Inner Beauty and God – 1 Peter 3:3-6

God Sees The Heart.  So Should Everyone Else.

3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Flashy Fashion

Culture teaches us that we need to be noticed.  And the only way to be noticed is to flaunt what we have.  Women in particular have been listening to this lie for millennia.  During the time when the writer of this Scripture lived, they women adorned themselves with beautiful hair styles, heavy perfume (quite costly and showed the potential of their dowry if unmarried, or the affluence of their husband if they were married…), and precious metal jewelry.

Today, it is how much skin can you show, how tight can you make your clothes, and how much bling you can safely wear without tipping over.  And while that certainly will get a woman attention from all who see her, is it the type of attention she is truly seeking?  Fishermen know that whatever you bait your hook with will determine what type of fish you will catch.  For disciples of Christ, this type of adornment is not at all in keeping with God’s plan for attractiveness and beauty.  This type of adornment is designed to evoke worldly desire from men and envy from women.  While that may seem desirable because it provides immediate feedback to the woman, it underscores the problem that the Christian community has in general:  Disciples of Christ have adopted modern cultural definitions of beauty rather than the Biblical model for beauty.

Carefully Clothed

Peter then goes on to remind women (remember, this is nothing new – it was going on two thousand years ago as well…) that they should adorn themselves with a gentle and quiet spirit:

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

If a woman dresses like a street-walker, there should be no surprise if salacious men cat-call and undress her (and more than she already is) with their eyes.  If a woman dresses in Armani and Pravda and (name any other fashion mogul who designs outlandishly priced clothing and accessories), they should not be surprised when thieves and burglars stalk her to lighten her burden of wearing and carrying all of her clothing and accessories, or the vacuous playboys who will try to woo her heart to make her their sugar-mama.  People will crowd around like friends until the money dries up.  Then the leeches of society will move on to other feeding grounds.

Women must ask themselves a question:  What “bait” will I put on to attract a Godly man?  Godly men are attracted to women who have a gentle and quiet spirit.  Godly men attune their eyes and hearts to women who display this type of beauty.

Reverent Respect

When women put on a gentle and quiet spirit, they exhibit the character that Godly women of old used to display.  They showed great respect for their husbands and others, didn’t gossip, and dressed modestly so as not to entice LUST in the hearts of potential suitors or even other Godly men trying to keep their hearts pure.  When people can’t determine what’s beneath the clothing, they look to see what’s in the character.  When women show respect to God and others, that is like a bright light to moths for potential Godly husbands.  Proverbs has a lot to say about women and character.  Proverbs 31 tells of a woman of noble character.  And here are a few choice other ones as well:

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.

A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping
of a leaky roof in a rainstorm;
restraining her is like restraining the wind
or grasping oil with the hand.

A foolish child is a father’s ruin,
and a quarrelsome wife is like
the constant dripping of a leaky roof.

Better to live in a desert
than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.

Forego Fear

Women are prone to fear.  Their very nurturing nature predisposes them to assess potential dangers and to avoid them.  While this is a very useful skill, it has a tendency to bleed into all other areas of life, and can cause great distress as they try to fight the  response to flee.  Women are able to summon great courage, and fiercely protect their families, but this generally comes out when they are cornered.  It is when they are blind-sided or can see danger at a distance that fear envelops them.

Peter encourages women to let go of fear, for God is sovereign and is MORE THAN ABLE to protect them through their circumstances.  When women can let go of fear, God is able to use them more powerfully in every situation.  While the fear response has its place (seek shelter from tornadoes and lightning storms, lock the doors and go to the panic room when crowds come shooting up and burning down the town, etc.), so does trusting God in every circumstance.

A Qualifying Question

Women, let’s ask a question:  Do I exalt myself before men, or do I let God exalt me before men?

Men, let’s ask a question:  What attracts me most to the woman I desire?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me that it is You that I need to please, and not men.  Help me to dress in a way that honors You.  Help me to cloth myself with the character of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to live this life free of fear, for You are sovereign over all.  Help me to do what is good and right so that I will honor you with my body, words, and thoughts.  This I ask in Jesus Name, Amen.

