Building the Body – Colossians 1:9-14

Prayer Is The Fuel For Spiritual Body Building

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Foundational Fuel

Everywhere you look in scripture, people are praying.  They are praying to worship God in praise.  They are praying to petition God for assistance.  They are praying for God’s will to come about.  And here, Paul and Epaphras are praying that the seed that was planted in the church body located at Colossi would flourish.

Prayer is the fuel and only offensive weapon we have in our spiritual warfare:

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Jesus definitively recognized that His disciples should pray.  Notice the words He uses when He talks about prayer:

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Jesus doesn’t say, “If you pray…”, or, “Should you decide to pray…”, or, “Perhaps you should pray…”.  Jesus says, “…when you pray…”.  One of the reasons that we are so weak is that we are not doing what our body-building trainer tells us to do – P R A Y!

Body Building

In this passage, there are several tips to successful spiritual body-building.  And just as Earthly body-builders need to practice and have workouts to keep their physical bodies in top shape, spiritual body-builders need to complete their workouts to keep their spiritual lives in top shape.  God is all about relationship.  Prayer is communication, which is a vital part of the relationship process.

Here are some of the tips and tricks provided to us to up our game in spiritual body-building from Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ:

Dominion of Darkness

Before God the Holy Spirit revealed Jesus Christ to us, we were in the dominion of darkness.  Satan was our father, for our deeds were evil and we neither sought out God, nor gave Him glory.  The world, the flesh, and the devil were our constant companions and our advisors.  We were born with a sin nature passed down to us from Adam.  It’s no wonder that we were slaves in bondage to sin.

Crown of Christ

Jesus came to rescue us from our bondage to sin and from sin itself, and reconcile us to the Father.  When we confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, we were moved into the Kingdom of Light.  We have been adopted as children into the family of God.  Jesus is our brother; we are his brothers and sisters.

This seems very basic, but it has profound meaning and implication in our lives.  No longer are we prohibited from experentially and relationally knowing God.  No longer do we look in confusion or bewilderment at who God is; God is revealing Himself to us through His Son in His word and through the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

To those who have been given much, much is expected.  How much has God given you?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I being faithful in my spiritual body-building exercises?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, the knowledge that You have adopted me into Your family is too wonderful for me to comprehend.  Just as an orphan is stunned after being adopted into a loving family, I am still stunned as I ponder the implications of being adopted into Your family.  You have done great and mighty things on and for my behalf.  You have given me an eternal future with You, access to You in Your throne room any time I need or just want to be there, and you have given me access to the royal treasury by blessing me with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  You have said that to those who have been given much, more is expected.  Father, what do you expect of me?  Show me that I may do all that you desire for me to do and become in gratitude for all that You have done for me.  Help me to remember my brothers and sisters in Christ, and pray fervently for them that they would be built up in Christ.  Give me Your love, so that it will be on display for all to see.  Help me to yield myself to you completely.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Letting Go of the Past -Isaiah 43:18-19

In Order To Move Forward, You Need To Leave The Past Behind

18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”

Finally, Forget!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have selective amnesia?  To suddenly be able to forget something to the point you cannot even remember that it occurred? God, through the prophet Isaiah, is telling us that we have the ability to place the past behind us.  We are capable of utilizing our brains in such a way that we can forget the past and put it behind us.  It generally involves three steps:

  1. Dealing with the past (emotionally, spiritually, and relationally)
  2. Choosing not to dwell on the past
  3. Choosing to dwell on a more powerful passion – the future!

In order to move forwards, you need to first deal with the past.  This can involve several steps (the following is not an exhaustive list, but several broad starting points – let God direct the path YOU need take):

  • Repent of past sins
    • Approach God with an open and humble heart.  Allow God to show you where you need to forgive, what you need to rectify, and what you need to abandon.
  • Repair past relationships
    • Reconcile with anyone that may have anything against you.  Allow God to show you who they are.  There may be people who are just too dangerous to reconcile at this time (or ever), so be aware of God’s leading in this
  • Settle old debts
    • Do what you can to settle any debts you have with anyone.  Make a clean break  where possible.  Sometimes, this is not possible financially. Allow God to direct you in what you can do, and let Him do what He needs to do.
  • Stopping fruitless projects
    • Arborists will cut a diseased limb off of a tree to save the tree.  This is not an act of cruelty to the tree, but rather a life-saving act of mercy.  In the same way, allow God to show you where time and life stealing endeavors in your life are causing you too many problems, and let go of them.  The desires of the past will be replaced with a vision of the future…

