughts, words, and deeds reflect Your holiness and love as I step out into the world this day.  This I ask in the powerful name of Jesus, Amen.

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

Victory in Jesus – Joshua 6:1-5

Obedience Is The Key To Victory

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

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

Overcoming when Overwhelmed

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

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

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

Powerful Perspective

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

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

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

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

Obedience Overcomes

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

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

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

Faithful Followup

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

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?

 

Combat Training with God – Romans 13:1-2

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

The United States of America’s government was unique in many ways.  One is that the founding fathers believed that its people could be self-governing.  This was predicated on the assumption of three interconnected principles:

  1. Liberty was only possible when virtue was present
    • Only people who are virtuous can be trusted with self-government.
    • Without virtue, abuses of all types would occur because of the freedom provided, and should the people no longer be virtuous, this form of government would fail.
  2. Virtue was only possible when faith (belief in accountability to a higher power) was present
    • Virtuousness is what restrains selfishness, promotes the general welfare of others, and holds the individual in check from abuse of power.
    • Although it is possible that people can be virtuous without faith, it is the accountability to a higher power that provides the framework that directs a person to adopt virtuous ideals and their practice.
    • An Atheist, for example, could live a virtuous life, but why?  What restrains them from changing their beliefs in virtuous living at any time once their circumstances change?
  3. Faith was only possible when liberty was present
    • Without the ability of the people to freely practice religion and LIVE out their beliefs, faith would not be permitted to flourish, and evil would suppress the expression of faith.
    • Faith is what promotes virtuous living through a framework of belief that standards that are set by a higher power that supersede their own.  It is because the standards originate outside of themselves – they originate from a holy God – that they therefore provide them with accountability.  This both draws them and helps them to feel compelled to obey them; for these standards were not made by mere men, and cannot be changed by mere men.

John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States, wrote the following in 1798:

While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation, while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candour, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world. Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. That which you have taken, and so solemnly repeated on that venerable ground, is an ample pledge of your sincerity and devotion to your country and its government.

This circle – Liberty, Virtue, and Faith, provided the framework for self government.  But the Bible says that regardless of the type of government a person finds themselves a subject, they are to obey the ruling authorities (in Christ).  This is not a blanket get-out-of-jail-free card to do any evil that a corrupt government instructs us to do; rather, it is a call to show the world that just as Christ submitted to the Holy Spirit and God the Father out of respect and righteousness, so should we obey Godly government to demonstrate to the world that God is sovereign and is to be obeyed.

Paul goes on further in the chapter to say this:

For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

When we disobey government (which we SHOULD do if they are requiring us to do something counter to the express Will and Holiness of God), we are in effect telling the world that it is OK to disobey God himself, for He has sovereignly appointed these people to govern over us.  What a tragedy!  Although there are many things codified in the law that are counter to God’s express will and holiness, we should be following the rest to honor and obey God!

As an example, every time I hear a pastor say, “Well, I drive a little faster than the speed limit myself”, I cringe.  What kind of example does that set for the flock, let alone those that don’t know God and watch with vigilance those who purport to represent God, when the spiritual leaders disobey the commands of God’s servants over them?  Are speed limits in direct violation of God’s express will?  If not, and you are not obeying them, why?

Paul takes this even further:

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Many complain of the onerous burden that the government has placed in taxes over the people.  But this was forewarned by Samuel prior to the appointing of Saul as the first human king of Israel:

Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

God warns us to be careful, because we will get the government that we deserve.  This November, if you are a citizen of the United States, you have the privilege and solemn obligation to cast your votes for Godly government officials.  So you say you don’t know who is Godly and who isn’t?  The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.  Educate yourself.  And remember, God has provided you with the Holy Spirit to guide and empower you.  Use these vast resources to know who to vote for.  Then, should ungodly rulers be elected over us, you will be able to have a clear conscience before God and man that you were responsible for your part.

Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. – John Stuart Mill

And finally, like Habakkuk was told,

“See, the enemy is puffed up;
    his desires are not upright—
    but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have provided us with leadership through our governing officials.  You have graciously given us the freedom to responsibly elect people of faith and virtue to govern us.  Father, forgive us for allowing such evil people to come to power in the United States of America.  It is because of our failure to vote and do so in prayerful humility as well as disgust for the candidates that have been chosen by the major parties to represent us that we have failed to be vigilant in our responsibilities.   Father, please send revival to Your people in the United States.  Wake them out of their slumber, and encourage them to get involved with the sacred responsibility of determining who will govern over them.  Help us to submit ourselves to You and Your will, and heal our land, that there may be peace within our nation as well as between nations.  Only You are able to do this, Lord God.  We anxiously await for you to act.  We greatly desire that You would provide us with Godly leaders so that it would be with great joy that we may submit ourselves to their rule, rather than hang our heads in shame over their wickedness and hide in silence from their oppression.  This we ask and pray in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

A Calling of God – John 9:4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Saved by God – Joel 2:32

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

For those who have questions:

What is being saved?

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

What about works?

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

Who can be saved? 

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

What does it cost to be saved?

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

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

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

How do I become saved?

Click here for more information.

Am I saved? 

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

 

Combat Training with God- 2 Chronicles 20:15

He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'”

It never goes well when we try to do things on our own.  When we are faced with any issue, it is best to seek The Lord our God, for He will fight the battles we cannot fight.  God is more than willing to stand between us and our enemies.  We see this throughout the Bible:

There are others, but this should suffice.  When we are faced with overwhelming issues, we should always seek the Lord.  He may very well have planned to fight for us.  Joshua did not inquire of the Lord, and was tricked by the Gibeonites.  So, why don’t we seek God when we are faced with overwhelming issues?

  • We think we can do it on our own
  • God has been silent, and we don’t think He will come to our rescue
    • This is usually a test.  The teacher is usually silent when we take tests…
    • Sometimes, in order to see the beauty of the stars, night has to fall, because the Sun drowns out everything else…
  • We are paralyzed with fear
    • We have taken our eyes off God and placed them on our circumstances
  • We may have sin in our lives, and we feel guilty about asking God for victory
  • Disease, or worry, has worn us down and brought us to a place of misery and despair
    • When we are worn down by these things, we are in a very bad place.  Even seeking the Lord is difficult when every breath brings pain and every moment is sheer misery.
    • We need to be obedient to Scripture.  Have you followed God’s prescription for healing?

In all of these things, we need to seek God for everything: the large battles, and especially the small ones; forgiveness, and strength.  God is always working, and greatly desires us to seek Him in prayer that He may show up and bring glory to His name.  When God is silent, be faithful, and know that He is with you.  Seek Him out as did the Psalmists in Psalms 83 and 109.  Let nothing come between you and God.  We have so much technology that we often go to Google rather than go to God.  And God WILL show up to help, for He loves you very much.  And always remember:

But God…

So, what situation has you backed into a corner where you desperately need to hear, “But God…”?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are beautiful beyond description and a marvelous to behold.  You enter into our pain, give us comfort and strength, and guide us in the ways we should go.  You provide for our every need, and even for our desires.  You are forever faithful, and like all fathers, delight in Your children.  Help me this day, Lord God, for I am weary.  Enter into my circumstances.  Deliver me through them, and fight the battles that I cannot win.  Guard me against all evil, and my heart greatly praise You for who You are.  Help me to seek You always, even when You seem to do the opposite of what I ask.  This I ask and pray in the name of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

 

 

Trusting in God – Psalm 56:3

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

Fear is an interesting emotion.  Just about everyone has experienced the heart wrenching, gut kicking, grip of fear in their lives.  When we experience that level of emotion, it has a tendency to so overpower us that we are unable to see things clearly – it effectively incapacitates us.  Fear is a natural response that God gave us to help us to survive.  Without fear, we would most probably do things that no level-headed person would ever consider doing.