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

National Security and God – 2 Kings 6:13-23

When The Lord God Almighty Guards Your Country, No Harm Shall Befall It

13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.

15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.

19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.

20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.

21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”

22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

Formidable Foes

When faced with an army of your enemy, many would be intimidated.  The prophet Elisha’s servant certainly was when he woke up one morning and saw the entire city surrounded with chariots of the nation that had declared war on Israel.  He was intimidated to the point where he began to experience great fear.

Fear Factor

When we are faced with what appears to be overwhelming odds, we also have a tendency to experience fear ourselves.  The Bible tells us over three hundred and sixty-five times – enough for one every day of the year – that we should not fear.   We have been told by God that there is nothing to fear, for He is sovereign.  Yet our physical eyes may try to deceive us, and Satan, the enemy of our souls, would try to instill fear and panic within us.

When we experience fear, we begin to act irrationally.  We see imaged threats that aren’t even real.  And we conflate the importance of the threats that are right in front of us.  In this case, the servant of Elisha the prophet saw no way out, and only saw himself and his master as being able to stand against this massive gathering of enemy troops.

Concealed Charioteers

But God protects His people.  Most of God’s people do not have the ability to peer into the spiritual realm.  If they did, they would see just how protected they are from the enemy.  Elisha, the prophet of God, prayed to God that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see what he could see, and God honored that prayer and did so.  When He opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant, he saw the most amazing sight – the hills were filled with chariots of fire being pulled by horses.  Immediately, this calmed down his heart, because his faith had become sight.

Supernaturally Subdued

…These aren’t the droids you are looking for…Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi

In what would seem to the world to be a stunning turn of events, Elisha the prophet prays and asks God to strike the enemy blind.  The Sovereign Lord God Almighty immediately answers his prayers, and the enemy is struck blind.  Although this in and of itself is amazing, but what happens next is even more amazing.

Remember that the enemy arrived at night.  They were camped out around the city.  They could clearly see the city, and the road that they came in on – the sun was out.  Scripture says that it was early in the morning (this began around 6:00 AM, as the fourth watch of the night was from 3:00 AM to 6:00 AM).  They were now struck blind.  That certainly would have unnerved them.  But it was what happened next that was most amazing and interesting.  Elisha tells the men that they are on the wrong road, and this is the wrong city.  He would lead them to the man that they were looking for.  They didn’t bat an eye!  Scripture doesn’t record that they even told Elisha why they were there!  Elisha appears to just walk up to them and tell them they are in the wrong place, and he’ll lead them to man.

In Elisha’s defense, he didn’t lie.  Elisha wanted to reveal himself to them in Samaria, so they technically were in the wrong city.  And Elisha did lead them to the right man – himself!  And, being blind (a rather incapacitating handicap at this point), they blindly followed Elisha to Samaria (no pun intended).

Manifest Mercy

Arriving in Samaria, in the land of the king of Israel, Elisha the prophet of God prayed that God would open the eyes of the men that were blinded.  Now, the group of chariots that were arriving would have been both seen and heard from at a great distance from the city of Samaria.  The king of Israel would surely have placed watchmen in distant areas to warn of any pending invasion by the king of Aram, as they were at war.  When news of the prophet of God leading an army of the king’s enemies towards Samaria, the king of Israel would have surely called all men to arms, and had them line up around the army as it approached.

Upon seeing the vast army in front of him, the king of Israel asked the prophet of God for permission to destroy it.  Elisha forbade the king from doing so, pointing out that it was improper for the king to kill those whom he had captured in war.  Elisha instead commands the king to feed them and provide them with drinks.  The prophet of God showed the love of God towards his enemies, and the king did more than what was required.  A great feast was thrown by the king for the army, and then they were sent back to Aram.