Don’t Dwell

We are told to place our worries, problems, emotional distress, and everything that we have to deal with at the foot of the cross.  This is bringing it to Jesus in prayer, asking that He bear the burdens that are too difficult for us to bear, and walking away.  The problem with many disciples of Christ is that after we set down our baggage at the cross, we pick it right back up and walk away with it.

Practically, this is when we give something to God, then we keep remembering it in our minds.  God is able to move our sin as far as the East is from the West.  He is able to forgive and forget.  We need to do the same.  The problem is, many of us don’t want to forget.  We immediately begin thinking of how so-and-so did such-and-such to us.  When we do that, we have picked up our baggage and taken it with us as we leave the cross.  Additionally, the enemy of our souls, Satan, will remind us and hound us constantly when we are trying to let go of something.  He’ll place thoughts in our mind like, “How DARE that man in that car just careen in front of you and nearly cause you to crash!  Unbelievable!  What is the world coming to?  What is wrong with these people?!”  By getting us to rehash the past, we are unable to focus on the future…

The brain is very interesting.  It acts like a record.  After repeated thought patterns occur (dwelling on the past), it forms grooves in the brain to reinforce the pattern, thought, or behavior (we call this habits, attitudes, and character).  The brain can then more quickly access these pathways, and they slowly become ingrained in us.  And when we encounter a problem, it goes to these “thought highways” where we can”quickly resolve” the issue.  It is like a needle in a record’s groove – there is a path that is easy to take, and we can get into ruts where the needle just skips and goes in the same groove forever and ever…

However, the brain is dynamic and can change.  We need to forge new paths, or highways, in the brain.  And just as it is difficult to make a new groove on a record with a needle, so it is with our brains.  Eventually, when we no longer use the old highways, the brain will eventually allow them to dissipate.  Eventually, these old highways become distant echos of the past.  You truly can retrain the brain.

Different Development

God then reminds us that He is constantly doing new things!  Rather than watch movies in our minds about the past, we can look to the present and the future, where God is already causing new developments to occur.  He is constantly and actively at work in our lives, the lives of others around us, and in the world.

Because we are created in the image of God, we have curiosity.  In Revelations 21:5, God tells us He is making everything new.  The Greek word used for making, poiO, means continually making (new).  God recognizes that we become bored easily and can focus on the past.  Even in the far future, in eternity, God will be doing new things continually!

Embrace Eruptions

In order to embrace the present and the future, we need to pay attention to what is going on around us.  God is moving, and if we don’t carefully watch, He may go off in a direction while we are too busy smelling the dying roses.  We need to be open to what God is doing, and to watch carefully and eagerly to perceive what is about to come.

The skill of discernment is sadly lacking in many disciples of Christ.  This skill is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for the continued growth and protection of the disciple.  We have been told that we can test and approve of God’s good, perfect, and pleasing will.  How can we do that if we are not even attempting to discern what His will is in a particular matter?  Practice makes perfect.  Start today, and ask God to help you to develop the skill of discernment.

Forging Forward

God has said that He would go before us and prepare a way ahead of us.  Just as he drove out the people of Canaan for the Israelites so that they could inhabit the inheritance of the promised land, God is also preparing a path for us individually and corporately.  God is always looking ahead, making minor course adjustments here and there so that everything that He ever prophesied about through His people and recorded for us to know will come to pass.  God is not a liar, and He will not be made out to be a liar.  God will ensure that his plans will ALWAYS succeed, even if that means that He needs to move mountains or take people home.  We are to discern that path that God is making and walk alongside Him as He forges a new path forward.  By walking alongside Jesus, rather than camping out in the past, we are best prepared to grow and let the past go.