The Bible indicates that fear has to do with punishment.  Yet we are told to fear God.  In the latter case, this is a reverent trust in God; not a gripping, emotional aversion.  How we respond in circumstances is a witness to the power and glory of God.  When we show fear, we are in effect saying that we cannot trust God to deliver us from our circumstances.  While this may seem odd, you may want to take a look at the life of King Hezekiah when Assyria was threatening the kingdom of Judah.

When we trust in the Lord, even when there seems to be no way to victory, it brings glory to God, and strengthens our faith.  The reason we trust is because God is faithful.  And in that, we are able to be faithful, regardless of the issues that plague us.  We trust in God for the big stuff – Salvation, Resurrection, Eternal Life, etc.  But we are told to have faith like little children.  They don’t question – they have complete, unwavering faith in their parents, especially when they don’t understand something.

So let’s ask the question:  Are we trusting God in the little stuff?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, in my times of need, please drive all fear out of my heart so that I may be able to trust you more.  My fear gets in the way of trusting that You are who You say You are.  Deepen my faith in these times, Lord God, and help me to respond in a way that glorifies Your name.  You have revealed Yourself as faithful so that others may see Your faithfulness and trust in You.  Do not let my emotions instruct my will to direct my intellect; rather, help my intellect to instruct my will so that it can direct my emotions.  You are able to do this and far more than we can ever imagine, Lord God.  Help me to be faithful to You in childlike faith and trust.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ name, Amen

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

Obedience to God – John 14:15 (AMP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

A Promise of God – Isaiah 54:17

17 no weapon forged against you will prevail,
    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
    and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

The Bible contains many promises of God.  This one is very encouraging.  It is comforting to know that we are being protected by God against all of the weapons of the enemy.  It is also comforting that anyone who says anything against us will be refuted, for we have been forgiven all sin.  This is our HERITAGE!  God will VINDICATE us!

There only appears to be one qualifier – “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.”  Who are the servants of the Lord?

Servants wait upon the master.  They are in His service to do His bidding whenever and wherever He directs them.  They direct their talents to complete the tasks assigned to them.  They are often given guidelines, and are expected to do the work when they see work to do.

There are many gifts given to believers once they accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Here are just a few ( 1 Corinthians 12:4-11):

  • Wisdom
    • The ability to understand the difference between wise and foolish things (think: King Solomon)
  • Knowledge
    • Are you able to absorb great amounts of information and then process it so that it is understandable by others?
  • Faith
    • Do you trust God to move mountains, trusting Him to do things when other people would normally give up?
  • Healing
    • When you pray, do people get well?
  • Prophecy
    • Do you know things about what is going on and things that will go on, when you have no reason to know them?
    • Does God often let you know something that you should share with a person or people He directs you to share with, even if you don’t understand the message?
  • Distinguishing between spirits
    • Do you know who’s who?
    • Do you sense the presence of angels and demons and their activity in this world?
    • Do you know when, if someone is speaking, whether or not what they are saying is Biblical, even though you don’t know why?
  • Speaking in tongues (languages)
    • Are you able to speak in a known (already existing) language but don’t understand what you are saying?
    • Are you able to speak in an unknown language and don’t know what you are saying?
  • Interpreting tongues (languages)
    • When people speak, do you know what they are saying, even if everyone else around you doesn’t because they don’t speak the language (and you may not know the language either)?

This is not an exhaustive list.  There are many others.  Here are eight more to think about:

  • Craftsmanship
    • Can you make a masterpiece out of nothing?
    • Or, can you take a box of parts and with a few simple tools, put the item back together without any instructions?  If so, you may have this gift.
  • Hospitality
    • Are you driven to constantly feed and attend to guests at your home?
    • Do you enjoy throwing parties and events?
    • Are you the first one to get up to pour drinks at an event?  If so, you may have this gift.
  • Music
    • Can you play a musical instrument in a way that inspires others to greatness?
    • or, are YOU an instrument (should you audition for “Stomp“)?  You may have this gift.
  • Leadership
    • Do people have a great tendency follow what you say and where you go?  You may have this gift.
  • Teaching
    • Can you take the most difficult subject and explain it to most people so that they have a clear understanding of it?  You may have this gift.
  • Pastoring
    • Do you constantly feel the need to guide and nurture people in their faith and walk with God?  You may have this gift.
  • Service
    • Are you the one who gets great joy from doing the jobs that no one else does, and is content that the job is done and done right, even if no one else notices?  You may have this gift.
  • Prayer
    • Does God wake you up in the middle of the night to pray about something that He then places on your heart?
    • Do you struggle (wrestle) in prayer for individuals, issues, leaders, and/or nations (or other things)?
    • Do you enjoy spending hours communicating with God in prayer about anything and everything?  You may have this gift.

There are over 30 implied and delineated gifts that the Spirit of God gives to us to use to glorify God and help the body.  Are you using the gifts that were provided to you in stewardship by the Spirit of God at the direction of the Spirit of God for God’s Glory?

If not, why do you call yourself a servant?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we all fall short of perfection.  You have saved us from this, and give us the wonderful opportunity to know You, the only One True God.  You have given us great privileges and responsibilities as well.  Show us what gifts the Holy Spirit has provided to us.  Empower us to act in these gifts, and guide us in the way that these gifts should be used.  Father, do not let me be afraid of these gifts, but help me to embrace them that Your kingdom would grow.  I am your servant, Lord God.  Speak to me that I may do Your Will, in Your Way, in Your Time, for Your purposes, that You may be glorified.  This I ask in the the precious name of your Most Holy Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Healing with God – James 5:14-16

14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

One of the most effective and visible ministries of Jesus was His healing ministry.  The needs of the people for spiritual and physical healing were immense.  Jesus healed people from demonic possession, disease, and even death itself.  In every case, there was always faith.  In one instance, it is recorded that Jesus was unable to do many miracles because of a lack of faith.  Faith was the key ingredient.  And it wasn’t always the faith of the one being healed:

  • A centurion’s servant was healed.  Who had the faith?  The centurion or the paralyzed servant?
  • The son of a man who was demon possessed was healed by Jesus when the disciples could not drive it out.  Who had the faith?   The man, or the son?
  • A Canaanite woman’s daughter who was demon possessed was healed.  Who had the faith?  The woman or her daughter?
  • A paralyzed man was healed when his friends lowered him through a roof to give him access to Jesus.  Jesus then saw THEIR faith.  Not HIS faith.  It was the faith of the friends that Jesus saw and responded.

In all of these cases, it was the faith of someone other than the recipient of healing whose faith prompted Jesus to respond with healing, and in some cases, even praise their faith!  In that light, let’s take a look at James 5:15

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

In this case, it is the prayer of the elders offered in faith, not the person who is sick.

So, are you sick?  Do you need a healing touch from God?  Be obedient to God’s word: go to a Bible teaching, Bible believing church, and have the elders of that congregation anoint you with oil and pray over you, so that whatever issue you have, spiritual or physical, it will be healed; and if you have sinned, you will be forgiven.  And remember that it is the faith of the elders, not yours, that will heal you.  Since you have gone to them IN FAITH, IN OBEDIENCE to scripture, your faith is noted as well.  And if you are still concerned, pray what the father of the demon possessed son said/prayed, “I believe – help my unbelief!”

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, you respond to faith, for faith is the expression of our belief in You of who You are.  Cleanse me this day of my unrighteousness.  Forgive my sins.  Bolster my faith, and help me to be obedient to Your Word, even if it doesn’t make sense to me.  Father, You healed even Naaman, commander of the army of Aram, when in obedience, he washed himself seven times in the Jordan, and his leprous skin became like the skin of a young boy.  You are sovereign, Lord God, and nothing is impossible for You.  Remember Your servant this day.  In obedience, I come to You and will do as You ask, that You may be glorified.  Prepare the elders’ hearts as I go to seek them out.  For You are forever faithful, doing everything that You promise.  Prepare my heart now, Lord, for I know You will bring this about.  This I ask in the name of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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