Providential Protection

When the king of Aram had heard what had happened, he realized that the land of the king of Israel was sovereignly protected by The Lord God Almighty.  And when the Lord God Almighty guards your nations’ borders, no enemy that comes against us will be able to  have any success in overtaking the land.

We would be well-advised by this historical record to seek the providential protection of the Lord God Almighty rather than trying to protect the land in our own strength with only our own intelligence, plans, weapons, and strategies:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the Lord.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I am in trouble, where do I turn first?

A short prayer of preparation

Father in Heaven, You have said that You would never leave me nor forsake me.  Give me comfort in that promise when my enemies surround me and threaten me with death and torture.  Give me strength that day to know what to say, and to speak boldly about You in the day of threat.  Grant me peace in my spirit, and help me to remember the protection that You provide.  For all that is required to wipe out an entire city is just one angel given authority to do so.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Philippians 1:27-30

Show No Fear – That Will Be A Witness That Any Who Oppose You Will Be Destroyed

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

Live the Life

Paul exhorts us to live a life worthy of the gospel that we have received.  In the world today, it is so much easier to just “go with the flow”.  We must be vigilant, and guard our hearts against the pull of the world, our flesh, and the devil.  Everything that we do is being witnessed by men, angels, and God.

And although only God can see our thoughts, Satan has been around for who knows how many millennia, and he and his cohorts in crime are pretty good at guessing what we are thinking.  Impossible, you say?  How is it then that con artists are able to “read” a person – properly evaluate how a person is reacting to something – and then feed them information that will speak to their inner desires, resonate with them, and then get them to do things that no one in their right mind would ever voluntarily do?  They are able to see the “tells” that we all have.  We have imperceptible changes in breathing, heart rate, pupil dilation, fidgeting, and other subconscious involuntary reactions to our environment.  They are able to “read” them – notice them and then watch for them – as they probe us with their carefully crafted words.

Satan can do the same thing.  He and the demons have been studying humans since the creation of Adam and Eve.  They know more about you than you know about yourself.  They cannot read your thoughts, but because we are spiritual creatures, they are able to interact with us on a spiritual level, and “whisper in our ear” the lies that they want us to believe and internalize.  Not every thought in your mind started with you.  Satan can bring back to memory the deepest and most emotionally powerful memories that you have, usually of your failures (to shame you) or your successes (to lead you to pride).  That is one of the reasons that Paul told us that we should, “…take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

When we do that, we are able to put everything in its proper place, and remember our training (“If you love me, you will obey my commands…”, “…offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God…”).  A good offense needs a good defense as well.  Otherwise, the enemy will easily break through your line of defense, and cause you unspeakable pain while interrupting your carefully planned strategy for success.

Stand Strong

Paul also exhorts us to stand strong in the one Spirit.  In Ephesians 6:14, we are told to “stand firm“.  The Greek word for this is stEte.  It is an imperative command – we should do it! – and it has the word-picture of a Roman soldier who has dug his shield and both his feet firmly into the ground, bracing himself for the impact of a rushing hoard of enemies.  Paul tells us here we are to stand firm as well – stEkete, or “YE ARE STANDING firm”.   We are to lock shields with our brothers and sisters in Christ, hold the line, and in all of this, be unified in purpose and thought.

Unified Undertaking

Paul tells us to strive together as one for the faith of the Gospel.  We are to all be engaged in the last great commission of our Lord and Savior:

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Face your Fear

Ah, the dreaded subject that is on our minds.  What will we do when we are opposed?  Internally, we are all frightened.  We are human, and God has instilled within us a very good mechanism that biologically activates a number of chemicals that inform us of what we should do when we are in perceived or real danger.  We experience fear.  It is a self-preservation mechanism that, if we didn’t have it, would cause many more of us to die unnecessarily.

If we had no fear in and of ourselves, we would do crazy things, like jump out of airplanes thousands of feet above the ground, jump off thousand food cliffs into coves of water, and…  Oh, I guess there ARE people who do these things!  We can overcome our fear of dying, pain, public embarrassment (that’s a hard one), public humiliation, and many other things that cause us fear.