Royal Reclamation

When streams are created in the wasteland, the life-giving water begins to transform the area as plants find renewed ability to grow and flourish.  Physical water allows the land to flourish; spiritual water allows God’s people to flourish.  God is opening springs of living water in each of us through His Holy Spirit, and the living water that gushes out brings life and life abundantly to us.  And as the holy things are being watered, the dead, dying, decaying things of the flesh begin to rot and return to their proper place.  But just as rotting material stinks, so will our sin nature attempt to get our attention.  We must focus on the future, and in doing so, we can and will let go of the past.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I focusing on the future, or dwelling in the past?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your word is good, and it tells me that I am able to let go of the past.  Help me to process the emotional scars of the past so that I can move forward to the future.  Give me the ability to refute the accusations of the enemy of my soul, and to dwell on what You are doing rather than on what has already occurred.  Give me a renewed sense of Your plans and purposes so that I may see where the path lies that You have forged for me to move ahead.  Give me the strength to leave what is behind me at the foot of the cross, and to forge forward to what You are getting ready to do.  Help me to deal with the baggage of the past, and to approach the future with unhindered, open hands, raised in adoration and worship of You as You lead me forward.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Forgiving Others – Matthew 18:21-35

Forgive As You Have Been Forgiven

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

A Quantifying Question

Peter asks a question of Jesus, which he then answers.  But Jesus does something that Peter doesn’t expect – He gives him an answer that is far beyond the fathomable realm of belief.  The prophet Amos indicated that three times was the appropriate number of times to forgive before exacting justice.  Seven times would have been more than gracious.  Then Jesus comes out with what appears to be a ludicrous number – seventy seven times.  Some translations of the Bible put the number at seventy times seven.  It is not the number that should be focused upon – no one would be able to mentally remember how many times that would be.  The number was so exceedingly high as to indicate that we should continually forgive others.

A Perfect Parable

Jesus then introduces one of the most frightening of parables.  It has royal intrigue, forgiveness, hardness of heart, and a terrible outcome.  We should take and internalize it so that we can understand its implications and realize the perilous ground that we find ourselves standing on when, by hardness of heart, we refuse to forgive others of their offenses against us, no matter how insignificant, nor how great and devastating.

Insurmountable Indebtedness

The debt was astronomical – ten thousand bags of gold.  Just for a reference, let’s place a fictitious weight in each bag, then get a rough idea of how much money was at stake.  Let’s say that each bag of gold held twenty pounds of gold (for the sake of argument).  That would be 200,000 pounds of gold.  Each pound of gold would have twelve Troy ounces – 2,400,000 ounces of gold.  And at today’s prices, even if we were to low-ball – $1000 US per ounce – that would be 2.4 BILLION US dollars!

This would have been an unfathomable debt for the average person.  But if it seems like someone could actually pay that off, multiply it times one million, or a billion.  The idea is that there is an unfathomable debt to repay, and that no reasonable person could repay it.  We find ourselves in that very situation.  For all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.  Each of us owes a blood-debt that we cannot pay.

Royal Relief

The man who owed this to the king begged for mercy.  And in a show of great compassion, the king forgave the man of his debt.  Imagine the relief that the man must have felt!  And imagine the pain it must have caused the king to lose that much.  But the king was gracious, and the man greatly profited from his compassion.

This is the same situation that we each find ourselves in.  The price of sin is the blood of a sinless person.  Because none of us are sinless, we cannot repay our debt.  But Jesus Christ died for our sins, and shed His sinless blood for us, so that we could pay our blood-debt to God, and be free.

A Hardened Heart

The forgiven man then went out and found a man who owed him just a little money.  Possibly not having any money after squandering the billions in gold, he began to try to get some money from people who owed him.  And when the man who owed him asked for mercy, the forgiven man wouldn’t forgive his debt.

When we refuse to forgive someone of their debt to us, we are like the forgiven man who won’t forgive a much smaller debt.  We should be grateful that God has forgiven us, and show that same forgiveness to others.  When we will not forgive another person’s debt to us, we are acting out of a hardened heart.  We forget what God has done for us, and desire justice where there should be mercy.

Forgiveness harms the forgiver three ways:

  • The original pain of the offense
  • The pain in forgiving the debt
  • The knowledge that there will be no justice for the debt

Yet, God did this for each and every person who would believe in Him.  And it is up to us to do the same.  Is the pain real?  Yes.  Does it hurt?  Most certainly.  Will the pain ever go away?  Some pain takes longer than others to heal.  Yet, we are still to do what is right.

Colossal Consequences

When the king heard about the hardness of the forgiven man’s heart, he turned the man over to the jailer to be tortured until he repaid his debt.  Since the debt was not payable, he would be tortured for a very long time indeed.  We are warned that unforgiveness is a great offense to God, and that He will deal with us in a similar manner if we don’t forgive others as we have been forgiven.

We can look at this several ways.  We can look at this as an obligation, a direct command from God – forgive others, for I have forgiven you.  While certainly this is implied, it is difficult to do.  Another way to look at this is through the heart of compassion.  Do you realize just how much God has forgiven you?  Every mistake, every sin of commission and omission, every little and great thing we have done wrong, has been completely forgiven.  When we realize just how little a debt that others owe us in comparison to what we have been forgiven, we can place it in its rightful place and let it go.  Even terrible things like molestation, psychological and physical abuse, and other things that are so terrible that they can barely be spoken about, are minuscule in comparison to the debt that we have with just one single, little sin against God.  For when we break any part of the law, we have broken all of it.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When someone sins against me, am I quick to forgive them?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are gracious to me, and have forgiven my sin.  Help me, Father, to recognize just how much I have been forgiven.  Help me to have a heart of compassion and mercy to others, so that when they sin against me, I may forgive them.  Help me to embrace Your character, and to grow in grace and mercy as I put forth every effort to forgive.  And I pray, Father, that when someone does something that hurts me so bad that I don’t want to forgive them, that You would help me to put their sin in its proper place, and give me the strength, courage, and ability to lay their sin at the foot of the cross where it belongs.  And when the enemy of my soul, Satan and his minions, try to dredge up the memory of other people’s sin against me, I pray that You will give me the ability to remember that it at the foot of the cross, and to not be emotionally compromised by it.   And help me to remember that when the final trumpet is sounded, the enemy of my soul will be cast into the lake of fire, to be tormented forever, as justice is properly served.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Announcing the Announcer – Luke 1:76-80

John The Baptist Would Prepare The Way For The Messiah

76 “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Proclaiming the Prophet

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, had been struck mute when he was confronted by the angel Gabriel concerning the birth of his son.  After proclaiming his son’s name by writing it on a tablet, the condition was removed, and Zechariah began to prophesy concerning his son.  The first words from his mouth were praise and glory to God followed by the announcement that his son, John the Baptist,  would be a prophet.  He then spoke of a few characteristics concerning John.

Prepare a Path

John the Baptist was to prepare the way for the Lord.  John fulfilled this prophesy by proclaiming that the people needed to be baptized for their sins:

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene- 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.'”

John came out of the wilderness when the Spirit of God came to him.  He baptized by water all who desired to be prepared for the coming messiah.

Speak of Salvation

John spoke of salvation to the people, not only baptizing them for their sin in preparation for the messiah, but telling them that they needed to change by being obedient to the word of God:

7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

In each case, John the Baptist called people to stop living for themselves, and begin to love their neighbor as themselves.  He encouraged them to produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  Merely going through an act was not going to do them any good.  They were to have a change of heart, and live their lives in such a way that they showed the change.  Salvation came to those whose hearts were changed by the word of God so that they would believe God.

Burn Brightly

The people wandered in their hearts if John the Baptist was the messiah. He pointed people to the messiah and responded:

15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

John the Baptist faithfully pointed people to the messiah, and consistently told them that he was not the one they were looking for.  And when he saw his messiah come to be baptized by him, he faithfully announced Him to the crowds:

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

John the Baptist faithfully did everything that was required of him, and fulfilled the prophecy of his father in accordance with the will and word of God.  In every way, John had grown stronger in spirit in preparation for his coming assignment to prepare the way for the Lord.  John was faithful in all that he did.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I fulfilling the purposes that God has prepared for me to do for him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me the way to salvation.  Give me the strength and desire to bear fruit in accordance with my profession of faith in the completed work and shed blood of my Savior.  Help me to honor and glorify Your name with the works that You have prepared for me to do since before the foundation of the universe.  Strengthen me this day that I might be steadfast in shining for You as a light on a hill.  Prepare the soil of the hearts of all that Your word would take root and bear much fruit, for I know that time grows short and the return of Your son in imminent.  Help me to be aware of this always as I go about my day, and be in tune with Your spirit, yielding my spirit to You as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing in Your sight.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Love of God- 1 Corinthians 13:5-6