But we don’t overcome them the way the way the world overcomes them.  We rely on and trust in the Lord God Almighty, who in our time of distress, gives us a peace that is beyond understanding and guards our hearts in Christ Jesus against anything that our enemies can bring against us.

When we react in this way, we are bringing two separate witnesses to bear:

  1. We are being saved (removes any doubt in the minds of those who oppose us)
  2. Our opposition will (eventually) be destroyed by a holy, righteous, and faithful God who doesn’t take it lightly when someone messes with their child (unless they repent).  Ask any parent what they would do if someone was trying to bring harm to their child.  Multiply that times infinity (God’s love and wrath are eternal), and you have God’s final reaction to any who refuse to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord in the flesh and opposes His children.

Selected for Suffering

Jesus Christ endured great hardship and suffering while He walked the Earth and died on the cross for our sins.  Since the student is not greater than the teacher, we should expect similar hardship and suffering while we engage in His work here on Earth.  Endure all hardship as discipline.  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.   Look to the life of Paul, and consider your suffering in light of His good example.  Remember what God said to Ananias concerning Saul, who was breathing threats against the brothers:

“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: When faced with fear, how do I respond?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me that I am to show no fear in how I conduct myself.  You expect this of me, because You will provide for my every need at the time I need it.  You have said through Your servant John, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  Help me to endure and allow perseverance to complete its work so that I may be mature in love.  Help me, as I overcome the enemy of my soul, that I would grow and mature in my walk with You.  Grant me the strength to walk, and the desire to live in holiness and righteousness before You and man.  Help me in my time of need when fear threatens to overtake me so that I would be bold, even unto death.  For even in death, You have promised me that You would never leave me nor forsake me.  This I ask in the precious name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, 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?

National Sovereignty and God – Nehemiah 2:2-6

God Approves Of Walls Built To Establish The Sovereignty Of Nations

2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”

I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.

A Terrifying Truth

At that time in history, no one dared enter the king’s presence with a sad face.  Everyone was required to smile.  To do otherwise could possibly result in a person’s immediate and very public execution.  God had placed Nehemiah in his position in the king’s service to further His purposes.  He has done this with many others, including Joseph, Daniel, and Esther, to name a few.  Even though Nehemiah tried, he could not hide his distress from the king.

Facing Fear

Over three hundred and sixty times in the Bible, God’s people are told, with differing words and the same message, “fear not”.  Nehemiah had just heard from Hanani, one of his brothers, that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, and the gates were burned by fire.  Nehemiah was the cup-bearer to the king.  He had immediate access to the highest human authority in the land.  God was placing a very heavy burden upon Nehemiah’s heart.  It so distressed him that he had sat down and wept, then mourned, fasted, and prayed to God for days.

So when the king noticed Nehemiah’s glum appearance and brought it to his attention, Nehemiah faced his fear and told the king of the burden that he felt upon his shoulders and his heart.  It should be noted that just prior to telling the king everything that was on his heart, the Bible records that Nehemiah prayed.  This is a great pattern for all of us to follow.  When we have fear in our hearts, our first (not last!) resort should be to consult and petition the highest authority possible – The Lord God Almighty.  We should do this even (and especially) when faced with the possibility of certain death, for this is the correct path to follow.

A Royal Request

Nehemiah, burdened by God with crushed heart concerning the situation that his people found themselves in concerning the land which God had sovereignly gave to them after the Exodus from Egypt, prayed to God and asked the king for a personal leave of absence to go to Jerusalem, his homeland, to rebuild the wall.

Not only did he request the time from the king, the Bible shows us that he was even more bold.  He had asked for the king to give him letters of passage across all of his lands so that no one would stop him or impede his progress – he needed safe passage.  He also asked the king to provide him, from the royal park, the necessary timber to both rebuild the gates of the city as well as the house that he would need to build once he arrived to stay in.  Now that takes courage!