Love Seeks The Betterment Of Others

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Don’t Dishonor

Paul, in his famous treatise of love, provides insight into what can be gleaned from love by highlighting what love is not.  Love does not dishonor others.  Love believes the very best of people.  This is not to say that we don’t take reasonable precautions when interacting and trusting others; love does its best to seek the welfare of everyone:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Self-Seeking

Love is not self-seeking.  It is always other-seeking.  It seeks the welfare of our neighbors first.  The acrostic JOY helps us to remember our place in life:

Jesus
Others
You

It is only when we have our priorities straight that we are able to see clearly.  Self-seeking people are unable to see the priorities of life correctly, because they are blinded by their desire to fulfill their own needs and desires regardless of the injury to their neighbors.  This blinds us to reality.  We are told to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things will be added to us.  Provision by God is a natural extension of His love for us when we are providing for the needs of others.  God again reveals His character when we engage in it ourselves.

Steady State

Anger can be a useful tool.  It is a proper response to injustice and unrighteousness.  But because of the fall of man, we take anger to new levels.  We become angry for many reasons, but mostly because we have a perceived unmet need.  Our expectation of outcome is not met, and many times in selfishness, this displays itself as anger.  Think about the responses that any one of us would have in the following two scenarios:

  1.  You are walking along a crowed street in a strange city you have never visited before.  A person you have never met before walks up to you and says, “I hate you!  You are mean and don’t care about me!”
  2. Your spouse (or someone very close to you) walks up to you and says, “I hate you!  You are mean and don’t care about me!”

Most people in the first scenario would probably look quizzically at the person and in their inner voice say, “That was weird…”  But in the second scenario, there is a higher expectation of behavior from that person due to an established relationship, whether it is an accepted cultural expectation of behavior, or an expectation of behavior due to a cultivated relationship.  It would most likely cause emotional distress.  What is the difference?  Both people said the same thing.  It is our expectation of outcome that changes our emotional reaction.

We can choose how we react to situations, as shown in the above scenarios.  God chooses to wait to be angry for a while, giving us every opportunity to come to Him and make things right.  Even when we were sinners, Christ died upon the cross for us.  He had the view of eternity in front of Him always.   This assisted Him in being able to make such great sacrifices, and should encourage us to do the same.

Faithful Forgiveness

Paul goes on to say that love keeps no record of wrongs.  God, in His loving character, moves our sin as far from the East is from the West.  When we keep track of who has done what to us, we are in effect not allowing the grace of God to penetrate our hearts for what we have been forgiven.  We are, in effect, holding these wrongs against the other person.  This is not to say that we excuse bad behavior, but that when we choose to forgive someone of their sin, we don’t hold it against them.

In the same way, we should be prudent in how we exercise our judgment.  If the 16-year-old likes to party (it’s nearly impossible to control the behavior of children every second of every day), and shows poor judgment in how he/she lives life, it is unwise to provide him/her with the keys to the family car.  You still love them, you forgive them, you just don’t permit them to endanger themselves or others by providing access to privileges that require great responsibility to exercise safely.

Eschew Evil

Love does not delight in evil.  To do so would be a public endorsement of it.  In the same way, we don’t wear swastikas nor joyfully put our right arms out and publicly say, “Heil Hitler!”,  even in jest.  We don’t laugh at the misfortune of others in an effort to demean them.  God has a revulsion to evil, a true and deep hatred of it.  He despises evil.  In the same way, as our hearts become attuned to His through the washing of the word, we should have that same hatred of evil.  And while we must have compassion on those who engage in evil acts (remember Stephen’s cry to God to forgive the attackers who were stoning him to death), it is perfectly alright to hate the evil acts themselves.

Triumph in Truth

Instead, we should rejoice with the truth.  Love recognizes truth and is comfortable in it.  Love is a reflection of truth – the very nature of reality as it should be, rather than as it is.  Each of us view life through filters.  The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  It rightly sees things as they are, rather than as we think they are.  Only God, who is perfect, it able to truly see everything the way it really is.  And when we walk in love, a defining character trait of Almighty God, He reveals Himself to us in a greater way, and helps us to see things from His perspective.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I walking in Godly love?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You constantly display Your love for us each and every day through Your mercy, grace, and compassion.  You seek us when we stray, and woo us to You through Your kindness.  Help me, Lord God, to walk in Your love. Show me how to love You and others in the same way that You love me.  Give me a heart of compassion, mercy, and grace.  Help me to rejoice in the truth.  Remove the scales from my eyes that I would see clearly.  Guide and guard my heart in all things.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Spiritual Development with God – 1 John 2:12-14 (NASB)

Everyone Is In A Different Stage Of Spiritual Development

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Past and Present

John reaches out to three groups of believers in both the present tense (first part) and the past tense (latter part).  He is writing to remind them of their spiritual state and growth in Christ.  This may be due to the growth that has occurred in the church, and John wishes to remind those from where they came and where they are now.  He reminds them in both tenses of essentially the same thing for each stage of spiritual development.  He does this to encourage them in their spiritual growth.

Children in Christ

John first mentions the children – the babes in Christ.  He reminds them that their sins are forgiven.  As we throw off the grave-clothes of our old lives, and emerge freed from their restrictive effect upon our spiritual movement, we need to continually remember that we have been forgiven our sins.

The devil and his minions would continually remind us of the past, and try to get us focus on what was rather than on what is – that we are free in Christ.  Young babes in Christ must be reminded that God has forgiven them their sins for two reasons:

  1. We should no longer act in the way that we used to
  2. Now that we are free, we are capable of experentially knowing the Father through participating in His character as we walk with Him

Fine Fathers

John next addresses the more mature followers in Christ – the fathers.  In both tenses, he reminds them of their spiritual maturity in that they know the character of the living God.  Indeed, they have participated in His character and walk in it.  As they walk in God’s character, God reveals more of Himself to them so that they can walk even closer.

This is important to remember as we mature in Christ.  We are to be encouraged to seek out and experience God’s character more and more each day.  And we should remember that we have overcome the first two stages of spiritual development:

  • Childhood – learning to walk
  • Adolescence – overcoming obstacles through strength and discernment

Adolescent Achievers

John finally addresses those who spiritual development is in a state of great spiritual flux.  These are disciples who are learning to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.  They have successfully learned to resist the temptations placed before them, and are about to embark on the more difficult journey of greater spiritual maturity.

John reminds this group in both tenses that they have overcome the evil one.  That is no small thing.  The Holy Spirit is the one who empowers us to walk with God.  This group has been commended for yielding their lives in holy obedience to God’s word and development in discernment so that they can overcome the devil.  They are beginning to mature, but are not yet walking in full maturity.

Just as young men take on more responsibility and find out who they are as men, so these disciples are finding out who they are in Christ.  They are being proven as faithful and worthy, and will soon discover their place and purpose among the family of believers that they are attached to at present.  Sometimes, there is no substitute for experience that difficulty in life can present.  And once they are trained by it, they will bear much fruit in maturity.

 A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Where am I in my spiritual growth development?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is You who have graciously given me the opportunity to walk with Your Son, Jesus Christ, in holiness and obedience.  Without His sacrificial blood, I would still be lost in my sins.  For this I am eternally grateful – that although You are completely just, You have shown me mercy and grace.  Please extend your mercy and grace to all who do not yet know You.  Woo them to You as You have done with me.  Strengthen me in my walk with You that I would mature and be complete, lacking in nothing.  Help me as I walk to further grow spiritually and to be dependent on You completely without reservation.  Help me to be fully obedient to Your Holy Spirit.  Help me to die to self, pick up my cross daily, and follow You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

The Love of God – Luke 6:32-36

God Is Love

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Love the Lost

Jesus has set the standard for love.  When we were still sinners, He allowed Himself to be impaled upon the cross for our sins.  It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus on the cross – it was His love for us.  Nothing and no one could have kept Jesus on the cross if He didn’t want to be there.  He told us in His word that he could have called upon twelve legions of angels to come to His aid if need be.