Granted by God

Nehemiah notes that the gracious hand of his God was upon him.  And he was absolutely correct. Not only did king Artaxerxes provide him with the time off, lumber, and letters of safe passage, God sovereignly placed it upon the king’s heart to provide Nehemiah with a royal escort – something Nehemiah had not asked for.  This would absolutely guarantee that everyone would believe and comply with all of the requests that Nehemiah would make of them on behalf of the king through his written orders.

When we are burdened by God to do something, God will absolutely ensure that we have everything that we need to do what He has sovereignly assigned for us to do.  And sometimes when we forget to ask for something that is critical to our mission, God will provide what is necessary to ensure that His will is accomplished.

And in this case, God sovereignly approved of a wall that established as sovereign the city of Jerusalem.  God approves of national borders, and the right of nations to determine who is permitted to enter their sovereign soil.  If God believed that everyone should have the right to enter any place on Earth anytime they wanted to, He would have stopped Nehemiah in his quest to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.  Those who believe God and His Son, and whose faith is credited as righteousness, should take careful note of God’s view on the sovereignty of nations and His approval of walls to regulate the flow of people into their lands.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with certain danger, what is the first thing that I do?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, there is nothing that surprises You.  You are the one who sets up kings and rulers in authority.  All authority in Heaven and on Earth is Yours and Yours alone to delegate to whomever You choose.  Grant my heart wisdom and discernment as I read Your word so that I would know and understand Your position on national sovereignty.  Help me to reconcile any thoughts, attitudes, or opinions that differ from Your thoughts, attitudes, and opinions.  Help me to align my heart to Yours, and to accept, regardless of how I feel, that Your ways are above my ways, and Your thoughts are above my thoughts.  Father, I do not have the proper perspective of seeing the end from the beginning, nor knowing the disposition of every bit of matter in the universe at any point in time.  Help me to accept what I don’t understand, and give me peace in my heart when You do not desire to provide me with answers so that my heart may be at peace when my emotions are trying to overrule Your divinely inspired word.  Thank You Father for all things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Deliverance by God – Psalm 3

God Delivers His People Through All Of Their Trials

1 Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

3 But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

7 Arise, Lord!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

Mocking Minions

Regardless of the time or era, the children of the devil oppose the children of God.  Whether openly in public discourse, privately in sabotage, or in David’s case, outright rebellion from his own flesh and blood.  Each of us has or will encounter the specter of opposition (a.k.a. persecution).

David wrote this psalm concerning the outright rebellion of his son, Absalom.  He was forced to abandon his kingdom for a time, and was mocked both by his son and by others as he left town.  To further discourage God’s children, they will say things like, “Look at you!  God won’t help you!  You have been rejected by God, and now you are on your own!  He can’t even keep you in your position – leave town while you can, you worthless garbage!”  That is the type of mocking that David endured, and many will face the same.

Superior Shield

But God – the two words that, together, should bring great joy to our hearts – is your shield and your glory.  He is the lifter of your head.  God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent – nothing can overcome God!  God has said that He already knows our prayers and has sent answers before the requests even leave our lips.  God seeks to bring about the circumstances that will forge our character and reflect His glory.  But we need to do something first, something so difficult, it appears impossible.  We have to let go of fear.

Forgo Fear

Fear can drive the most sane person crazy.  It can consume them, destroying their lives, wasting away their energy and sapping them of the very will to live.  When we live in fear, we dread waking up in the morning to face it again – it seems to too difficult.  Sleep or death seems favorable in comparison.  David comments on this in the psalm, indicating that the only reason he is able to wake from his sleep is because the Lord sustains him.  He girds himself with the knowledge that God is his powerful shield, and that although thousands – even tens of thousands – seek to do him harm, God will deliver him through all of his trials.

Pull the Plug

David also gives us an example to follow in prayer.  He is brutally honest in his talks with God.  He asks that the his enemies’ strength be stripped from them.  Their strength lies in the arrogant pride and assurance that they are in the right, and that they are justified in their thoughts and actions.  David asks that God remove their strength – their ability to continue to inflict harm upon him and his family.  Sometimes that will mean that a person in authority is stripped of their authority.