The love of God is a recurring theme throughout all of scripture.  The Israelites have repeatedly ignored the laws that God has given them in His covenant to them, yet God has promised to redeem them.  Though they suffered much, God still protects them today from their enemies.  In the due course of time, and to the glory and praise of God, He has brought them together and gave them back their country after millennia of being dispersed.

God loved Adam when he sinned, and sacrificed an animal for his sins as well as to give him and Eve covering for their bodies.  God gave us the perfect covering for our sins in the blood of Jesus Christ, which acts as a robe of righteousness and washes away our sins.  God it the one who continually provides for us, even and especially when we act wickedly towards Him.  God seeks out the lost not because they came to Him first, but because He loves them.

God gives us His resources to use, knowing that at some time, we may abuse them, or use them in a way that does not honor Him.  God is gracious in this time and time again, generation after generation.  God’s continuous act of giving all of us access to His sunshine and rain shows that God loves all of us.

We have been provided much from God.  When we use our resources to just help one another, and don’t help the wicked and evil among us, we are not properly bearing the image of God.  It seems counter-intuitive to help the wicked, for we know that they greatly want us to fail.  They will use every means at their disposal to destroy our character through (false) accusations, take what isn’t theirs, and attempt to force us to do their bidding through governmental force when we no longer respond to accusations of hatred and bigotry.  They deny God (as we once did), and do the same things to Him (as they think they can).  Yet God still seeks them (and us) out.

We need to remember that God is calling all to repentance.  We need to reach out to our enemies to try to reconcile with them, within the limits of the laws of God.  God seeks to destroy His enemies by making them His friends.  And should they refuse His initial attempts, He shows them even more mercy.  But even God has limits.  And anyone who refuses to respond to the love of God will receive His judgment and punishment.

Magnificently Merciful

God is full of mercy and grace.  His mercies renew every morning.  God has compassion upon us because He loves us.  Jesus knows how difficult it can be walking with flesh on.  God has been so merciful, that He has tolerated the systematic slaughter of more than fifty million babies alone in the United States of America to the god of abortion.  Anyone of lesser character would be so angry that they might utterly destroy such a callous, unfeeling, murderous, ungrateful, and rebellious people.  Yet God continues to show all of us mercy.  We need to remember His mercy when our enemies need our help.  God also promises a great reward for this.  And while He doesn’t elaborate, I believe that the great reward is the ability to experience His character, and draw closer to Him.  For when we experience His character and draw close, we become more like Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I loving my enemies with compassion, mercy, and assistance?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us mercy, compassion, and love each and every day.  Help me, Father, to experience Your character in a more personal way every day.  Show me how to love my enemies.  Help me to see them the way that You see them, and to react in a way that correctly displays Your character to all that watch.  Show them Your love through my love, compassion, and mercy.  Grant them peace and prosperity.  Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Forgiven by God – Ephesians 4:32

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

It is a blessing to be forgiven. What a relief!  It is also expected that we will forgive as we have been forgiven.  So why is it so hard to forgive when we have been forgiven so much?  We suffer three injuries every time we forgive:

  • The Initial Offense – We suffer from the harm that happened because of the event
  • The Pain of Reconciliation – We must come to terms with the pain of offense and let that pain go, since we consider it as though it never happened
  • The Absence of Justice – We suffer knowing that since we have chosen to forgive, justice will not occur for the offense

Yet, we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven.  But why does it seem that every day people are getting more evil than ever?  Perhaps this is why (Matthew 24:12-13):

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Besides, everything has already been paid in full already.  Just as some physical injuries take longer to heal than others, the pain of sin and forgiveness can take longer for certain events.  Either way, we are called to be perfect like God.  So, like everything else in life, practice makes perfect – make forgiveness the first state of mind when someone wrongs you.  And let God take care of the rest.  Lean on Him for strength and healing.  For:

Isaiah 61:1-3

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

Be an oak of righteousness; forgive as God has forgiven you.  And let God give you the oil of joy and a garment of praise.

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have forgiven us more that we can even comprehend.  From the worst of sinners as Paul described himself to the ones who led good lives, we have all sinned and fallen short of Your glory.  Forgive us this day our trespasses, and help us to forgive the trespasses of others.  Strengthen us as we deal with the consequences of not only our own sin, but the sin of others.  Help us to remember what it cost You to forgive our sins, that we might put everything into perspective.  Touch our hearts and comfort us as we draw close to you.  This we ask in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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

The Perspective of God – Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord: “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

“Reason together” is very interesting.  It is a meeting of the minds.  In our culture, it could be defined as, “let’s get together and discuss the matter.  You present your perspective, I’ll present mine, and we’ll meet in the middle somewhere.”  But that isn’t what is going on at all.  God is TruthGod is Perfect.  And a perfect and absolutely truthful God who knows all things is inviting us to see things from a correct perspective.  Although He sees our perspective (flawed as it is by our inherent sin nature which blinds us to the truth), He offers His perspective and beckons us to move to where He is to see things rightly.

Have you ever noticed that when you change your perspective – you move perhaps a step to the left or the right – that some things take on an entirely new meaning?  Have you ever seen an optical illusion, where if you move a little one way or the other, you see it for what it really is, but when you stand in just the right place, your brain fools you by filling in the gaps as it tries to define what it believes to be the truth?  It does this by using false, 2D perspectives in conjunction with interpolated depth perception (the ability of the mind to make rational calculations on what something should look like by comparing it to what appears to be a nearby known object of reference).

Take train tracks going in the distance.  Do the rails really get closer to each other the further away the rails are from us?  Why do they appear closer to each other then?  Our brains take what our eyes see and then creates a modified image using clues from other things around it to find meaning in what we see.  The brain has an internal mechanism that looks for meaning everywhere and in everything it sees.  Do you ever see bunnies or cars or birds in the way the clouds are formed?  Are the clouds really those things?  This is because God has given us the ability to intrinsically recognize intelligent designThis is why God can say that no one has any excuse for not recognizing that there is a God by looking at His creation. Since we are able to see that pattern (intelligent design), that ability permeates into other areas of our thought processes.

God offers a very wonderful opportunity to see the truth by pulling back the curtains on sin and righteousness and even time itself.  We are created beings, and as such, are bound at this time by the effects of the physical world, including TIME.  Rushing around, we are scarcely aware of the bigger picture, because time creates an interesting illusion – that it will always be around, and that there are immediate, temporal consequences for our actions.  It also fools us into thinking that when immediate consequences do not occur, that nothing bad will happen.  This illusion can guide us into being its slave, rather than helping us to use it for God’s purposes.  Timing is everything, right?

So, let’s take a step back and see the magic trick exposed.  What happens when we take a look at something through the lens of ETERNITY?

  • Justice is served.  How easy we get riled up when people do terrible things to us.  But God, being a just God, has ensured that justice will be served.  The Bible says that God can not be mocked, and a man reaps what he sows.  However, the transgression, in God’s eyes, has already been paid for.  Jesus bore the sins of the world, every sin for every person ever to exist – in the past, present, and the future – on the cross.  The lawbreakers (those who reject Jesus’s payment for our debt to God from sin) go to Hell (the Lake of Fire), and those who accept Jesus go to be with Him in Heaven.  Regardless, JUSTICE HAS BEEN SERVED. You can forgive the offender now.  The debt has already been paid.  In God’s eyes, since He sees the end from the beginning, He saw it as paid for even before the universe was created; and all of the lawbreakers are already in His jail, the Lake of Fire.

That was just one.  Take some time today, and with the Word of God, and the Lens of Eternity, what else do you see that you haven’t seen before?

A short prayer of preparation:

Our Father in Heaven, You are so good to us.  In our blindness, You offer sight.  You pull back the veil of darkness that clouds our vision and reveal wonderful new things in Your law.  You call us to draw close to You and to see things from Your perspective, a true and unvarnished perspective that transcends time and creation.  Guide us this day in Your perfect light, and remove the darkness that hides the true nature of reality.  You and You alone can see what is, what was, and what will be, and we desperately need Your help to navigate this life as we are crippled by our sin nature.  Blessed is Your name, that You seek us, redeem us, and keep us.  Your glory is beautiful to behold; may we bask in Your light, and be enlightened.  This we ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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