Sometimes that will mean that we will be elevated to a position of authority that makes our enemies pause.  And sometimes that means that our enemies will be destroyed – whether physically, financially, emotionally, psychologically, or otherwise.  Regardless, God will be the one to engineer the circumstances that stops the wicked from being able to continue to do harm to us.

We can take heart that sometimes that even means that walls to keep out people will be built to protect us from those who seek to do us harm. Nehemiah successfully rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem despite jeering, mocking, false claims to the authorities of wrongdoing (the ancient equivalent of “swatting“), and outright threats to the workers’ very lives.  Imagine trying to rebuild a wall with one hand and with a weapon in your other hand, constantly looking around for the next attack.  Israel suffers this from their enemies even today.

Divine Deliverance

David reminds us that deliverance comes from the Lord God Almighty.  We can trust in His name – His character – to see us through all of our trials.  It is God and Him alone who will provide us with deliverance from our enemies.  For God has said,

  “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When all seems dark and impossible, am I trusting in the character of God to wait for Him to deliver me through it?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown Yourself to be faithful in all that You do.  No promise that You have ever made will fail.  Nothing can prevent Your sovereign will from being accomplished, for You and You alone are in charge of all created things.  Deliver me this day, O Lord, from the attacks of all of my enemies.  Break their strength, and deliver them to me as you did Goliath to David.  May their strength fail in battle.  May they suddenly experience the very fear they intentionally try to inflict upon me.  Give me victory over my enemies, that You will be shown to be my shield and my protectors.  Let not your servant fail in performing Your tasks, and have mercy upon my enemies, for I, like them, was once Your enemy.  Destroy my enemies with kindness, mercy, and grace.  And if that fails, strip them of their power to inflict harm upon others.  May Your justice prevail, and may all see the great power of Your mighty right hand as He sweeps aside those who would oppose You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Witnessing for God – Matthew 10:26-33

Do Not Fear, For God Will Reveal All

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

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

Forgo Fear

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

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

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

Relate the Revealed

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

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

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

Our Creator Cares

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do not Disown

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Trust in God – Psalm 56:3-7

The Wicked Twist Our Words And Malign Our Motives

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

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

Fear is Folly

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

Train to Trust

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

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

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

Warping Words

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

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

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

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

Terrible Tactics

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

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

Judge with Justice

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Grace of God – 1 Peter 1:13-16

Set Your Hope On The Grace Of God

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Grace of God

Most of the established denominational churches that profess to follow Christ stress the grace and mercy of God.  We are in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace, for without it, we would be subject to His judgement.  God goes to great lengths to remind us that it is only by His mercy and grace that we are permitted to be alive, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Grace is very important to remember and dwell upon, for in our time of need (which is every second of every day), we need to rely upon God’s character – both mercy and grace – to carry us throughout the day.  It is comforting to know that God is so generous with us because the other aspect of His nature – holiness – should give us great pause in how we view His grace and mercy.

The modern church often times stresses the grace and mercy of God as a way of living without the proper balance of the other portion of His character – holiness.  And while we are aware that God is holy, when we solely rely upon His grace and mercy without considering His holiness and righteousness, we do both God and ourselves a disservice.

We are told to fear God (reverentially and humbly view Him through the lens of love since He is, by definition, the embodiment of holiness).  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  It is foolishness to embrace God’s grace and mercy without embracing God’s holiness as well.

Eschew Evil

In order to embrace God’s holiness, we must first recognize that holiness is the abject hatred, scorn, and revulsion of evil.  It is only through despising evil that we can remove ourselves from its very strong call even after being freed from its bondage.  As beings with a predisposition towards sin, we are naturally attracted to and can easily embrace that which offends Almighty God.  It is only after understanding God’s viewpoint of sin that we are able to align ourselves and identify with God’s position on it.

Without a profound revelation of how much God abhors evil, we won’t be able to view it in the same way that God does.  And God understands that since we are predisposed towards sin, He offers us grace and mercy.  It is only through His grace and mercy that we can be forgiven such great offense towards God.  Until we are broken by our sin, we will eagerly embrace grace and mercy without the singular revulsion toward that which God so deeply despises.

Wholly Holy

As image-bearers of God, we have a sacred obligation to do that which we were created to do: to display the glory and holiness of God.  As recipients of grace and mercy, we are given the tools to do this.  Christ has broken the very strong hold that sin exerts in the lives of those who accept the free gift of God through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  In receiving this wonderful gift, we are not to abuse God’s grace and mercy:

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Living life completely dependent upon God’s grace and mercy without taking into account our own actions is to abuse God’s leniency.  As we submit our lives to the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus Christ did, we will find that we more greatly desire the holiness of God and obedience to His word as we seek to distance ourselves from that which offends God.  It is through the discipline of submission and obedience that we participate in the character of God, as Jesus modeled for us when He walked the Earth two thousand years ago.  As disciples of Christ, it behooves us to carefully consider our every action, word, and thought, that we would better emulate the character of the One that created us in order to reflect His love – the balance between grace, mercy, and holiness.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I seeking the holiness of God to the same extent that I see His grace and mercy?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for all that You have done to free me from the bondage of sin.  Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, that I may live.  Thank You for Your grace and mercy when I fail to be who You created me to be.  Help me to submit myself to You so that I can live in the manner in which You have chosen for me to live before the foundation of the world.  Guard me and guide me in all my ways.  May I live solely to please You as I seek to walk with Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to be the disciple that You so very much want me to be.  Help me always to remember that You are holy, and to not abuse Your grace and mercy.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Striving for God – Philippians 1:27-29

Live a Life Worthy of The Gospel

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

Christian Conduct

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

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

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

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

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

United Undertaking

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

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

Forgo Fear

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

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

Sign of Salvation

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

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

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

Sovereign Suffering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strategic Struggle

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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The Fear of God – Deuteronomy 10:12-13

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge

12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Fear Factor

We have all heard the expression, “That’ll put the fear of God into him!”  But what exactly is the Biblical meaning of “the fear of God”?

  • Is is an aversion of a “proverbial old, angry, bearded, white-robed man in the sky with his finger expectantly hovering above a smite button, waiting for the least opportunity to press it”?
  • Is it an anticipatory dread of the eternal forthcoming sentence as punishment for sins?
  • Or is it something else?

The Case of Character

In order to answer that question, we must first look at the character of God the Father:

  • Jonah, angry that He was sent to preach repentance to the Ninevites, had this to say about God:
  • He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.

  • In Lamentations 3:22-23, it is very likely that the prophet Jeremiah wrote the following:
  • 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
        his mercies never come to an end;
    23 they are new every morning;
        great is your faithfulness

  • John the Apostle wrote the following:
  • Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

It is clear, just from the three accounts above, that God is not waiting in heaven with His finger over the smite button just waiting for us to make a mistake – that is the devil’s lie, looking for any reason to try to deceive us and bring condemnation upon us.  And while there is a coming judgement where all whose names are not found in the Book of Life will judged and sent to the lake of fire, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.  The Apostle John also says there is no fear in love.  So this “fear” must be something else.

Reverence Revealed

There is a big difference between abject fear (terror – Greek phobon – we get our word “phobia” from it) and reverential fear.  Abject fear is an emotional response to a life-threatenting or pain-anticipatory situation.  However, when referring to “the fear of the Lord”, it is a different type of emotional response.  The “fear of the Lord” is a reverential trust and understanding that not only is God a Just Judge and will punish all evil, for He is Holy; but God is also Love, full of compassion, mercy and grace for those He created.  It is this synergy of both aspects of God’s character that permit us to see that He is not some towering ogre waiting to destroy us but rather a loving Father who righteously disciplines us so that we will not have to face His punishment (the white throne seat of judgement).  The love component of His character allows us to reverentially fear Him in love, where there is no emotional phobon of punishment.

The Qualifying Question

So let’s ask the question:  Are we motivated by God’s love to reverentially trust God, or are we motivated by the perceived threat of punishment for doing evil?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You reveal Your love to us through your mercy and compassion in that You sent Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins.  Remove any fear in my heart, Lord God, of punishment, and help me to reverentially trust You in Your steadfast love, mercy and grace.  Strengthen me when I am weak.  Guard my heart against all unrighteousness, and help me to come to You as a child in wonder and awe.  Forgive me of my sins, and give me clean hands and a pure heart, that I may worship you in exceeding joy.  Help me to recognize the warped viewpoint of the world, the flesh, and the devil, that I would not be deceived.  Blessed be Your name in all the universe!  May all creation rejoice in Your character!  Amen.

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

A Promise of God – Deuteronomy 6:8

When God makes promises, circumstances change.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Not Just for Joshua

The author of Hebrews took to heart that this promise was not just for Joshua, son of Nun, but reiterated it in Hebrews 13:5

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.”

A Promise Provided

This promise is fulfilled with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  He is a down-deposit for our inheritance.  He won’t just go away when we sin, or are in need, or feel lonely, or scared, or depressed.  He is ALWAYS there – comforting us, guiding us, leading us, empowering us, and encouraging us in our walk with God.

Light Leads through Love

Ephesians 5:18, showing us that the Holy Spirit leads us, saying:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,

The word “filled” is plErousthe in the Greek.  It means “to be controlled by.”  Just as wine controls us in drunkenness (who can honestly say that they are in their right mind and in control when they are drunk?), we are to be controlled by the Holy Spirit in all that we do.  It is an imperative command – not a suggestion!  We are expected to do this!

Since God is love, everything that The Holy Spirit does is in love – even if it is to refine our character and test our hearts through trialseven when we sleep!  We can be confident that when God is leading, we are in good hands.

Provision of Power

God doesn’t just give us an empty promise.  He promises not to forsake us.  To do that, He empowers us through The Holy Spirit:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God provides us with the source of the power of the resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.  He doesn’t just dwell in us; He provides power for all that we are to do.  We can take comfort and strength knowing that He is not just accompanying us through our journey, but providing for us as well.

The Fear Factor

Satan prowls about like a roaring lion, looking for prey to devour.  Lions are not creatures that we should confront without appropriate protection or weaponry.  It is easy to be frightened when confronting a force that can easily overwhelm and destroy you.  Have you noticed that just about every time an angel visits someone in the Bible, the very first words out of their mouth is “do not fear”?  There is a very good reason for that.  When confronted with the power of angelic beings, we are immediately aware of our fragile nature.

But God has provided us with the Spiritual Armor of God.  And we have an offensive weapon as well – the Sword of the Spirit, which IS the scriptures.  And God’s Word says that there is no fear in perfect love.  Since God is love, and we are in Christ, we no longer need to fear.  Fear is predicated on consequences, and ALL of our sins – past, present and future – have been forgiven.  God has chosen not to forsake us, and even in our incapacity to live life perfectly because of our sin nature, God still provides for our future sins, having known about them from before time began.

The Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask the question:  given this wonderful promise, are we allowing the Holy Spirit of God free rein to lead and empower our lives as we walk with God to the extent that we should?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have made us this wonderful promise.  Give me the strength today to let go of those things that interfere in Your guidance of my life.  Rid me of my own evil desires, and place within me the desires of Your heart.  Help me to yield myself to you completely as a living sacrifice.  Remove the dross from my heart, and help me to submit completely to the Holy Spirit.  Father, I recognize that in submission to You there is freedom.  Set me free from myself that I may be free in You.  Bless Your Holy Name, for You give Your children wonderful gifts and promises.  Knowing that I am never alone, and always in Your care comforts me through my trials.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, 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?